New Model (Child’s Play, 2019)

Childs_Play_2019_PosterThe Child’s Play franchise is seven films in and has a TV series in the making, so when a remake of the 1988 original, it was met with…skepticism. Especially as the film has no real ties to the original film via writer or director.

Here we get the basic story idea.  Andy gets a doll that turns out to be dangerous and homicidal.

Here, Andy is a bit older.  His mother gets a Buddi Doll that has AI and can connect to your Smart Home devices.  It was returned as defective, and Andy’s mom takes it to give her son, as Andy is becoming more and more withdrawn. At first, the quirks do not seem to be to big a deal…until Chucky tries to kill the family cat after it hurts Andy.  Andy forbids Chucky from killing.  And for awhile, they become close friends.

But after some other kids discover that Chucky can swear and be generally rude, they want to hang with Andy.  It is only after Chucky murders someone that they all realize how dangerous Chucky actually is.

And a lot of the film is pretty effective.  I like Andy and his mom. And I think the AI take actually works in some interesting ways. Chucky is not inherently homicidal.  He becomes increasingly so, desensitized by his environment and working as a stalker.   He is not killing people out of a love for murder…but rather a warped ideal of his relationship to Andy.  And while this comes at the sacrifice of Dourif’s memorable characterization, I really appreciate the new approach.

Andy’s friends are a bit obnoxious, and honestly, it seems like much of the film they made sure to give Chucky victims who were pretty morally reprehensible.  I mean, there is only one character he kills that I genuinely liked.  I appreciated the attempt they made with Brian Tyree Henry’s Detective Norris, making him a friendly face in story…but the character is kind of dull (which is definitely not Henry’s fault, we saw him be pretty wonderful in Into the Spiderverse in a similar role.

And…well…Chucky’s design should have gone through a few more revisions.  He looks genuinely goofy sometimes.

But I found myself largely entertained by the film and felt it has far more positives than negatives.  I walked out feeling pretty satisfied with a film that I confess to having not had a lot of hope for.

Wedding Crashing (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, 2016)

mike_and_dave_posterMike and Dave are brothers who party hard…so hard that their family is frustrated at how they ruin every even.  To be allowed at their sister’s wedding, they are required to bring respectable dates.  Mike and Dave get the idea to go on TV and put the call out to get some classy ladies.  Alice and Tatiana are lazy who cannot hold a job, in part because they would rather lay around smoking weed.  They see Mike and Dave and decide to con their way into a free Hawaiian vacation on Mike and Dave’s dime.  Crazy adventures follow.

Well, more like “Standard Comedy Misadventures.”  As you might suspect, the ruse is discovered, things fall apart and then the leads must fix their screw up.  It is a pretty standard trope.  The problem for this film is nothing distracts you from the highly predictable beats.

Most of the characters are very loose sketches.  And while I suspect it is intentional, Adam Levine’s Mike is far less sympathetic than Efron as Dave.  This is mirrored in Plaza’s Tatiana and Anna Kendrick’s Alice.  But that ends up working against the film.  While there are funny points, nothing makes the movie stand out.  It is trying to be in the vein of Wedding Crashers, but feels like a film trying real hard to look like it is pushing envelopes…but even those moments feel heavily cliched.

The film had a lot of potentials, as it has an excellent comedic cast.  I went in hoping to really enjoy this film as some crazy farce.  Instead, I found long stretches where the film comes to a standstill.   At barely over an hour and a half, this is not a good thing.

In the end, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a derivative comedy that is mildly amusing…but I suspect will largely be forgotten.

Coasting to the End(Playing It Cool, 2014)

Playing_it_CoolThere is a lot about Playing Cool that makes me want to like it.  The cast (both lead and supporting) is comprised almost entirely of actors I like a lot.  The film has some nice ideas it is playing with.  It has some clever visual moments.

But the pacing and the storytelling?  That is where it falls flat.  And it keeps it from being a movie I truly enjoyed.

That it is a cliched tale of a screenwriter (Chris Evans) who does not believe in love, but then meets that one amazing woman (Michelle Monaghan)…but she has a boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd).  He seeks the advice of his friends and family (well, his grandad, played by Phillip Baker Hall).  These characters are fairly well designed.  There is the gay best friend Scott (Topher Grace), obligatory art performer girl secretly in love with the lead (Aubrey Plaza), disillusioned married buddy (Luke Wilson) and Oddball Played by Martin Starr.

The film tries to attack these cliches, but rather ineffectively.  And there are numerous attempts at big emotional beats.  Yet, the film never really earns these.  I did not get the draw between the leads, everything was a rough sketch.

What makes this painful is the film has terrific imagery.  Whenever Evan’s screenwriter starts getting philosophical, the film gets interesting to watch.  There is a terrific scene where the Screenwriter (Evan’s and Monaghan’s characters are simply credited as “Me” and “her”) starts mocking the notion of there being “someone for everyone”.  He talks about how there are those people who are such social misfits, there is no way they could find someone…but he is surprised by how many of them do.  The picture becomes more colorful and vibrant, except for Evans, who is now black and white.  There is an animated sequence where Grandad tells the tale of how he pursued the woman he loved (an outlandish tale of swimming an ocean, riding wild horses and so on).  Evans talks about how his heart has let him, and stands in the background chain smoking.  And we see Evans off to the side, smoke billowing from every pore, like Humphrey Bogart.  The movie is wonderfully expressive at times.

As a said, I like the cast.  In a fun bit of casting, Anthony Mackie is Evan’s agent (kind of a business wing-man).  The cast is well chosen for their roles…

But the movie takes so any shortcuts, it never earns the big emotional beats and revelations.  “Me” realizing who he would spend the rest of his life on a boat with after reading his friend’s (Grace) favorite book?  It feels empty…it should be this hopeful and uplifting moment, but the film skips so much it feels rushed…except it somehow manages to slow down to a crawl, especially when focused on Evans and Monaghan.  The film is full of ideas, and some pretty lofty intentions.  But it jumps past what it needs to invest in.  There is no sense of a real life for these characters.

The writers have only two movies (both Chris Evans films) to their writing credit and this is Director Justin Reardon’s first full length feature.  I see some genuine potential in all three, but this film is not a ideal final product.

The creative style and cast make me want to like this movie.  The cliches and lack of depth make me disappointed that it does not live up to those things.

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