Imitation of Life (Scoob!, 2020)

So, originally, May was bringing the first theatrical Scooby Doo film in over a decade.  Thanks to a Pandemic (and no doubt a hope by the studio to replicate the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD) it is instead reaching us in our homes.

Scoob_Poster

Opening with a tale of how the gang met, the film jumps to the present, where an investor wants to financially support the Mystery Inc gang…as long as they leave out Shaggy and Scooby. Before the gang knows what is happening, Scooby and Shaggy run off on their own. When the two are attacked by robots, they are rescued by the Blue Falcon and his trusty partners Deedee and Dynomutt.

At first the duo are thrilled at the idea of hanging out with their favorite super-hero, but as Scooby seems to be drawn towards the Falcon’s adventure, Shaggy starts to become jealous. At the same time the Blue Falcon is doubting himself as a hero, fearing he can never match up to his father, the previous Blue Falcon. All the while the rest of the gang is trying to locate Scooby and Shaggy before the villain Dick Dastardly does so that he can unveil his evil master plan.

Scoob! is entertaining, though probably, kids will enjoy it far more than adults. The plot gets a little convoluted, eschewing the traditional Scooby Doo format of a simple mystery that needs unmasking and goes for a big and over the top plot.  It is pretty clear that part of the purpose of Scoob! was to set up a Hannah-Barbara extended universe of films. And that sometimes overtakes the film.  Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley are here…we meet Captain Caveman and the end credits suggest future appearances by characters such as Jabberjaw and Atom Ant.

The film is trying really hard to be current and hip, which generally fails to work. I watched Scoob! with my nephews.  They actually liked the film…but when we are introduced to the Blue Falcon, he dabs.  My nine year old nephew states (and this is a direct quote) “He dabbed!!! That is SO SAD!!!! Nobody dabs anymore!”

Another area that hurt the film for me a bit was the voice cast. Since the death of Casey Kasem, Matthew Lillard has provided the voice of Shaggy.  And he really is the voice (and managed to really capture the feel in the live action films as well).  Grey Delisle Griffin has been the voice of Daphne Blake for nearly twenty years.  I get that they are trying to be a new youthful take, but kids don’t see movies for the voice actors. And no disrespect is meant to Will Forte…but the end result here is that Shaggy sounds like someone trying to approximate the sound of Shaggy. I feel like it is a bit of a loss on our part that Lillard and DeLisle Griffin were not invited to return.  It is pretty clear both love the characters and that is just missing here. While it is very clear they were disappointed, both actors have responded with a lot of grace.

One thing I did really like is the basic animation style. It walks a nice line of bringing the 2D animation to life.  I really enjoy how they recreated the original opening Scooby Doo, Where Are You? title opener in the new style, so we get some fun throwbacks to the classic Scooby Doo monsters. And there is some neat 2D art used with the end credits.

Overall, Scoob! is not a disaster, but it is a whole more likely to entertain kids more than those with affection for the classic mystery solving team.

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.

Housing Problems (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, 2016)

neighbours_2_posterI have to be upfront here. I did not enjoy Neighbors.  I thought it was just a random set of sketch ideas, most of which were not super funny.  I don’t have strong opinions on Efron and really, sometimes I like Rogen, sometimes I tire of his gimmick early.

So, honestly, I thought I would sit Neighbors 2 out.  But I ended up checking it out when someone suggested that the film might have something more going on than the previous outing.  And Neighbors 2 does.  It actually has a story, and characters I liked.  We are quickly re-introduced to Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) who find out their life is about to get a big change.  Then we see what the frat boys Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco).  They two are facing a life changing event… Pete’s boyfriend proposes, and then they suggest Teddy move out.

At the same time we meet Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein).  The three girls were pledging the Phi Lamda Sorority.  They are disappointed to discover that sororities cannot have their own parties.  And when the girls go to a frat party, they find it all very creepy and off-putting.  So they set out to start their own off campus sorority.  They end up renting the house next to Mac and Kelly, with help from Teddy.  Mac and Kelly were planning to sell their home, but it is in escrow for thirty days.  And then the mayhem begins, as they worry the new buyers will back out when they see a busy sorority next door.

As the situation escalates, both sides take more and more risks, with mostly funny results.  This part seems pretty much like a repeat of the last film.  Except, the difference here is that you can actually sympathize with everyone in the film.    You know exactly what worries Mac and Kelly…you also can see what is compelling the sorority girls.  They want to create a sorority that is able t have it’s own parties, sans date rape drugs, attempts to bed them or get them generally naked.  The film indicts the frat culture as one less than friendly to women, and these young women are making a stand.

Truthfully, this is Efron’s movie, as he steals the scene almost every time.  As much as the film codes Teddy as being real dumb, he shows himself to be smart and helpful when he feels appreciated and wanted.  He wants to connect with people, whether it is his best friend Pete, Mac and Kelly or the Sorority.  And he also learns.  When he is talking with Shelby , Beth and Nora early in the film, he asks why they do not pledge an existing sorority.  They explain how they cannot throw their own parties, but instead must go to frat parties.  Teddy does not see the problem.  The girls offer up the rapey nature of the parties.  They cite how every theme incorporated women as “Ho’s”.  Teddy defends frat parties at first…but as he starts naming their themes he pauses…and then is horrified at just how disrespectful their parties were.  Teddy listens to people.  He takes them seriously and he learns from people.

The story ultimately celebrates relationships.  When the Sorority tries to sabotage Mac and Kelly’s marriage by sending them each messages that the other is freaking out about the marriage.  But both Kelly and Mac have, as their first instinct, to seek each other to talk it out.

The jokes in the film are effective, I laughed out loud often throughout the film.  But the jokes serve the story far better than they did in the first film.  This is the rare comedy I can think of where I enjoyed the sequel more than the original.  A lot of that is the way the story unfolds.  The film has a lot of raunchy and gross out humor, so if you really dislike that type of humor, this may not be the film for you.  But I found it all very effective and I was engaged by the film.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑