REVIEW: Penguins of Madagascar

21 07 2015

As far as I can tell, 2016’s “Sausage Party” (written by the people who gave us “Superbad” and “This Is The End“) can lay claim to the title of the first computer animated movie for adults.  While that could stand up to truth in advertising claims, I would like to humbly float the suggestion that DreamWorks Animation designed their “Penguins of Madagascar” film to appeal primarily to older audiences, even as it targeted younger crowds with its marketing.

These kinds of movies often get slapped with the moniker of “kids’ movies,” which is partially a misnomer.  They are really “family movies,” at least when released theatrically, because children lack the physical or financial means to attend on their own.  They must drag along their parents or some other generous benefactor who holds the keys to the car and the strings to the wallet.

Many family films, particularly ones made by DreamWorks, acknowledge that oft-forgotten half of the audience with clever jokes designed to fly way over the heads of kids in the crowd.  They started in the “Shrek” series, started to push the boundaries with “Puss in Boots,” and have now reached a glorious nadir in “Penguins of Madagascar.”  The kids have the TV series on Nickelodeon and Netflix; the grown-ups have this movie.

Had I been seven years old and sitting in the crowd with my parents, I would probably feel a slight resentment towards “Penguins of Madagascar.”  After all, why should they get to laugh more than me?  Sure, the film has a fair share of child-appealing antics like slapstick comedy and general silliness.

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REVIEW: The Hangover Part II

31 05 2011

I’ve harped on Hollywood relentlessly for relying so heavily on formula to churn out movies, and this summer looks to be a barrage of cliches and banalities.  If, according to these criteria, any other movie this summer is worse than “The Hangover Part II,” I will be shocked.  From the opening scene, virtually identical to the first film’s, it’s clear that the sequel will cling to the exact same structure that made its predecessor a $277 million surprise smash.

From this point, there are two ways to react to the movie.  You can be disgusted by the writers’ lack of originality, scoffing at how it settles for being just a cheap imitation of the original.  You can sit there and wait for it to make even the slightest of departures from the formula – a wait that would be in vain.  It’s a carbon copy, an identical twin, you name it.

Or, as I would recommend, you can put aside this nagging concern, accept up front that you are going to be watching the same outline of a movie with slightly different jokes and situations, and just enjoy that you have another 100 minutes to spend with the Wolfpack.  I would have been content finding one-liners that I missed the first ten times in the original on HBO, but it’s kind of nice to get a scene change and a few new jokes.  It’s a sort of Faustian bargain for the viewer, but one ultimately worth making since putting Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis together in a room with a camera is guaranteed to generate some hard-core laughter.

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REVIEW: All About Steve

25 01 2010

Sandra Bullock got a lot of press for her movies in 2009, and it has followed us into 2010 as well.  She chose three distinctly different films: a romantic comedy (“The Proposal”), an inspirational sports drama (“The Blind Side”), and a more off-beat comedy (“All About Steve”).  And in each of these movies, she portrayed a wide range of women.  In “The Proposal,” she played a woman who discovers that she needs more than corporate success to fill the void that a family leaves.  In “The Blind Side,” she has received acclaim for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother on a mission to give opportunity to a deserving child.  Most people are so enamored by those two that they are willing to turn a blind eye to the scorned “All About Steve,” where Bullock enters more familiar territory by playing a bumbling klutz who falls madly and hopelessly head-over-heels for a guy who couldn’t care less about her.

Despite what you may think the movie “All About Steve,” it’s hard to take great fault with Bullock’s performance.  She makes the best of a horrifically written character, refusing to lay down and die.  By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that the goofy crossword puzzle crafter Mary belongs in the same league as Gracie Hart (“Miss Congeniality”) or Lucy Kelson (“Two Weeks Notice”) – and it shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as the racist Los Angeles housewive Jean Cabot from “Crash.”  We can wonder all we want about why she chose this movie, but it’s total face plant is not her fault.

Blame unimaginative writing.  Blame pretty much everyone else in the cast who is in this movie to collect a nice paycheck – I’m talking to you, Thomas Haden Church and Bradley Cooper.  When even Ken Jeong, the highlight of “The Hangover” with his hilarious Leslie Chow, can’t invigorate a movie, you know that things are pretty darn bad.  D /