Our weekly roundup of film reviews continues, courtesy of James Bryan…
This week, Bee Movie, Enchanted, We Own The Night, Youth Without Youth, Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and It’s A Wonderful Life. And if you’re too busy to even read a review of reviews then just go and see the masterpiece that is It’s A Wonderful Life. Simple as that.
Since the last episode of the Greatest Sitcom Ever™ nine years ago, Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t outwardly appeared to have been up to much beyond hoovering up vast mountains of cash for DVD’s and repeats as well as sounding unpleasantly self-satisfied in interviews. He’s now back in animated form in Bee Movie playing Barry the Bee. It’s impressed Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian (4-stars):
What a treat to see a comedy that starts funny, is funny in the middle, and ends funny
However Robert Hanks in the Independent begs to differ (2-stars):
Given the amount of talent involved – Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Rip Torn, and Seinfeld himself – it all feels like a terrible waste.
The extreme views are balanced out by James Christopher in the Times who thinks that the script is a “thing of wonder” and gives the film 3-stars:
Clever punchlines numb the sting but fail to disguise the lunacy of a relationship between a 5ft 6in female and a half-inch bee.
The problem seems to be one of appeal; kids are going to be drawn in by the big bright animation but are unlikely to care much about a story that “lurches towards a Marxist critique of corporate capitalism as Barry sues honey manufacturers for exploiting bee labour” (The Independent) or that raises questions like “Does work validate our lives, or negate them? Does the worker truly exist, or not?” (The Guardian). So what we actually have is a film that is masquerading as a kids movie but that’s mostly going to appeal to the legions of Seinfeld fans out there. And we’re a large army eager to see how his observational humour will work when animated and on the big screen.
Next up, Enchanted.
Enchanted is an oddly subversive Disney movie that takes all the clichéd elements that the House of Mouse has built its fame on: princesses, princes, witches, castles and the rest and then plucks them from their cartoon setting depositing them in modern day Manhattan. A brilliantly obvious concept. As ever the critics are split but they do all praise Amy Adams in the lead role. James Christopher in the Times loses his composure giving the film 4-stars and confessing:
At this point I realised that the film could do no wrong. I started crying when Adams waltzed through Central Park with a perfectly stressed Dempsey, who had no inkling why total strangers should start assembling a musical number around him.
Crying critics? Unbelievable. Peter Bradshaw has a harder heart, giving the film only 2-stars saying that “the film assumes a beady-eyed and deeply humourless sentimentality” while The Independent gives the film 3-stars with the oddly cutting, “The time passes amiably enough: this is the only one of this week's children's films marked ‘Tolerable for Parents’.”
So for some family entertainment try Enchanted instead of Bee Movie. The trailer was surprisingly funny but then let us not forget – trailers sometimes lie.
The Independent has a positively glowing (and oddly long) review of We Own The Night, (3-stars) starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg and directed by James Gray:
Like his earlier The Yards, this is a sombre, intelligent, feeling crime drama set in a working-class New York characterised by striving and shabbiness.
He gives Phoenix the ultimate acting accolade by saying “he doesn’t fall far short of the young Al Pacino.” Wendy Ide in the Times gives the film 3-stars also praising Phoenix:
he carries the film, rising above the occasionally uninspired dialogue and plotting to give a powerhouse turn as a man caught between ambition and duty.
Bradshaw can only serve up 2-stars but does have some praise:
The movie has two superb scenes: Bobby's visit to a drug den wearing a wire, and a thrilling car chase in the rain. Elsewhere, it is a little cumbersome with plenty of macho-sentimentalism, and the ending is frankly contrived. But go and see it for the car chase.
As well as the car chase, The Times also recognises what the multiplex hungry masses crave:
James Gray whets the audience’s appetite for his latest film by serving up a fat slice of sex as an appetiser… featuring two of the more alluring actors in Hollywood: Eva Mendes and Joaquin Phoenix
Sex, drugs, car chases, beautiful people. You decide.
Also out this week is Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium starring a very creepy looking Dustin Hoffman. It’s getting very middling reviews although the Times gives 3-stars saying that “it is a lovely story for children under 14”. The film does throws up a truly awe-inspiring suggestion from the Independent (2-stars):
This is an adult's idea of what childhood is about – whimsical, prettified, and self-consciously whacky. Better to prepare your children for the world with a DVD of Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.
Fantastic! Try that at home and watch in disbelief as your child dresses up as a cowboy proudly announcing to anyone that will listen, “I ain’t a real cowboy, but I am a hell of a stud,” as well as stomping out in front of oncoming traffic to shout, “I’m walking here!”
Youth Without Youth is another addition for Francis Ford Coppola’s file, ‘How the Great Have Fallen’. It’s his first film in 10 years and the reviews are suggesting in no uncertain terms that he should vanish back to his vineyard. The Guardian gives 2-stars obviously unable to truly lay into the man who made The Godfather, “the film is not completely awful; it is often watchable in a barking way.” However the final word goes to The Independent who don’t hold back in a 1-star review:
Youth without Youth is a terrible postscript to a once-brilliant career; I urge you to avoid it, and preserve a few illusions.
Also this week sees a brand new print released of Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, a film that (quite rightly) regularly tops those best-film-ever polls. It gets a universal five stars and is a “genuine American classic” (The Guardian) while The Independent describes it as “Unmissable, however many times you've seen it before.” So, consider yourself told. Go.
Next week St Trinians: The Next Generation and the truly hideous looking Alvin and the Chipmunks.
By James Bryan