Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan...
No prize for guessing what Kung Fu Panda is about. DreamWorks’ latest animation has Jack Black as lazy fat panda, Po, embarking on a quest to be kung fu champ and escape his humdrum life of noodle-making. It’s making the critics smile. The Times (4-stars) calls it “a slight story, but it’s charmingly executed. This is the most handsome animation that DreamWorks has produced.” Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian (3-stars) is generally impressed saying it has “some laughs and fun, and this is a solid bet for the summer holidays,” but warns that it doesn’t have the adult sophistication of The Incredibles or Shrek and “is best appreciated by families and a pre-tween audience.”
The second obviously titled film of the week is The Mist, based on a Stephen King story about a group of people holed up in a Maine supermarket as a creepy evil mist descends around them. As the critics note, it’s pure B-movie horror but is stylishly realised. The Guardian (3-stars) calls it “drum-tight in execution, with a bold use of its single location, and not needing to insist on its satirical dimension. The ending is awe-inspiringly horrible with an uncompromising grimness from which most directors would flinch.” The Times (3-stars) thinks it’s overlong but effective and the Independent (another 3-stars) says there are some “terrific scares, and, in Toby Jones's supermarket shelf-stacker, he delivers an unexpected but engaging variation on the dweeb-as-hero.”
The Visitor has lonely middle-aged academic, Walter, returning to his New York apartment to find two free-spirited illegal immigrants living there. Inevitably they strike up an unlikely friendship. Reviews are positive. The Times (3-stars) says that the “pitch-perfect cast manage to elevate the material above the contrivances, and give the drama some real emotional ballast.” The Independent (3-stars) in a long essay concludes, “The dim flame of hope kindled by The Visitor argues that there are citizens in that country who are willing to put their hospitality on the line for the sake of complete strangers, and, maybe, to discover some of their own humanity in the process.”
The London-set Mes Amis, Mes Amours gets a critical hammering. It’s supposed to be a romantic comedy but the Guardian (2-stars) calls it “a strained and unrelaxed movie” while The Independent (1-star) oozes hatred calling it “only slightly less imbecilic than the recent Audrey Tautou vehicle Priceless, and contains precisely the same number of laughs – none.”
Next week Mamma Mia arrives with Meryl Streep bouncing around singing Swedish pop songs in Greece. Weird.
By James Bryan