Netflix Review – John Henry: I Wasn’t Hammered Enough to Watch This

Terry Crews and Ludacris appear in this tale of redemption, but it doesn’t end up satisfying.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

John Henry (Terry Crews) is a former member of a Los Angeles gang run by his cousin, Hell (Ludacris). John Henry is now a pacifist living with his father BJ (Ken Foree) and he ends up getting dragged back into a conflict because he agrees to try and help Berta (Jamila Vasquez) and her brother Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria) escape from Hell’s human trafficking. There is a hammer, and it smashes things.

JohnHenry - 1Hammer
Terry Crews is definitely great casting to play John Henry, but not this one.

END SUMMARY

I really wish that I liked this movie because two actors I love are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, and Ludacris is always pretty fun in the The Fast and the Furious movies. Unfortunately, this movie was not well constructed, which ended up completely wasting most of the talent that was present. 

JohnHenry - 2Cast
And I loved her on Empire.

A big problem with the movie is that it tries to be way too cute with its soundtrack, combining Spaghetti Western orchestrals, rap music, and what I think is Flamenco, but I’m not good at musical genres, so I could be wrong. When musical genres are mixed well in a film, they can be amazing at highlighting the similarities of cultures, but here, they seem to just clash with what’s happening on screen. It doesn’t help that most of the music is so generic that the subtitles actually said “uplifting Western music” at multiple points. 

JohnHenry - 3Walk
“Slow Walk Western Music”

Another problem with the film is that there’s not a lot of actual action nor is there a lot of plot. The film tries to have some Tarantino-esque dialogue scenes that unfortunately remind me of why it’s so hard to make those scenes work if you’re not as talented at crafting character interactions as Quentin Tarantino. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters that have these dialogue scenes tend to punctuate them by dying, rendering any character development completely moot. The fact that the only one which I can really remember is a short one by Ken Foree about the fact that he lost the use of his legendary genitals to a stroke also speaks to the fact that they’re not particularly powerful scenes to begin with. 

JohnHenry - 4KenForee
He killed Zombies, he’ll kill you too.

Ludacris’s character suffers from the issue that he’s just not that threatening. He tries to come off as intimidating by using a blowtorch as his torture weapon of choice, but he also has the misfortune of having a literal gold and diamond crusted jaw on one side. It’s from an injury, but it looks less “threatening” and more “ridiculous.” It doesn’t help that his dialogue suffers from the same fault, sounding the kind of insane that holds a sign on a street corner about 5G Coronavirus than the kind of insane that eats your liver with fava beans and a nice chianti. 

JohnHenry - 5Ludacris
Seriously, you cannot intimidate me when you have that on your face. 

The best parts of the movie are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, although the movie often plays against Terry Crews’ strong points. John Henry is supposed to be a pacifist, but it seems more often that Crews was given the direction of “unemotional.” He mourns a dog at one point, but his sadness is the wrong kind of reserved, instead coming off as insincere. Since I’ve seen Terry Crews do this better on multiple occasions, I have to blame the film itself. Ken Foree, on the other hand, is probably the most memorable part of the movie. He’s a wheelchair bound wisecracking former-badass and even when he’s saying something stupid, it works from him. 

JohnHenry - 6Hammer
Also, let Terry Crews be funny. It works for him. Even a badass can be funny.

Overall, though, this movie just doesn’t have enough going for it. It either needed more action, more humor, better direction, or better dialogue… or maybe literally all of that. It just didn’t feel interesting, which is hard to believe for a movie where a guy smashes people in the face with a sledgehammer. It may not deserve the 0% it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the tall tale that inspired its name.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Willoughbys: Every Unhappy Family is Unhappy in its Own Way

Lois Lowry’s book of terrible parents and suffering kids gets a comedic animated adaptation.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The story is told to the audience by a fourth-wall breaking Cat (Ricky Gervais), starting generations ago with the original Willoughbys, a family renowned for its adventurous, inventive, and devoted members. Unfortunately, the modern Willoughbys (Martin Short and Jane Krakowski) are only interested in their own romance, to the point that they ignore their four children: Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara), and twins both named Barnaby (Seán Cullen). Not in the sense of just not being involved in their lives, but in the sense of not feeding them and locking them in the basement. One day a baby is left on the doorstep of the Willoughbys and, when the Willoughby children try to find a home for this new orphan, they end up making a plan to get a better life for themselves, ultimately involving a Nanny (Maya Rudolph), a candy factory owner (Terry Crews), and a dirigible, in no particular order. 

Willoughbys - 1Travel
And also a reprehensible travel agency who apparently believes in honest advertising.

END SUMMARY

Do you remember when Tom and Jerry had a cartoon about them committing suicide? How about when Pluto went to hell and was judged by devil cats? Littlefoot’s mom dying in The Land Before Time? I only bring these up to give you an idea of what kind of kids movie this is, because it is very, very dark. The film, while it does play some of the treatment of the children for laughs, also is pretty straightforward that what they’re going through is nothing short of aggravated child abuse. 

Willoughbys - 2Chair
And not the fun “everyone will be fine” Addams family kind of abuse.

The movie can really only balance humor and dark subject matter because the world of this film, as well as the characters themselves, are all extremely silly. It doesn’t quite get to the charmingly dark level of Roald Dahl, but it’s around the Lemony Snicket level of surreal and tragic. There are strange buildings, incredibly odd people, and unbelievable occurrences everywhere, and the children just tend to express awe and incredulity, and then just roll with it. Naturally, that allows the audience to roll with it, while still appreciating the absurdity.

Willoughbys - 3Driving
Absurdity like that they spelled the cat’s name right at Starbucks.

The cast is all excellent, as you might expect from the list. Ricky Gervais spends much of the movie “taking the piss” as the Cat, which is a fun narrative style when done right. Since that’s pretty much all Ricky Gervais does usually, he has enough experience to do it right. Will Forte brings a sort of deranged optimism to the group, while Maya Rudolph and Alessia Cara both aid their characters’ attitude of “singing through the pain.” Cullen’s twins are creepy, which is all they’re supposed to be. 

Willoughbys - 4Cast
Also, everyone has hair for days. 

The downside to the movie is that it feels like it’s got 9 acts rather than the typical three. It’s like a handful of short stories that are woven together rather than a single narrative. I assume that’s because of the nature of the book they’re adapting to the screen, but having never read it, I can’t tell for sure. Other films have done the same structure, but this one never feels quite as smooth as those. 

Overall, though, it’s a decent movie, even if it sometimes feels a little disjointed.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.