We see the version of America that we’ll probably teach as accurate in 30 years.
It’s hard to do a movie that’s really based around one main joke, as I recently pointed out with the film Cooties. This film’s main joke is that everything in it is not only inaccurate, but ridiculously so. The thing is, the film is doing this to point out that Americans so over-inflate our history that this movie’s not much less accurate than most of our portrayals of our founding. I mean, if you’re going to deify all of the Founders, then why not also give them superpowers and chainsaw blades?
The plot of the movie is that Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) successfully kills off the Second Continental Congress and steals the Declaration of Independence. He then assassinates Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), the best friend of George Washington (Channing Tatum), who inherits Lincoln’s dream of founding a new nation called America. Washington joins forces with noted beer inventor Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), Chinese immigrant inventor Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), man raised by horses Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan), Native American renegade and tracker Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo), and notable blacksmith John Henry (Killer Mike) in order to stop Arnold and the plans of King James (Simon Pegg).
Originally I was told that this movie’s historical inaccuracy was actually based on final exam answers given by US high school seniors. Unfortunately, I’ve found nothing to back that up, so maybe American students aren’t that dumb. That said, some of the gags in this movie based on historical confusion are absolutely hilarious. Probably my favorite is when George Washington introduces himself to his future wife Martha (Judy Greer) and she asks him if he’s the inventor of peanut butter, which he confirms. The joke here isn’t just that she’s confusing him for George Washington Carver, it’s also that George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter. A ton of the humor in this movie is that the thing that they make a joke about is itself based on a common misconception. I found that hilarious, but it did mean that some of the punchlines took more thought than you’d expect.
The rest of the movie is just a parody of every giant action movie trope, including the final climactic fight scene that involves every character and a ton of fast-cut visuals like the end of Avengers: Endgame. Much of the violence is over-the-top, but in a way that successfully cuts down the impact. My favorite is the running gag of a character’s throat getting ripped out and calling them “roadhoused.”
Overall, I’m not going to say this is a great movie, but I thought it was entertaining.
As the world falls apart, one young boy tries to make his way.
Well, it’s the apocalypse, again. This time it comes in the form of a virus that mostly spreads because people don’t take it seriously. Eventually, the virus proves to be extremely lethal and that is only compounded by the government’s poor response and the mistrust of various groups based on their reactions to the situation. This was in production before 2020, so don’t think this was commentary, it just happens that people being shitty started before a pandemic. At the same time that the virus is ravaging humanity, people start giving birth to “hybrids,” human babies which also have animal traits. One such baby is Gus (Christian Convery), a half-deer hybrid.
Gus is raised by his father, Pubba (Will Forte), on a preserve away from society, being told to avoid people at all costs, for ten years. Unfortunately, the preserve is eventually found by the “Last Men,” a group of hybrid hunters whose military force appears to be among the most powerful in the US after the “great crumble.” Without his father, Gus quickly starts to journey beyond the fence, hoping to eventually find his mother, Birdie (Amy Seimetz). The first person he encounters is former football player and mercenary Tommy “Big Man” Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). Despite Big Man’s dislike of hybrids, he eventually starts to take a liking to the young deer-boy, even nicknaming him “Sweet Tooth” due to Gus’s love of sugar. They are eventually joined by “Bear,” the leader of a pro-hybrid army played by Stefania LaVie Owen.
Naturally, a big part of this show is watching the impact of a massive pandemic on the population. People naturally start being less trusting of others because anyone can be a threat. Despite that, we see that people mostly believe that “certain people” are the ones who will die from the disease and thinking that they are the exception. We see neighborhoods of yuppies throwing parties (despite knowing a wave of the virus is coming again) and then burning the suspected infected alive. We witness this through the eyes of deuteragonist Dr. Aditya Singh (Adeel Akhtar) and his wife, Rani (Aliza Vellani). Dr. Singh has been working on a cure for the virus for a decade and his wife is the longest-surviving infected person. His arc is one of the most interesting in the show, because even though he is trying to save humanity, it’s clear he mostly just wants to save his wife at almost any cost.
There is also a third series of events with yet another deuteragonist named Aimee played by Dania Ramirez. Aimee runs a secret sanctuary for hybrids, particularly her adopted daughter Wendy (Naledi Murray), who is one of the rare hybrids who can speak normally. It’s not certain if hybrids are actually incapable of normal cognition or if they are just kept away from people so much that they don’t develop the ability to speak human language. Aimee’s sanctuary is being hunted for by the leader of the Last Men, General Abbot (Neil Sandilands). Also, James Brolin narrates the series, but hasn’t been on the show in person yet.
The key to the show is really the cute optimism of Gus contrasted with the pessimism of the Big Man and the cynicism of Bear. While it seems like another “surviving the apocalypse” show, the sincerity of each of their viewpoints comes through and makes everything feel a bit more personal. While the three plotlines don’t actually intersect until the very end of the season, which clearly sets up for a major second season, the interplay works great. They aren’t always thematically connected, but we see how many of the acts of each character end up impacting the others. We also see them all confront the big question of what is acceptable in the name of survival.
The first animated feature film in the franchise is not quite what I hoped, but it’s not a tragedy.
Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Will Forte/Iain Armitage) adopts a talking dog which he names Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) as a kid. The two become best friends, and one Halloween night they end up meeting three other children: Fred Jones (Zac Efron/Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried/Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez/Ariana Greenblatt). The five end up thwarting a fake haunting in a local house and become a team of supernatural sleuths known as “Mystery Incorporated.”
Ten years later, the group is trying to become an actual business, but Scooby and Shaggy are accused of being dead weight. They go and sulk by bowling, where they are attacked by robots. The team ends up being caught in a scheme by supervillain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), resulting in them teaming up with the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), his canine robot companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and his pilot Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). It turns out this time the stakes might be the fate of the world.
Alright, I’m going to split this review so that I don’t drive people nuts. The first half is going to be me talking about this as a reviewer, the second as a Scooby-Doo fanboy.
As a reviewer, this movie has some good points. The animation style really does seem like they just made a CGI model of the original cartoon designs with some era-appropriate updates. There are a number of surprisingly solid jokes for a film like this, including some decent slapstick gags. The film covers both the origin of the team as well as their “greatest challenge,” but it never really feels rushed. I was surprised how much happened in only 90 minutes. The addition of Blue Falcon (or at least his son Brian who takes over for him) allows the movie to put in some creative action sequences, and Jason Isaacs’s interpretation of Dick Dastardly manages to be deeper than the character has ever really been before and yet still a stereotypical villain. Also, there are a ton of cameos from past cartoons and the traditional goofy sound effects that will probably give you some childhood nostalgia.
On the negative side, the voice acting is probably going to be divisive. I didn’t think it was really that great, because each of the voices felt more like the actor than the character. The plot is kind of ridiculous even for a kids’ movie, with me frequently going “wait, really?” Fortunately, it’s not too heavy on plot, trying instead for some deeper characterizations between the action and comedy. Unfortunately, it tries them with Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly more than it does with the actual Scooby team and, honestly, Blue Falcon wasn’t that interesting. He’s the fame-seeking son of the original Blue Falcon, which could be worthwhile as the focus of a movie, but he’s only an ancillary character so most of the scenes feel weird and unnecessary.
Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t ever really come close to the level of Pixar or Into the Spider-Verse or other modern great animated films. If you’ve got kids, it’s probably worth it when this movie comes out on Redbox or rental, but don’t spend the 20 bucks to get it now.
Okay, so, now I’m going to address this as a long-time Scooby-Doo fan. I want you to understand that I have gone out of my way to watch almost every Scooby-Doo property and I am only mildly ashamed of that. Hell, I reviewed Daphne and Velma on here, because I’m that dedicated. So, as a fan, I say the following: It’s amazing that this movie can be so close to getting it right and yet not really get it at all. The film contains a decent reproduction of the original Scooby-Doo, Where are You? theme sequence that I think kind of represents the film as a whole: It’s got the elements, but not the spirit. It’s like the people who made this read all of the Wikipedia entries on Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Hanna-Barbera family, but didn’t watch them.
Part of why I feel that way is the sort of “sampler platter” this film presents of the Scooby-Doo franchise. We start off with the gang as kids, like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, then we see the Scooby-Doo, Where are You? Opening play out, then we see the gang meeting up with Simon Cowell, as they would in The New Scooby-Doo Movies, then we see them dealing with robots and superheroes rather than supernatural entities (although we end up seeing an actual supernatural element in the film), which is reminiscent of the later Scooby-Doo shows. This should have given me a nostalgia overload, but instead it ended up feeling like a jumbled mess, because while Scooby-Doo and the gang may have done things as diverse as rebooting the universe by defeating an eldritch abomination, helping KISS stop a witch, participating in the Laugh-a-lympics, or helping Batman fight crime, they never did them all at once. This film starts out with the traditional “meddling kids” model, but then abandons it when the plot actually begins, instead becoming more of an action comedy focused on Dick Dastardly and the Blue Falcon. That means that the characters we see in the first act should be completely out of their element throughout the rest of the movie, but instead they pretty much immediately just shift into the new paradigm without any issues. It just feels off.
It also doesn’t help that none of the characters really feel right either, from the characterizations and design updates to the voice actors. I love Will Forte, but he doesn’t really try to deliver Shaggy’s lines like he was Shaggy. Instead, it just comes off as Will Forte trying to act like himself in the 60s. He just doesn’t come off as a “scared hippie.” The same is true for most of the voice actors, aside from Amanda Seyfried and, of course, Frank Welker. It’s weird for me that they decided they had to have four celebrity voices when there already are already four semi-famous actors who voice the current version on television: Grey Griffin, Kate Micucci, Matthew Lillard, and Frank Welker, who has been voicing Fred for 50 freaking years. None of them really feel like the characters they’re supposed to be, from the voices to the appearances to the things they say and do. That extends to most of the other characters as well, with the usually goofy Dynomutt being a snarky jerk, the usually Batman-esque Blue Falcon being kind of an idiot, Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) speaking normally and being sarcastic, and Dick Dastardly being an actual genius supervillain as opposed to just a comic badguy. It’s like they’re all drawings of the characters made by someone who had the originals described to them, rather than seeing the real thing.
Honestly, I still enjoyed parts of the movie, and I could overlook almost any of this if it were just a better film in general, but it still took it down a bit for me.
Lois Lowry’s book of terrible parents and suffering kids gets a comedic animated adaptation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Lego Movie, the movie that should have been crap but instead was a masterful meta-commentary, got a sequel which should have been crap, but instead was a masterful meta-commentary. I wonder if they actually help sales.
It’s been five years since the events of “Taco Tuesday” depicted in the first movie. Duplo/Mini-Doll aliens from the Systar System have repeatedly invaded and destroyed Bricksburg, occasionally taking people and things away with them. In response, the citizens now live in “Apocalypseburg,” a Mad Max-esque desert wasteland. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the only person who has maintained a positive attitude about their circumstances, something that annoys Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who wants Emmet to be more gritty and dark. Emmet, however, is troubled by a dream of “Ourmomageddon,” which has all of the Lego citizens sucked into a void.
One day, the town is attacked by the General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who abducts Lucy, Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Batman (Will Forte), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and takes them to the Systar System to meet the ruler of Systar, Queen Whatevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet takes off to rescue them, with the help of Rex Dangervest, a raptor-training space cowboy archeologist who has chiseled features under his baby fat (Also Chris Pratt).
Also, the whole thing is actually a metaphor for the imagination of some kids.
So, up front, you have to see the first movie for this one to really work well. This movie goes straight into the meta-narrative that was sort of the big “twist” of the last movie: Everything that’s happening is both part of the narrative (i.e. the Lego World) and also a representation of the meta-narrative (i.e. what’s happening in the Real World). Stuff that happens in each one actually impacts the other, however, which almost makes this a pataphysical movie… something that is really unbelievably complex for a children’s film and impressively done so well that this movie is actually really easy to follow.
Unlike the last movie where the revelation is pretty late, this movie makes it pretty explicit up front that the “Systar System” is a representation of Finn’s (Jadon Sand) sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). In fact, if you don’t get that pretty quickly, I’d actually say that the first few scenes don’t really make sense. For example, in the opening battle against the Duplos, the Duplo monsters respond to being shot with lasers with “okay, I eat lasers” and to being hit with batarangs with “you missed.” Anyone who has ever tried to play an imaginary game with a small child will immediately recognize this interaction. What’s great is that you could analyze almost every scene from both the normal and meta levels and both work perfectly. I’m not sure how Lord and Miller keep doing it, but I’m damned glad they are.
The messages of the movie, and yes there are several, similarly work on a bunch of levels, both as the lessons learned by the characters and also the lessons learned by the kids through the characters. Everything is a pretty wholesome moral, ranging from the value of family to the nature of maturity to the fact that it’s easier to be a judgmental dick than it is to genuinely keep opening yourself up to people and hope for better. No matter who you are, there’s something to get out of this movie.
The music is just as fun as the last movie, particularly the movie’s signature song “Catchy Song” which is such an earworm while also being a song about how the song is an earworm. I also would give credit to all of Tiffany Haddish’s songs, which are hilarious and awesome, as well as Lonely Island’s song with Beck and Robyn.
Last, I have to complement how well the movie handles references, much like its predecessor. Unlike the last one, where most of the characters that pop up are just there because Finn’s dad (Will Ferrell) owned the kits, in this one, you can actually figure out why Finn and Bianca themselves would have these figures and the reasons range from funny to borderline profound. My personal favorite is ***MINOR SPOILER ALERT*** the fact that Finn keeps seeing Bruce Willis in ducts… because his dad showed him Die Hard and, as a teenager trying to be “mature,” that’s a movie that you tend to focus on ***SPOILER OVER***.
Overall, I loved this film. It definitely has a few slow scenes which tend to make more sense from the meta-level, but most of the movie is just so clever you’ll forget about it.