Aladdin - A Whole World of Fun
The story - we all know Aladdin, and while there will be a few surprises along the way, this story stays true to the original. What it does best is expand on the original in regards to Jasmine. Already one of the strongest Disney princesses with a defiance toward being treated as a side-character, Jasmine has long been a feminist icon. Disney charges forward, giving Jasmine (played by the incredible Naomi Scott) more screen time, more music, and more chances to rebel against the man.
Jasmine is the best part of this movie, but she isn't alone. Aladdin, Genie, Carpet, Abu, and all the rest are along for the ride, and the story had a few minor twists and turns to keep things fresh.
The acting - Naomi Scott is queen of the screen, but Mena Massoud is another up-and-comer who cannot be ignored. His turn as Aladdin is charming, delightful, and has just enough of a rough edge to make him real. Together, Massoud and Scott are dazzling on the screen as the young couple.
Will Smith may have seemed controversial to some as Guy Richie's choice for The Genie, but he does a fantastic job honoring Robin Williams and creating something all his own.
Marwan Kenzari has been called "Hot Jafar," and I wondered how he'd work on the screen as the maniacal, unhinged, evil Jafar. After all, can someone so lovely really play someone so dark?
The answer is yes. Yes he can. Kenzari brings a craziness to Jafar that defies his good looks and brings the same squirm-ish sense of "no" that we got from the original.
The feels - this movie isn't perfect. It isn't the greatest movie ever made. But it DID make me feel great. It gave me childhood and adulthood rolled in one, and I think it's perfect for everyone in the family.
The directing - the music, dancing, color and life were fantastic. Choosing to use a cast of people of color who fit the world Agrabah lives in was brilliant. I loved the casting choices and shots Richie chose to use...for the most part.
No movie is perfect (though plenty come close).
The acting - I really wasn't sure what to do with the handmaiden Dahlia, played by the hilarious Nasim Pedrad. When she was on point, it was hilarious, but getting used to her strange way of talking took me a few scenes.
The story - I love they they honored the original so well in all ways except one: the second wish. I'm fine with how it was done - it was even updated and improved upon. Yet I wish they'd gone a different way. I wish (hah) that they'd made a different choice simply to freshen up the plot. There are so many wishes that can be made, but that one, I think, could have changed.
The directing - I have a love/hate relationship with Guy Richie. He's done some incredible things (Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and some boring things (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). Unfortunately, there are a few scenes in Aladdin that aren't quite there, and it's because of a choice Richie made in filming these scenes. These scenes, I'd bet my hat, were sped up in post, and it feels just a *smidgen* forced. It's the little movements we make in real time that make these moments glaring for the trained eye, but, in the end, I don't think most will notice.
4 solid, strong feathers (4.5 even).
Don't you know? Go see Aladdin! In fact, take me with you.
I've Been Hustled
Alongside Rebel, Alex Sharp takes a stand in a positive light. He's a fantastic actor (don't take my word for it, the boy has a Tony), and he appears much younger than his thirty years would suggest. As the perfect mark for the competing lady cons, he carries the audience through the film, making us love him and care about him far more than either Hathaway or Wilson. The twist at the end, though slightly clumsy in execution (I blame the writing), made me love him all the more.
Most everything else.
Not only were lines taken directly from the original to pad the sad and sorry script, but the limping attempt to recreate something wonderful with a feminine twist fell flat on its face.
The story - The story has been done, as it was a remake. The clever thing to do would be to change up the script. Not just a gender-swap remake, but a whole new take on the story. They didn't even bother, recycling some scenes shot for shot, line by line, and disappointing the masses.
The areas where they did stray didn't hit the mark - Hathaway training Wilson how to be a violent but classy lady never came into the story. It was a useless montage that managed two laughs from my decently-filled-for-a-matinee theater. They also went for a vomit-worthy "gag" involving a french fry and a toilet. Pointless, gross, and a waste of precious minutes - not to mention a quick way to kill suspension of disbelief. In that moment I fell out of the story, gagged a few times, and struggled to find my way back in.
I read an article from a movie critique lamenting modern comedy - what happened?
I'll tell you what happened.
Most attempts at comedy these days are remakes, but almost none of them are clever. Instead of making an effort to do something new, they rehash old lines and old jokes, but expect audiences old and new to take them in without question. Between The Hustle, Overboard, and Arthur (and many others even outside the comedy genre), we have stale attempts to redo classics. They're the worst bits about Hollywood paraded before us.
Who cares if it's new, interesting, or worthwhile? Churn something out and expect the people to turn up.
In case Hollywood hasn't noticed, movies are down. People aren't flocking to the theaters like they used to, and this is why.
When Hollywood treats its viewers as intelligent consumers, they get good results: Endgame, Logan Lucky, Oceans 11, 22 Jump Street - some of these are remakes and some are brand new, but all did well on Rotten Tomatoes and at the box office.
The Marvel team and the Russo brothers knew Endgame was a game changer. They knew nothing else would ever be like it. They took their time, made an effort, and completed an enormous goal.
Oceans 11 is a remake that outshines the original, and like Logan Lucky (both directed by Soderberg) mixes comedy with heist intrigue.
22 Jump Street is a sequel, yet manages to outshine its predecessor by being smart.
Even Disney has found a way to (almost always) shine in a remake. With the exception of a few (Dumbo, Maleficent), they've been delightful, new, and exciting - a way for adults to relive their childhood and for children to experience something beautiful.
Cleverness, creativity, and passion go a long way, and until the studios realize they can't just keep handing over remade trash and expecting us to be excited.
I know many clever writers who have told fantastic stories - go read their books and make THOSE into movies.
The acting - Oh heaven help Anne Hathaway and her sad, strange accent. I'm not sure where she found it, but I would return it as soon as possible. It didn't help that she's playing a revamped Michael Caine, who is actually British, posh, and capable of an array of accents. Hathaway struggled all the way through the film, donning some odd, Vaudevillian voice and calling it Dutch halfway through the film. Between the two accents I struggled to take anything she said as funny.
None of Hathaway's jokes landed. It was painful to watch someone so talented struggle so much - especially when I know she's capable of comedy.
It was painful to watch, to listen to, and to yawn through. Michael Caine plays a likable character in the original, but Anne Hathaway quickly became a villain. Her character wasn't handled in any way that could create sympathy, and while Wilson's character was meant to be the most sympathetic, there should have been SOMETHING for Hathaway's to make the ending worthwhile.
The directing - The timing started off and remained off all throughout the lagging hour and a half run time. Every joke took a second too long to say (unless it was Rebel Wilson, who can handle herself just fine), leaving most of the jokes stale and flat by the time they arrived. Chris Addison didn't know how to handle these two powerhouse women or Alex Sharp, and he didn't deserve them.
2 feathers (One for Wilson and one for Sharp)
Go watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and if you're still curious, wait for The Hustle to be on streaming.
Run away from Baywatch
22 Jump Street managed to outdo its predecessor by doing exactly what it had done the first time, but in one of the most wildly hilarious, clever ways imaginable.
Baywatch was raunchy for raunchiness sake. There was little humor (unless you're a 12-year-old boy, though I wouldn't want a child that young watching this filth). The attempts fell flat, and with a film 2-hours long playing the same jokes over and over again, boredom set in faster than Matt Brody's swim record.
By the middle of the film, I was watching in skim. You know, skipping every 15 seconds until something interesting caught my eye.
Which was almost never.
At the very end of the film, the main characters slow-motion run down the beach. Efron trips and it caught me so funny I laughed for several minutes - the first and only genuine laugh of the whole movie. It *almost* made the fact that I'd wasted 2 hours of my time...not worth it...but not as upsetting.
The actors are pros, so even with the crap they're working with, they themselves stayed in character and on cue. They committed, and I can't fault them for that.
Everything else. It wasn't funny. It was insulting and disgusting. I wish I had something better to say - I hate negative reviews.
Skip Baywatch unless you enjoy vapid, shallow, empty attempts at humor from a skilled cast that is far too good for the source material.
Dumbo is a Big No
You know I want to be positive about movies, but this is one trash fire I can't find a positive spin for.
Where do I begin? So much wrong.
The acting - this is a difficult one to discuss. There are three fantastic actors in this film who tried their hardest, but couldn't make the coal shine like a diamond.
Michael Keaton is one of my favorites, and it hurt to watch him try so hard with what little he was given. You could almost see it in his face as his over-the-top character played out on the screen. "I'm doing what I'm told." We know Michael. We know.
Danny DeVito, a long-time comedic king, seemed sad. He wandered through this movie like a man depressed. He'd signed the contract, and now he has to pay for his choices. His actions were half-hearted, and it broke mine.
Colin Farrell has had his rough patches. There are plenty of movies that have made me question his professional abilities, but none so much as Dumbo. He's a soldier who's experienced loss, a widower mourning his wife's death, and a father of two children he doesn't know. But none of this comes across. He ambles about, grumping and excusing until a poorly-accented French woman gets into his heart - goodbye dead wife.
Joe and Milly Farrier are two young children who lost their mother, yet the acting never signifies this. Joe is wooden, with lines repeated as though hand fed. He's adorable, but he can't carry the weight of his character.
Milly, meant to be the sad, heart-broken scientist in a world where women are for show doesn't come across as the strong message they intended. While Nico Parker has promising future talent, her character comes across as surly, sour, and anything but mourning. When she isn't sulking, she's blank, and I blame all of this on...
The directing - Tim Burton struggled. The editing was all over the place. Camera shots were out of focus or focused on the wrong characters. Scenery and CGI felt cartoony and silly. It wasn't right. This movie could have been heartwarming, but instead it left me cold.
The story - The greatest sin this movie committed was in the story.
Dumbo's origin back in the 1940s was rife with things that won't fly in today's world. From a child (elephant) getting drunk to racist references, Dumbo had issues from the start. One way to cut these issues out from the get go was to take away the animals anthropomorphism.
The animals don't talk - that's what the humans are for. Goodbye Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo's best friend. Hello sour and wooden children - two plot spewers to make sure the audience knows what's going on.
Despite no animal having a voice or a human-like characteristic, Dumbo is treated as though he understands every word of English. Dumbo is the only animal treated this way, spoken to as though he might answer back, and presented with problems to see his thoughts on the solution. The result is confusing and awkward.
Early on, the children - especially little girl Milly - apparently bond with baby Dumbo. They teach him to fly with a feather, and Milly shares the meaning of her necklace - the last gift her dead mother ever gave her. But the adults all around them treat them like they're stupid or in the way - even their own father.
Not to mention how they treat the poor baby elephant. I know animal cruelty was a part of history, but the way the HEROES of this story treated Dumbo made me want to climb into the scene and start breaking faces.
They endanger him, push him to do things he doesn't want to do, all while treating him as though he has a voice in the matter.
Dumbo (1941), everyone can agree, was sad. Even with a happy ending, it was hard to watch a tiny little cartoon elephant go through so much trauma. 2019 isn't any easier. A slightly more realistic (and insanely adorable) elephant watches with giant, tear-filled blue eyes as the world conspires against him. I'm not a fan of animal cruelty, but that's essentially all this movie is.
After plodding along for two hours, dragging the viewer with it, Dumbo reaches its climax. That super special necklace? The one Milly's mother gave her - the very LAST THING SHE GAVE HER? Milly throws it aside to prove some foggy point to the elephant, who, of course, understands every word.
Because who needs to keep a precious keepsake from their mother?
All in all, Dumbo has a *happy* ending, but it isn't earned. It's a slog-along trash fest of sadness, not a lick of hope in sight, that tosses a happy ending out despite there being very little logic to it.
I'm being generous.
It's for the cute CGI baby elephant.
Don't waste your money on Dumbo. Take your child to anything else. And if you enjoy it...I worry about how you treat your pets.
Ranting, raving, loving every minute of it - let's talk movies.