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edge staff writer


Go go ‘Power Rangers’

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Kiddie action reboot flawed, but sort of fun

Does the world need a “Power Rangers” movie?

It’s a question I never really thought I’d need to ask myself, but wouldn’t you know it, the Hollywood trend of monetizing nostalgia finally caught up to everyone’s favorite kiddie-action Saban International production.

Yes, there’s a Power Rangers movie. Would you be surprised if I told you that it was grittier and darker than the source material? Starring a bunch of attractive, diverse and largely unknown more-or-less teenagers? With a couple of name actors slumming it for big checks in supporting roles?

Of COURSE you wouldn’t be. And yet, there’s something about this superpowered Breakfast Club that I kind of enjoyed … even if I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good.

The premise is pretty basic. You’ve got a group of troubled teenagers living in the small coastal mining town of Angel Grove. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery, “Safe Neighborhood”), the jock who threw away a promising future on a stupid prank. There’s former cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott, “The 33”), whose mean girl behavior got her ostracized. There’s Billy (RJ Cyler, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), a kid on the spectrum who struggles to make friends. There’s Zack (Ludi Lin, “Monster Hunt”), a rebellious kid who is secretly caring for his ill mother. And finally, there’s Trini (singer Becky G), who can’t relate with her too-normal family.

(Seriously – they should have called this movie “Super Breakfast Club.”)

Anyway, a convoluted set of circumstances results in the five of them winding up in the restricted area of the local gold mine. Here, they stumble upon some mysterious colored coins embedded in glass – one for each of them (convenient, no?). They quickly discover that these coins give them remarkable abilities – strength, speed, the whole shebang – but they don’t know why.

Cue the discovery of the ancient alien spaceship.

Inside said spaceship are quirky robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”) and alien consciousness Zordon (Bryan Cranston, “Why Him?”). It turns out that Zordon was the original Red Power Ranger who sacrificed himself millions of years ago to stop the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2”) from stealing the giant space crystal responsible for sustaining life on Earth.

(Don’t think about it too much – it doesn’t matter.)

So the standard tropes of coming together, believing in themselves and overcoming adversity are trotted out. Rita has reawakened and these new Power Rangers are the world’s only hope. If they can’t stop Rita, she and her giant monster Goldar (mad out of gold – get it?) will steal the crystal and destroy humanity.

I’ll admit to a certain degree of awareness regarding the Power Rangers – I might have watched ironically a few times during my college days – but literally zero knowledge is assumed (or needed) as far as this movie is concerned.

Director Dean Israelite is the latest guy to benefit from the recent trend of handing the keys to massively-budgeted potential franchises to filmmakers of limited experience – his sole feature before this one was 2015’s not-great found-footage time travel flick “Project Almanac.” He handles things reasonably well, all things considered – “Power Rangers” is competently, if not spectacularly directed. As long as he stayed out of the way – and he did for the most part – his end of things was going to be fine.

In terms of the cast, it’s the sort of attractive, deliberately diverse cast that is precisely what you’d expect from a movie like this one. There’s a general inoffensiveness to the quintet of proto-Power Rangers that is … fine. Nobody stands out really, with the possible exception of Cyler’s performance as Billy. But no one is actively terrible either, which in a situation like this is a legitimate win.

On the supporting side, however, we get the best kind of paycheck performances; Cranston and Banks are particularly delightful. Cranston treats his performance with utmost seriousness despite basically being one of those weird desk toys where you push on metal rods and leave behind the shape of your hand. And Banks gloriously gnaws her way through every single scene she appears in; it’s campy excess at its finest.

There’s plenty of action-packed fighting in scenes scaled both large and small. And there’s a training montage, which is always welcome. Admittedly, the movie takes its time getting there, with a whole lot of sadface setup aimed at establishing characters that we ultimately don’t wind up giving a crap about anyway, but it’s fine – nothing wrong with a little low-rent John Hughes-ian exposition.

“Power Rangers” isn’t good. It somehow meanders while still feeling rushed. The primary performances are bland. The set pieces are too few and far between. However, if you – like me – have a soft spot for broadly-drawn coming of age stories, you might find yourself liking this movie just a little more than you expected. Not a lot, mind you – but a little.

It’s morphin’ time.

[2.5 out of 5]


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