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Monday, 17 August 2020 11:13

‘Magic Camp’ abracada-blah

There was a time that Disney was an absolute dynamo with regard to making family-friendly live-action fare. The 1960s and ‘70s were marked with scores of light, forgettable films aimed at kids, movies that were simple, disposable entertainment.

Once the animation renaissance of the ‘90s hit, those live-action offerings largely vanished. Big Mouse’s annual entry into the cartoon arena proved wildly lucrative, so the studio largely eschewed the sorts of Dean Jones- or young Kurt Russell-led films that they had spent 20-plus years churning out.

In a way, the Disney+ movie “Magic Camp” is something of a throwback to those die-cut assembly line films with a distinct Disney Channel Original Movie flavor profile. It’s got a cast featuring a couple of notable actors and a handful of generally adorable kids in a narrowly focused summer camp setting. It’s a familiar formula revolving around familiar characters; there’s a distinct feeling of boxes being checked throughout.

That said, one imagines that young viewers will find a lot to like about this movie. There’s a good deal of silliness and some simple story arcs involving both kids and adults that will prove accessible. Again, there’s nothing particularly exciting about this movie, but there are worse ways for your child to spend a couple of hours.

Published in Movies
Thursday, 06 August 2020 12:04

Back to school – ‘I Used to Go Here’

As often stated by noted podcast judge and raconteur John Hodgman, nostalgia is a toxic impulse. We’re all guilty of it, the tendency to look back upon our pasts with rose-colored glasses when the present isn’t living up to our expectations. It serves as both distraction and excuse.

And when the opportunity arises for a more direct return, it can go terribly wrong.

So it is with “I Used to Go Here,” a new comedy written and directed by Kris Rey. Starring Gillian Jacobs, it’s a clever, cringe-y look at how the past is rarely as neat as we remember it to be, a chance for one woman to lose herself in a time of wide-eyed optimism about the future and briefly forget about the harsh truths of the now.

It’s also a movie about what it means to fail – in a job or a relationship or any endeavor really – and to come to terms with that failure, as well as a bit of a meditation on the complexity that comes with making a career out of creativity. It is heartfelt and smart and quite funny, and while it does misfire a couple of times, the pros far outstrip the cons.

Published in Movies

It seems as though we don’t get the same kinds of breakout comedies in the summer that we once did. The season has become overrun with blockbusters, and while I love superheroes and explosions as much as anyone and more than most, it’s nice to change it up once in a while. And occasionally, a comedy will achieve significant summertime success. A lot of factors have to line up for it to happen – timeliness, star power, subject matter, broad appeal and more – for a comedy to be that movie.

“Life of the Party” is not that movie.

Published in Movies

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