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There’s a certain kind of movie that we don’t see very often anymore. The small-scale film with an unflashy but talented cast, telling a simple story. Maybe a comedy with some dramatic elements, maybe a drama with a good sense of humor. Nary a superhero to be seen nor an explosion to be heard.

Those films, once a staple of the cineplex, are now largely the domain of streaming services. Their ongoing and unslakable thirst for content means that they have, almost by accident, become the last bastion of this sort of movie.

“Jerry & Marge Go Large” is a perfect illustration of this shift. You’ve got a couple of older stars in Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening – capable, consummate pros who are very good at what they do – in the lead. Based on true events involving a man who figured out a loophole to game the lottery, it’s a movie that offers a story that revolves around people who are neither young nor wearing spandex. A movie for grown-ups, as my friend Rich Kimball likes to say.

But movies for grown-ups don’t sell. Not anymore.

Twenty years ago, this movie opens in theaters and does perfectly serviceable box office. Now, it’s an exclusive offering from a lower-tier streaming service like Paramount+. No judgment – I’m glad that there are folks out there willing to devote resources to this kind of movie – but it’s undeniably different.

The film itself is pleasant enough, albeit a little slight. It’s a story of ordinary folks stumbling into something extraordinary, yet never changing who they are. A tale of older people looking for meaning in a world that has in many ways left behind, and finding it – but not where they thought it would be. You won’t be surprised by much, but that’s part of the joy. In many ways, this is a favorite blanket of a movie: warm and a little worn, frayed but comforting nevertheless.

Published in Style
Monday, 20 December 2021 15:47

Not ready to ‘Rumble’

Sometimes, the elevator pitch is enough. You hear the basic description of the movie and you’re in. This isn’t to say that you know this movie will be great or even good, just that the boiled-down fundamental concept is enough to intrigue.

So it is with “Rumble,” the new animated film streaming exclusively on Paramount+. In essence, this film is basically “Professional wrestling, only with massive kaiju-style monsters.” It’s an idea that certainly appeals to the 14-year-old boy in me.

The film was initially intended for a theatrical release, but the powers that be ultimately decided (after pushing the date a couple of times) to send it straight to the streamer. It is a decision that, upon watching the movie, makes one wonder why that wasn’t the plan all along.

It’s not that “Rumble” is bad so much as that it is … boring. One can squint and see the pieces of a better movie scattered here and there, but the truth is that the film never quite manages to take advantage of the various and sundry cartoonish elements – figurative and literal alike – that the conceit invites. Instead, we get a film that offers up watered-down versions of familiar themes – underdog sports story, familial legacy, etc. – and never really manages to go anywhere with them.

Look – if I’m dozing off during a movie about wrestling kaiju, someone somewhere has made some pretty significant errors.

Published in Movies

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that intrigues me for reasons that I can’t quite articulate. These tend to be films that are very much not for me – stylistically, tonally, demographically, you name it. I am not the intended audience, and yet I find myself genuinely curious to see them.

So it is with “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

I have zero connection with the source material – a series of children’s books by Norman Bridwell – and the general look of the thing seemed kind of meh. The titular Big Red Dog’s CGI rendering looked a bit off. I’m no hater of kiddie flicks, but this one seemed a bit blasé. The director hadn’t made a feature since an “Alvin & the Chipmunks” sequel six years ago.

And yet, I still wanted to see it, for reasons that I myself still don’t quite understand.

As it turns out, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” – which did a simultaneous release in theaters and on streaming via Paramount+ – manages to be quite entertaining despite the fact that I was pretty much justified in my concerns. It does have a so-so look, with the occasional unsettling venture into the uncanny valley. The messaging is standard-issue kid movie stuff. The direction was workmanlike at best and the story makes very little sense if you think about it for even a moment.

I still had fun. Do I feel great about that fact? Not particularly. But I did. And while you may not, I’m betting your kids will.

Published in Movies

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