Here’s hoping Father Figures had a nice on-set sandwich table

Ugh, what a piece of utter shit this movie is.

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Who exactly was Father Figures made for? It has a number of over-edited road-trip montages despite the fact that the characters go nowhere interesting. Its soundtrack feels like someone walked drunkenly into a studio, shouted “indie”, and took whatever came out. It clearly wants to have deep emotional resonance, but also has no less than three “we’re inside each other” jokes in the first ten minutes. It feels like the kind of inoffensive fluff you can just turn on when you need some background noise while visiting your parents, but it also has a gag about a cat’s giant testicles that seems to exist because, fuck it, they had the animatronic testicles handy.

Ugh, what a piece of utter shit this movie is. In case the obviously photoshopped in-post poster doesn’t make it clear, here is a movie that a bunch of big names showed up to for a half-day to collect a paycheck. Christopher Walken, king of showing up for the paycheck, utters something about “the kitties” in a transparent attempt to pull a Joe Dirt and get something memorable out of the whole thing. In Ving Rhames’ case, he showed up because he was already in Miami I guess? Katt Williams turns up as a hitchhiker, and he’s maybe the only person in the whole thing not phoning it in, and christ I wish he had. He at least sets up an almost-clever riff on a certain pervasive trope that the movie goes absolutely nowhere with. There’s precisely one good gag in the whole thing, involving June Squibb’s delightfully manic reaction to a gun. The rest of the attempted humour just kind wilts into thin air or, like a recurring gag about how loose the central twins’ mom was in the 70s, keeps reaching for the same ineffective tricks over and over.

But then, just when it seems like it’s all ended in an out-of-left-field reveal that, hell, probably sounded poignant when the writer put it on a post-it note, it even goes ahead and has the gall to tack on an epilogue whose sole purpose seems to be undoing every lesson the characters were supposed to learn. Owen Wilson’s Donald (er, Kyle) was supposed to learn to be a bit more responsible? Nah, he manages to convince millions of people to buy a useless app. Ed Helms’ Pete was supposed to open himself up to new experiences? Nah, he’ll stick with the girl who pays him any attention, and convince his son to love him through unclear methods (I’m assuming beating the devil at a fiddling contest). Ugh. Hopefully Ving Rhames had a nice time in Miami.

F

Father Figures (2017)
Directed by Laurence Sher
Starring Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, J.K. Simmons, and Glenn Close
Rotten Tomatoes (25%)

 

The new Jungle Book is brighter than suggested

The new Jungle Book puts a just-fresh-enough spin on the material to justify double-dipping

While, like any child since the 1970s, I have seen the 1967 Disney’s The Jungle Book, it has been a fair number of years, and all that really stuck is “The Bare Necessities” and some chatter from Cub Scouts. But even without a deep bond with the most famous adaptation, the live-action redux seemed unnecessary from the trailers for one reason: its grimness. Check out the original trailer again, and feast yourself on that smorgasbord of animal scowling. Notably, it ends with Baloo lazily swimming down the river, and while it certainly has some unnecessary action and scare elements to it, it still has the same feel-good spirit in its veins as the animated version, putting a just-fresh-enough spin on the material to justify double-dipping.

The decision to go half-and-half with CGI and live-action pays off rather well, immediately distinguishing it visually from it predecessor, and with high-quality animation that only rarely betrays its true computerized nature. It’s still a bit off-putting the first time a panther opens its realistically rendered mouth and speaks, but its easy enough to get over. The voice cast is mostly excellent and occasionally eclectic; Bill Murray as Baloo the bear and Christopher Walken as King Louie the monkey have no reason to really work, but Murray’s amicability and laid-back delivery suit Baloo perfectly, and Walken’s disjoint mafioso delivery saves what’s otherwise the least essential part of the film. Scarlett Joahnsson’s Kaa appears only briefly, but re-affirms her as a surprisingly stunning vocal character actor, an inviting yet otherworldly presence. Idris Elba is fierce as Shere Khan, although his accent breaks through distractingly at times. While the film wisely decided not to be a musical, “The Bare Necessities” does make an appearance. While its not the show-stopper it was in the original, Murray’s laid-back approach suits the film perfectly. Less perfect is the in-film brief interlude of King Louie singing “I Wanna Be Like You”, which distracts and clashes tonally. But some of songs are re-done with the movie cast for the credits, showing that the cast would have been more than up to the challenge had they gone for a straighter remake.

While it is less of an issue than the trailers made it out to be, the new Jungle Book is still aimed at an older audience than the original (maybe 10 year olds instead of 5 year olds). It makes scary characters out of not only Shere Khan, but King Louie and Kaa. The characterizations work, but often end up devolving into action sequences the pile up to make the back half slightly overstuffed. While I would not want to deprive the world of Walken as King Louie, the sequence really could have been excised, particularly its action denouement. But Favreau brings some art to it all, staging some great shots of the beasts at his disposal (I’m a big fan of the scene where Shere Khan confronts the wolf pack). And as overused as the action tropes are, the message that being able to tie a knot makes you a worthy adversary to something with the sharpest claws is certainly one worth sharing with your local Cub Scouts.

B

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The Jungle Book (2016)
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, and Neel Sethi
Rotten Tomatoes (94%)

Also, it should really be called The Jungle Movie, amirite?