Movie Review ~ The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

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The Facts
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Synopsis: It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.

Stars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett

Director: Mike Mitchell

Rated: PG

Running Length: 107 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest champion of 2014’s The LEGO® Movie and I fully recognize I was certainly in the minority. In fact, while many were gnashing their teeth when the film failed the land an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature I was silently in my own little corner doing a small victory dance. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the film for its creativity but it was largely an obnoxious exercise of meta self-referential humor that took a misguided turn in its last act by bringing in a live-action subplot that failed to connect. Re-watching the film before heading out for the sequel screening only confirmed my original feelings that the movie was a colorful lark struggling to be more than the sum of its one-joke parts.

With the overall success of the original film and two other LEGO follow-ups released in 2017, The LEGO® Batman Movie (which I quite enjoyed) and The LEGO® Ninjago Movie (the one I haven’t seen), it was only a matter of time before Warner Brothers reassembled the players for a second outing and they’ve largely delivered more of the same. So fans of the original should be pleased while those that didn’t necessarily fall out of their seats for the first helping won’t find anything here to convert them. Sadly, the weakest element of the first film (the live-action scenes) is the one thing the filmmakers decided to expand upon here, creating an even greater disconnect between the action and the audience.

Nicely connecting with the original by picking up in the last few moments of the first film, the sequel introduces our heroes to an alien race (Duplo blocks) that sets about destroying the world they had just saved from the evil President Business (Will Ferrell, Daddy’s Home). Five years later, Emmet (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World). Lucy (Elizabeth Banks, People Like Us) and their friends have built Apocalypseburg out of the ruins of what was once their thriving community of Bricksburg. Even in the face of a life considerably less awesome, Emmet is resolutely positive, much to the frustration of his more grounded life partner Lucy.  Wanting a life of peace and harmony, Emmet even builds a quaint suburban style house for Lucy in the midst of the ruins they now call home.

It’s only when General Sweet Mayhem from the Duplo army arrives and kidnaps Lucy, Batman, and their other friends and brings them to the Systar system to meet Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip) that Emmet is forced into action. The Queen wants to marry Batman and unite their worlds to gain ultimate power and it’s up to Emmet and his new friend Rex (also voiced by Pratt) to rescue his pals and stop the Queen before it’s too late. The adventure tests everyone as they are tempted by pop music distractions along the way, giving the movie ample opportunities to musicalize scenes and amp up the meta humor ten-fold.  (Reading this description back sounds like I’m telling a bedtime story to a toddler that’s only half-listening to me, doesn’t it?)

The first film saved the live-action reveal for the very end, showing the world we’d been watching was merely a playground for a young boy playing with his dad’s LEGO blocks. It didn’t make much sense then and it doesn’t make a lot more sense in the sequel that finds the boy and his sister having a turf war over their toys, forcing their mom (Maya Rudolph, Life of the Party) to step in and lay down the law. It never is clear just how the animated action is directly related to this live-action business and every time we switched to the actors badly going through their dialogue the movie ground to an interminable halt. Even the normally dependable Rudolph can’t turn the dial on this to make it funnier.

This is too bad because the film is once again beautifully animated and rendered with dazzling color and clarity. Far more musical than its predecessor (Haddish gets two songs of her own and the ear worm song, Everything is Awesome, comes back in several versions), the movie doesn’t break much new ground in terms of forwarding the story and it’s severely lacking the spark of invention that made the first film at least interesting. Now it’s just a good-looking movie with some fun nostalgia bits for seasoned movie-goers (you may need to see the movie twice to catch all of the references to other films) and a quaint message of self-acceptance Disney’s been making bank on for years.  With a run time stretching past 90 minutes and the longest end credits I’ve ever sat through, this is one you’ll need to think carefully on if you want to devote time to in theaters.  You’ll lose nothing by waiting to see this in the comfort of your own home.

Movie Review ~ Girl Most Likely

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A failed New York playwright awkwardly navigates the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year’s News.

Stars: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Christopher Fitzgerald, Darren Criss

Director: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 103 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: Oh boy.  This is a rough review to write because I’m such a fan of Kristen Wiig but Girl Most Likely is pretty dreadful.  This misguided comedy that wants to masquerade its significant shortcomings by hiding under the guise of offbeat humor is a major step down the wrong path for its star who is so much better than this soggy material.

Making a name for herself on Saturday Night Live and then getting an Oscar nomination for writing Bridesmaids, Wiig has kept a fairly low profile for herself turning up for a supporting roles in Despicable Me 2 and Friends with Kids.  So in her first true starring role I expected a lot more than the painful to watch Girl Most Likely had to offer.  It’s no secret the movie has sat on the shelf for a while as it awaited a distributor and though Roadside Attractions has tried to spiff this one up with a decent poster and engaging trailer, it was all smoke and mirrors to distract the audience that the film is a dog.

The movie reminded me a lot of 2011’s Young Adult which found Charlize Theron’s not-very-nice semi-successful novelist returning to her home town with her eyes on making off with her high school sweetheart.  She reacquaints herself with old friends and family and though she gets a taste of her own medicine she winds up realizing the person she’s become…and making the choice not to change.  In Girl Most Likely, Wiig is a failed NYC playwright still pining for her ex who, after a faked suicide attempt, winds up living in Atlantic City with her mother (Annette Bening, The Grifters), her brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) and two new men in her life.  The first is her mom’s loopy beau (Matt Dillon, In & Out) who claims to be in the CIA and the other is a performer at a local hob-knob casino renting out her old room (Darren Criss).  As expected, everyone living under the same roof creates some sparks…none of them producing anything resembling laughs or excitement.

Theater guy Fitzgerald comes out the best from this mess playing the kind of role that could easily be grating but is instead instilled with some heart and charm the rest of the people, places, and situations Girl Most Likely is sadly missing.  Dillon and Bening go through the motions, though one wonders how they ended up paired together because their lack of chemistry is readily apparent.  Speaking of no-chemistry, though Criss and Wiig aren’t exactly a part of the May-December romance club there’s something terribly off about the relationship they are forced into just because the script from Michelle Morgan says so.  Criss should be thankful for what Glee hath wrought because there’s no way he’ll be able to carry the weight of a full picture based on his weak and unconvincing performance here.

The movie reeks of low-budget not only in the incredibly uneven supporting performances but in the overall look of the film.  Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini manage to make both New York City and Atlantic City look like ugly, tacky, dreary places to live thanks to poor lighting and boring scene set-ups.  Add to that an ending that seems to have been edited in from a totally different film and you have a movie most likely to make you want your money back.

As the movie wears on your patience will wear thin as Wiig can’t manage to do anything with this role to get the audience anywhere near her side.  There’s something to be said about making a character that’s unlikable relatable but there’s no meat to the character for Wiig to sink her talented teeth into…so what’s left is a battered carcass that’s not very nice to look at.  Skip it and rent Young Adult instead.

The Silver Bullet ~ Girl Most Likely

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Synopsis: A failed New York playwright awkwardly navigates the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year’s News.

Release Date:  July 19, 2013

Thoughts: Is anyone else getting a little Postcards from the Edge feeling while watching the trailer for this indie dramedy starring Kristen Wiig (Friends with Kids) and Annette Bening (The Grifters and who just so happens to have been in Postcards from the Edge)?  It’s hard to argue that there are parallels with that earlier film but in the hands of Wiig and Bening we may just have a sleeper hit on our hands.  Though originally intended to be released in 2012, the movie has been pushed back a few times which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the confidence its studio has in it.  Still, I’d probably follow Wiig into a movie about toenail clipping so it’s highly likely I’ll be seeking this one out in late July.