The Films of Colin Trevorrow
Safety Not Guaranteed (June 5/12)
An intriguing yet erratic effort, Safety Not Guaranteed follows three magazine employees (Aubrey Plaza's Darius, Jake Johnson's Jeff, and Karan Soni's Arnau) as they attempt to find and interview the man (Mark Duplass' Kenneth) behind a classified ad seeking a companion for time time travel - with the film, for the most part, detailing the low-key, character-based exploits of the four protagonists. Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow has infused Safety Not Guaranteed with an off-beat sensibility that effectively complements Derek Connolly's light-hearted and comedically-charged screenplay, with, in particular, the movie's briskly-paced opening half hour setting the stage for an almost typically irreverent indie. The movie's less-than-substantive atmosphere is, without question, perpetuated by its affable roster of performances, with the strong work from Duplass, Soni, and, especially, Johnson essentially compensating for the somewhat off-putting nature of Plaza's deadpan turn (which does, admittedly, grow on the viewer as time progresses). It's worth noting, also, that despite the sci-fi bent of the movie's storyline, Safety Not Guaranteed is, for the most part, concerned primarily with the personal obstacles and challenges of its central characters (eg Darius snaps out of her depressive funk, Arnau learns to relax and have fun, etc) - with the misfits-finding-their-place-in-the-world vibe initially disguising the decided lack of momentum within Connolly's script. There reaches a point, however, at which the meandering atmosphere becomes impossible to comfortably overlook, with the wheel-spinning third act paving the way for an abrupt finale that simply isn't satisfying in the least (ie it's just frustratingly ambiguous) - which ultimately cements Safety Not Guaranteed's place as a pervasively rough-around-the-edges endeavor that could (and should) have been so much better.
The best of the Jurassic Park sequels by a hair, Jurassic World details the chaos that ensues at the title locale after a genetically-modified dino escapes from its holding pen - with Chris Pratt's Owen eventually recruited to help battle the dangerous creatures that threaten to eat the park's various guests and employees. Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, working from a script cowritten with Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly, is certainly going out of his way to ape the look and feel of Steven Spielberg's landmark original film, with the movie's various elements generally designed to remind the viewer of the 1993 classic rather than its two watchable yet lackluster sequels. It's equally clear, however, that Trevorrow is rarely able to even come close to the heights of the first Jurassic Park, as Jurassic World is comprised mostly of inferior attributes that prevent it from wholeheartedly taking off on a distressingly ongoing basis. And yet the movie remains better-than-expected for the duration of its slightly overlong running time, with the inclusion of a strong lead performance from Pratt and several genuinely thrilling sequences perpetuating the entertaining vibe. (Pratt is, unfortunately, the only actor able to make much of a positive impact, as Trevorrow floods the proceedings with several hopelessly forgettable figures - with the two young siblings lost in the park standing as the most obvious and egregious example of this.) By the time the impressively enthralling final stretch rolls around, Jurassic World has established itself as a superior example of summer moviemaking - with the film's massive success hopefully paving the way for further (and better) installments.
The Book of Henry
An almost astonishingly misguided endeavor, The Book of Henry details the exploits of single mother Susan Carpenter (Naomi Watts) and her two young sons (Jaeden Lieberher's precocious Henry and Jacob Tremblay's affable Peter). Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, working from a script by Gregg Hurwitz, delivers an opening stretch that could hardly be less involving or compelling, as The Book of Henry, at the outset, comes off as an almost prototypically quirky Sundance-like drama rife with eye-rollingly idiosyncratic elements - with the three protagonists painted with broad strokes that eliminate any possibility of subtlety. It is, as such, not surprising to note that, despite fine work from the actors, Watts, Lieberher, and Tremblay are unable to transform their respective characters into believable, three-dimensional figures worth sympathizing with and rooting for (ie it's all just so gratingly cute and off-the-wall). The movie takes a turn for the worse - much worse - somewhere around the halfway mark, after which point The Book of Henry morphs into an increasingly ludicrous (and flat-out silly) piece of work with absolutely zero basis in reality - which ensures that the movie's final stretch, presumably meant to be both suspenseful and heartwarming, falls as flat as one could possibly imagine. There's ultimately virtually nothing within this misbegotten disaster that wholeheartedly (or partially) works, and it is, in the end, impossible not to wonder what drew the various folks in front of and behind the camera to Hurwitz's bottom-of-the-barrel screenplay.