Mini Reviews (July 2018)
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Calibre, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Yogi Bear
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (July 1/18)
Perpetually uneven but affable enough, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion follows the two bubbly title characters (Mira Sorvino's Romy and Lisa Kudrow's Michele) as their friendship is tested during the buildup (and road trip) to their high school's ten-year reunion. Directed David Mirkin immediately establishes a sprightly, fast-moving atmosphere that proves an ideal complement to Robin Schiff's lighthearted screenplay, and there's little doubt that the film's pervasively agreeable vibe is heightened by Sorvino and Kudrow's solid work as the airheaded protagonists - with the picture also benefiting substantially from the efforts of an almost unusually strong supporting cast (which includes Janeane Garofalo, Camryn Manheim, and Alan Cumming). It's just as clear, however, that Romy and Michele's High School Reunion does suffer from a decidedly erratic sense of pacing, as Schiff delivers an oddly disjointed narrative that contains a couple of prolonged flashbacks and a bizarre, padded-out dream sequence - with such moments, entertaining as they may be, resulting in a palpably hit-and-miss vibe that (somewhat negatively) affects the movie's overall impact. Still, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is, in the final analysis, a difficult film to wholeheartedly dislike due almost entirely to the completely (and consistently) engaging work of its two stars.
Calibre (July 5/18)
An erratic yet effective thriller, Calibre follows old friends Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) as they head to an isolated Scottish Highlands village for a weekend of relaxing and hunting - with the movie detailing the problems that ensue after an accidental moment of violence forces the pals to cover their tracks. It's a familiar premise that is, at the outset, employed to underwhelming effect by first-time filmmaker Matt Palmer, as the writer/director delivers an opening stretch that's riddled with elements of an almost unreasonably clichéd nature - with this especially noticeable in the portrayal of the picture's various characters. (Lowden and McCann are, for example, trapped within the confines of, respectively, a quiet, meek family man and a brash, loudmouthed finance jerk, while the town's myriad of denizens generally come off as suspicious and aggressive.) It's subsequently not surprising that the narrative's tense moments aren't as impactful as Palmer has surely intended, although, by that same token, there's little doubt that the movie improves substantially once it reaches a fairly specific point - with Calibre's propulsive and fairly engrossing third act ensuring that the whole thing ends on a far more satisfying (and grim) note than one might've anticipated. The end result is a hit-and-miss endeavor that works in spite of Palmer's less-than-fresh approach to the hoary material, with the movie's more effective (and affecting) moments ultimately compensating for its smattering of almost eye-rollingly stale attributes.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (July 12/18)
A rather ineffective followup to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass follows Mia Wasikowska's title character as she embarks on a perilous quest to prove that the Mad Hatter's (Johnny Depp) family didn't perish in a long-ago calamity. Filmmaker James Bobin delivers a strong opening stretch that seems to bode well for the ensuing narrative, as the director, working from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, kicks the proceedings off with a briskly-paced and thoroughly entertaining first act - with the picture benefiting substantially from Wasikowska's strong work as the affable, sympathetic protagonist. (Sacha Baron Cohen, cast as Time, offers as irreverent and oddball a performance as one might've anticipated, while Depp and his various Wonderland-based costars provide able periphery support as well.) It's increasingly clear, however, that Bobin's consistently (and aggressively) over-the-top sensibilities grow intolerable somewhere around the movie's midway point, as the film, which has clearly been designed to appeal mostly (or is that solely?) to very small children, adopts a frenetic tone that's amusing for a while but eventually becomes exhausting - with the atmosphere of sensory overload compounded and perpetuated by an egregious emphasis on computer-generated special effects. Bobin's climactic attempts at tugging at the viewer's heartstrings, as a result, fall completely and hopelessly flat, which ultimately confirms Alice Through the Looking Glass' place as an overblown and underwhelming sequel to a somewhat middling original.
Yogi Bear (July 17/18)
Based on the classic Hanna-Barbera character, Yogi Bear follows the title protagonist (Dan Aykroyd) and his sidekick, Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake), spend their days stealing picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers and making Jellystone Park's head ranger's (Tom Cavanagh's Ranger Smith) life miserable - with the narrative eventually detailing the heroes' efforts at preventing an evil politician (Andrew Daly's Mayor Brown) from shutting down the iconic park and opening the land to logging. It's clear immediately that filmmaker Eric Brevig has no loftier goal than to entertain very small (and undiscriminating) children, as Yogi Bear contains a pervasively, aggressively over-the-top vibe that persists for the duration of its often interminable 80 minutes - with the movie's noisy sensibilities compounded by Aykroyd's frustratingly ineffective vocal turn as the irritating central character. There's little doubt, as well, that the picture suffers considerably from an almost total lack of momentum, with the disjointed nature of Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, and Brad Copeland's screenplay certainly playing an instrumental role in cultivating a vibe of abject pointlessness (ie it feels like two short films have been artlessly crammed together). By the time the predictably loud and larger-than-life finale rolls around, Yogi Bear has certainly confirmed its place as a patience-testing, headache-inducing disaster with little to offer older viewers. (This is despite the personable work from human actors like Cavanagh, Anna Faris, and T.J. Miller.)