Categories
1 Star Movies

Dolittle (2020)

As I get older and see more movies, I realize that nostalgia cannot always work for movies I liked as a kid. Sure, some movies are classics and speak to the child in all of us (The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, E.T., and a number of Disney films), but some are sadly ones we look back on and wonder, “What was I thinking?!?!”. I recently revisited the original first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early 90s, and while the first one is still passable, the second one (the one with Vanilla Ice) is now just laughable. I predict kids who see Dolittle will say the same thing if they choose to revisit it as an adult, since any adults these days who are forced to see it will do what they can to forget it (even more so for the adults who were part of the film).

Back in 1967, the titular role of Doctor Dolittle (unseen by me) was played by theater great Rex Harrison. In the late 1990s, it was Eddie Murphy (the first was enjoyable to me as a kid, but I stopped caring after the second sequel). Now the role is in the hands of Robert Downey Jr. (in his first role after leaving the MCU). Set in the 19th century, we learn in an animated prelude (which was very well animated, and one of the few things of the film I actually was fine with) that his wife Lily (Kasia Smmutniak) is an adventurer who has died at sea. Understandably depressed, Dolittle has secluded himself in his mansion (that was once paid for by the Queen) in isolation. One day, a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) is out hunting with his family, though very unwillingly so. When he purposely misses shooting ducks, he hits a squirrel. Rather than put it out of its misery, he stumbles upon the Dolittle mansion.

At this point, we encounter one of the films many problems. We first see Dolittle talking to the animals as any human would: using animal sounds. We get a close up of him, and it changes to him speaking normally to the animals who now speak clear English to him as well. There is no consistancy in the communication between the doctor and the animals.

At the same time that Stubbins drops in, we meet Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), who has been sent to deliver disturbing news: Queen Victoria (Jesse Buckley) has fallen ill. When the Doctor arrives, we discover the only known cure is from a mystical island that Dolittle’s late wife was looking for as she perished.

There is also a side plot involving Dolittle’s father in law, who blames the Doctor for Lily’s death. The father in law (named Rassouli, a name I don’t remember being uttered but it was on wiki so I guess it works) is played by the just recently Oscar nominated Antonio Banderas.

Wait, there is another side plot I forgot involving Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen). A former classmate of Dolittle’s, Mudfly is summoned by Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent, another wonderful actor who I had to find his character name on wiki) to make sure Dolittle & Company fail and that the Queen dies (not sure why they wanted the Queen to die, but whatever). There are no points given in finding out right away that Mudfly is the bad guy. In fact, points should be taken away if you did not know that.

If you thought the cast I have mentioned so far is a waste of talent, wait till you hear who the animals are voiced by. Emma Thompson is a wise parrot (as well as the films narrator). Rami Malek is a kind but not so confident Gorilla. Tom Holland is a loyal dog with glasses (for some reason). Octavia Spencer is a duck. Ralph Fiennes is a tiger. Selena Gomez is a giraffe. Marion Cotillard is a fox (with only a few lines). Finally, Kumail Nanjiani is the ostrich who becomes friends with Yoshi the Polar Bear, played by John Cena.

While none of these actors are untalented, they fail because of the script they are given (which is also mind boggling, when you remember that the film’s director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan wrote movies like Traffic and Syrianna, admittedly two vastly different films).

As stated, the film is set in the 19th Century, but the animals are all talking like they are from the 21st. I understand that it is to appeal more to children, but the theater I was in (which did not have many, thought it was a 5pm show on a thursday) had virtually zero laughs from the adults. As for the kids (maybe two or so in the audience), I think I heard three laughs tops.

There is actual detrimental material here for kids, because we have all encountered wild animals at one point or another in our lives. Whether it be a close pet we chat with or a squirrel we honk our horn at to move out of the way. We like to think we are talking with them.

When I get home from work, there is always a nice welcome for me from my dog, Molly (the newer dog, Charlie, is another matter). There is a weird sense of appreciation we get from pets that makes us want to talk to them. Animals (especially pets) help take us out of our daily lives and remember the natural elements of the world.

Parents, if all you are worried about is violence/sexuality/swearing, you are fine. There is none of that here (even the wounded squirrel, who took a shotgun blast to the chest, was not bleeding). The one exception is the post credit scene, where a character is surrounded by bats. While it is played for laughs, I think it would generally scare children.

Though I am not a parent, I would still argue that this movie is not engaging or smart enough for any child over the ages of 5-6. It is as if the filmmakers forgot that kids in a movie theater are actually smarter than they realize.

Dolittle also is unclear on its message. At first, I thought it would be on how to be kind to animals (after all, God did tell Noah to have two of every kind on the ark). The film just became about an adventure that no one asked for.

Somehow, Dolittle did give me a feeling I never expected.

A feeling of nostalgia.

…for the movie CATS.

Overall:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Categories
5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

All this time, we have had it wrong.

Despite the drastic ending of Infinity War, when Thanos succeeded in wiping out half the universe, we were not given a year to recover from the snap heard round the cosmos. Rather, we were given a year to prepare for Avengers: Endgame. I have not felt this feeling in a movie theater since the conclusion of the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Of those survivors of the snap, life has (understandably) changed drastically for our heroes. I will not say how, for they are worth finding out for yourselves (though I will say that the changes of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor put a giant smile on my face). When all seems lost, we get the return of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has been trapped in the quantum realm during the snap (we learn this at the end of Ant Man & the Wasp). He proposes an idea that is so crazy it could never work: use the quantum realm for time travel and reverse the events that led to the deaths of all the heroes we have been mourning (let alone the rest). This leads to countless (and hilarious) comparisons to films like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Hot Tub Time Machine. Personally, I was thinking of the description of time travel from Doctor Who, which states it is “more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey….stuff.”

What follows is akin to a collection of classic reruns, as certain teams travel to certain points in time to collect the stones, seeing many (and I mean many) familiar faces along the way. This gives more time for our heroes (specifically the ones we have known since the beginning) to grow even more as characters and as people (or Gods or raccoons or whatever). Of course, when Thanos (Josh Brolin) reenters, all is even more complex. The showdown at the end (which you know will happen) is one of the best action scenes ever put to film.

From Chris Evans’s Steve Rodgers/Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man to Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the characters of the MCU are some of the most recognizable and memorable characters in the history of cinema (regardless of genre). Sure, we all like to imagine having made up powers to fight the bad guy (not to mention doing it as a team), but to care for these characters like family is something on a whole other level. There is a sense of closure at the end of the film that seems so palpable. The film reminds us how we as humans can relate empathically with fictional characters. Furthermore, the film inspires us to be courageous and self-sacrificial. It reminds me of a quotation from the aforementioned Lord of the Rings trilogy: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

Parents, the film is a little bit more graphic than the other MCU films; it still has a PG-13 rating like all the other MCU movies. A good amount of swearing, too.

Next up, the MCU is bringing us Spider-Man: Far from Home, and then it will be awhile before we have any other films from Marvel. After seeing Avengers: Endgame, you can understand the time off. It will be near impossible to follow this film up.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Categories
5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. Few movies have been any kind of a threat of dethroning Marvel’s work (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War.

If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans), … ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye.

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. After all, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point because “We have a hulk” isn’t good enough for the Asgardians.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given not only the same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the films of the MCU and the (now defunct) DCU is that the former has far more layered characters. After spending a decade with most of them, we have seen a character arc in nearly every one of them, and have seen there ups and downs, fears and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses. How applicable are the words from Proverbs 18:24; “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The heroes are not blood related (Thor and Loki are brothers, but not by blood, as is the case for Gamora and Nebula), but have gone thru so much they may as well be. How can that not be relatable?

John 15:13 tells us a deep, moral truth: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.Avengers: Infinity War recognizes this truth time and time again. One critical point in the plot is the discussion over whether to kill Vision preemptively to stop Thanos from getting the Mind stone. Vision was willing to die (and did!) for his friends.

Parents, Infinity War is darker than most other Marvel movies, but still an acceptable film for Middle Schoolers and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.