Thanksgiving Movie Review Recap


TANGLED (****)
Disney’s latest (and supposedly last) Princess movie follows admirably in the footsteps of studio stablemates like The Little Mermaid and Beauty in the Beast.  Like those movies, it is a charming, gorgeously animated picture, with bouncy musical numbers, lovable characters, and a strong emphasis on story.  The heroine here is Rapunzel, and she’s nicely voiced by Mandy Moore.  The animators do a great job of mirroring Moore’s mannerisms, and adding in less-than-perfect (though totally charming) features like big eyes and an overbite.  The story kicks into high gear when wanted bandit Flynn Rider (Chuck’s Zachary Levi) hides out in Rapunzel’s tower.  Adventure, comedy, and romance all follow in equal measure.  Boys will love it.  Girls will love it.  And so will their parents.  An all-ages delight and a must-see family movie this holiday season.
I’m not sure what co-writer/director Edward Zwick was trying to achieve with Love and Other Drugs.  I can kind of see a glimmer of Jerry Maguire in the story and tone, with drug sales reps instead of sports agents.  But not quite, and this movie is nowhere near as good as Jerry Maguire.  The two aren’t even in the same ballpark.  While Jake Gyllenhaal does some of his best work as the hotshot Jamie, and he has an easygoing chemistry with Anne Hathaway’s Maggie (also good, though her character is rather two-dimensional), Zwick directs the movie as a series of one-act plays that never really add up to a complete film.  The Viagra storyline doesn’t mesh with the romance between Jamie and Maggie – at times, it can feel as if you are watching two different movies. The comedic bits – most involving Jamie’s slovenly younger brother (Josh Gad) – are desperately crude and evoke sub-subpar Apatow.  The dramatic moments fall limp – Maggie has Parkinson’s, but the movie isn’t quite sure what to do with that.  If you’re a big fan of either Gyllenhaal or Hathaway though, add another half star because they get naked a lot.
Though it’s nice to see Dwayne Johnson back in R-rated action mode after getting sidetracked by a series of dumb kiddie comedies, he’s got very little to work with in the misleadingly titled Faster.  His character is called “Driver.”  That’s it – just “Driver.”  Stupid, right?  Driver just got out of jail and he’s targeting a series of people for revenge.  Hot on his trail is a burnt-out cop (Billy Bob Thornton) named “Cop” and a lovestruck hitman named “Killer.”  There are a few twists and turns in the story that may surprise the viewer, but I lost interest in the movie long before then.  Faster is not all that fast – there are too many lame dialogue scenes and the action is infrequent – and not at all fun.  Johnson just glowers for most of the movie and his “Driver” is not a compelling hero.  A big drag.
Speaking of drag, here’s Burlesque.  Dumb-as-a-post and utterly derivative of movies like Moulin Rouge, Showgirls, and Coyote Ugly, there is nothing here you haven’t seen before.  But for the first hour, there is a certain kind of campy charm to the movie.  Christina Aguilera plays a small town girl who walks into a Burlesque club within minutes of arriving in L.A. and instantly dreams of hitting it big.  Cher is the club’s owner, and Stanley Tucci basically repeats his role from Devil Wears Prada as Cher’s gay sidekick.  Some of the musical sequences pop, but writer-director Steve Antin has only written half a movie.  The second half wanders around, switching focus from one subplot to another, hoping for one of them to stick.  None do.  Facial oddities aside, Cher still has it as an actress.  Aguilera does okay, but she’s really not that good.  You can always see her trying to “act” rather than just be the character.

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