CVIndependent

Sat04042020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

Out of the gate, Sonic the Hedgehog looks like it could be one of the year’s worst films. It’s irritating; it’s unoriginal; and it features multiple jokes about cops eating donuts, as if we haven’t heard those before.

Then Jim Carrey shows up as the villain—and almost saves the whole damn thing. Almost.

Sonic—the videogame character so beloved that his fan base rallied to have his likeness corrected after an abysmal look in the original trailer—is voiced by Ben Schwartz. While this incarnation definitely looks better than the mess Paramount Pictures first tried to get past the masses, the character is still grating. Sorry, Mr. Schwartz, but your voice is nails on a chalkboard.

A brief prelude shows Sonic being sent to Earth by a heroic owl; he’s left alone in a cave with a bag of gold rings that provide gateways to other worlds. After an encounter with Tom Wachowski, a small-town policeman (James Marsden), Sonic’s gold rings are accidentally transported to San Francisco. He must join Tom—who Sonic calls the Donut Lord, because, as I stated before, this movie’s script is screamingly unoriginal—and go on a road trip.

In pursuit is Dr. Robotnik, played by a totally game Jim Carrey, who hasn’t been this manically fun in years. Whatever stupid crap the movie has him doing doesn’t matter: Director Jeff Fowler gives the comedian permission to go off, and Carrey not only riffs away, but gets behind the character with his trademark physical acting. He gets legitimate laughs that are surprisingly offbeat, considering this is a PG-rated kids’ film. (I especially liked his musings regarding Charlotte’s Web.)

Alas, Carrey’s role is a supporting one, and he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time to redeem the film. We are mostly left with Marsden trading one liners with Sonic, including, of course, the requisite fart jokes. If you were to guess where Tom and Sonic wind up on the road as a detour for strained laughs, a biker bar would be high on your probability list. And in that biker bar, you’d probably guess there are jokes involving mechanical bulls, line dancing, buffalo wings and bar fights. You would’ve guessed right.

There are a couple of scenes during which Sonic pulls a Quicksilver—that’s the character in X-Men who was so fast that he could rearrange people between blows in a fight. I have to think there’s an X-Men screenwriter somewhere who will be mighty pissed off after seeing some of the sequences in this movie.

Thankfully, Sonic does actually look like his videogame self now, and not some horrid concoction featuring small eyes and human teeth. This film’s script, added to the way Sonic looked in that original trailer, would’ve ensured box-office death. As things stand, the movie looks decent, which makes the dopey screenplay semi-tolerable.

Maybe some good things will come out of this. Perhaps the movie will give the talented Carrey the jump start his career needs after the ill-advised Dumb and Dumber To and his miserable dramatic turn in Dark Crimes, which nobody saw. It’s time to green-light another Ace Ventura or a sequel to The Mask. Either would be a better use of his talent than having him chasing lame-assed Sonic around.

The film leaves things open for a sequel … a sequel that will probably happen. With the distraction of an initially horrendous-looking Sonic out of the way, maybe a unified look from the start could lead to a stronger picture. There’s plenty of room for improvement.

Sonic the Hedgehog is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

There are actors who are difficult to work with … and then there is Jim Carrey.

Carrey took difficulty to otherworldly levels behind the scenes of 1999’s Man on the Moon, the Milos Forman-directed biopic of Andy Kaufman. Carrey, who played Kaufman, decide to go method, and insisted upon remaining in character as Kaufman every second he was on set, or even near the set. The documentary Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, directed by Chris Smith, features an extensive interview with Carrey, along with long-hidden footage of Carrey’s antics during the production.

One of the highlights takes place when Carrey, as Kaufman, spits on wrestler Jerry Lawler. Lawler had a legendary (but staged) feud with Kaufman back in the day, and Carrey tried to build upon that. Carrey also got his ass kicked, which you will see in this movie (along with the aftermath, during which Carrey momentarily insisted that Lawler get fired).

Carrey was incredible in Moon. It was shocking when he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. Now that I’ve seen this movie, I’m not surprised: Word probably got around about what an ass he was on this movie, and people probably boycotted him when it came to voting.

That said, Carrey’s antics made for a good original movie—and this interesting documentary to boot. He’s a true nut.

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her notable feature debut, the authentic vampire story A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, with another horror story, The Bad Batch. This time out, she focuses on cannibals.

Suki Waterhouse plays Arlen, newly exiled to a desert landscape—where she is quickly captured by cannibals, watching as her arm and leg are cut off and devoured. After escaping, she wanders around a bit, eventually stopping by a safe haven run by The Dream (Keanu Reeves).

Some business involving the daughter of Miami Man (Jason Momoa, aka Aquaman), one of her captors, represents the only thing that passes for a conventional subplot in this purposefully rambling, meandering affair. Amirpour’s sophomore effort is a mixed bag, but it looks amazing, boasts a great soundtrack and has a few creepy passages in it.

But if a cohesive story is what you seek, you won’t find it here. You will, however, find Jim Carrey in a strange extended cameo as the Hermit, a dude who literally eats crow.

The movie never really comes together, but it’s worth watching if you like post-apocalyptic cannibal movies and Culture Club.

The Bad Batch is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

After numerous stops and starts, the Dumb and Dumber sequel has finally made it to the screen, 20 years after the original.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return as Lloyd and Harry, movie history’s two biggest dumbasses. While Carrey slides right back into the role of the mischievous goofball, Daniels seems to be forcing it a bit, so the chemistry is off. Even worse, Bobby and Peter Farrelly make their two stars labor for laughs with a script loaded with hit-and-(mostly)-miss gags.

The plot involves Harry finding out he has a daughter, and the two going on another road trip to find her. (Harry also needs a kidney, thus the need to find the daughter, for donor purposes.) There’s a gag involving an old woman under the covers that I can’t believe made it into a PG-13 movie, and a couple of other decent laughs—but the chuckles are far and few between.

Diehard fans of the original will be happy to see these characters back, though the happiness will be accompanied by the sadness of wasted opportunity. An after-the-credits scene claims there will be another sequel 20 years from now. I’m hoping that’s a joke, because there really is no need to visit these characters again.

I can’t believe how nasty this film is to Kathleen Turner. I’m a little mad at myself for thinking the way she’s taunted is the funniest thing in the movie.

Dumb and Dumber To is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Kick-Ass 2 had barely started when I experienced a serious flashback—a flashback so vivid that it felt like I had traveled through time. (I concede that I was sort of high on Benadryl; at least it stops my nose from running.)

It was 1989, the summer before my final year of college. I was managing a crappy discount movie theater at the time, and I would go up the road to the nice theater for the big, new movies a few weeks before our cheap-ass theater got a print. I was a bright-eyed optimist sitting down for a showing of Ghostbusters 2.

A few short minutes into that sequel, I knew things had gone terribly wrong with a potentially great franchise.

I felt that same, sinking, nauseating feeling as Kick-Ass 2 began by recycling the infamous bit from the original film in which Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) tested the bulletproof vest worn by Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). This time, Hit-Girl is firing bullets at Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). We are supposed to laugh, because it’s just like the first film, right?

Wrong. The first film had a creative spark, a visual flair and an uncanny ability to walk the line between dark satire and bad taste. It managed to parody superhero movies while actually being a decent superhero movie.

Kick-Ass 2 is a shrill, abrasive, disgusting misfire from a director (Jeff Wadlow) without a clue. The script is terrible. The art direction is unimaginative and flat, and the performances run the gamut from flat and uninspired to screeching. The result is bush-league garbage.

I was tortured watching this thing. Ghostbusters blew it big time within the first 15 minutes of its sequel. Well, Kick-Ass had an even better premise, and some decent graphic novels to back it up—yet its sequel is a loser from the very beginning.

Taylor-Johnson returns as Dave, a high school student who yearns to be a superhero. He puts on a mail-order costume and becomes Kick-Ass, roaming the streets looking to stop crime. While Matthew Vaughn, the original film’s director, managed to pull something charming out of Taylor-Johnson, in this film, he’s an annoying, whiny goofball. He doesn’t have a single shining moment.

Returning as Mindy Macready (Hit-Girl), Moretz suffers simply because she grew up a bit. Having a tiny 11-year-old girl kick major ass is one thing; having a fairly substantial 15-year-old kicking the same ass doesn’t have the same comic wallop or shock value. She looks a little silly in the same getup, and her performance is surprisingly dull.

Making matters worse is a subplot in which Hit-Girl gives up vigilantism and decides to give high school an honest go. This results in a by-the-numbers scenario straight out of Heathers and Mean Girls, except this one culminates in the mean girls experiencing simultaneous vomiting and explosive diarrhea.

While Mindy goes to school, Kick-Ass looks for other superheroes, and hooks up with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his gang. Carrey has but a few minutes in the film—and unlike everyone else, he seems to know what movie he is supposed to be in. He’s funny, just a little sick—and he looks great in his outfit. Yes, the movie is being faithful to the graphic novels that inspired it, but they should’ve found a way to have Carrey’s character play a bigger part. He’s the only thing worth watching, and makes up a little for the loss of Nicolas Cage.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, so good in the original, delivers one of the year’s worst performances as wannabe super-villain Chris D’Amico, bent on revenge after Kick-Ass shot his dad with a bazooka. Mintz-Plasse spends the movie screaming, decked out in bondage gear, and embarrassing himself with moments like a rape scene played for laughs. It’s sickening, really.

Carrey has disowned this film, citing its excessive violence. Hey, maybe that was part of it, but I’m thinking he saw a rough cut of Kick-Ass 2, became fully convinced the director had crapped the bed, and decided to stay home rather than put on a fake happy face for the talk-show circuit. He’s the best thing about the movie—but two or three decent scenes do not a good movie make.

It’s a shame to see Taylor-Johnson, Moretz and Mintz-Plasse straining to relive the greatness of their previous effort, in much the same way it was tough watching Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis 24 years ago. Ghostbusters, despite many rumors, never got a third movie. I’m thinking the Kick-Ass franchise will suffer that same fate.

Kick-Ass 2 is playing in theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews