Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: The Maze Runner Is Better-Than-Average YA Fare

Plus, This is Where I Leave You is too safe; A Walk Among the Tombstones is solid; and Tusk is uneven.

by | September 18, 2014 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a mysterious labyrinth (The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario), a tense family reunion (This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey), a grizzled private investigator (A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens), and a walrus-obsessed killer (Tusk, starring Justin Long and Michael Parks). What do the critics have to say?



The Maze Runner

Another week, another dystopian young adult novel adaptation. Fortunately, critics say The Maze Runner is better than most, thanks to strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory of his past, and finds himself within the confines of the Glade, a vast maze populated by other teenagers. Using clues within the Glade, he begins to piece together the enigma of his existence — and how to escape. The pundits say The Maze Runner‘s setup is more satisfying than its payoff, but overall, it’s smart, well-acted, and visually striking.



This Is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You is a dramedy about a dysfunctional family starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and many more recognizable faces. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, critics say that despite the best efforts of the cast, the movie only generates occasional laughs. When the Altman family patriarch dies, his wife and children gather to mourn; fairly quickly, deeply-held insecurities, resentments, and family secrets bubble to the surface. The pundits say that while it’s fun to see this many good actors together onscreen, This is Where I Leave You plays everything a bit too safe, with rote characterizations and clichéd conflicts that don’t cut very deep. (Watch our video interview with the cast and crew here.)



A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson’s recent transformation into a world-weary vengeance seeker has yielded uneven — though occasionally startling — dividends. Critics say his latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, falls right in the middle — it’s an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes noir with better-than-average characters to offset its shopworn plot. Neeson stars as a private investigator who’s tasked with finding those responsible for the murder of a drug trafficker’s wife. He soon learns that the killers are likely to strike again, and vows to hunt them down and stop them before they do. The pundits say that A Walk Among the Tombstones is a relatively routine detective thriller, but it’s skillfully made and benefits from the gravitas Neeson brings to the proceedings. (Check out Neeson’s best-reviewed movies here, and be sure to watch our video interview here.)



Tusk

Best known for his amiable, observational comedies, Kevin Smith has recently taken a detour into horror with Red State (2011) and now Tusk. And while critics say his latest is inventive and gleefully perverse, its gruesome set pieces coexist uneasily with its macabre sense of humor. Justin Long stars as Wallace, the host of a podcast that spotlights the bizarre and grotesque. He travels to Canada to interview a mysterious loner, who eventually reveals that he intends to turn Wallace into a walrus. The pundits say Tusk certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but it too often feels strange for its own sake.

Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing No Good Deed‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.

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