This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a sequel to an iconic horror film (Candyman, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris), an odd couple of odd couples (Vacation Friends, starring John Cena and Lil Rel Howery), and a rom-com remake (He’s All That, starring Addison Rae and Tanner Buchanan). What are the critics saying?
Horror connoisseurs of a certain age will remember the visceral terror of their first encounter with Candyman in the 1992 film of the same name. Equal parts gruesome, tragic, and chilling, that film recounted the story of a restless, hook-handed spirit born of anguish who stalked the famous Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago and punished anyone foolish enough to utter his name five times in front of a mirror. Almost 30 years later, 2021’s Candyman picks up the pieces, as struggling artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) move into a swanky loft in the now-gentrified neighborhood where Cabrini-Green once stood. When Anthony learns of the dark history that surrounds him, he dives deep into the past and unearths something he never intended to set free. Critics say director Nia DaCosta’s fresh update on the urban legend ambitiously tackles some heady themes even as it strives for jump-out-of-your-seat thrills, and while it doesn’t always mange the perfect balance of the two, it offers plenty of food for thought and expands the original’s mythology in satisfyingly chilling ways.
Vacation Friends (2021)
Just three weeks after John Cena squared off against a giant alien starfish in The Suicide Squad and just two weeks after Lil Rel Howery went digital in Free Guy, the pair are back on screen — albeit the small screen — for more hijinks, this time together in Vacation Friends. Howery and Yvonne Orji play Marcus and Emily, a relatively grounded soon-to-be-married couple who decide to let loose on vacation in Mexico when they run into hard-partying Ron and Kyla (Cena and Meredith Hagner). Months later, Ron and Kyla show up — uninvited — to Marcus and Emily’s wedding, bringing chaos and destruction with them. This Hulu comedy wasn’t screened early for critics, so almost no reviews are available, but if you’re in the market for a raunchy, over-the-top comedy, that’s what you’ll get here. We just aren’t able to advise whether or not you’re likely to enjoy it.
He's All That (2021)
The 1999 romantic comedy She’s All That, a teen version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, centered on a popular high schooler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who takes a bet that he can transform a nerdy classmate (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. It wasn’t particularly well-received by critics, but it has enjoyed something of a cult following since its release, and this week, that reputation culminates in an updated, gender-swapped take on the story. This time around, the popular kid is social media influencer Padgett (Addison Rae), whose very public break-up goes viral and compels her to take on the challenge of transforming her outcast classmate Cameron (Tanner Buchanan) into the prom king. It’s pretty straightfoward stuff, and it even includes a nod to the original (Cook is cast as Padgett’s mother), but Netflix didn’t deem it necessary to show the film to any critics before it streams on Friday, so you’ll just have to wait and see if He’s All That measures up to its predecessor.
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