Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Frozen is Certified Fresh

Plus, Black Nativity is heartfelt but uneven; Homefront is mostly generic; and Oldboy is intriguing but not quite successful.

by | November 27, 2013 | Comments

Happy Thanksgiving! This week at the movies, we’ve got a frigid fairy tale (Frozen, featuring voice performances by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel); a small-town drug war (Homefront, starring Jason Statham and James Franco); a holiday musical (Black Nativity, starring Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett); a quest for vengeance (Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen); a mother’s search (Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan); and a troubled childhood (The Book Thief, starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson). What do the critics have to say?

Frozen

90%

Any film released under the banner of Walt Disney Animation has a lot to live up to. Happily, critics say Frozen acquits itself quite well: it’s got toe-tapping tunes, crisp visuals, and a sensibility that’s at once classic and au courant. Like a blustery King Midas, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is cursed with the power to turn everything she touches to ice. She’s forced into exile after plunging the kingdom into a deep freeze; it’s up to her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and some newfound friends to rescue her. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Frozen is beautifully animated, consistently inventive, and intelligently written — in other words, it’s a solid entry into the Disney pantheon.

Homefront

43%

Homefront boasts an intriguing pedigree: it’s an action flick starring Jason Statham and James Franco (as a bad guy!) with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, critics say the end result is pretty generic, with a few decent thrills and a whole lotta clichés. Statham stars as an ex-DEA agent who has relocated to a small rural community in order to put the past behind him. Soon, however, he’s pulled into a conflict with a local meth kingpin (Franco) and must defend his home against an army of thugs. The pundits say Homefront offers the dependable sight of Statham cleaning house, but it’s essentially a thin genre exercise with a better-than-average-cast.

Black Nativity

50%

em>Black Nativity would seem to have everything needed for uplifting holiday entertainment, including an all-star cast, powerful music, and warm messages about faith and family. And while some critics think it’s a winning formula, others feel the film is weighted down by sappiness and heavy-handed sermonizing. A loose adaptation of Langston Hughes’ play, Black Nativity is the story of a teenager (Jacob Latimore) who is sent by his mother to spend Christmas with grandparents he’s never met; while he initially chafes under their austere morality, he eventually learns a thing or two about life and love from the people he meets on his travels. The pundits say Black Nativity is undeniably warm-hearted and well-acted, but it’s hamstrung by its preachiness and contrived plot.

Oldboy

39%

Spike Lee has never been one to play things safe, which is why critics are all the more surprised that his remake of Chan-wook Park?s cult classic Oldboy is disappointingly straightforward — a competent, occasionally stylish thriller that fails to replicate the gonzo panache or moral weightiness of its predecessor. Josh Brolin stars as a man who’s abducted and confined for 20 years — until he’s mysteriously released, at which point he goes on a mission to enact revenge against his captors. The pundits say Oldboy is sufficiently grim and violent, but it lacks the freshness that made the original such a punch to the gut.

Philomena

91%

Based on a remarkable true story, Philomena won raves in limited release last week; now, this Certified Fresh drama goes wide, and critics say it’s witty, deeply moving, and terrifically acted. Judi Dench stars as a woman who was forced to give up her son for adoption years ago after getting pregnant out of wedlock. In order to find her child, she enlists the aid of an investigative reporter (Steve Coogan). The pundits say Philomena is a bittersweet, inspiring tear-jerker that benefits from Dench’s typically outstanding work.

The Book Thief

48%

The Book Thief expands into wide release this week, and critics say it’s a handsome and well-acted drama that’s a bit too facile and syrupy to fully convince. Based on Markus Zusak’s bestselling novel, the film stars Sophie Nelisse as a girl who learns to read while living with foster parents (played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in a German town on the cusp of World War II. The pundits say the film is well-intentioned and occasionally touching, but it tiptoes around its incendiary setting.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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