Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: The Wolf of Wall Street is Certified Fresh

Plus, Walter Mitty is sincere but uneven, Grudge Match and 47 Ronin lose the battle, Mandela is well-acted, and Believe was not screened for critics.

by | December 23, 2013 | Comments

Merry Christmas! This week at the movies, we’ve got a financial fraudster (The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill); a timid daydreamer (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig); a pair of aging prizefighters (Grudge Match, starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro); a legendary warrior (47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada); a pop music sensation (the documentary Justin Bieber’s Believe); and a human rights hero (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris). What do the critics have to say?

The Wolf of Wall Street

80%

Martin Scorsese knows how to capture the vicarious allure of criminality better than just about any other filmmaker. Critics say he’s in fine form with The Wolf of Wall Street, a slick, sleek, and surprisingly funny tale of financial fraud that features a riveting performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. The film follows the rise of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), the founder of a boiler room that sold worthless stocks to naïve customers. Belfort’s ill-gotten gains finance a staggering level of conspicuous debauchery, but he’s shrewd enough to stay one step ahead of the government — for a while, anyway. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Wolf of Wall Street has the hyperkinetic energy you’d expect from Scorsese, but what distinguishes it from past triumphs is its wild, ribald sense of humor.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

52%

For all its evocative detail, James Thurber’s 1939 short story The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is pretty brief, so it takes an imagination worthy of the title character to extend it to feature film length. Critics say Ben Stiller’s fantasy world looks great and has an optimistic tone, but its story often feels episodic and tonally uneven. Stiller stars as a reverie-prone Life magazine photo editor with problems at work: he’s derided by his boss, he’s got an unrequited crush on a co-worker (Kristen Wiig), and he can’t find an image that’s set to run in the next issue. He escapes into a globe-spanning fantasyland of his own creation — which might be just the thing that snaps him out of his rut. The pundits say that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is well-meaning and ambitious, but it pushes its emotional buttons too hard to make up for a slight story.

Grudge Match

31%

Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro played two of cinema’s most iconic boxers, and Grudge Match purports to be a lighthearted fantasy bout between Rocky Balboa and Jake “The Raging Bull” LaMotta. Unfortunately, critics say it’s more tomato can than contender — a film with a promising premise that rarely punches above its weight. Thirty years after hanging up the gloves after splitting their two matchups, bitter rivals Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) have a fisticuffs-filled reunion while performing motion capture for a video game. When news of their punch-up spreads, the two fighters agree to a long-delayed rubber match — and a lot more than pride is on the line. The pundits say Grudge Match is sporadically funny but surprisingly lumbering, its strong cast largely mired in a plot that’s overrun with clichés.

47 Ronin

16%

From the silent era to the present, the tale of the 47 Ronin has inspired some of Japan’s greatest filmmakers. Now it gets a big-budget Western adaptation, but unfortunately, critics say the human element gets lost under a barrage of overblown CGI effects. When a disgraced feudal lord is compelled to commit suicide after a confrontation with a corrupt official, his disgraced followers (a group that includes an orphaned swashbuckler played by Keanu Reeves). The pundits say 47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

62%

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom goes into wide release this week, and critics say it’s a decent if not always inspired look at Nelson Mandela’s life that’s bolstered by a terrific central performance by Idris Elba in the title role. Based upon Mandela’s autobiography, the film follows the South African political leader’s life from his early activism to his time in prison to his election to president in the first post-Apartheid elections. The pundits say the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom tries to cover too much ground in the great man’s life, but it’s a sincere and powerfully acted biopic that serves as a good first step for those who want to learn more about one of the great human rights champions or our era.

Justin Bieber’s Believe

53%

Sorry, Beliebers: we’d love to tell you what the critics thought of Justin Bieber’s Believe, but it wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release in theaters. If Bieber’s previous doc, Never Say Never, captured the rise of the pop star, Believe purports to show how his world has changed now that he’s on the cusp of adulthood. Hey everybody, take a break from yuletide festivities and guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

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