This week at the movies — the second straight with five new wide releases — we’ve got foul fowl (The Angry Birds Movie 2, featuring the voices of Jason Sudeikis and Josh Gad), pre-teen misadventures (Good Boys, starring Jacob Tremblay and Keith L. Williams), divers in peril (47 Meters Down: Uncaged, starring Sophie Nélisse and Corinne Fox), a missing mom (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup), and a man inspired by The Boss (Blinded by the Light, starring Viveik Kalra and Hayley Atwell). What are the critics saying?
Considering its non-narrative source material, there are likely few who would have guessed that The Angry Birds Movie 2 could become the best-reviewed video game movie of all time. Yet, here we are, with the mobile app-inspired animated adventure poised to take the crown away from Detective Pikachu, who mounted the throne just earlier this year. Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride all return to voice their characters from the first film, as Red (Sudeikis) and the birds join forces with Leonard (Hader) and the pigs against a new enemy (voiced by Leslie Jones) bent on taking over their islands. Also, there’s a subplot about three young birds attempting to retrieve some lost eggs. It’s all harmless stuff, say the critics, who also point out that The Angry Birds Movie 2 is fast-paced, zipping from set piece to set piece, and full of both potty jokes for the kids and more pop culture-savvy humor for the adults. When all is said and done, and the Tomatometer score settles a bit, this may indeed become the best video game movie yet, and most seem to be just fine with that.
On paper, it’s a little tough to suss out who exactly is supposed to be the target audience for Good Boys. Its R rating means kids the same age as the three leads won’t be able to see it — some of the movie’s marketing has been keen to point that out — and there’s no guarantee that those who are of appropriate age to see the film will get much of a kick out of a trio of pre-teens getting into outlandish shenanigans en route to a spin-the-bottle party. Yet, here we are, with the film earning fairly enthusiastic praise from a majority of the critics — presumably all adults — who have seen it. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon play the titular Boys, one of whom is invited to a kissing party where he may get to smooch his crush. But when an attempt to spy on the girls with a drone goes sideways, the threesome embark on a riotous journey that will teach them more than they ever wanted to know. Critics say Good Boys, written and directed by The Office vets Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, is frequently funny, getting a lot of mileage out of the boys’ naivete about grown-up things, and surprisingly earnest. It’s essentially a middle-school riff on Superbad, but less cynical, and with noticeably more jokes about sex toys.
First off, we’ll get the obvious question out of the way: Why isn’t this movie called 48 Meters Down? Seems like the most logical way to name a sequel to 47 Meters Down, and it’s a whole lot less clumsy than its actual title: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. Yet, here we are, wondering how cages factor into this story about scuba divers in Mexico terrorized by sharks. This time around, it’s a quartet of young women on vacation who take an underwater excursion to explore some submerged Mayan ruins, only to discover they’ve invaded the hunting grounds of a school of ravenous sharks. Critics are currently split on the Uncaged, with some calling it a standard B-movie thriller that knows what it sets out to do and does it fairly successfully, while others lament what they feel are sluggish pacing, subpar writing, and a lack of originality. At the very least, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is tracking on the Tomatometer to be on par with the first film — a tad better, even — so if you enjoyed that one, you’re likely to be on board with this one, too.
It’s tempting to think that the combination of an acclaimed director, a supremely talented cast, and best-selling source material should make for a surefire bet at the cineplex, even if we’ve seen similar projects fail time and again in the past. Yet, here we are, staring down the release of Richard Linklater‘s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? as critics lament what could have been. Based on the novel of the same name and starring an ensemble cast that includes Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne, and, in the title role, Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go revolves around a stay-at-home mom (she’s agoraphobic) and former hotshot architect who gradually suffers a nervous breakdown and takes flight from her domestic troubles in order to rekindle her creative instincts. Though he does occasionally dip into the Well of Whimsy, this is Linklater’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by way of Wes Anderson, which, according to critics, isn’t as enjoyable as it might sound to some. While most critics have few negative things to say about Blanchett’s central performance, many of them find the movie surrounding her less impressive, largely due to a sprawling but thin plot that fails to explore more interesting themes surrounding its enigmatic protagonist. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? may appeal Linklater completionists (they exist, right?), but others may leave the theater dissatisfied.
Jukebox musicals are, on the whole, hit-or-miss affairs, as it’s understandably difficult to shape dialogue around frequently nebulous pop-song lyrics without turning the enterprise into a cloying mess. Yet, here we are, with just such an endeavor based on the hits of Bruce Springsteen earning the best reviews of any wide release this week. Loosely adapted from a memoir by British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor (who also co-wrote the script), Blinded by the Light follows teenaged aspiring writer Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he struggles to escape his hometown and his strict, traditional family; he finds the strength to stand on his own when he’s introduced to the music of The Boss, who inspires him to follow his own path. Critics say that while the film is not without its movie musical cliches, the cast — which includes Hayley Atwell as a supportive teacher — is well-suited to the material, and the story is so charming that it overpowers any sense of excessive sentimentality. Will Springsteen fans enjoy it? Very much so, but those just along for the ride will likely find their spirits suitably lifted.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release