This week at the movies, we’ve got a boy and his monster (Pete’s Dragon, starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford), anthropomorphic food (Sausage Party, with voice performances by Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig), and a famously lousy singer (Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant). What do the critics have to say?
The original Pete’s Dragon is definitely not without its charms, but it’s arguably better remembered for its technical achievements than the rest of its agreeably corny contents — which is exactly what made it an intriguing choice for Disney’s ongoing series of remakes, reboots, and reimaginings. Rather than living up to a classic, director David Lowery just needed to do a better job of telling the original story, and let the special-effects wizards do the rest. According to critics, that’s exactly what the new Pete’s Dragon represents: with a strong cast led by Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, a breathtaking CGI title character, and a thoroughly heartwarming take on the tale of a lost boy and his awe-inspiring pal, this is the rare remake that most reviews describe as vastly superior to the original. In a summer that’s already featured a couple of big kid-friendly winners, Pete’s Dragon offers one more opportunity for families to take a trip to the cineplex together and come away satisfied.
Cartoons that act and talk dirty can be inherently funny simply because of the dissonance in seeing kids’ stuff in a grown-up context. But once the novelty wears off, what’s the point? Critics say Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg provide a satisfactory answer with Sausage Party, which imagines a world in which our food talks — like sailors — and enjoys sexcapades that would make Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger blush. But underneath all the ribaldry, reviews describe an animated effort with some surprisingly thought-provoking things on its mind — including humanity’s relationship with religion. If that sounds like an awful lot to (ahem) bite off for a cartoon, it only underscores how deftly Sausage Party brings an unexpected medium (and an all-star voice cast that includes Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and Salma Hayek) to bear on its surprising themes. Just make sure you leave the kids at home.
Florence Foster Jenkins’ real-life singing career (so to speak) has long been the butt of jokes for music geeks of a certain stripe; her collected works, issued most popularly on the novelty record The Glory (????) of the Human Voice, represent a surreal example of how badly things can go awry when recording technology falls into the wrong hands. What’s funny through the speakers can seem awfully pointless and mean-spirited on the screen, however — a problem Florence Foster Jenkins circumvents by treating its subject with dignity. Directed by Stephen Frears and starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Florence surveys Jenkins’ life and legacy with enough self-awareness to give viewers some laughs, but critics say the end result is also quite poignant — due in no small part to Streep and Grant’s performances, which lend genuine human feeling to a story that’s too often been played for laughs.
The Get Down‘s vibrant music and energetic young cast help to elevate its meandering narrative.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release