Critics Consensus

The Curse of La Llorona Is a Crying Shame

Plus, Breakthrough is bolstered by strong performances, and Disneynature's Penguins is another winner.

by | April 18, 2019 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a crying woman (The Curse of La Llorona, starring Linda Cardellini and Raymond Cruz), the power of prayer (Breakthrough, starring Chrissy Metz and Josh Lucas), and, well, penguins (Disneynature: Penguins, narrated by Ed Helms). What are the critics saying?


The Curse of La Llorona (2019) 28%

If you’re looking for inspiration for a new horror film, turning to folklore isn’t a bad idea, considering parents have been keeping their children in check with scary stories for generations. Producer James Wan thought it was a good idea, anyway, and the end result is this week’s The Curse of La Llorona, based on a well-known Mexican legend about the vengeful spirit of a scorned woman whose cries of anguish are said to bring misfortune to anyone who hears them. The film stars Linda Cardellini as a widowed mother and social worker who, skeptical of La Llorona’s existence, eventually finds herself and her children terrorized by the spirit and must work with a local faith healer (Raymond Cruz) to free herself from the curse. Unfortunately, critics weren’t particularly thrilled — or chilled — by the latest would-be entry in the Conjuring universe, calling into question the unsophisticated storytelling and director Michael Chaves‘ frequent and excessive use of jump scares. The character’s folk-tale origins certainly carry a lot of potential, but very little of it is realized in The Curse of La Llorona.


Breakthrough (2019) 63%

Faith-based movies are being made and released more frequently than ever, but they rarely come with the kind of mainstream-friendly cast that Breakthrough boasts, and you can go a long way when you’ve got solid, experienced performers on board. Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) and Josh Lucas play Joyce and Brian Smith, adoptive parents to John (Marcel Ruiz), a 14-year-old from Guatemala. They’re also Evangelical Christians, so when John falls into a coma after suffering a near-death drowning accident, they set about praying for his recovery alongside their community, who has rallied around them. The film is based on a true story, and inspirational Christian movies never end sadly, so you can guess how everything turns out, but critics don’t entirely seem to mind. They say the story is appropriately uplifting and the cast, which includes Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Topher Grace, and Dennis Haysbert, all put in strong work. It’s all a little predictable, and it’s not especially nuanced, but the right performances from a capable cast can do a lot to make up for some narrative and thematic shortcomings.


Disneynature: Penguins (2019) 92%

Sure, Disney’s got all the Marvel blockbusters and the Star Wars movies and the Pixar movies (and, now, everything under Fox), but they’ve also quietly been making a name for themselves as one of the foremost purveyors of great nature documentaries on the big screen, too. The latest in that vein is Penguins from Disneynature, which is billed as a “coming-of-age” story that follows a single male Adélie penguin in Antarctica as he sets out to find a mate and start a family of his own. Critics say that the film, co-directed by Alastair Fothergill of the groundbreaking Planet Earth and related series, is playful and entertaining for younger viewers, and its beautiful cinematography is a testament to the herculean effort put forth by the production’s dedicated photographers. In fact, even if the story being told is somewhat familiar to some viewers, particularly those who have seen Planet Earth, the stunning imagery alone may be worth the price of admission.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse (Hagazussa) (2019) , about a 15th century woman regarded as a witch who lives up to her title when she is wronged by a woman from the village that shuns her, is at 100%.
  • Little Woods (2019) , starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James in a drama about two wayward sisters in a run down town who face tough decisions when their mother dies, is at 98%.
  • Hail Satan? (2019) , a documentary profile of the Satanic Temple and its media-savvy efforts to fight for religious freedom, is at 95%.
  • Grass (2019) , South Korean director Hong Sang-soo‘s drama about a writer eavesdropping on patrons at a cafe, is at 93%.
  • Rafiki (2019) , a drama about two young women who fall in love in Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal, is at 90%.
  • Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2019) , a documentary about the woman who became the first female director and later vanished, is at 90%.
  • Family (2019) , starring Taylor Schilling in a comedy about a socially awkward woman who must learn to adapt when the niece she’s babysitting runs off to join the Juggalos, is at 86%.
  • Fast Color (2019) , starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw in a sci-fi mystery about a woman with supernatural powers who returns to her estranged family when her abilities are discovered by the authorities, is at 76%.
  • Teen Spirit (2019) , starring Elle Fanning and Rebecca Hall in a drama about a teen who hopes to escape her small town by winning a singing competition, is at 69%.
  • Stuck (2019) , a musical about six strangers trapped on a stalled New York City subway train, is at 58%.
  • Under the Silver Lake (2019) , starring Andrew Garfield in a mystery about a man who embarks on a journey across Los Angeles to locate a missing woman, is at 53%.
  • Instant Dreams (2019) , a documentary about the enduring popularity of Polaroid cameras, is at 43%.
  • Red Joan (2019) , starring Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson in a thriller about a former British spy accused of treason, is at 28%.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Epix Amazon Music El Rey A24 HBO NYCC Amazon Prime 2020 casting Song of Ice and Fire OWN streaming justice league technology FX on Hulu children's TV natural history 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Starz San Diego Comic-Con chucky crime thriller CBS biography nbcuniversal Holidays ratings sequel emmy awards elevated horror GoT Dark Horse Comics BBC toy story Baby Yoda joker game of thrones Crackle Academy Awards Apple TV+ dc satire Shondaland WGN free movies thriller witnail discovery Writers Guild of America American Society of Cinematographers OneApp 2016 Drama movie rom-coms Acorn TV Oscars DGA crime drama Elton John Cartoon Network Syfy superhero Columbia Pictures latino CNN spanish language 99% Tubi golden globes The Walking Dead HBO Go cops doctor who YA Emmy Nominations black nature critics Awards Infographic Reality Freeform hollywood APB spanish Winners revenge 2015 First Look Film Anna Paquin canceled TV shows die hard Marvel AMC VOD DC streaming service cooking Discovery Channel politics comic TV One name the review Chernobyl SundanceTV sports Comedy Summer renewed TV shows versus GIFs hist BET Election comedies parents Tomatazos Tarantino mutant The Walt Disney Company spinoff Thanksgiving canceled nfl Travel Channel Character Guide worst movies screenings Musicals italian Trailer ghosts ID DC Comics See It Skip It comics Disney Plus E! Fantasy Star Trek spy thriller Valentine's Day 20th Century Fox Rock ABC Signature Hear Us Out FX venice Marathons spain ViacomCBS Black Mirror Crunchyroll TCA 2017 Best and Worst independent Amazon Prime Video TV Land films 24 frames adaptation Television Critics Association Watching Series docudrama Turner Classic Movies The CW unscripted crossover laika Fall TV travel remakes MSNBC Countdown Brie Larson Arrowverse cats CMT First Reviews what to watch based on movie rotten Paramount Paramount Network Nat Geo indie Amazon Studios DirecTV Disney+ Disney Plus concert vampires scorecard Hallmark Quiz WarnerMedia french cancelled TV series Mystery rt archives IFC Films TCA Winter 2020 Christmas supernatural dramedy TruTV Trivia Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Captain marvel pirates of the caribbean A&E Walt Disney Pictures Television Academy PlayStation finale a nightmare on elm street game show book child's play Netflix Universal Creative Arts Emmys adventure anime teaser james bond award winner Britbox TLC Sony Pictures festival aliens 72 Emmy Awards boxing sitcom binge Logo 007 FOX jurassic park Pet Sematary ABC YouTube Premium documentary Ovation animated Lucasfilm PBS comiccon Musical Year in Review BAFTA transformers LGBT Grammys TV cancelled foreign mockumentary Western BBC America IFC cars Extras science fiction dceu composers cancelled TV shows historical drama rotten movies we love Sundance TV green book Biopics Podcast National Geographic medical drama criterion Disney Channel comic books The Arrangement Lifetime Christmas movies zero dark thirty blockbuster GLAAD Paramount Plus 2017 Black History Month Video Games The Witch scary movies video on demand Alien MCU Pop richard e. Grant cinemax social media tv talk Funimation Premiere Dates HBO Max CBS All Access MTV New York Comic Con Family facebook Adult Swim YouTube Sci-Fi Hallmark Christmas movies Rocky Cosplay Classic Film Pirates Hulu werewolf kids Spectrum Originals Horror Certified Fresh Shudder Fox News documentaries best Teen Winter TV reviews The Purge NBC Set visit Red Carpet period drama football Sundance Trophy Talk History Spike Disney streaming service Toys Photos Pop TV Animation sag awards Tumblr television TNT ITV Calendar Interview Mary Poppins Returns space police drama Rom-Com strong female leads Box Office Action FXX singing competition Comedy Central cartoon halloween tv japanese directors SDCC Marvel Studios reboot golden globe awards all-time anthology Martial Arts Mindy Kaling Mary poppins Showtime fresh trailers news 4/20 screen actors guild Cannes LGBTQ RT History franchise TCM zombies toronto stop motion E3 disaster jamie lee curtis Spring TV Awards Tour Comic Book south america romantic comedy Food Network Marvel Television Women's History Month President cancelled television Ghostbusters Apple TV Plus Esquire Masterpiece archives series Apple Mudbound mission: impossible Turner women Rocketman spider-man USA Network TBS batman VH1 Opinion Sundance Now Binge Guide psycho indiana jones psychological thriller TCA political drama VICE talk show The Academy deadpool cults Heroines Stephen King ESPN TV renewals theme song Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCA Awards YouTube Red DC Universe dark universal monsters robots crime Star Wars 45 obituary sequels Superheroes 71st Emmy Awards dogs Avengers stoner Nominations Ellie Kemper true crime Fox Searchlight Film Festival BBC One TIFF Polls and Games Reality Competition CW Seed 2018 RT21 asian-american halloween SXSW Endgame blaxploitation breaking bad Super Bowl Holiday miniseries Sneak Peek festivals diversity Lifetime Emmys hispanic fast and furious serial killer Vudu Warner Bros. X-Men Netflix Christmas movies 2019 ABC Family Comics on TV slashers Lionsgate twilight 21st Century Fox Pride Month Pixar dragons Disney worst USA harry potter Peacock romance Country quibi boxoffice PaleyFest zombie classics Kids & Family BET Awards Mary Tyler Moore christmas movies Bravo Schedule australia stand-up comedy war Nickelodeon movies video Superheroe