TORONTO: Short Reviews Of "Stranger than Fiction," "Little Children," and "The Host"

by | September 11, 2006 | Comments

"Stranger than Fiction" is amusing but never quite soars; "Little Children" is a tense character study with fine performances; and "The Host" is a loony monster movie with unexpected depth. Here are short reviews of these films, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"Stranger than Fiction" has an ingenious concept. It’s the story of an average Joe (Will Ferrell) who realizes that he is living in the midst of a novel; a woman (Emma Thompson) is accurately narrating everything he does. Eventually, he learns from the voice that he is going to die, and he tries desperately to both find the author and take control of his own life story. It’s a setup that promises a Charlie Kauffman-esque meta meditation on the nature of art and life. However, despite some wry dialogue and an effectively restrained performance by Farrell, "Stranger than Fiction" never really transcends its central idea. It’s a bit disappointing that "Fiction" isn’t stranger.

The essence of "Little Children" boils down to two five-word sentences: "My love is a fever" and "please be a good boy." When key characters in the film read these words, they know exactly what they mean, because they’ve been thinking the same things. What first appears to be another attack on suburban yuppies evolves into something much deeper. From the moment they meet onscreen, Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) share an undeniable chemistry; they see in each other an opportunity to transcend their mundane existences. But their bond begins as a platonic one; they hang out at the pool with their small children, content to enjoy each other’s company. One of the best things about "Little Children" is how real it all seems. Winslet and Wilson generate so much heat, and their characters are created with such attention to detail, that it’s easy to see how they drift toward each other. The other performances are just as fine; Jennifer Connelly is solid as Brad’s decent, albeit distant, wife; the child actors are uniformly excellent; and Jackie Earle Haley, as a man with a sexual predisposition toward children, pulls off a nearly impossible accomplishment: he makes his character an empathetic (if not sympathetic) creation, a man who knows he has little control over his sad, empty life. "Little Children" is an adult film in the best sense; it creates three-dimensional characters, sets them loose to do what they will, and trusts that we will understand.


A scene from "The Host."

What is "The Host?" It’s a monster movie, a political satire, a wacky comedy, and a poignant look at the ties that bind a dysfunctional family. What’s surprising is how much of this bizarro South Korean import works. If nothing else, "The Host" does a great job of shifting tones and defying expectations. When a schoolgirl is abducted by a mutant fish monster, her slacker dad, archery champion aunt, alcoholic uncle and kindly grandfather undertake a Sisyphusian mission to rescue her; meanwhile, incompetent and overly bureaucratic governmental and military officials warn the public about a supposed virus emanating from the monster without stopping the creature itself. The CG effects are solid, the laughs are goofy, and there’s a real sweetness in the family’s search for the little girl, the only person in the clan that everyone truly likes. If there’s a complaint to be had, it’s that, at two hours, "The Host" is a little flabby. With a few trims, this could be a fanboy classic.


Yep, that’s Sam Jackson. Click for more festival pics.

Tag Cloud

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