Don Rhymer

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Rio 2 Review


OK

After the snappy, clever 2011 original, this sequel feels rather lazy by comparison: it's still visually colourful and sometimes witty, but the overcrowded story is all over the place, mixing wacky slapstick and corny satire with a political message. And none of this is edgy enough to make it memorable, except perhaps the addition of one new character, a deranged poisonous frog with delusions of romance, voiced by the riotously operatic Kristin Chenoweth.

At the centre again are the rare blue macaws Blu and Jewel (Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), who now have three feisty kids at their bird sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro. Then their human keepers Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro and Leslie Mann) spot another blue macaw deep in the Amazon, so Blu and Jewel fly off to investigate with their children and buddies (including Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx). Sure enough, this turns out to be Jewel's long-lost family, overseen by her father (Andy Garcia) and guarded by her heartthrob ex Roberto (Bruno Mars). But there's an evil logger threatening the rainforest, and Blu's old nemesis Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) is out for revenge.

After the oddly flat prologue in Rio, the film kicks up a gear when it arrives in the jungle, where the imagery becomes far more dense and colourful, leading to some wonderfully outrageous musical numbers and raucous action sequences. The level of detail is impressive, as is the range of creatures thrown into the story. But the script never quite rises to this level of invention, once again simplistically putting the city-bird Blu in an alien natural environment, with added in-laws and ex-boyfriends. Much more fun is Nigel's interaction with his poison-frog sidekick, even if his subplot never builds any steam.

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Rio Review


Excellent
A lively South American beat infuses this colourful animated romp. The filmmakers make the most of the characters and settings without ever trying to teach us a lesson or make us cry. It's just great fun.

Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) is a blue macaw raised in Minnesota alongside a little girl Linda (Mann). Years later, bird-rescuer Tulio (Santoro) wants to take Blu back to Rio de Janeiro so he can mate with the last remaining female of the species, Jewel (Hathaway). But in Brazil, the courtship between Blu and Jewel gets off to a rocky start, not least because Blu never learned how to fly. And when smugglers steal them, they need a variety of locals (including Lopez, Morgan, Foxx and Will.i.am) to help them escape from a menacing cockatoo (Clement).

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Deck The Halls Review


Terrible
While watching Deck the Halls, my wife wondered aloud when the last good Christmas movie came out. (We eventually settled on A Christmas Story in 1983.) And while there may be passable Christmas movies released since then, Deck the Halls certainly isn't one of them. It's really quite the opposite.

Poor Matthew Broderick, normally so reliable, gets sucked into the nonsense here in short order. He's Steve Finch, a small-town optometrist and generally good guy, but when Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), a car salesman, comes to town, his world is quickly upended. Buddy decides he won't rest until his home is visible from space, so he sets out to prove his non-loserness by setting up an absurdly elaborate light show on his house across the street from Steve. This thrills the locals but annoys Steve, and a rivalry develops in typical movie fashion. Steve tries to knock out Buddy's power with fireworks. Buddy responds by adding a blaring audio track to the light show.

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Surf's Up Review


Terrible
The passionate pursuit of the perfect wave once inspired Bruce Brown to film the quintessential surfing documentary The Endless Summer. A loving ode to the unheralded beach-bum community, Brown's rambling tour of our planet's surfing hot spots took audiences on a permanent vacation when it opened in 1966.

Forty years later, the art of mastering tubular waves has inspired Surf's Up, an animated fish-out-of-water story that opens in the summer (great) but feels endless (groan).

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Big Momma's House 2 Review


Unbearable
Big Momma's House 2 has locked onto the secret formula of all-time. Moderate star + cute kids + inappropriateness divided by hidden crime plot = hit. Admit it, when you saw the trailer for The Pacifier, all you saw was a grenade with its pin freshly pulled. Then, it went on to be a sleeper hit that brought in big bucks, helping to continue what is quickly becoming the excruciating career of Vin Diesel. So, there's no surprise that Big Momma's House 2 skyrocketed to the head of the box office this week. If there's a more consistent way to tell how bad a movie is than it being #1 at the box office, I don't know it.

Martin Lawrence returns as Agent Malcolm Turner, the FBI agent who donned a fat suit, a wig and a southern accent in the first Big Momma's House. He's taken a desk job to spend more time with and protect his pregnant wife (Nia Long) and his stepson. But when his mentor gets shot doing undercover work, he's back on the job as Big Momma. He takes a job as a nanny to an uptight, white family whose father might be involved with what got his mentor shot. Between dealing with a young son who jumps off high places, a middle daughter who can't dance, and a 15 year old horn-dog daughter (Kat Dennings), Malcolm also finds time to unearth a hacker plot to open the codes to the CIA and the FBI (gasp!) while loosening up the OCD mother (Emily Procter). Well, if you don't know where this is going, you've been watching better films than I have.

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Big Momma's House Review


Grim
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Big Momma's House was cooked up.... Dress funnyman Martin Lawrence up as a 350-pound Georgia grandmother, spin him around, and let him do his thang. Beat Eddie Murphy at his own game (Nutty Professor II hits theaters later this year), shoot it for cheap with no other real stars, and grab some good grosses.

Sure enough, Big Momma's House is a comic crowd-pleaser that should score well with audiences that refuse to tire of incessant fat jokes, slapstick, and, well, more fat jokes.

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Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London Review


OK
As I walked into the theater showing Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, it seemed as if a thousand kids were talking all at once, led by one particular youngster who had the authoritative rasp of a Teamster leader. The noise continued during the screen scramblers ("I guessed Steve!"), the promotional stills ("That looks like the movie...") and into the coming attractions. I began to wish I had slept in.

Then a miraculous thing happened: Cody Banks 2 started and there was a heavenly quiet--occasionally broken by laughter--that was maintained for the next hour and forty-odd minutes. That's a tremendous compliment for a kids' movie. I would like to say that Cody Banks 2 has a lot to offer adults, as well. For anyone over the age of 16, the movie moves briskly and doesn't make you curse the gods of time. In this pre-summer movie season, those qualities will be a blessing.

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The Honeymooners Review


Terrible
I don't think I'll see a movie this year that will leave me as puzzled as The Honeymooners, and it's not because it was made with black actors. Hollywood is so desperate to put a new spin on an old idea (have you seen the previews for Bewitched?) that a big screen version of Sanford & Son with Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller doesn't sound too outlandish.

I'm puzzled at what connection The Honeymooners movie has to the television show except for the characters' names. I'm puzzled over whom the movie was made for. Does anyone under the age of 35 fondly remember the TV show, or even have a hint of its cultural significance? Does anyone over the age of 60 want to sully their early black-and-white memories with a second-rate cast and a third-rate story? Can you think of two actors -- of any race -- you'd want to see less in the title roles than Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps?

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