Films I Neglected To Review: Do Furry Honor.By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 03/03/16 15:18:00
Please enjoy short reviews of "Road Games," "The Wave" and "Zootopia." As for "London Has Fallen," I have reviewed that elsewhere but I would like to take a moment to state that if it is not the stupidest and most loathsome craptacular to hit theaters in 2016, it will not be for a lack of trying.
Although the opening moments do involve the handling of a freshly murdered corpse, writer-director Abner Pastoll largely eschews slasher movies excesses for a slow burn suspense approach that will no doubt be described as Hitchcockian in virtually every review. The result is a film that is more clever than most recent films of its type, especially in the way that Pastoll plays with the language gap between Jack and the other characters by purposefully neglecting to subtitle key lines of dialogue spoken in French as a way of hiding information in plain sight, so to speak. For most of the running time, it works thanks to Pastoll's inspired screenplay and direction and the good performances from the four key cast members - Simpson brings a certain menacing undertone to his otherwise bland exterior, de La Baume is strong, sexy and strange in equal measure and Pierrot and Crampton are quite good as the decidedly odd couple who take in Jack and Veronique for their own peculiar reasons. It does fall apart a bit towards the end as the story gets a bit too convoluted and most viewers will anticipate one of the key twists even if they do not speak French. Despite that late inning stumble, "Road Games" still provides enough suspense, thrills and dark humor to leave genre buffs more than satisfied.
The opening stretch of the film is actually pretty good--unlike most films of this type, in which the characters are given only the barest sketching before the onset of the chaos, the screenplay actually takes a little bit of time to let us get to know and actually like Kristian and his family. As things progress, however, director Roar Uthaug allows his film to succumb to the same flaws that have undone many an American disaster film--chief among them being the contrivances required to at first keep the family separated and then (Spoiler Alert!) to bring them back together again and a slightly callous attitude that asks us to view the deaths of hundreds of people as little more than an afterthought. (Don't even get me started on the ridiculous pauses that some of the characters take at times when pausing is clearly the least viable option imaginable.) To be fair, the scene involving the wave hitting is pretty well done and the film as a whole is better than such meathead messes as "2012" or "San Andreas" but as a whole, "The Wave" just comes up short.
On the surface, "Zootopia" may look like just another animated film and as a result, you may be taken aback by just how good it really is. The screenplay hits that sweet spot where it manages to appeal to kids with its bright colors (brighter if you sensibly forgo the unnecessary 3-D option), cute characters and slapstick humor while keeping older views amused as well with its amiably crackpot mystery narrative and pop culture jokes that are actually funny instead of annoying (even a spoof of something as old as "The Godfather" manages to inspire some unexpectedly big laughs). It also manages, in its own daffy way, to convey a serious message about the dangers of demonizing entire groups and allowing other to exploit those prejudices for their own personal gain-though the film could hardly be mistaken for any kind of sociopolitical screed, my guess is that it will cause the Fox News outrage machine to kick into high gear pretty quickly. Throw in a bunch of nicely cast voice talents (besides those already mentioned, the film also deploys the dulcet tones of Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt and Tommy Chong...yes, Tommy Chong), a splendid visual style (the initial tour of Zootopia is an absolute knockout) and a theme song from Shakira that you will be hearing endlessly for the next few months (not that there is anything wrong with that) and you have that rarest of breeds-a family-oriented film that will actually appeal to your entire family.
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