Irresistible (2020)

Irresistible (2020)

Directed by: Jon Stewart. Starring: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper. Runtime: 1h 41 min. Released: June 26, 2020.

Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a fictional campaign strategist who lost a very winnable campaign in the 2016 election on the side of Hilary Clinton. For his redemption, Zimmer sees an inspiring video online of retired veteran Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) fighting for undocumented immigrants at a town hall meeting in the small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, and Zimmer decides to help him run for Mayor.

On Gary’s first day in the town, he’s not used to everyone’s kindness. He’s there one night and the next morning, everyone knows his name. He doesn’t know how to react, for good reason (but Carell’s reaction is funny). It’s strange. While watching it, I thought their friendliness seems like it could be the set-up for a horror film in a different director’s hands. However, since it’s written and directed by Jon Stewart, it’s of course a comedy and political satire.

Frankly, there’s no satirical edge to this comedy – subtle for much of the film until Stewart makes it clear later in the film as to what he’s satirizing. Politics really go over my head, so to me the film played out like one of Stewart’s opening monologues on The Daily Show – only somewhat funny and I’m understanding the satire occasionally.

I’ve seen a couple of his good monologues when there was absolutely nothing else on TV, but his film lacks the sharpness of them. It’s just flat as it commentates on the media and how governments overspend on elections. The main points are interesting, as are thoughts on the election system in general, but the satire is all so subtle that it plays as a straightforward comedy for most of it.

I am a Steve Carell fan and he plays the role well here, but I just didn’t care about Gary as a person. However, the “relationship” he creates with Jack Hastings’ daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis) brings about some refreshing moments when she makes him realize that he condescends to the townsfolk and gestures him to respect them more.

Irresistible, licky
Steve Carell and Rose Byrne in Irresistible. (IMDb)

This is shown mostly in one running gag that at first appears trivial (and sort-of is) where when he first arrives to town he orders a burger and Budweiser at the town’s Hofbräuhaus and the owner sends a busboy across the street to get a burger and a six-pack of Budweiser from a neighboring restaurant because they don’t actually serve burgers and Budweiser. “They’ve been patronizing you,” she says. Other scenes it actually sticks that he’s being a dick – in one headline he uses the term ‘small minds’ – but since he’s a D.C. elite, and because who Gary is as a person, it really never does stick.

Davis only shines occasionally, mostly shifted to the background in a will they/won’t they sub-plot with Gary as she defends her father occasionally. The always good Chris Cooper is solid as Jack Hastings in an election that really isn’t about him. It ends up being an ego battle between Gary and his arch-nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a Republican strategist from the 2016 election who comes to Deerlaken when she catches wind of Gary’s involvement in the election.

The film gets marginally more interesting when she comes into play and that competition between them starts as she represents the current Mayor of Deerlaken, the Republican Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton). The two main star’s abrasive banter and butting-heads chemistry brings the film’s only laugh-out-loud moments.

Carell and Byrne are such a strong pairing that I wish they were in a better comedy. I also wish that the film were less about the politics and more about their rivalry and just them sparring with each other. The scenes about their rivalry, and the last 20 minutes which came so out of left field it was sort-of entertaining, were the only parts that intrigued me.

Since it is about an election, it’s of course about the politics as we see the behind-the-scenes of the election, as well, as Stewart casts the likes of Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne in underused supporting roles as experts with analytics trying to win the election. All the behind-the-scenes stuff is just not that interesting and I saw a lot of it done better in Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner. Regardless, Jon Stewart’s Irresistible has some clever moments but they’re not enough to merit the runtime. Like his opening monologues on The Daily Show, it’s all a mixed bag.

Score: 50/100

Love Wedding Repeat (2020)

Love Wedding Repeat (2020)

Directed by: Dean Craig. Starring: Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Freida Pinto. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: April 10, 2020.

Love Wedding Repeat is a meditation on how love revolves around chance and fate – described by occasional narration from The Oracle (Penny Ryder), but it’s realy just a standard and often annoying comedy with romance infused.

Jack (Sam Claflin) is aiming to help his sister Hayley’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) wedding day go on without a hitch, as Jack juggles an angry ex-girlfriend, Amanda (Freida Pinto), a misplaced sleep sedative and the girl that got away, Dina (Oliva Munn), as we see alternate versions of the same day.

The film’s based on the 2012 French film, Plan de table, so the alternate timelines always seemed to be the intention of this film, but the one alternate version feels like a cop-out to stretch this film to feature length. Basically, there are only alternate versions because of the sleeping pill in play because of an uninvited guest, Marc (Jack Farthing), trying to ruin the wedding. We see two main versions of the day play out when at the halfway point it goes into the alternate version.

It feels half-baked as the film tells most of its arc in the first hour and then realizes the character dynamics aren’t that deep and it runs out of ideas, and then gives us the, “Alright, what if someone else took the sedative?” The real shame about all this alternate timeline mumbo jumbo is that they switch to a different version of the day as soon as the film seems to be getting interesting. I was actually excited to see where the film would go, and then they reverse back.

I didn’t find this film well-written by Dean Craig (who also directs), as the scenarios, dialogue and character dynamics all felt weak. We do get a taste at several different outcomes but those possibilities are contained to a montage – making it feel like that multiple timelines episode of TV’s Community – but it all feels like an excuse to make a feature film out of a thin premise. That said, the second half is more tolerable than the first version of the day, as the characters aren’t as annoying. This is especially true for Sidney (Tim Key) who learns to listen in this half. He’s a quirky talkative type whose role seems tailored for James Corden or Ricky Gervais in their heydays.

Love Wedding Repeat article
Joel Fry, Sam Claflin, Freida Pinto and Jack Farthing in Love Wedding Repeat. (IMDb)

I disliked everything about the first half, as the characters are boring and the comedy is just putting everyone in uncomfortable situations to see their boring reactions, and most of the comedy is played on their over-politeness to stay in these situations. That’s the case at the beginning of the film when Claflin’s Jack and Munn’s Dina have just spent a weekend together in Rome and he’s about to tell her he likes her when a guy from his past stops that from happening and he’s too polite to tell him to bugger off.

Now, the wedding’s three years later where Jack gets a second chance, but this is an annoying comedy where everything goes from fine to bad very quickly. A lot of the uncomfortable situations are born from who you sit beside at a wedding; like when Munn is sat beside Sidney and he barely let’s Jack talk to her. These situations are more uncomfortable for the audience because the scenarios aren’t funny. I did chuckle a couple times during the film, but the laughs are not memorable.

Some of the film’s characters are useless, like Jack’s ex-girlfriend Amanda. Freida Pinto is fine, but she’s just there as another obstacle between Jack and Dina. Worse yet is Amanda’s new boyfriend, Chaz (Allan Mustafa), who is so unfunny because the only thing he ever talks about is how he’s insecure about his penis size and that grows tired quickly.

There are so many character dynamics going on that it just disguises that there’s not much happening in this film. Most of the film is just Jack trying to get with Dina and it’s boring, though the brother-sister dynamic between Jack and Hayley works fine.

There are some aspects I liked in the second half of the film as the schmaltz is dialed up between every couple, and some of it hits. The first half just had so much humour that fell flat on its face, but there’s nothing in either half of the film that made me care about what happened with these characters.

Okay, I suppose I liked Hayley well enough that I cared to know if her wedding was ruined or not, but even she feels very one-note, but Eleanor Tomlinson did a good job in the role. Olivia Munn is also fine, and Sam Claflin does his best as a very dull character. Though, there is one very weak aspect of the film that is just the cherry on top. Out of everything that happens, we never even see the wedding itself. We only get Love Repeat. No wedding for you.

Score: 38/100

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker. Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David. Released: December 11, 2009. Runtime: 1h 37 min.

There are so many Disney films I still haven’t seen and 2009’s The Princess and the Frog was near the top of the list. The story follows a waitress named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of opening a restaurant. A wrench is thrown in that plan Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) of Maldonia comes to visit and he crosses paths with the villainous Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and gets turned into a frog. Mistaking Tiana for a princess, Prince Naveen kisses Tiana hoping to be turned back into a human – but Tiana herself gets turned into a frog and they take an adventure through the bayous of New Orleans.

My favourite aspect of The Princess of the Frog is just the culture of New Orleans and how filmmaking team Ron Clements and John Musker incorporate the popular elements of the city. The film takes place during Mardi Gras and the main dish of the restaurant Tiana wants to open – called Tiana’s Place – is gumbo. The main villain of the film, the Shadow Man, also uses voodoo and he is a great villain. Keith David’s performance is fantastic and his “Friends on the Other Side” song has to be one of my favourite villain songs. These friends from the underworld make for some creepy scenes, too, and look visually great.

Of course, jazz is heavily infused into the music throughout. This is especially the case with a friendly alligator Tiana and Prince Naveen meet called Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) whose dream is to play the trumpet with the boys, but everyone runs in fear because, well, he’s a giant alligator. Cajun music is also infused in the tune “Gonna Take You There” when our characters meet one of the main comic relief sidekicks, a firefly called Ray (Jim Cummings). As for the music itself, I don’t think it’s as memorable or catchy as some other songs of the last couple years – especially Frozen or even Clements and Musker’s 2016 film Moana – but they make great listening while watching the film. The only one in the actual film I think I’d ever hum is Tiana’s “Almost There” song. Though, I never realized Ne-Yo’s “Never Knew I Needed” was from this soundtrack and that was one song I would always listen to like 10 years ago.

Princess and the Frog article2
Keith David in The Princess and the Frog. (IMDb)

That main theme plays a huge part in the film as the film is all about following your dreams and thinking you know what you need, but finding what you actually need along the way. The film also has a strong message of working hard to get what you need throughout. This all happens organically through Tiana and Naveen’s relationship, and their chemistry is great. Anika Noni Rose has a really nice singing voice as Tiana, and her voice acting is great, too.

I liked their story, though I think I got more enjoyment throughout the film from the comedy from the sidekick animals Louis and Ray. As for the animation, I liked the classic look of the film and the character designs, especially the look of the villain Facilier. I think the story feels like standard Disney but it’s memorable because of all the visuals and the very New Orleans elements at play. There’s also a hopeless romantic vibe to this, too, especially as Ray – who is voiced so well by Jim Cummings – thinks his girlfriend is a star in the sky called Evangeline. It’s a bit silly at first, but it turns out quite lovely.

Score: 75/100

Can You Keep a Secret? (2019)

Can You Keep a Secret? (2019)

Directed by: Elise Duran. Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Tyler Hoechlin, Kimiko Glenn. Runtime: 1h 34 min. Released: September 13, 2019.

This will be a spoiler review so I talk about many plot points. I don’t think it’s worth watching anyway, but consider yourselves warned.

Apparently someone had been keeping Can You Keep a Secret? a secret from me as I had never heard of the film or the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Sophia Kinsella. Truthfully, I wish this film had just stayed a secret.

Emma Corrigan (Alexandra Daddario) is a junior marketing executive working for an organic food company called Panda. She meets Jack Harper (Tyler Hoechlin) on an airplane and when the plane hits turbulence, she spills all her personal secrets. The “comedy” ensues when Jack shows up at her work the next day because he’s the CEO of the company.

I’ll start with the somewhat good, and that’s Daddario. She’s fine, but if you put Daddario in a trash can of a film, it’s still a trash can. Okay, I guess there’s not really anything good here if I’m starting with that. Still, I smiled a couple times because I like her as an actress, and Tyler Hoechlin is okay, just boring because of the character.

The film just begins as an unfunny comedy with bad scenarios and switches into a rom-com with bad scenarios. The consistent set-up for jokes is Jack hanging around the workplace, asking Emma a question he already knows the answer to because of her secrets, and smiling as she squirms and tells a lie in front of others.

It’s not as malicious as I’m making it sound, but it isn’t funny. This rinses and repeats until she breaks up with her dull boyfriend Connor (David Ebert) – and then the romance between Daddario and Hoechlin really begins. Connor is a worthless presence here to simply postpone the romantic aspect of the film.

The most unbelievable thing about this film is how long Daddario stays with Connor. She’s unhappy but feels so average that she settles. For the film to believably sell Emma as an average girl, it was a mistake casting Daddario. Average? Not with those eyes. The film also puts Jack on a pedestal of perfection. Soon, we learn that Jack isn’t perfect because he has webbed feet. Really? That’s literally the same thing they do in the 2010 Jay Baruchel comedy She’s Out of My League when Baruchel has Alice Eve on a pedestal and learns she has webbed feet. Are we… Are we really saying Alexandra Daddario is the Jay Baruchel of this scenario?

secret2
Alexandra Daddario and Tyler Hoechlin in Can You Keep a Secret?

The inferiority feels more like a sub-plot here when it’s the entire premise of League – it’s just not handled well here. We’re just led to believe that Emma is average as Jack goes on a live television interview and the interviewer asks him why he’s going into women’s health and Jack says they want to appeal to the average girl on the street, meaning Emma.

This is where the big conflict happens. We know the entire time Jack, at some point, would share her secrets – I honestly thought he was an author on the plane and would leak her secrets in a book – but the way it all happens feels so unnatural.

I’ll warn again, this is a spoiler review… Anyway, Jack is so in love with Emma that he starts to talk about all the things he loves about her and gets carried away and spills all her darkest secrets. This all happens as everyone at Emma’s workplace watches the interview on TV. He spills the fact that she “loves ABBA but hates jazz” (a big one because Connor loves jazz), “she scans the backs of classics and pretends that she’s read them” (a huge one because she was supposed to read Great Expectations), and the biggest one: “She cries every time she hears Demons by Imagine Dragons.”

The secrets feel mundane, a little embarrassing, sure, but since the secrets feel so small it takes away and stakes from the film. It’s also just convoluted how he goes on this tangent on live TV. Making matters worse is Emma’s workplace is the absolute worst. Everyone’s toxic, even Connor, but the only compassionate people are her friend Omar (Sam Asghari) and her boss Cybil (Laverne Cox), who’s mean for most of the film and then has a change of heart.

A co-worker named Artemis (Kate Easton) is the worst, the ringleader of the random cruelty as after the interview is over, she leads the office in a rendition of Demons by Imagine Dragons so Emma runs out crying. It’s all just terrible writing because it’s hard to believe a workplace would ever be this cruel, and the response is such a strange overreaction to make her feel awful.

I already hated this film for most of it, but romantic comedies get so much worse for me if I don’t buy into the conflict. And boy, the conflict here feels convoluted in every way. When Emma confronts Jack about the secrets spilling, Jack responds, “They asked me that question and it caught me off guard and I panicked.” The question he’s referring to? “Who’s your target market?” Yes, if someone asked me that on live television, I too would panic and spill someone’s every last secret.

I just don’t buy it. The writing’s just consistently awful as nothing really happens in the first hour and then 30 minutes of half-baked conflict is jammed in at the film’s end.

Score: 25/100

Filmcraziest Interviews – Jess Bartlett and Elise Martin on their short film, Dearly Departed (2018)

Filmcraziest Interviews – Jess Bartlett and Elise Martin on their short film, Dearly Departed (2018)

I was able to chat with a couple filmmakers from the United Kingdom about their haunted house musical comedy Dearly Departed, which has just wrapped up its festival circuit and is available to watch on Vimeo. My review of the film can be found here.

I talked with them separately but I think both interviews are equally fun! First, I talked with Jess Bartlett who co-wrote, produced and is credited hairstylist on the short film. Second, I talked with Elise Martin who is the director and co-writer of the film and the interview with Elise starts around the 38:50 mark.

You can listen directly below or follow this link to download the audio file/podcast with the two interviews. I’m also hoping to make these interviews a regular thing on my site, so if any independent filmmakers are reading and would like an interview, e-mail me at danielprinn@msn.com.

Anyway, enjoy the interviews and thanks for listening!

PODCAST – Popcorn Flicks, Episode #2, “You Wish!”

PODCAST – Popcorn Flicks, Episode #2, “You Wish!”

I’ve heard that sometimes, a long wait is good for anticipation. But sometimes, there’s too long of a wait. And with the second episode of my Disney Channel Original Movie podcast, Popcorn Flicks, the wait was definitely too long, as I posted the first episode on March 17th. The first episode can be found here, and like I said there, I run the podcast with my friend Bobby Strate, who I met through the scriptwriting program we attended in Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Part of the reason why it’s taken so long to get this out is because we ended up having to re-record it because the first time we recorded it was just too rough. Since we care about the listeners, we wanted to record it again. On the second episode we review the 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie, “You Wish!” because, like the last film, there’s also a lucky coin in this one.

Luckily, we also enjoyed this film more than the last one. We discuss almost everything about this one so of course there will spoilers. I’d love to hear feedback so you can either leave a comment or e-mail me at danielprinn@msn.com. I also don’t have a logo yet but we have a little theme song. There’s still a little vulgarity but it’s not as bad as the first episode and again, this isn’t sponsored by or affiliated with Disney in any way. Also, for the next episode there will be a podcast name change and I hope to have the third episode up in a week or so! Thanks for listening.

I’ve added the audio podcast to the post itself, and to download it, just go here and click the three dots and that it will give the option to download it. (By the way, I don’t mean to condescend by explaining how to download it, just thought I’d include those instructions in case.)

Stuber (2019)

Stuber (2019)

Directed by: Michael Dowse. Starring: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Mia Sorvino. Runtime: 1h 33 min. Released: July 12, 2019.

Six months after detective Vic Manning’s (Dave Bautista) partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) dies in the field of duty at the hands of a drug lord named Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais), he finally gets his chance at payback because of a shipment coming in that involves Tedjo.

The only problem is that Manning’s just had laser eye surgery and he can’t see. He has to enlist the help of Uber driver Stu (Kumaill Nanjiani, naturally nicknamed Stuber) to drive him around, which puts Stu into crazy situations. The premise is fine as Vic essentially kidnaps an Uber driver even though all he wants to do is go see his best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin) to tell her how he feels.

Stuber article
Kumail Nanjiani in Stuber. (IMDb)

The chemistry between Nanjiani and Dave Bautista is the charming part about this film. They’re trapped in this co-dependent relationship for a day since Vic can’t see and Stu is willing to do just about anything for a five-star rating since he’s just been getting bad review after bad review. It’s believable when they fight and it’s somewhat amusing. I also like that the excuse for Vic needing an Uber driver is because of the vision. I thought it just might be simply because he gets his licence suspended – but the type of character Vic is, he wouldn’t let a suspended licence stop him from driving if it means getting Tedjo.

Some action scenes are good in Stuber and some scenes are funny, too, but there is just nothing memorable about this film. The only thing that’s memorably amusing is a male stripper, Felix (Steve Howey) tells Stu that he needs to tell Becca how he feels. The film is just disappointing because it’s only fine and it’s terribly predictable. There’s not a lot you’ll regret watching here, but nothing will wow you, either. Iko Uwais is a highlight because of his fighting skills and his parkour (utilized mostly at the beginning) but the star of The Raid: Redemption is wasted in yet another mediocre American film.

Score: 50/100

Noelle (2019)

Noelle (2019)

Directed by: Marc Lawrence. Starring: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Shirley Maclaine. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: November 12, 2019.

This review contains spoilers.

When Santa Claus dies, the mantle is handed down to his son Nick Kringle (Bill Hader), but he’s scared to take on the role and runs away to Phoenix. His sister, Noelle Kringle (Anna Kendrick) must track him down and bring him back so they can save Christmas.

Noelle has some solid fish-out-of-water humour as Noelle goes to Phoenix to find her brother, which gives it an Elf vibe and there’s nothing wrong with channeling a great movie. I’m also convinced that Anna Kendrick makes any film better and it’s no different here as she brings such a charm to this film. Kendrick truly embodies Christmas spirit as Noelle, as Noelle herself learns what Christmas is all about. Bill Hader’s also good as her brother Nick, and their chemistry is enjoyable. Like Kendrick, Hader can make any film better. Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) who helps Noelle is also great acting alongside her.

The story itself is predictable, but to be fair, it would be an honest challenge to find a Christmas film that isn’t predictable. Of course we know by the end that Noelle becomes Santa, but it’s the journey that matters. Some of the moments where everyone but her notices that should be the real Santa are sweet, notably when she speaks to a young girl using sign language though she doesn’t know sign language, as only natural Santa’s have a knowledge of every language. Noelle is a good character in her own right, but Kendrick and her general wholesomeness really makes her come alive.

Noelle article
Anna Kendrick in Noelle. (IMDb)

A problem with the story here is a lack of conflict. The main conflict is getting Nick back to the North Pole so they can save Christmas because of the Christmas deadline. Meanwhile, back at the North Pole, Mrs. Claus (the delightful Julie Hagerty) is stressing because the interim Santa Claus isn’t working out. By the way, Noelle isn’t simply handed the Santa reigns from the start because the role of Santa is “traditionally” played by a man. This interim Santa is their cousin Gabriel Kringle (Billy Eichner) who works in the technology department. He wants to take some of the joy out of Christmas and deliver presents by drone, and he also comes up with an algorithm for the naughty and nice list that only has less than 3,000 “nice” children in the world because all the kids have minor infractions. The film dips its foot into this conflict but it never really feels like it comes into fruition as it’s all talk. The conflict would be nice, though it would have felt like the Toy Santa villain plot in The Santa Clause 2 if it had actually embraced it, and instead feels like filler.

Noelle’s “friendship” interest here is private investigator Jake Hapman (Kingsley Ben-Adir) who helps her find Nick in Phoenix. Her relationship with this man is fine and it’s unclear throughout if it’s platonic or a love interest, or just a friendship based on the spirit of Christmas and helping each other out. Either way, they’re fine together and Noelle’s friendship and kindness to his son Alex (Maceo Smedley) is charming.

Despite its flaws, I think Noelle is a good film as Anna Kendrick’s performance just distracts so well from any shortcomings, and it’s fun throughout, too. It’s also a solid first effort at an original film on the Disney+ service. And in terms of Christmas movies, I don’t know if I’d watch this every year, but Anna Kendrick would sure make me consider it.

Score: 70/100

The Two Popes (2019)

The Two Popes (2019)

Directed by: Fernando Mereilles. Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin. Runtime: 2h 5 min. Released: December 20, 2019.

Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) as he aims to step down from the Papacy, and the liberal future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) as they find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.

Blending comedy and drama and strong dialogue from writer Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes is fascinating as it shows Pope Francis’ past life as Jorge Borgoglio (through actor Juan Minujin) as we see his mistakes and his humanitarian efforts, as he tries to improve himself as a person. It’s intriguing learning about his past life, as most of us only know him as Pope Francis.

The film feels like we’re given a tour within the Vatican walls as we get a glimpse into a very human friendship that grows from understanding and compromise. The cinematography (by César Charlone) is immersive as it feels like a documentary crew going through the Vatican.

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce work so well together and their chemistry is phenomenal, and they create such an interesting story just through their dialogue as they discuss various topics, especially when Borgoglio seeks permission to retire but Benedict won’t let him because he knows he’s his true successor.

The Two Popes, article
Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes. (IMDb)

They have some great comedic moments in this film, as well, especially when they dance the tango. That’s what their acting feels like – a pair dancing a compelling tango. My only complaint is slow pacing and if anyone isn’t interested in what the characters are talking about, it could get boring. Hopkins and Pryce maintained my interest, though and it’s more entertaining than I thought it would be.

I think this is the poster boy of a good film that would be forgotten in a very strong year for films. There’s a scene in the credits that I don’t consider a spoiler, as Benedict and Francis bond over the 2014 World Cup between Benedict’s home country of Germany and Francis’ home country of Argentina.

This is the funniest scene of the film for me and it shows how funny them just talking and bonding is, and how sharp the dialogue is. That’s also on the great chemistry between the two. Truthfully, The Two Popes is a strong film, but if the whole movie were just the two Popes commentating the 2014 World Cup, that would be a masterpiece.

Score: 75/100

Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island (2019)

Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island (2019)

Directed by: Cecilia Aranovich, Ethan Spaulding. Starring: Frank Welker, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard. Runtime: 1h 20 min. Released: September 3, 2019 (video).

Some spoilers follow.

I’m sitting here eating some of those Betty Crocker’s fruit flavored Scooby Snacks (not a sponsor). I’m 25 yet still have the snack preferences of an elementary school child, but that’s beside the point. I decided it would be an appropriate time to review Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island. A direct sequel to the 1998 film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, this has the Mystery Gang coming out of retirement to investigate a mystery on the familiar zombie-infested island.

That’s my first problem with the film, the fact that they’ve “retired.” It opens with a montage of our gang chasing a bunch of villains as if in a last hurrah and then it’s revealed Fred has sold the Mystery Machine (for some reason). I haven’t been following the current television shows for Scooby-Doo so I don’t know if it’s canon that Mystery Inc. has closed up shop, but in this film, it comes out of nowhere with zero explanation. Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) make Fred (also Welker), Daphne (Grey Griffin) and Velma (Kate Micucci) promise not to solve any mysteries for the foreseeable future because they’ve like, had it, man! Enough of that spooky stuff, they just want to watch horror movies where the monsters are fake.

When they win a trip to Zombie Island from an Elvira marathon show, we realize that most of the group don’t know how to live without sleuthing. Shaggy and Scooby will always have their food (and by the way, all the food in this film still looks delicious), but Velma only has her sleuthing. It’s also annoying when Shaggy and Scooby are attacked by zombies and they all think there’s a rational explanation for it because they can’t investigate the mystery. It’s convoluted and irritating, but the film becomes okay when Shaggy and Scooby release them from their promise and let them investigate the strange happenings and why they were invited to the island.

Scooby-Doo, Return, article
Zombies in Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island. (IMDb)

Then, we realize why they had the whole convoluted thing about them not being able to investigate the mystery – because there’s not enough story in this film and there’s not much of a mystery. They literally have to kill about 35 minutes here so they can get it to feature length. If they were allowed to investigate from the get go, Velma would have solved this “unsolved mystery” (as she calls it on her blog) in about 10 minutes.

A note about the voice cast: I like the cast and how it’s adapted over the years, like now that Frank Welker is voicing Scooby as well as Fred. Matthew Lillard voicing Shaggy in animated projects since 2010 is a stroke of brilliance because he really embodied Shaggy in the live-action films (Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed). Of course, I also like Grey Griffin as Daphne, as she’s voiced her in feature films since my personal favourite Scooby film, Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. My only complaint is Kate Micucci. I like her as an actress, and though she’s voiced the character since 2015, I’m still getting used to her. Her voice fits the character, but her voice is just so distinct I still hear too much Micucci and not just Velma.

Scooby-Doo, Return, article, Shaggy, Scoob
Matthew Lillard and Frank Welker as Shaggy and Scooby in Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island. (IMDb)

Anyway, Return to Zombie Island still does have a couple clever moments. The classic Scooby chase scene where they go from room to room will always be funny. The film’s also clever in a character name that would be a spoiler, but that is with Alan, played by John Michael Higgins (and this casting is solid). I think the best joke is when Fred is recapping the first film and Shaggy is just shouting, “We know, man, we were there!” It’s helpful exposition for those who might forget the first film, and it’s a good meta joke, but even recapping it so blandly takes away some of the joy of the first film.

The original is one of my favourite Scooby movies and I love these movies, and this one is just rough to watch and feels lifeless. By the end of it I didn’t care to hear anyone call our gang meddling kids because the story isn’t interesting. Its biggest problem is just breaking that sacred formula of investigating a mystery and getting called meddling kids, as the random introduction of them retiring just takes away my enjoyment. The formula’s still there, it’s just buried under a lot of Scooby Snacks.

Score: 40/100