Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Lois Lee to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness of “Mary Poppins Returns,” the Transformers prequel “Bumblebee,” the underwater adventures of “Aquaman” and Natalie Portman as a pop star in “Vox Lux.”
The “Transformers” franchise revs up the engine for the sixth time in eleven years with a movie that feels fresh out of the body shop. Pimping the Ride this time out is director Travis Knight, founder of LAIKA studios and director of the wonderful animated fantasy “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Knight puts his own stamp on it, doing away with most of former franchise mastermind Michael Bay’s bombast in favour of a more humanistic approach.
That’s right, “Bumblebee” is a special effects driven story starring a talking robot car that emphasizes the story’s less mechanical aspects.
The action begins with a battle on Cybertron between the Autobots—the rebellious bots—and the evil Decepticons. To save themselves the Autobots, including scout B-127 (Dylan O’Brien), make a run for it, scattering across the galaxy. “We will fight on,” declares Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), “but we must find safety first.”
B-127 lands on earth, only to be found by a Decepticon operative who disables his vocal processors and damages his memory chip. Beat-up and alone, the robot car hides in open sight at a junkyard as a yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. He’s destined for the car crusher until teenager Charlie Watson (Steinfeld) rescues him from rusting away in her uncle’s junkyard, nicknames him Bumblebee and applies some tender loving care to his dented metal and dusty interior. Charlie and her late father were car nuts who spent their time together refurbishing an old Camaro. Since his sudden death she has worn the sadness of her father’s passing like a shroud.
When she switches on the car for the first time she inadvertently sends a signal to the Decepticons setting into motion an invasion of earth. Enter the military who initially co-operate with the Decepticons, hoping to garner some space age technology tips from the alien beings. “He’s a machine,” snarls Agent Burns (John Cena). “He’s more human than you’ll ever be,” replies Charlie.
I wouldn’t call “Bumblebee” restrained by any stretch but it feels positively Bergmen-esque compared to Michael Bay’s five loud ‘n proud instalments. Bay’s “Transformers” left viewers with scorched eyes and ringing ears. “Bumblebee” does have giant action scenes but it doesn’t forget to spend time with Charlie and her family, mom (Pamela Adlon), bratty brother Otis (Jason Drucker), stepfather Roy (Lenny Jacobson) and neighbour Memo (Jorge Lendborg Jr.). The main relationship, however, is between Charlie and a big chunk of metal.
That relationship is the film’s beating heart. “Bumblebee” is not just a tale of good vs. evil; it’s a story of how friendship can mend a broken heart. Set in 1987, this is a throwback to 80s movies like “ET” that paired kids with fantastical creatures with heart warming results. Knight pulls it off, creating a believable relationship between the two. Bumblebee’s eyes—or at least in the blue bulbs that substitute for his eyes—radiate wonder and tenderness. That’s quite a trick to pull off in an action movie.
“Bumblebee” is a welcome change of pace for the “Transformers” series. Knight brings tenderness, humour—“They literally call themselves Decepticons,” says Agent Burns. “How is that NOT a red flag?”—and action that owes more to the style of the 80s era “Transformers” cartoons and Amblin films than Bay’s bombast.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Alien: Covenant,” the return of one of the most fearsome alien species ever, the Xenomorph, the continuing adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Xenomorphic Alien: Covenant,” the whimptastic adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
The “Diary of the Wimpy Kid” movies are meant for children who have aged out of “Dora the Explorer” but aren’t quite ready for “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
Based on the ninth book in the wildly popular children’s book series by Jeff Kinney, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” takes place a year after the events of the last film 2012 “Dog Days” but don’t expect to see many familiar faces.
Original star Zachary Gordon aged out of the title teenager role and was replaced by newcomer Jason Drucker. Also recast was Devon Bostick who played the popular Roderick character. Charlie Wright took over, a move that didn’t please the film’s fans. One Wimpy aficionado tweeted, “The new Rodrick looks like a kid Rodrick would bully,” while others voiced dissatisfaction with the hashtag #NotMyRodrick.
When we first meet the new Heffley family—whimpy kid Greg, brother (and drummer for the metal group Löded Diper) Roderick, Mom (Alicia Silverstone), Dad (Tom Everett Scott) baby Manny (Wyatt and Dylan Walters)—they’re on the way to Corky’s—imagine a bigger, wilder Chuck E. Cheese’s and you get the idea—for dinner. When Manny gets lost inside a chute maze Greg comes to the rescue. His act of heroics backfires when he emerges from the ball pit at the end of the chute with Manny in one hand and a diaper on the other. A video of the event immediately goes viral and Greg becomes famous on the internet as Diaper Hand.
If Greg doesn’t do something soon he’ll be teased relentlessly, more a meme than a man. “If I don’t do something soon I’ll be branded Diaper Hands until I die,” he says. “Maybe longer.” Then inspiration hits. He realizes his hero, videogame guru Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover), will be appearing at a giant convention called Player’s Expo. “If I get a video of me with Mac I’ll be the coolest kid in high school,” he says. “Everyone will forget about Diaper Hands.”
Conveniently the family is planning a road trip to their great-grandmother’s 90th birthday, which, according to the map, is only two inches away from where the expo is taking place. The family heads off, Mom and Dad blissfully unaware of Greg’s plan, on an adventure that will play out like Griswold Lite.
Gently paced, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” is like a 1950s family sitcom updated with cell phones, pee, barf and poop jokes. There’s also a pig with the pacifier, some mild action and a slapstick villain named Beardo (Chris Coppola). The underlying messages of family togetherness, respect and the importance of reading “word books” are circa “Leave It To Beaver” era, and so are many of the jokes, but that’s not an entirely bad thing.
There are some genuinely funny moments—many supplied by clueless goofball Roderick—but mostly this is a sweet story fuelled by the familial relationships. It’s a generation gap between the kids who want to stay connected online while the parents went to connect as a family.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” doesn’t reinvent the family movie wheel. Instead it searches for new ways to freshen up the kind of poop jokes so often found in neo-children’s movies.