I appear on “CTV News at 11:30” with anchor Andria Case to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at a trio of films on the big screen, the live-action “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler’s latest action-a-thon “Mission Kandahar,” and the Crave musical bio “Love to Love You: Donna Summer.”
I appear on “CTV News at 6” with anchor Andria Case to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at a trio of films on the big screen, the live-action “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler’s latest action-a-thon “Mission Kandahar,” and the Crave musical bio “Love to Love You: Donna Summer.”
Watch as I review three movies in less time than it takes to stamp your feet! Have a look as I race against the clock to tell you about the underwater adventures of “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler in “Mission Kandahar.”
Disney takes you back under the sea with “The Little Mermaid,” the latest of their photo-realistic, live action remakes of classic animated movies. Based on the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, the new film places the titular mermaid in an undersea world that brings to mind your work computer’s aquarium screensaver.
Singer-songwriter and actress Halle Bailey stars as Ariel, the mermaid daughter of the Kingdom of Atlantica’s ruler King Triton (Javier Bardem). She is a free spirit, fascinated by the human world. Unlike his daughter, the overprotective King is no fan of humans and has forbidden her from visiting the “above world.”
But, like the song says, she “wants to be where the people are,” despite her father’s warnings. “I want to see them dancing,” she sings. “Walking around on those… what do you call them? Oh feet!”
Her dry land dreams are fulfilled when she rescues the human Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning. She is immediately smitten, and determined to live above sea level.
“This obsession with humans has got to stop,” scolds King Triton.
“I just want to know more about them,” she says.
Following her heart, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), an evil sea witch with glow-in-the-dark phosphorescence tentacles, who grants the mermaid’s wish to be with Eric in trade for her “siren song,” i.e. her voice.
“Here’s the deal,” she says. “I’ll whip up a little potion to make you human for three days. Before the sun sets on the third day, you and Princey must share a kiss, and not just any kiss. The kiss of true love. If you do, you will remain human permanently. But if you don’t, you’ll turn back into a mermaid and you belong to me.”
Ursula’s “premium package” comes at a high cost, however. A steep price tag that could cost King Triton his crown and Ariel her life.
You can’t shake the feeling, while watching the new “The Little Mermaid,” that it is competing with itself.
The 2023 photo-realistic animation is very good, presenting beautiful, fluid images, buoyed by theatrical flourishes from director Rob Marshall and strong performances from Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy. The new songs, by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, are good too, particularly the fun “Scuttlebutt.”
But it feels like something is missing. That’s the magic that made the ink and paint “Little Mermaid” an enduring classic.
There is plenty of razzmatazz. Marshall, a veteran of big musical extravaganzas like “Chicago” and “Into the Woods,” is at his best when applying a Broadway style gloss to the musical numbers. “Under the Sea,” a holdover from the first film, is a knockout. The psychedelic underwater cinematography will give your eyeballs a workout and it has a good beat and you can dance to it.
But for every Ziegfeld Follies style dancing sea slug number—super cool—there is yet another movie-stopping scene of Ursula’s endless exposition where she explains her nefarious plot or a padded action scene. Those slow spots give the storytelling a choppiness that would capsize a lesser vessel but Bailey’s strong, emotional vocals and star-making performance coupled with a fun turn from Daveed Diggs as the “educated crustation” Sebastian keep the ship from sinking.
“The Little Mermaid’s” message of a young person giving up their voice so they could be heard, is unchanged, and is still powerful, but feels waterlogged by comparison to the original.
Richard sat down with “Mary Poppins Returns” star Emily Mortimer. She plays Jane Banks, the grown up version of the girl in the original story. We talked about her love of the original book and why the story has great resonance for today.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns,” Natalie Portman in “Vox Lux” and Jason Mamoa as the underwater monarch “Aquaman.”
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.”
Fifty-four years after Julie Andrews made her debut as “the practically perfect in every way” nanny, who flew in (courtesy of her parrot-handled umbrella) and introduced magic to the lives of the dysfunctional Banks family, the beloved Mary Poppins character is back in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The new Disney musical-fantasy picks up 25 years after the events of the classic, with Poppins, played by Emily Blunt, returning to help the Banks children after misfortune befalls the family.
Set in 1930s London during the Great Slump, a city of gaslights and chimney sweeps, “Mary Poppins Returns” sees the kids from the original Michael and Jane Banks all grown up and played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer. Michael’s wife passed away the year before and now he, his kids (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson) and housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters) live in the Banks’s family home on Cherry Tree Lane, the house made famous by P. L. Travers.
When the bank calls in the loan Michael took against the house the family risks losing everything. “Pay back entire loan on the house or it will be repossessed in five days,” cackles the lawyer who delivers the notice. On that very day Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), the nanny who helped Michael and Jane as kids, and her magic bag come to the rescue. “Good thing you arrived when you did Mary Poppins,” says Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), former apprentice of Bert from the original film. Mary “I suspect that I am never incorrect” Poppins, helps the Banks family regain the joy and wonder that made their childhood years magical.
From the first song, “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky”—“Count your blessings,” sings Jack. “You’re a lucky guy.”—the movie establishes its uplifting tone. It’s a frothy, satisfying concoction of nostalgia, music, fanciful visuals, elegance and optimism; a spoonful of sugar in bitter times.
Director Rob Marshall has made a full-on musical that mixes the best of old and new Disney. This thoroughly modern movie feels old-fashioned in the sense that it takes its time with the music, allowing the songs to breathe and the lyrics to sink in. But it isn’t simply an exercise in recollection. The smart new songs (written by Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Wittman) refresh a familiar story, mixing seamlessly with snippets of songs from the original film blended into the score.
There are huge musical numbers, including a wild underwater spectacular, but the songs that work best are the more modest tunes like “A Conversation,” Michael’s requiem for his late wide. “These rooms were always filled with magic but that vanished since you’ve gone away.” It is heartfelt and heartbreaking. Ditto Mary Poppins’s “The Place Where Lost Things Go.”
Still, this is a movie that brims with joy. When the spunky Banks kids tell Mary Poppins (no one ever calls her Mary or Miss Poppins, its always first and last names) that they have “grown up a great deal in the last year.” She replies, “Yes. We’ll have to see what we can do about that.”
Like “Christopher Robin” from earlier this year, “Mary Poppins Returns” is ultimately about the importance of staying young at heart. The film essays Michael’s sense of loss and longing, his frustration at not knowing how to go on without his wife but it’s the upbeat attitude that gives it depth. “Everything is possible, even the impossible,” is a cliché but in context it is a call to believe, to have faith. If Michael believes in himself everything will be OK. That’s a potent message, delivered with a spoonful of sugar or not.
The cast impresses, delivering the film’s message with charm and verve. Emily Blunt brings a mix of strictness—“Sit up straight you’re not a flower bag,” she scolds.—and mischievousness to her character, effortlessly slipping into some very big shoes. Miranda provides a dose of musical theatre. Meryl Streep, as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy, offers a fun and funny lesson in perspective and Dick Van Dyke’s cameo as Mr. Dawes Jr. connects the old and new.
“Mary Poppins Returns” feels modern without sacrificing its nostalgic charm. There’s no “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious” but, like the first film, there is plenty of heart.
I learned a great deal during my interview with Mackenzie Mauzy and Billy Magnussen. The Manhattan based performers brought me up to speed on the rite of passage for all New York actors, Rapunzel’s hair and whether or not Meryl Streep likes men in blue tights.
The pair play Rapunzel and Rapunzel’s Prince in the big screen adaptation of the legendary Broadway musical Into the Woods. The two relative new comers—she’s best known as Abigail on Forever while he made a memorable appearance on Boardwalk Empire and will soon be seen in an upcoming Steven Spielberg spy thriller—help bring fairy tales to life as part of a large ensemble that includes Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep.
Which leads me to the first thing I learned during our chat.
“Meryl’s a beast,” says Magnussen. “She’s the one who got me the job. I was in a play and she saw it and recommended to me [director] Rob [Marshall] and [producer] Mark Platt. The play was Vonya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike and I dress up as a prince because we’re going to a costume party. It’s all about the blue tights.”
“Meryl likes the blue tights,” laughs Mauzy.
Next I discovered the wig Mauzy wears in the film put her at a follicular risk.
“They used my hair and braided it into the extensions,” she says. “It was thirty feet long so I wrapped it around my arm. I had a little fake one for rehearsal but I asked to actually wear [the real one] one day so I could figure out how to be mobile. It’s a tripping hazard! We joke about how I had a really strong left bicep for a couple months.”
Then Magnussen enlightened me on a rite of passage for New York actors, “Once you get on Law and Order,” he says, “you’re really an actor.” Both have done time in the L&O trenches. Mauzy played a child killer named Carly Di Gravia—“It’s weird I remember that name,” she says.—while Magnussen says, “It was one of my first jobs. They bleached my hair white and I was a Southern male prostitute. How do you tell your mom? Hey watch this!”
Finally, one I gleaned one last pearl of knowledge from Mauzy. Apparently it’s OK to call Stephen Sondheim, legendary Into the Woods composer and eight time Tony Award winner, Steve. “Everyone calls him Steve!” she laughs. “He likes to be called Steve! It is weird. Steve Sondheim.”