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 “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the inspirational comedy “Uncle Drew” and a glimpse at the life of Vivienne Westwood called “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases,“Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the inspirational comedy “Uncle Drew,” the sci fi b-movie “Upgrade” and a glimpse at the life of Vivienne Westwood called “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.”
There seems to be something about basketball themed TV commercials that strike a chord with Hollywood. First it was Michael Jordan vs. Looney Tunes in “Space Jam” and now comes “Uncle Drew,” a new inspirational comedy featuring starring Kyrie Irving as the character he created for Pepsi Max.
The story begins with Footlocker employee Dax (“Get Out’s” Lil Rel Howery), broke after draining his bank account to sponsor a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem. It is the epicenter of streetball, we’re told, “where the legends of the game you were born.”
The prize is $100,000 but more important than the money is showing up someone from his childhood, his nemesis Mookie (Nick Kroll), “the ghost of white boy past” who bullied Dax when they were players. “What’s that smell?” asks Mookie. “Is it a grudge?”
When Dax loses his best player and girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish) to Mookie he turns to an icon, streetball pioneer Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving). Now in his seventies the onetime local legend once beat someone at a game of one-on-one with only his left hand while eating a ham sandwich (with extra cheese and mayo on it) with the right. He is the “Zen master of basketball,” but hasn’t played since his team skipped the 1968 Rucker Classic for personal reasons.
Together they hit the road to recruit a sure-fire team of Uncle Drew’s septuagenarian pals (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie all hidden under layers of make-up) to take one last run at the game on the 50th anniversary of the game they never got to play.
“Uncle Drew” is a sports movie based on a commercial but there’s more swishes than misses here. It’s a sweet natured film about respect, teamwork—“Gladys Knight ain’t nothing without the Pips,” says Uncle Drew.—resilience and second chances. It is an undeniable, if somewhat predictable, feel good movie that doesn’t aim any higher than the rim of a basketball hoop. Filled with old coot advice we learn, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and, “You don’t stop playing because you get old you get old because you stop playing,” it plays like a heavy-handed sports Successtory with loads of improv comedy.
“Blended” reunites “cinematic soul mates” Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Of course, this is a romantic comedy, so even though they hate one another in the first couple of reels, they end up thrown together on an exotic vacation to Africa. From the first time they mention the journey you know it is just a matter of time until they put their acrimonious feelings aside and someone says, “It’s great we came on this trip.”
So how do Sandler and Co. spice up a predictable story? Easy, they add a dash of “The Brady Bunch,” some beautiful scenery and an all monkey show band.
Sandler is Jim, a widower with three girls (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind) who manages a sporting goods store when he’s not missing his late wife. He’s a guy’s guy who named one of his daughters after his favorite network, ESPN.
Barrymore is Lauren, a single mom with two rambunctious boys (Braxton Beckham and Kyle Red Silverstein) who miss their deadbeat dad (Joel McHale). She’s the buttoned-down owner of a closet reorganization company called Closet Queens.
A blind date brings them together but is so disastrous it almost keeps them apart forever. That is until circumstances conspire—it’s too “meet cute” to detail here—to place them both at a ritzy African resort for a Blended Family retreat.
“Is this a sick dream?” Jim says when he first sees Lauren. “What is happening here?”
“We’re here for the zero romance package,” she informs anyone who’ll listen.
Feelings of disgust and hate between the two melt away as their kids do cute things and they learn not to rely on first impressions.
“Blended” is one of Sandler’s sweet family comedies. Well, it’s as sweet as a comedy with Tampax gags can be, but it is a step up from the gross out tone of “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy.”
A small step up, but a step nonetheless.
It’s a heartfelt dose of humor with slightly less vulgarity than Sandler’s recent movies. Add in a few wide-eyed kids with mommy and daddy issues and you have a slightly off-kilter version of “With Six You Get Egg Roll” filtered through Sandler’s juvenile sensibility. He’s a bigger kid than the children in the film and never met a bathroom joke he didn’t like, but he has good chemistry with Barrymore and “Wedding Singer” fans—I’m still trying to expel “50 First Dates” out of my memory—will enjoy seeing them reunited.
The usual Sandler crowed also appears. Shaquille O’Neal brings some awkward charm to lines like, “When she gets flappin’, things happen,” and Kevin Nealon does some enjoyable double-speak, but the scene stealer here is Terry Crews as the leader of a singing group who acts as the Greek Chorus at the resort. His performance lends new meaning to the term over-the-top, but his brand of unbridled silliness is an antidote to the sentimentality the movie occasionally finds itself moving toward.
Sandler has been hit-and-miss lately—mostly missing with big laugh-free comedies—but the goodwill he and Barrymore bring to “Blended” puts it a notch above his recent work. Although much of the humor is Sandler boilerplate stuff but a musical montage when Sandler realizes his daughter isn’t just a tomboy anymore is funny and worth a look.
“The Lego Movie” is possibly the weirdest, most psychedelic kid’s entertainment since “H.R. Pufnstuf.”
Released by a big corporation—Warner Bros—and based on one of the world’s most popular toys, it manages to feel as though a kid who threw away his Lego kit’s instructions and snapped the blocks together in random, fun ways made it.
When we arrive at the Lego universe it is ruled by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a tyrant obsessed with perfection and conformity. In his world the radio pumps out perfect pop sings like “Everything is Awesome,” and a group of robotic “micro-managers” ensures that everything is just so.
To guarantee the world he has created from interlocking bricks stays just the way he wants it, he has a plan to spray the entire thing—Lego people and all—with Kraggle, a super glue that will permanently paste everything it touches into Lord Business’s idea of excellence.
When Emmet (Chris Pratt), a Lego figure who was invisible in life, stumbles across the “piece of resistance” he becomes The Special, the greatest Master Builder in the universe, jopining a group that includes Batman (Will Arnett), a pirate named Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) and Green Lantern (Jonah Hill).
With the help of the Master Builders, a loopy wizard named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) a tough young woman with a sensitive side, Emmet must break free of the chains of conformity and defeat Lord Business.
The first thing you notice about “The Lego Movie” is the look. It’s computer-animated but looks like stop-motion. The film’s handmade composition isn’t slick, but it is playful, which is a perfect compliment to its Lego origins. (It should be noted, however, that the movie in no way plays like a commercial for the toys.) From the crude Lego flames to the awkward way the characters move, the movie is completely consistent in its vision of a Lego world.
The second thing you’ll notice is how off the wall the story is. It’s not just off-the-wall, it’s off-the-planet. Directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have taken the movie’s credo of battling against conformity to heart and made a big budget studio movie that bends all the rules. At its heart it’s a simple hero journey, a primal story about good against evil, but frenetic storytelling and inventive twists in almost every scene add a richness that belies its humble toy story origins.
It may be a bit too hectic at times—blame video game influence for that—and a titch too long for little ones with short attention spans, but the overriding message of dancing to your own beat combined with an unexpected and touching live-action section make “The Lego Movie” far more than an exercise in nostalgia for parents who grew up creating worlds from little plastic blocks or a way to sell more toys to a new audience. Instead it’s a wildly entertaining movie that uses the toys as a muse, and does what the toys have always done, light imaginations on fire.