Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including strange and beautiful period drama, “The Favourite,” the critic’s favourite “Roma,” the zombie musical “Anna and the Apocalypse,” the animated “Henchmen” and the documentary “Almost Almost Famous.”
Every now and again when I’m at the movies a deep-rooted feeling of ennui sneals up me. That, “What the heck am I doing wasting my time watching ‘insert title here?’ It has only swept over me a handful of times usually in what I call Seatbelt Movies, films so uninspired I need a seatbelt to keep me from fleeing the theatre.
That familiar creeping feeling came over me during a recent screening of “Henchmen,” a new superhero animated film starring the voices of James Marsden, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Jane Krakowski and Rob Riggle. I stayed, trapped by professional duty to make it to the end credits, but it tested my patience in ways few other movies have.
“Silicon Valley’s” Thomas Middleditch is Lester a self described comic book nerd and orphan. On his sixteenth birthday he auditions at the Union of Evil—“The best of the worst!”—only to be assigned Henchman Third Class. A janitor. His dream of one day making his super villain persona, The Orphan,” a reality will have to wait. He’s assigned to Hank (Marsden), a disgraced former First Class henchman (he was too nice a guy to be bad), now pushing a mop. On a visit to the Vault of Villainy Lester accidentally winds up wearing an old super villain suit. Taking advantage of Lester’s newfound powers Hank sees a way to change his life. Using Lester’s ray gun hands he tries to free a chip of What-ifium—a substance that can change the past—from a giant crystal block. Before he can go back in time mega-baddie Baron Blackout (Alfred Molina), who put me in the mind of Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions impersonation, asserts his intention to take over Super Villain City. Will the What-ifium save the world and make all their dreams come true?
There’s more—a team of superheroes called the Friendly Force Five, and a goopy gangster called Gluttonator who wants to use radioactive cheese to bring his foes to their knees and shouts “What the feta??!!” when his plan goes south—but why prolong this any more than I have to?
Set to a soundtrack of sound-alike classic rock songs “Henchmen” is about as imaginative as you can expect from a movie where all the criminals live in a place called Super Villain City. From the uninspired voice work to animation that looks like next wave cheapo Hanna-Barbera style animation without any of the organic charm, “Henchmen” is little more than a collection of cartoon clichés. Very small children might find distraction in the colourful design or the bullet proof underpants or the ‘Bad guys always lose’ moral but all others beware.
I took no joy in writing this review but then again I could find no joy in “Henchmen” either.
I’m not sure if the first rule of comedy is that it is always funny when someone falls down but it is the certainly the cornerstone of the career of the Three Stooges. For fifty years they fell down, got back up and, well, fell down again. This weekend they’re back–or at least a reasonable facsimile is–to try and uplift a new generation by falling down.
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers–the twisted minds behind “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber”–the new film is ninety minutes long, but made up of three short movies, the length of the classic Stooge’s shorts. Part One sees them growing up–and falling down–in an orphanage from childhood to age thirty-five. In Part Two they leave their home to try and raise $830,000 to save the orphanage from foreclosure and wind up involved in a murder plot. Part Three sees Moe joining the cast of Jersey Shore. Seriously.
Well, that’s not true. There’s nothing serious about this movie. It is as silly a film as will be released this year.
Fans of the original Stooges will know what to expect. Lots of hair pulling, face slapping and even three way eye pokes and even though the traditional Stooge pie fight is sadly missing, the slapstick is state of the art thanks to studied performances from Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso as Larry, Moe and Curly.
For those unfamiliar with the Stooge oeuvre–a generation that associates poking with facebook and not slapstick–the old school jokes–like a lawyer’s firm called Kickum, Harter, Indagroyne–and the physical humor may seem too silly in the post Apatow world.
But the harmless humor has heart. The Farrellys stress the family connection between the Stooges and even though they whallop the heck out of one another they have genuine affection for each other. That detail makes a great deal of difference.
Remember “Borat”? Offensive and funny it succeeded because the main character’s journey was spurred on by his love of Pamela Anderson. Contrast that with “Bruno.” Same kind of humor but the heart was gone and it failed to connect with audiences.
“The Three Stooges” works because of its soft center and because there is a certain pleasure in watching Moe beat up the “Jersey Shore” kids.
There are some differences between new and old. I doubt the original Stooges would have used Sofía Vergara’s cleavage as a plot device and there’s loads of stunt casting–in addition to the “Jersey Shore” cast there’s the Old Spice Guy and Larry David as a nun named Sister Mary-Mengele–but the Farrellys and a talented cast have expertly reimagined the Stooges anarchy and their heart for a new generation.