An evil presence lived in my bedroom closet. I would only hear it at night when I was a little boy. It would make a creaking sound as if a giant’s foot was stepping out of the closet to eat me. One of my defenses was to hide under my blanket and be very still. The other was to make pretend spiders out of black construction paper and place them on the floor, in front of the closet door. They used to do a good job; so good, that I accidentally scared one of my brothers, when I left one of the spiders on the floor. As I grew up it dawned on me that what I was really afraid of was the unknown. It would have been a big help if this animated comedy had been around back then. A film that showed monsters going to school to learn how to scare humans was a wonderful idea. For those of us who saw Monsters, Inc this was the opportunity to visit with a younger Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, voiced by Billy Crystal (Parental Guidance, Analyze This) and John Goodman (Argo, Flight). If you are not familiar with their story, it will not be a major factor in watching this film. A few sly references would be missed. However, the charm and originality of the previous movie was also missing. The story took a little part from the movies Carrie and The Hunger Games, minus the frightening parts. I believe young children will still enjoy this movie; though, I did notice the kids were noisier here than at other animated family films I have seen. Billy and John were perfect voicing their characters again, as was Steve Buscemi (Rampart, Broadwalk Empire-TV) as Randy. The addition of Helen Mirren (Red, Hitchcock) as Dean Hardscrabble was my favorite character. Though there was a little less magic and a little less fun in it for me, I still enjoyed finding out how monsters learned to be scary. Stay through the end of the credits.
2 3/4 stars
My grandmother had no friends. It was her choice, since her only concern was her family. I cannot recall a time when my grandmother did not have some home baked sweet treat ready for us to eat. Knowing I would be stopping by her house for Halloween, with my two buckets (I was always paranoid a shopping bag would rip); she would have bags of candy and licorice made up to pass out to me and my friends. She never said a bad word about anyone; her harshest criticism was saying the word “feh” to something or someone she did not like. My grandmother had nothing in common with the grandparents in this comedy. In fact, I do not know of anyone who have grandparents similar to the two in this film. Billy Crystal (Analyze This, When Harry met Sally…) and Bette Midler (Beaches, The First Wives Club) played grandparents Artie and Diane Decker. When their daughter Alice, played by Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer), asked them to babysit their three grandchildren; Diane jumped at the chance while reluctant Artie had no choice but to agree. However when the two elders’ old school way of child rearing smacked up to Alice and her husband Phil’s, played by Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So, Dead Man on Campus), new school methods; all discovered they could still learn a thing or two about each other. If you happened to see the trailer, you already saw the best parts of this abysmal movie. Besides every humorous moment being predictable, I thought the characters Billy and Bette played were more like two comedians on the comedy circuit tour through the Catskills or Florida (no offense to those who live in either place). Having two actors gifted in comedic timing, I only wished the story had some original ideas for Bette and Billy to mine through and surprise moviegoers. Instead the actors seemed as if they were mugging for the camera. On a positive note, this film was suitable for most of the family; no vulgar language or sexual innuendos, only a little bathroom humor. For a movie like this I would have waited for it to come out on DVD. If my grandmother were alive to watch this film she would have said feh.
1 3/4 stars
As I was scrapping the last spoonful of ice cream out of my 2nd container, the Oscar telecast came to a close. Another season of movies fighting their way to the ultimate prize in Hollywood–the Oscar statuette. Overall, I enjoyed the telecast, with its even pacing and shorter than usual acceptance speeches. I am not sure if it was the length of the telecast or the amount of caffeine I consumed from the lovely chocolate creations, donated by my local bakery; but, it seemed as if I needed more bathroom breaks. It was good to see Billy Crystal again. Having him host was like finding a comfortable sweater that was out of fashion, so you would only wear it to the grocery store. Some of his jokes were funny or at least amusing, though the focus group clip did nothing for me. As for the movie stars in attendance, I felt their attire was elegant in a muted way. Though what was up with Angelina’s leg? Did she think her dress was not beautiful enough without thrusting her leg out? Cirque du Soleil did a wonderful piece, though the space of the stage made it look too busy for me. I did not know what to look at first. And so what if their act had nothing to do with the movies, maybe they were there for the cool factor, albeit fifteen years ago. Though I wish the results would have been different, I will continue to seek out those elusive 4 star movies…right after I fill out my application to be a seat filler for next year’s show.