The human race has created many beautiful things throughout the centuries. Some of them remain standing today while others over time were demolished, either for something newer or in the name of progress. What I find hideous is when the people in power decide to placate the local residents by saving the facade of a structure they are tearing down only to paste it onto the building they are constructing in the same spot. It does not matter that there is not architectural connection between the two. For me a more lasting beauty is what nature creates all around us. I have been extremely lucky to have visited some of the national parks across the United States. From a geyser to a canyon to a mountain peak, I have seen places that have not been touched by a human hand. Can you imagine if there comes a time where, let us say, an electronic billboard is erected in a national park? Or how about if a hotel or gift shop is constructed next to natural stone arches or powerful waterfalls? I for one would consider it a crime to spoil such natural, pristine beauty that is here on this planet. Not everything has to be new and fresh to be considered a natural beauty (good advice for some celebrities); I do not know when our values changed to discard old objects or look at a place and determine how it can generate money. It is this type of message that was the focus of this animated film. WHEN real estate developer Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong (Ride Along 2, Community-TV), commits to building condos in the Arctic home of Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider (50 First Dates, The Hot Chick), the talking polar bear decides to travel to American to change Mr. Greene’s mind. I have to be blunt and right to the point here; this adventure comedy was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. It was startling to say the least. The animation was poor, story weak, jokes both lame and inappropriate; I ask you what child needs to see a twerking polar bear? What in the world possessed Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, The Hangover franchise) as Vera and especially Bill Nighy (About Time, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise) as Socrates to take part in this disaster? The movie studio behind this film, as far as I know, is not known for creating animated pictures and it showed. I am not exaggerating in the least when I tell you the children in the audience never reacted to anything on the screen while most of the parents were either focusing on their snacks or smart phones. The only reason I am including an extra 1/4 star to the rating is because the message was sound, not that young children would understand the concept here. This movie was as lame as this joke: this film left me cold.
1 1/4 stars
It is hard to tell someone what they are attempting to do is not very good. I am not referring to someone’s behavior or actions per se, more as a reality check to a person’s desire. Many of you may have seen these reality shows where a person auditions to be part of the program, as a singer or dancer. I am all for encouraging a person to pursue their dreams, but some of the people I have seen on these television shows appear to have been chosen solely to amuse the viewing audience. I find it perplexing that the contestant claims their family and friends said they would make a great singer or dancer, when it is obvious they cannot carry a tune or stay on beat. Remembering one of my writing classes, there was a student who wanted to be a writer. Through class discussions we found out his family encouraged him by holding mini story times for him to read his stories to the family. Based on what he read in our class, his stories tended to follow a formula: the endings always involved someone dying and the use of profanity was meant to shock the reader since its use rarely fit his characters. He did pass the class but by junior year he either dropped out of school or changed majors; I never saw him again. I do not think anyone wants or enjoys having to be the one to perform the reality check, but isn’t it preferable to watching the person go through with some ill-advised life decisions based on unrealistic hopes? There was a similar situation taking place in this comedic sequel. BEN Barber, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), was positive he was on the right path to becoming a permanent police officer when he accompanied his future brother-in-law Detective James Payton, played by Ice Cube (21 Jump Street franchise, Barbershop franchise), to Miami to help solve a case. James was convinced Ben could not handle the pressure. If you saw the original movie and enjoyed it then you will be in store for the exact same thing in this film. I first have to say I do not consider Kevin an actor; he is exactly the same in every role I have seen him in previously. Regarding this action picture, there were many aspects of it that irritated me. The jokes about Kevin’s height (is this a requirement for every one of his movies?), the jokes about the two characters becoming brother-in-laws and the lack of a solid story all contributed to my boredom. However I did enjoy Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise, All About Steve) as A.J. and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Demolition Man) as Antonio Pope. This film as far as I was concerned was a quick money grab by the movie studio. Someone needs to tell them they are not producing a decent product if this is what they come up with for a sequel.
1 3/4 stars
One of the definitions for friend that I found in a dictionary said it was, “A person who you like and enjoy being with.” This is absolutely true but for me there is more involved for me to call someone my friend. A person I call friend is someone who joins me on a journey through life; where we are there for each other, supporting each other during happy occasions and even more during sad ones. We may or may not have a similar sense of humor; but we still would understand why the other one found something funny. I would like to say we each have a moral compass that is pointing towards the same direction, but as I write this I know there are a few friends who have a different point of view. And do you know why it is okay if they look at things differently than I do? It is because above all else I place major importance in a relationship that is non-judgemental. Who am I to say you are doing a bad thing? Now granted, I am perfectly comfortable offering advice when asked along with sharing my experiences. Friends just get each other; they do not have to explain or justify things to each other. For me friends are like a bag of mixed candies; though they are covered in a variety of different wrappers, what is inside of them is the most important and favorite part. This is why I was confused at first with this comedy. HORRIFIED to find out she was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) amongst her friends Bianca, played by Mae Whitman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Independence Day), was determined to prove she was no such thing. Because things seemed to focus on surface issues at first, I had a bit of trouble getting into this movie. The characters were stereotypical examples of high school students such as the snobby mean girl Madison, played by Bella Thorne (Blended, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and the good looking athlete Wesley, played by Robbie Amell (Left for Dead, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins-TV). Having Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise, Pain & Gain) play teacher Mr. Arthur was an obvious clue his character was not going to be your typical high school teacher. There were parts of the script that had some smart dialog, where I felt the film was trying to be something different. It was however relatively easy to figure out where the story was going since there were not many surprises. By the end of the film I was once again reminded how grateful I was I finished high school a long time ago.
The magic of cartoons is their ability to turn something real into the unreal. They can take a current topic and provide a different spin on it or turn it into a satire. Cartoon characters can be beaten and hurt multiple times, yet still come back for more, while providing us with a good laugh. And then there is the use of color and design; everyday items can suddenly defy gravity and physics in their twisted, illogical shapes and hues. I was raised on the classic Looney Tunes cartoons from Warner Bros. The foundation to any cartoon is a solid story and Looney Tunes was brilliant in their ability to play with a story. In this animated sequel I felt the story was disappointingly weak. Steve Carell (Hope Springs, Date Night) was back again, this time as Gru the family man to the three orphaned girls. Gone was Gru’s nastiness, though I thought Steve still did an excellent job voicing the character. New to the cast was Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids) as agent Lucy and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Catwoman) as club owner Edwardo. The story this time had Gru being recruited by the Anti-Villain League to track down a new super criminal. On the plus side the Minions were back and offered some fun gags. However, the issue I had with this movie concerned the lazy writing. I mean come on, did we really need to try and mine humor out of flatulence? It was just an easy way to piece the story together. Where some of this year’s recent animated movies entertained both children and adults; I think younger kids would like this comedy more than adults. Another issue I had with the movie was its predictability. Cartoons should be able to offer at least a surprise or two for the viewer; I did not find anything close to being shocking. Instead of creating magic with Gru and the girls, it seemed the studio was looking to make a quick buck; some magic act.
2 1/2 stars
Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.
1 3/4 stars