This image released by STX Productions shows, from left, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in a scene from, "Bad Moms." (Michele K. Short/STX Productions via AP)

This image released by STX Productions shows, from left, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in a scene from, "Bad Moms." (Michele K. Short/STX Productions via AP)

Reeling it in: Nice guys, bad moms and heartwarming dragons

“Bad Moms”

STX Entertainment

1 hour, 40 minutes

This week was a good one at the movies for me. I saw not one, not two, but three movies that, each in their own way, were deliriously entertaining. One is new, one is a couple of weeks old, and one is from earlier in the year, but all three are worth your time.

Now, it’s easy for me to say expansively that each of these movies is worth your time, but on a specific level you might want to look closely. “Bad Moms” is an R-rated raunchy comedy that manages to be one of the funniest and sweetest films I’ve seen all year. “Pete’s Dragon”,” the remake of the 1970s Disney film, is a return to 70s- and 80s-era family films, containing the kind of heart that we last saw in “E.T.” And “The Nice Guys,” from director Shane Black and starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, is a hilarious action mystery, but definitely for adults.

I don’t often go to see movies like this week’s “Bad Moms.” Occasionally I’ll stumble into one if my wife and I are looking for an easy comedy to watch on date night, but we’re usually disappointed. See, or don’t, “Neighbors.”

However, the trailer for “Bad Moms” looked amusing, and the actresses involved are generally good. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn are all talented and funny in one way or another, and with a supporting cast that includes Jada Pinkett and Christina Applegate, we thought, how bad can it be? I can say right up front that the movie is R-rated for a reason. The language varies from offensive to vaguely filthy, but for once the comedy is not transgressive. This is not a mean or an angry film. In fact, it’s a very sympathetic one. The simple story of Kunis’ Amy as a working mom with a deadbeat husband and too many things to do is meant to be relatable, and it is. Our heroine hits her breaking point when, not only is she forced to throw her husband out of the house for infidelity, but to make matters worse she becomes a victim of bullying from the local PTA president. It’s all just too much, and the pressure of being a perfect mom drives her to rebel against her societal structures.

Filling out the cast of the archetypes, Kristen Bell plays Kiki, the put-upon-mom, and Hawn is Carla, as the boozy single mom. Together, the trio takes on the hypercompetitive establishment, making the world safe for “bad moms” everywhere. As my wife said, this isn’t a movie, it’s a mission statement!

The basic description of the film doesn’t sound stellar, but what the description doesn’t take in is that, formulaic as the film is, it is in many ways a work of perfectly constructed fan-service. Yes, the movie is predictable. It follows the formula to a letter, but it is also an example of why the formula exists in the first place. Where lesser movies like “The Boss” or the aforementioned “Neighbors” are poorly constructed messes wrapped around one or two funny jokes, “Bad Moms” hit every note just right.

I sort of compare it to last year’s “John Wick,” the out-of-nowhere Keanu Reeves action movie that took everybody by surprise. “John Wick,” was the distillation of the silly shoot-’em-up. “Bad Moms” is the same thing for the girls-night-out crowd. It’s funny, sweet, and even a little rabble-rousing. We laughed so hard, that we missed half the jokes. If you go, make sure you stay for the closing credits which includes one of the most heartwarming five minutes I’m seeing on film in a long time.

Grade: B+

“Pete’s Dragon”

Walt Disney Productions

1 hour, 43 minutes

Speaking of heartwarming, “Pete’s Dragon” proved to be the perfect Saturday afternoon film to take the kids to. Oftentimes nowadays even the better kids movies suffer from an element of cynicism and an unnecessary edge, inserted I’m sure to appeal to adults. “Pete’s Dragon” manages to tell a sincere and entertaining story but doesn’t pander, and is neither too childish for adults.

This tale of a lost boy who befriends a dragon in the Pacific Northwest, is a remake of the 1977 Disney film whose mix of animation and live-action was a precursor to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” This latest version dispenses with the traditional animation, and goes instead for a computer-generated dragon fully integrated into the live-action environment.

While I love the film, and was completely taken with the characters, the look of the dragon, named Elliot, was a little offputting it first. This is not a “Game of Thrones” dragon, as it were. Elliot is furry and green and more reminiscent of a golden retriever more than anything J.R.R. Tolkien might have dreamed up. His look quickly grew on me as the movie unfolds.

Pete, who has been cared for by Elliot alone in the woods for some six years is discovered by Park Ranger Amy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. From there it becomes your conventional family struggle — do I go with the family that makes sense or stay with the one that feels safe? The movie is sweet and funny and exciting, and beautifully shot to boot. And if friendly dragons and great cinematography aren’t enough for you, the film boasts Robert Redford who doesn’t seem to be working very hard, but is magical nonetheless.

Grade: A-

“The Nice Guys”

Warner Bros.

1 hour, 56 minutes

Last but not least, I finally got around to “The Nice Guys,” which I streamed on iTunes. Director Shane Black is best known for his work as a screenwriter in the 1980s when he gave us movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Boy Scout.” More recently he saw success with a quirky noir thriller called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” a movie that, among other things, marked the return of Robert Downey Jr. to the mainstream.

“The Nice Guys” is along the same lines, a gritty action comedy set in the late 70s surrounding the murder of a porn star and an environmental scandal that goes all the way to the top. The movie stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, and the two have excellent chemistry. The film is funny and action packed and, unlike the other two movies I saw this week, entirely unpredictable.

The movie is definitely R-rated, but I’m sad it never found a bigger audience. I don’t know if the trailers were able to sell the screwball aspect of the film, but I was reminded of the work of Elmore Leonard or the Coen Brothers, both heady company to be in. I had a blast with “the Nice Guys,” and would highly recommend seeking it out.

Grade: A-

“Bad Moms” is rated R for pervasive language and crude humor

“Pete’s Dragon” is rated PG-13 for a few scary scenes

“The Nice Guys” is rated R for langague and violence.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

This image released by Disney shows Oakes Fegley in a scene from "Pete's Dragon." (Disney via AP)

This image released by Disney shows Oakes Fegley in a scene from “Pete’s Dragon.” (Disney via AP)

More in Life

Calzones stuffed with arugula pesto and cheese make for a fun summer meal. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Pedaling forward

These calzones are great after a day of trotting alongside a brave little boy

Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool and Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine in “Deadpool & Wolverine.” (Promotional photo courtesy Marvel Studios)
On the Screen: ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’ brings crass jokes, heart to MCU

It’s a bizarre love letter to an era of superhero cinema that probably was better left forgotten

Sierra Ferrell performs on the River Stage at Salmonfest in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Salmonfest returns Aug. 2-4 for ‘musically infused family reunion’

The three-day event will feature art, festivities and an array of performers

Gold Peak play the opening set of the Seventh Annual Rock’N the Ranch at the Rusty Ravin on Friday, July 7, 2023, at Rusty Ravin Plant Ranch in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Gold Peak play the opening set of the Seventh Annual Rock’N the Ranch at the Rusty Ravin on Friday, July 7, 2023, at Rusty Ravin Plant Ranch in Kenai. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music fest returns to RustyRavin

The annual nonprofit music festival is a fundraiser for Nuk’it’un, a transitional home for men

Lisa Parker, vice mayor of Soldotna, celebrates after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Peninsula Oilers and the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, July 4, 2023, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
King of the River food drive extended, Kenai takes lead

The winning city’s mayor will throw the opening pitch at a Peninsula Oilers game

Minister’s Message: The gift of lament

We don’t always know what to do in those difficult parts of life.

Chickpea lentil and spinach curry is served with rice and yogurt. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Finding comfort in memories

I believe that houses hold memories, and I hope the memory of our time there comforts it during its final, painful days.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Good old summertime

The lupines are crazy this year, as were the dandelions.

This advertisement for the Hilltop Bar and Café, the successor to the Circus Bar, appeared in 1962. The names under “Beer and Booze” refer to co-owners Swede Foss and Steve Henry King. (Advertisement contributed by Jim Taylor)
A violent season — Part 5

Bush did not deny killing Jack Griffiths in October 1961, but he claimed to have had no choice in order to protect himself.

Most Read