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.
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.
“The Nice Guys”
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.
“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.