Beliefnet
Movie Mom
New to Theaters
B-

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language Release Date: June 24, 2016
B+

Lowest Recommended Age: High School MPAA Rating: Rated R for brutal battle scenes and disturbing graphic images Release Date: June 24, 2016
B+

Lowest Recommended Age: High School MPAA Rating: Not rated Release Date: June 24, 2016
New to DVD
Pick of the week
B+

Eye in the Sky

Lowest Recommended Age: High School MPAA Rating: Rated R for some violent images and language Release Date: March 11, 2016
B+

Kung Fu Panda 3

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade MPAA Rating: Rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor Release Date: January 29, 2016
B+

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images Release Date: March 4, 2016
| This product uses the TMDb API but is not endorsed or certified by TMDb.
What kind of movie do you feel like? Ask Movie Mom Click here

The problem is, this is not a 4th of July movie. It is not a bad movie. It is not a good movie either. It is a flawed but interesting movie but its biggest problem is that on the 4th of July the kind of Will Smith movie people want to see is a brainless summer blockbuster with some cool explosions, some quippy dialogue, and the kind of bad guy you can cheerfully enjoy seeing fall off a building. This is not that movie, and people who expect that movie are doomed to disappointment. Go see Iron Man again. Or put those expectations aside, start from scratch, and go this this messy but intriguingly ambitious film. Inside the $150 million-budgeted would-be blockbuster there are two or three quirky little indie films trying to get out.

Will Smith’s Hancock may be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to soar like the eagle, his favorite animal, but he is no Superman. He dresses like a homeless guy, drinks like a wino, and talks like a sulky teenager. He will save lives, catch crooks, and hurl beached whales back into the ocean but he won’t be happy, nice, gracious, patriotic or careful about collateral damage. Everyone needs him but no one likes him. He doesn’t like anyone and he doesn’t like himself.

When idealistic PR guy (if that is not an oxymoron) Ray (Jason Bateman) gets stuck on the train tracks, Hancock rescues him and (literally) drops him off at home. Ray invites Hancock in for dinner and offers to give him some help with his image. He advises the petulant superhero to accept responsibility for his actions and remind everyone they cannot get along without him by spending some time in jail and getting some help with anger management. Pretty soon Hancock is shaving, wearing a streamlined leather superhero suit, and handing out compliments to the cops. And he looks pretty good. After all, he’s Will Smith.

But then the story takes a darker turn that makes it at the same time more provocative, more interesting, less safe, and much, much messier. Smith, Bateman, and Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife do their best to ride the bucking bronco of this movie’s seismic shifts set up by director Peter Berg and writers Vy Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan but by the end, which bears the unmistakable marks of a panicky recut to make it more upbeat. Too little, too late.

And so a promising idea about a superhero with an existential crisis several times greater than the “great power means great responsibility” growing-up metaphors of Spider-Man and other Marvel and DC denizens wobbles through wildly misjudged moments with way too much emphasis on the metaphoric and literal aspects of the terminating point of the lower intestine and then turns a sharp corner and has something of an existential crisis of its own, leaving the audience itself asking why we are here — meaning in the theater.

Advertisement

fredclausposter2.jpg
The predictable work and family and romantic complications ensue, but they are dragged out and overplotted as an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) comes in for some bah-humbug moments, threatening to outsource the entire operation. The movie could have used an efficiency expert as it drags on about half an hour too long and the ratio of laughter per minute declines. All that should matter in the movie are the two brothers. As long as we stay with them, the movie stays on the “nice” list.
Vince Vaughn has a literally off-beat vibe. His words tumble out in a rapidly syncopated tumble and his delivery vibrates like a plucked high tension wire. The words come out so quickly that it takes a moment to realize that he has just revealed something hilariously honest that even he does not seem to know he said. He is disarmingly frank about being a bit of a liar.
Director David Dobkin has worked well with Vaughn before (in the under-appreciated “Clay Pigeons” and the smash comedy “The Wedding Crashers”) and this movie about Santa’s brother is well-designed to take advantage of Vaughn’s strengths. The theme of sibling rivalry is perfect for showing off Vaughn’s gift for barely-under-the-surface resentment. And it is very funny to see the 6’4″ actor trying to interact with hundreds of elves and their Lilliputian environment.
The set-up is promising: If you think sibling rivalry is tough, imagine being the sibling of the most beloved figure in the world: Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti). And Vaughn is marvelous dancing with the elves and struggling not to be drawn to his irresistibly loveable brother. But plot digressions that take much too long to resolve and mangled special effects are a distraction and a nuisance.
According to this movie, Santa’s older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn) has spent hundreds of years feeling slighted and resentful. It turns out that when Nicholas became a saint, his entire family was granted perpetual life. So, Fred now lives in Chicago, where he is needs money to start his off-track betting operation, and where his meter-maid girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) is losing patience with his evasions and unreliability. Fred asks his brother Nick (Santa) for money. Mrs. Claus wants him to say no, but he tells her, “I’m a saint. Tough love’s a little difficult for me.” The best he can do is insist Fred come up to the North Pole to earn the money. So Willie (the head of John Michael Higgins on a little person’s body), the head elf, swings by in the sleigh to pick him up, and Fred gets whisked to Santa’s workshop by reindeer express.
Fred does not exactly fit in, physically or culturally. He gets into a tussle with the workshop’s DJ (the head of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges on a little person’s body), after one too many spins of sugary seasonal tunes. Fred shoves him aside and plays Elvis singing “Rubberneckin’.” The elves get so excited that the workshop turns into a rave, complete with mosh pit.
The predictable work and family and romantic complications ensue, but they are dragged out and overplotted as an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) comes in for some bah-humbug moments, threatening to outsource the entire operation. The movie could have used an efficiency expert as it drags on about half an hour too long and the ratio of laughter per minute declines. All that should matter in the movie are the two brothers. As long as we stay with them, the movie stays on the “nice” list.
Parents should know that this movie has some crude humor, including mild sexual references, potty jokes, a non-explicit childbirth scene, mild language, and some skimpy clothing. Some audience members will find it insensitive that Fred and the elves assume that boys will all want one gender-specific toy and girls will want another, though it does show one girl happily receiving the “boy’s” toy. And this is a rare Christmas film to recognize that some people belong to religions that do not celebrate Christmas or expect a visit from Santa. Some may also find it insensitive that the faces of full-size actors are imposed on the bodies of little people.
Families who see this movie should talk about Fred’s feelings about Nick. Why was it hard for him to feel good about his brother? Who was right about the naughty list? How can an efficiency expert be a help?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Elf (some crude humor) and The Santa Clause.

Advertisement

Critics usually do not see trailers in our special screenings, so many thanks to the commenters who brought this problem to my attention. Some “Twilight” fans are seeing the disturbing trailer for “The Unborn” before the movie.
The choice of trailers is made by individual theater owners and managers. In general, they usually try to make sure the movie they are advertising will appeal to the same audience. It is unthinkable to me that anyone who knows what “Twilight” is about — a tender love story and the triumph of better angels over base desires — would want to show that audience a trailer for a film about a demonic spirit.
Parents should check with the theater manager to make sure this trailer will not be shown when they decide where their teenagers will be seeing “Twilight.” And I also recommend a protest to the authorities:
National Association of Theatre Owners
750 First Street, NE
Suite 1130
Washington, DC 20002
Tel. 202.962-0054
Fax: 202.962-0370
E-mail: nato@natodc.com
Office of the Chairman and CEO
Washington, DC
1600 Eye St., NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 293-1966 (main)
(202) 296-7410 (fax)

Advertisement

To the surprise of no one but the Hollywood insiders, none of whom apparently have ever spoken to a teenage girl, “Twilight” set records at the box office this weekend, exceeding all predictions to bring in over $70 million, almost doubling the previous record for a movie directed by a woman. Blockbuster films have always been directed at teen boys. “Twilight” shows that teen girls are just as eager to buy tickets — often more than one — for movies that speak to their lives and interests.
E! noted:
“This is a game-changer. This is an industry-changing performance,” Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock said today. “…With the success of Sex and the City, and Mamma Mia!, we’ve awoken a sleeping giant at the box office.”
The Associated Press spoke to an expert who saw a trend:
“Teen girls rule the earth,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. “If you look back at the `Hannah Montana’ movie, how well that did, and now this movie, the teen girl audience will never be ignored again or underestimated. It was always teen boys who were the coveted ones, but someone finally caught on to the idea that girls love movies, too, and if you create something that they’re into, that they’re passionate about, they will come out in big numbers and drive the box office.”
One of my favorite reviews of the film was from my pals at the Kansas City Star, who run my parental advisory capsules each week and occasionally invite me to write reviews. My email pen pal, “resident fangirl Sharon Hoffman” added her comments to the negative review from the paper’s critic, responding to his complaints about the story and the actors by explaining what she liked about the movie. In every case, I was on her side.

Previous Posts