MOVIE REVIEW: Blockers

BLOCKERS (2018)

Teen sex-comedies used to totally be my jam. When I first saw American Pie, I was brought to tears with laughter. But as I’ve gotten older and become a parent, I can’t help but spend most of my time irrationally concerned with the consequences that these teens will experience the morning after their “best night ever.” Apparently, I’m not alone as this feeling drives the plot of Kay Cannon’s Blockers.

Blockers follows Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as three estranged old friends who stumble onto their soon-to-graduate daughters’ pact to lose their virginity on prom night. It’s a fun twist on the genre that takes the focus off of the perspective of the teenagers and points it towards their parents and their mission to stop the girls before it’s too late. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

The film is at its best when it’s following the parents. Leslie Mann is one of the most underappreciated comedic actors of her generation. She makes every movie she’s in better, and Blockers is absolutely improved by her performance and comedic timing as Lisa, a single mom worried about what her life is going to look like when her little girl leaves for college. Cena is someone I look forward to seeing in films like this. While his acting ability is limited and usually restricted to one note, I appreciate how he’s always game to play against type if the role calls for it. He plays Mitchell, a dorky dad who would be intimidating if it wasn’t for his inability to keep from crying. In my opinion, Ike Barinholtz steals almost every scene he’s in as the screw-up Hunter, who ruined his family and his relationship with his daughter several years earlier when he had an affair with the babysitter. He’s very funny and his storyline with his daughter provided the most emotional depth in the film. With the three of them together, the movie really sings. When the focus shifts to their daughters and their prom dates, it’s just mediocre to poor teen-comedy fare that bogs down the story.

It’s a pretty funny concept that’s pulled off pretty well, but like a lot of films in this vein, it runs to the well of gross-out humor a bit too often to really stand-out. It’s a shame too, because when the actors are allowed to play off of one another in their race against time, it’s quite funny. I’m not opposed to that type of humor if it’s serving the story, but that’s not what is happening here.

Despite its faults, Blockers is worth seeing simply because it’s a fun new take on a pretty tired old genre with good performances and a surprising amount of heart. But there’s no need to get out to the theater for this one, wait until you can watch it at home where the popcorn is a lot cheaper.

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Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Ferdinand

FERDINAND (2017)


GOING IN

Someone decided that it was a good idea to take a 1936 short story about a pacifist bull and turn it into a film starring the voice talent of wrestling superstar John Cena. While I know the actor, I didn’t know of the book that Ferdinand is based on. The original story by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson was initially met with a mixture of opinions before becoming so much of a hit in the 1930’s that it was featured on several commercial products. And now here we are in 2017 to see if it can make a comeback and win over family audiences this Christmas. My expectations for this film are extremely low, but I have at least enjoyed the prior films of director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age, Rio) and Cena’s casting does make me curious. Just another needless kid’s film, or heartfelt and moving animated story with an important message or meaningful life lesson? Time to step into the arena and find out.

1 Hour and 46 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

Well, hey, it’s another anti-bullying movie. And that’s not a bad thing. Because people shouldn’t bully others, ya know? Poor Ferdinand grows up with plenty of this from his fellow calves, who have trouble accepting a bull who just wants to smell the flowers instead of fight. Tragedy strikes while Ferdinand is still young and he escapes to the country where he takes up residence at a flower farm. Convenient since he loves flowers so much, right? And also convenient that the little girl who befriends him actually knows his name is Ferdinand, too! Yes… if there is one word that I would use to describe Ferdinand it would be “convenient.” Every plot choice works perfectly because it has to, not because it makes any kind of logical sense. By the time the animals are driving a truck during the film’s climax, I was completely checked out.

Along with its message against bullying, the film promotes accepting who you are and loving others for the same. I actually never got the sense that the movie was strictly anti-violence. It (shockingly) shows what the alternative is for bulls who don’t succeed in the arena and could be emotional for young children who pick up on the subtlety. Don’t worry, though, no animated bulls were killed in the making of this movie so they won’t be scarred for life. The irony of John Cena playing a pacifist is somewhat amusing considering his fame comes from a career spent acting out violence for the entertainment of a large ground. Not all that unlike bull fighting, hm?

Characters in the film are hit and miss. Ferdinand himself is well played by Cena. A goofy “calming” goat voiced by Kate McKinnon that plays a large role in the final third of the film has importance as a character but is so annoying that I wanted to plug my ears. The rest of the bulls are unique, have their own strengths and weaknesses, and all play a part at precisely the right time to the surprise of no one. They’re… fine. Oh, and there are also German fancy horses. Who dab.

VERDICT

There are so many better animated films to recommend over Ferdinand. The bar has been raised, and every film has a positive message so that doesn’t set this one apart. It does have some charm and Cena’s voicework is good, but an overly convenient plot that tries to balance heartfelt concern with ridiculous unbelievable antics fails to connect and barely entertains. Possibly worth a rental eventually, but with Coco still in theaters there is no reason to spend money and time on Ferdinand.

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Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Daddy’s Home 2

Daddy’s Home 2 (2017)

Daddy’s Home was a surprisingly funny and mildly heartwarming 2015 comedy that reunited (2010’s The Other Guys, still the best comedy of the 2000’s, don’t @ me.) Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and their proven comic chemistry in a comedy about a stepdad, Barry (Ferrell), attempting to gain the respect of his stepchildren and their father Dusty (Wahlberg). While the film itself is extremely formulaic, Wahlberg and Ferrell kept it from feeling like a bland rehash of something you’ve seen before. It’s a fun little movie to watch when you just want to shut your brain off and laugh. When I heard about the sequel, I was mildly intrigued, figuring that I’d at least enjoy seeing the pairing of Wahlberg and Ferrell again. Unfortunately, Daddy’s Home 2 is nothing more than an ill-conceived cash grab, taking advantage of the reputation of its predecessor, the star power of the cast and the holiday movie season.

I always like to start with the good first, and DH2 isn’t all bad. Ferrell and Wahlberg are still a lot of fun together. John Lithgow’s turn as Ferrell’s overly affectionate and endlessly supportive father Don is fantastic as well. Brad and Don are two enthusiastic peas in a pod and their relationship provides what little spark the film has to offer. There are two scenes that are really very funny, but unfortunately those two scenes book end the film, leaving the middle to feel bloated, bland and boring. Linda Cardellini does fine with what she’s given, and the kids are cute and amusing, but like the original, they aren’t given much to work with. This franchise isn’t about the women or the children, it’s all about the dads.

Unfortunately, that’s about all of the positives that I can muster. Other than a few minutes at the very beginning, Mel Gibson, who plays Wahlberg’s father Kurt, just doesn’t fit in this movie at all. The plot, if you can call it that, involves Kurt intentionally trying to ruin Christmas for…reasons? With motivations that go mostly unexplained, he believes it would be a gas to pit Brad and Dusty against each other to destroy their holiday. Dumb. Confusingly, the film goes out of its way to make Kurt the crotchety old guy, disgusted by today’s new parenting method, but every time someone takes his advice, he’s proven to be correct. Dusty has a wife, who exists only to be hot and to shoplift (yeah, I don’t know). John Cena shows up when the movie is about 3/4 over as the father to Dusty’s stepdaughter. I was excited to see him in the credits as he’s proven to be a pretty enjoyable comedic actor, but he’s completely wasted and doesn’t really need to exist at all. Most of the third act of the film takes place in a movie theater and that’s where it completely falls apart, abandoning anything that resembles narrative structure in favor of easy jokes about the film industry and an eye-roll inducing musical number.

Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen this year. If you’re wanting to watch a Christmas movie, it’s better than anything ever produced by the Hallmark Channel. But it’s not good. Save your hard earned money and your precious time and stream this one later if you must. But you’re not missing anything if you skip it altogether.

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Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.