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3 (out of 4)
The Trip series is probably the most consistent this past decade (well, except Mission: Impossible lets be real) and like many cinematic successions, the secret in recreating the same pleasures over and over lies in carefully tuning each atmospheric, dramatic and thematic variation. Looking back, other than a few titular tweaks to the locale and the soapy personal relationship foibles for the fake-real-life portrayals of Steve Coogan and Robert Brydon, the conceit of two guys travelling, talking and eating exquisite food has never been lost. However even though the reliable comfiness derives from basic pleasures – the cutaway footage of Europe’s finest chefs at work, the deluge of celebrity impressions, the balance of ego-stroking and self-deprecation – The Trip to Greece does a fine job continuing a strange tradition of plotless week-long retreats rife with fabulous fine dining and the kind of vistas you couldn't frame poorly if you tried.
This one jumps straight into said holiday – the famous Michael Caine impressions are absent and the last film’s cliffhanger ending is discarded with a throwaway resolution. There are some anxiety-ridden black-and-white dream sequences as well but the individual novelties of the fourth Trip end there. Whether you opt for a getaway in London (the original 2010 film, which, like all of them, sheds much more footage fit for British television), Italy, Spain or this new escapade (my only guess is Paris is next), Brydon’s tireless showmanship and pantomiming is a sharp, complementary foil to Coogan’s sobering self-obsession.
The humor has become so undemanding and unforced, and the moments pass blissfully this go round as they often do. Juxtaposed with highlight comedy bits of the decade-old maiden voyage, the first movie seems almost amateurish in light of where their gradually practiced, polished, vérité-drenched repartee has brought them. Brydon and Coogan are worth the trouble every time.
1 (out of 4)
Ruh Roh, Warner Brothers what you done? Did you honestly make us look back at those live-action films with reverence, ironic or otherwise? I knew just from the trailers this would be a waste of time, but there’s just nothing about Scoob! that wouldn’t have felt right at home in a direct-to-digital release and it's terrible to imagine wasting thousands of theater screens on something so cheap, joyless and misconceived. Whether it’s the haphazard milking of Hanna-Barbera properties, voice casting apparently done at random (aside from Jason Isaacs, bless him) or a story that doesn't even pretend to live up to the tradition of a classic cartoon mystery, this is an irredeemable mess and something of an insult to fans of the franchise's numerous delightful iterations.
You're better off with Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prince Jr., but even the most shoddily animated classic episode, hilariously aged straight-to-video features (Cyber Chase anyone?) or cockamamie idea tossed into the recent, really fun Mystery Incorporated would be an incomparably better time. Will Forte is a fine talent but the worst Shaggy you could pick when you could have a better big name or any unknown considering WB is riding on a notable property and lazy parents foremost – Zac Efron is an OK Fred, Gina Rodriguez brings some Latina energy to Velma, Amanda Seyfried makes a convincing Daphne. Warner Brothers has never really cracked the transition to 3D animation – without Chris Miller and Phil Lord, The LEGO Movie would not be able to support their short, deficient filmography since 2013.
All I know is they screwed the pooch (I couldn't help it) and the gang should disband till teenage hippies and talking dogs can solve the unending mystery of why we shamelessly force needless nostalgia on newew generations for its own sake. The animation is also ugly as sin and the inclusion of the other tangential characters is cramped, cringy and confusing at best. The insistence on celebrity cameos from Simon Cowell, easter egg overdoses and other insane trivialities means there’s never a moment to consider any real interpersonal relations within Mystery Inc. or arrive anywhere close to Saturday morning spookiness. Kids will be able to tell this is a dumb folly, at least I hope.
Trolls: World Tour
2 ½ (out of 4)
They said it couldn’t be done, and the good luck trolls laughed in AMC and Regal’s face. You’ll be back, they smirked. You can't pass up that DreamWorks money.
There are ethical, business and creative consequences in releasing Trolls World Tour to everyone through VOD, the first major post-COVID would-be theatrical film to do so. Did they troll the cinema world? Or was it all an overreaction?
But enough speculation – what is this epic sequel all about? If I told you it reached back to the origins of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth through the Alkabeth of The Silmarillion, would that be enough to justify the film’s disruption of the industry? Culture war, homogeny of taste and tribalism are at the core of World Tour’s story, which is not some silly road trip film but about the diversity of music, a welcome direction after the first film. 2016's Trolls was a rather enjoyable and emotional journey given the average expectations going in, with bubbly poptimism offsetting neat evil folklore. World Tour takes a silly, limited world (which still never addresses the whole Danish doll thing) and expands it with ornamental details along with a fruitful and fun mythology to unravel. Of course Tolkien comparisons are hyperbole, but what if a wannabe overlord of hard rock (Melkor) tried to usurp all other genres of music and fly all controlled musical under one genre's banner – Anna Kendrick still voices Princess Poppy, out to save the leaders of the Techno, Country, Classical, Funk trolls.
Yodelling, Kpop, Smooth Jazz, and Reggaeton all appear for bit jokes, and most of the central genres are there just for a couple gags too, but the film’s themes are so uncommonly strong that when all the genres are blended together in some quasi-utopia multicultural melting pot by the end, it undermines earlier ideas spelled out by the leaders of Funk, namely that diversity and perhaps their separation is what makes each genre, or cultural creations, special. Especially in America, our idealism leads us to believe that peaceful coexistence could strengthen a unified identity – things get a little muddled in here because its a pretty baseline kids movie. But damn what topics to consider. Melkor was ultimately banished from the Valar for his disruption to the harmony of Ea’s great symphonic creation, and he'd eventually be kicked out of the Kingdom of Arda for good after enough mischief, not won over by compromise and cultural understanding.
Trolls World Tour recognizes why the world is divided, even if it takes all the usual DreamWorks cheats to get to the very unrealistic happy ending. It's also a tolerable jukebox musical built upon the most ridiculous lore you could come up for a film based on novelty children's toys.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
On the Rocks
I'm Thinking of
and many more
"So what've you been up to?"
and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice