Can You Say: Fun, Family Friendly, Movie?

Dora and the Lost City of Gold Poster

 

Childhood television shows hold a special place in our hearts, bringing us back to the days where adventure lied in every episode. Eager minds waited for the next episode to come, fooling ourselves that something different was going to happen to our hero and push them to the edge, only until we realized it was predictably the same ending.  So movies that come out to potentially extend a hand back into the past and relive those moments are very intriguing and we may just find ourselves flocking to the movies to figure out what they writers could have in store for our heroes.  Well, today that movie trend tries once more, this time in a pop culture icon who had mixed reception depending on the age you started with her.  Robbie K here with another review on the former cartoon now brought to life in the trend of live action movies.  Yes, I review:

 

Movie:

 

Dora the Explorer And The Lost City Of Gold (2019)

 

Director:

James Bobin

Writers:

Chris Gifford (based on the series created by), Matthew Robinson (screenplay by)  | 5 more credits »

Stars:

Isabela MonerEugenio DerbezMichael Peña

 

LIKES:

Short

Fast Paced

Good for Kids

Funny

Feels Like A Dora Episode

Nostalgic

Boots

 

DISLIKES:

Predictable

Simplistic

Lackluster Ending

Under Utilized Cast

Still Too Kiddy

Preachy

 

Summary:

For a movie that is based on a kid’s program, the Nickelodeon studies managed to keep the kid-friendly atmosphere alive and appropriate for the younger audience members. Utilizing the young adult morale issues for the generation to latch onto and have a rapport with. Those who aren’t looking for the preteen dilemmas and high school shenanigans though will enjoy the humor in this film.  The director and writers knew that the older population would be looking for something more enjoyable and the movie hits that mark by making fun of itself and trying to rationalize how Dora had the adventures she did.  It’s this self-punching humor that had me laughing up a storm and if you get the references remain into the movie at what next piece of humor you would get.  And for fans like me who had younger relatives obsessed with the explorer, you pick up a few references that bring back the nostalgia of the animated adventures and the ridiculousness at hand.  As for Boots, the little monkey is adorable and funny, bringing a dynamic set of jokes to the mix and relieving some of the other plot devices.

 

Yet the movie fails on the story aspect, working too hard to hit itself with the absurdity of the whole story.  The adventure is predictable with lots of obvious foreshadowing laid out in the first third of the act.  Trekking through the jungle lacks the bite Indiana jones and others had, again diluting to simplistic sequences that were perfect for the little kids it targets.  The end of the path holds a rather disappointing, lackluster finale that leaves much to be desired in terms of wow factor, though it manages to nail that morale heavy lessons we all want in a Nickelodeon themed movie.  Much of the disappointment for me was the underutilized cast, many of Dora’s friends, rivals, and even other characters like Swiper were overshadowed by the fabulous explorer and her can do attitude.  In doing so, the supposedly threatening group to antagonize the trip were one-dimensional throw away that served mainly to give slight suspense to the film.  Yet, there was still plenty of time for them film to put those preachy lessons right at the end, with music, forced dialogue, and everything else to the delight of families. 

 

  Dora’s real-life adventure is a cute dive to help bridge a lot of audience members.  I concur with the rest of the reviewers that it is better than you expect, primarily in the humor, pacing, and fun references that are all contained in the short 100 minutes run-time.  Sadly, the humor and kid friendly atmosphere left much to be desired in the form of story, acting, suspense, and overall finale for the adventure.  I applaud them for making this thing short and fun though, and would say that this is a decent family film if you are looking for one to close the summer on.  Yet, if you need a more quality film overall, look elsewhere, as there are several other films that will assist your viewing pleasures. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

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Instant Family Fun! An Instant Family Review

Instant Family Poster

 

Family, a blessing and curse at many times.  It is a source of conversation and entertainment that Hollywood loves to rub in our faces.  Hence, when you get movies that are about making fun of families in super ridiculous manners, one can’t help but lower expectations on the quality of these films.  So yours truly walked in with low expectations of tonight’s review, thinking I was in store for more silly slapstick tricks.  What lies in store for this film past the trailers?  Robbie K here hoping to fill you in on another detailed review as we explore:

 

Movie: Instant Family (2018)

 

Director:

Sean Anders

Writers:

Sean AndersJohn Morris

Stars:

Mark WahlbergRose ByrneIsabela Moner

 

 

LIkES:

 

Comedy:  The movie is indeed a comedic adventure into foster parenting, and while the likes of Daddy’s Home seemed to ring hard in the trailer for me, that wasn’t the case in this film.  Instant Family manages to achieve the fleeting goal of balancing styles of laughter including slapstick antics, banter, insult humor, and crossing boundaries with cursing.  Such a style allows for the gimmicks to remain fresh over the course of the movie and bring with it plenty of guffaws, chortles, and whatever sounds you make with humor.

 

The Story: Heartwarming is certainly the element of this tale, doing a fantastic job of the inspiration from the stories of foster families.  Instant Family crosses into the realms of this unique parenting setting, bringing all the issues and emotions that come with it.  It’s simplistic, linear tale allows for many things to be stuffed into the film, working hard to keep to its roots, but explored the small hairs that help absorb the dynamic material that the writers seeded it with.  As such, the story has enough components to make my next few likes further support the film.

 

Fun:  To be family friendly for some, means to tread down the “pure” path where only G-rated jokes and language can be instilled in the movie. While I can acknowledge this, it limits the audiences who can enjoy this to the fullest.  Fortunately, Instant Family saw this and managed to find that balance of styles to keep it relatively PG to PG-13, opening up to more audience members and keeping the film very fun to watch.  Yes, there is language, and a few more adult themes not made for sensitive ears.

 

Emotional:  Some of my friends have stated they teared up at just the trailer alone.  Well, the audience in my showing today was sobbing, sniffling, and tearing up at the feelings thrown into the mix.  And while preachy at times, Instant Family sells the lessons in full force, captivating you further into the film and really selling the love this family was trying to portray.  It brings so many wonderful feelings out into the light, which will be a wonderful compliment to the film.

 

Relatable:  Certainly we aren’t all in foster programs, but Instant Family brings with it enough issues about a variety of topics to find something relate to.  How to handle anger,  how to deal with out of control kids, teenage angst issues, love, confidence, and plenty of other pieces that maybe we could all stand to learn.  As such, the story had a greater effect on me, allowing me to sort of place myself in each character’s shoes and enjoy seeing how the characters grew during the trials they faced.  If you are like me, the relatability of a film can really bring an extra factor to the movie and I feel this film will affect the people in a positive way to further enhance the film.

 

Balance:  The key to the success of this movie is balance. Over all the likes mentioned in the previous categories, the underlying foundation is that the director and writers managed to find a way to make all these styles work together.  Outside of all the aforementioned categories, Instant Family also found a way to utilize the characters very well.  The kids limitations and character’s annoying habits are fine tuned to reach that equilibrium between annoying and too underdone.  Wahlberg’s talents weren’t overdone and Byrne managed to rain her normal maneuvers to new levels that again seemed very well tuned.  As such, Instant Family managed to surprise me with how they juggled so many plots, morals, and other components in such a short time.  That was the key to taking this movie to new levels and something other films need to study for future film making.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The PredictabilityA small dislike in the grand scheme of things, Instant Family does not deviate far from the formulaic presentation that Hallmark has made famous.  A few twists and turns could have provided some opportunity for even deeper growth, or perhaps a few more montages of the fun times to help dilute the predictability. Sure this may not be the key point they were shooting for, but as a reviewer, throwing some surprises in could have sailed this movie even further.

 

A Few Throw Away Characters: Another small detail, but Instant Family snuck in a few characters that brought some interesting avenues to explore. They were complete to some extent, but a few of these characters could have been left out, erased from sight due to the little contribution they provided.

 

The Kid InEquilibrium: The main kid who got the attention was the teenager Lizzy.  I’ll recognize and appreciate the context of teenage angst, but why did the other kids, whose flaws were magnified at the early part of the movie.  These components seemed to be swept under the rug, with little portrayal of dealing with these problems, often resorting to a comedic device to justify their inclusion.  Thus, the a restructuring of their involvement could have been the key to furthering the movie.

Over The Limit sometimes: The worst thing for me in this film, are the few times the comedy became more insulting than funny for me.  In this time of political correct statements, there are some dialogue moments and banter that sort of step on the appropriate way to phrase things.  These jokes often feel more like insults and as such, not appreciating these moments that went far.  Again, nothing like an R rated movie, but still something that took away from the film for me. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            I agree with the recent trailers, Instant Family is indeed the big surprise of this week.  It’s sweet, with a  passionate charm that and relevant plot to grab attentions and hold them in their place. These balances of so many plot points is what helped achieve this quality and certainly is worth studying/noting for your future film needs.  I’ll admit they crossed the line a bit, and didn’t quite maximize the potential they held. Still, with all the fun I had and the ability to show empathy to fictional characters I think is enough persuasion to call you into the hallowed halls of the theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Drama:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

Transformers: Action In Disguise

Transformers 5

 

Decades ago, they were toys that dominated the shelves of the local dispenser.  Next came comic books and a hit animated movie that set off a chain of events resulting in a number of animated series.  And in 2007, Michael Bay tackled the challenge of bringing them to life in the big screen motion picture event of the summer.  Now, ten years later…he is still trying to keep the series alive with a fifth installment. Despite all the bad reviews of previous film, DreamWorks still believes in this big budget money raking machine.  Has Bay learned from his mistakes, or have we yet another special effect wreck on our hands.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Animation/Ending:  DreamWorks animation studios still has their finger on the pulse of animation.  Once more their studio proves they can make the fiction world come to life in stunning realism, filling the 2.5 hours with fluid motion, breathtaking special effects, and dynamic sequences.  Bay’s fixation on the special effects continues to shine through in the pyrotechnic, CGI laden visuals that fill the silver screen.  This is great for the last 45 minutes, where the high speed, action packed climax comes to life, infusing adrenaline into the theater and getting things ramped up.  Nice work again guys!

 

Funny:  From the get go, Bay’s writing team has set out to bring laughs amidst the acting (which is about the only thing he is good at bringing). Good news, the 2.5 hours brings plenty of laughs to the mix.  Bantering is certainly the mainstay of the film, but Transformers 5 has a few other bouts of whit, cleverness, and fun to add to the mix.  I found myself laughing at a number of insults to the ridiculousness of the film, and some well-timed quips from a few of the robots and special guest actor Anthony Hopkins.  Speaking of which…

 

Actor/Actress:  I agree with my fellow reviewers that Anthony Hopkins stole the show in this film.  His charming delivery mixes well with the vigor that an old historian of the transformers would certainly hold.  Hopkins delivers his lines in that elegant poise he’s famous for and creates a wonderful character to alleviate from the other humans that inhabit this film.  Certainly, guys like Wahlberg, Duhamel, and newcomer Isabella Moner do a fine job, but they don’t hold a candle to the majesty of this seasoned actor.  Nice pick casting director.  In addition, the new leading lady Laura Haddock is a fantastic addition as well.  Trading characters that are purely sex appeal, for beautiful, respectable, and powerful woman is an A+ in my book.  Haddock has poise much like her other English counterpart, and blew me away at how much I liked the character.  She was a beautiful addition in more ways than one.  Nice work guys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Human focus:  For a movie titled after giant robots, you would think there would be more focus on them.  Bay once again chose to forego his expensive artificial crafted creations for his real-life actors.  I just ask why?  Transformers has always had human components, but not as the main focus.  In the Last Knight though, it’s all about the human backstories in this film, and trying to wedge them into the story to keep you engaged.  Not the smartest movie, and the amidst the story, the attempt at all these new characters with backstories just didn’t work.

Jam packed story:  Remember the last Transformers movie and the eight plots it had?  Yeah, it gives me shudders too. Unfortunately, the storyboard writers didn’t listen to the last set of reviews, because Last Knight once again is jam packed with multiple stories all trying to wedge their way to the front.  The result is another rushed, sloppy mess that fails to put an engaging story into the midst.  Part treasure hunt, part emerging threat, part character testing for Optimus on top of all the character issues floating around, was just too much to grasp.  And the unifying factor tying all of them together was pretty weak again.  Certainly, the Transformers have never been strong stories, but they have been better and less of a stretch than this mess.  Such a deconstructed plot was not entertaining and left little to ground the action too outside of the finale.

 

Action deficits:  It’s an action movie and as a result you would like to see a chunk of the 2.5 hours filled with the special effects they were so focused on.  Once more this movie fails.  After a decent opening sequence (amidst a hasty opening), the film starts to hit the brakes on the action department.  In an attempt to story build, they extend to drawn out explanations and more comedic banter that wasn’t necessary.  Had the story been worth it, I would have given them props, but nope, just added fluff that wasn’t that engaging to me.  Certainly, there were some fast driving scenes and a quick history of fighting, but these were short lived.  Not cool guys.

 

Unbalanced Robots:  Ever since the second film, Transformers movie have been awful about utilizing all of their creations.  Optimus and Bumblebee take the lead again, and the rest of the Autobus have their moments to “shine.”  Hound, Hotrod, and Squirt get a few gimmicks here, but others like the dingbats and Drift are barely needed having little lines or involvement in the movie.  And the Decepticons, after a major introduction were even more pathetic at being underutilized.  If you’re going to go to depths to recruit cars and voice actors, do something with them!

 

The VERDICT:

 

Transformers the Last Knight showed promised from the trailers as returning to the action roots we loved.  Too bad it didn’t deliver to the level the first production did years ago.  While animation and acting were bullseyes, the rest of the movie is a disproportioned mess with too much going on.  A weak story focusing on humans going on an extensive search and find didn’t do much for engaging plot, and the inability to focus on a plot made it even worse.  Throw in a lack of action and underutilizing of all the other robots and more points get derailed.  While this certainly isn’t the last installment, Transformers needs some repairs to bring it back to the light. Outside of the special effects, this movie isn’t necessarily one for the big screen. 

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0