Fourth of July Weekend Movies: Where’s the Rockets’ Red Glare?

The Fourth of July isn’t bringing us the usual explosive fanfare this year. (Think back to July 4th hits like ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Transformers’.) Instead, we get the sequel to a funny animated family flick, and Disney’s tone-deaf Western revival that’s surprisingly not suitable for children. With the latter getting panned by critics and the former destroying Pixar overseas, anything could happen this weekend.

Surprisingly, the widest release for this holiday week isn’t Disney’s blockbuster hopeful; it’s Universal’s ‘Despicable Me 2‘ on more than 3,900 screens. Gru (Steve Carell), his Minions and his three hilarious little girls are back. Just as he’s getting a grip on being a father, a wrench is thrown into the gears when Gru is pressured into dating and ultimately pulled back in the world of underground villainy. The heartbeat of ‘Me 2’ may not be as strong as the original ‘Despicable Me‘, but the well-earned laughs are a-plenty – hence the reason why the movie is crushing ‘Monsters University’ internationally.

Have you noticed that, aside from the mediocre TV spots that show the exact same footage as the trailers, there’s been hardly any buzz at all surrounding Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’? With Johnny Depp and the filmmaking credentials of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ team, this is a bad sign – and there’s a reason for it. No matter what you expect from ‘The Lone Ranger’, you won’t get it. Want a solid Western? No such luck. Want funny Johnny Depp? Too bad. Like plots in your movies? Gore Verbinski doesn’t. What about action? Nope. Everything thrilling seen in the trailers either happens in the opening scenes or at the climax of the movie. Tonally all over the place, I highly recommend not bringing children to ‘The Lone Ranger’, as it’s excessively violent, long and boring. Coming from the dad who took his six-year-old daughter to ‘Man of Steel’, that’s saying something.

After Kevin Hart’s 2011 comedy documentary ‘Laugh at My Pain’ killed it at the box office, Lionsgate/Summit has decided to milk the same cow by releasing a similar Hart stand-up flick, ‘Let Me Explain‘. On 800 screens, this performance doc was shot at Hart’s sold-out Madison Square Garden show during his 2012 tour.

If it was playing near me, I’d celebrate Independence Day with the indie drama ‘The Way, Way Back‘. I decided to sit out the Sundance Film Festival this year, but ‘The Way, Way Back’ is the movie that I heard the most buzz about. After seeing it, nearly all of my critic friends sent me messages telling me how great it was. The PG-13 coming-of-age film follows a teenage boy during a summer where he’s pulled away from the familiar to be with his mom and her new boyfriend in a small town. Co-written by Jim Rash from ‘Community’ (who won an Oscar for ‘The Descendants‘), the cast of ‘The Way, Way Back’ is fully loaded with the likes of Steve Carell, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and Allison Janey.

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