This Thanksgiving offers a cornucopia of variety within its new movie releases. The centerpiece is Disney latest animated musical. Alongside that are Robert Zemeckis’ new World War II drama, Warren Beatty’s first directing effort since 1998’s ‘Bulworth’, and the sequel to a 13-year-old raunchy Christmas classic. Which are you most grateful for?
With Disney’s latest, the studio has found a perfect middle ground between the gender demographics, a family feature that both boys and girls will love equally. ‘Moana‘ tells the story of a special girl who will one day be the head of her island community. Technically a princess, the islanders look to her for guidance in all things, but she yearns to leave her home and explore what lies beyond the horizon. As a darkness encroaches her paradise, destiny paves a defiant path for her on the high seas. If she can find the demi-god Maui, they can together heal the land – but getting the arrogant, macho and stubborn half-god to play along is going to be an adventure in itself.
With a lovable and strong new princess, her hilarious demi-god companion (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and a collection of fantastic songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda (of ‘Hamilton’ fame), there’s more than enough in ‘Moana’ to please everyone. The voice cast also includes Jemaine Clement, who just so happens to perform an awesome Bowie/Conchords-esque song. Get ready for a Disney musical that won’t annoy the hell out of you the way ‘Frozen’ probably did.
For a while there, Robert Zemeckis was making some truly terrible movies, but starting with last year’s ‘The Walk’, he seems to be back on track. His latest keeps him moving in the right direction. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard lead ‘Allied‘, a strong character drama in which World War II plays the invisible third lead. Too much plot is revealed in the trailers, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free by just describing the character dynamics. Pitt plays an Allied spy who drops into French Morocco on a secret mission. Once there, he meets his partner for this mission, a renowned French rebel. Both are professionals with their sights on the mission, so neither wants to give in to the romantic chemistry that exists between them. ‘Allied’ certainly has the Nazi-fighting action you’d expect from a WWII film set in Europe, but that’s definitely not what it’s all about. Instead, it tells the story of two very strong characters – and it’s absolutely beautiful.
A new Christmas classic was introduced 13 years ago when Billy Bob Thornton threw back a few bottles and put on Santa’s outfit in ‘Bad Santa’. For some reason, more than a decade later, someone thought it would be a good idea to make a follow-up with the original cast, including the now-grown kid but excluding Lauren Graham. Like most recent R-rated comedies, ‘Bad Santa 2‘ is reported to bank purely on the shock of its crude comedy and not on the quality of its own merits. If you thought the year of terrible sequels was over, think again.
The fourth big release of the weekend is ‘Rules Don’t Apply‘, a schizophrenic dramedy that tells a tale of 1950s Hollywood. The first half is about the forbidden love story between two of Howard Hughes’ employees: one, an aspiring young actress with moral standards (Lily Collins); the other Hughes’ personal driver (Alden Ehrenreich) who wants to strike a business deal with the eccentric tycoon. Their chemistry rocks, but the film takes a terrible turn at the mid-way point when the focus suddenly shifts entirely to the Hughes character, played by director Beatty. The second half completely undermines the stellar first half, making this one of the messiest movies of the year.
[Editor’s Note: The staff here at the blog will be on vacation Thursday and Friday to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. That means no Roundtable this week, but we should be back to a regular schedule on Monday. Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone! -JZ]