I’ve been pretty hard on my fellow critics as of late, as if I’m immune to curmudgeonly banter, as if I nary have a negative thought about Hollywood’s “content” delivery system circa now. I too have a hard pass or some ‘meh’ sass for a number of films, particularly over the last month. They’re just not the well-made feats of ambition and filmmaking derring-do that others seem content to lambast. Here are three films I didn’t have the heart to devote multiple paragraphs to in disappointment, mild or otherwise.
Boss Level (HULU)
A derivative romp that is nevertheless an occasional blast and even sneakily affecting in its own shallow, dirty way. Frank Grillo held my attention in spite of an overly repetitive plot (there’s a limit to the time loop schtick), Naomi Watts getting wasted, and Mel Gibson looking a bit too mannered for the first time in his career. Grillo’s soft side vis a vis his character’s estranged eleven year-old son, not to mention the cleverness of his journey from wayward time looper to expert boss-level player, makes Boss Level a little more than the sum of its parts. This is both a silly, bloody homage to 8-bit video games of old and the first sign that perhaps time loop plotting has run its course.
Tom & Jerry (HBO MAX)
I miss the preternaturally gifted Chloe Grace of Kick-Ass fame. The actress she grew into isn’t nearly as talented. It’s a guarantee if a studio takes a classic cartoon and tries “updating” it for the present, they’ll merely date it immediately by shoehorning hip hop music and pop culture minutiae at every available turn. The always amusing Michael Pena elevates a painfully unfunny, utterly pedestrian script. I knew in the first ten minutes that the architecturally magnificent hotel skylight was going to shatter, leading to Wide-Eyed Heroine’s firing. The Tom & Jerry vignettes aren’t so much funny as they are a mild diversion from the formulaic human plot.
Yes Day (NETFLIX)
A movie for kids and teens that feels like it was written by ultra-conservative parents who want to excuse their poor parenting via “love” and rag on reasonable childhood/teenage desires via an inevitably terrible ending where the young girl learns her mother was right about going without chaperones to the scary, dangerous (but not really) “Fleek” music festival. Run-on sentences are necessary when righteous. Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramirez are clearly committed, and Jenny Ortega has shown promise in teen comedy like The Babysitter sequel, but they’re all essentially props for Miguel Arteta’s family snooze fest. This is an endlessly pandering, wildly predictable affair, even down to passing jokes. Consider that there’s yet another riff on “I love the smell of __ in the morning.” That’s basically the movie in a nutshell.