The demand from the holidays has kept me from reviewing films in my traditional format, but here is a brief synopsis of five, in order of significance.
“Coco” should win an Oscar in this year’s animated category. It is powerful, moving, heartbreaking, and inspiring.
Released by Pixar and directed by Lee Unkrich, it tells the story of Miguel, a 12-year-old boy whose dream of becoming a musician is thwarted by a caring family where music is banned. Seeking to pursue a quest that will not alienate his family, he accidentally ventures into the world of the undead. They are a likeable group of amusing skeletons, and he seeks their help to try and find a way back home into his real world.
There are a number of wonderful characters in this lovely film, none more than Hector, a skeleton from the afterlife voiced by the talented Gael García Bernal. As Miguel seeks Hector’s help in returning home, he discovers a dead soul can only survive in his world as long as at least one person on Earth remembers his or her name.
This film reaches a dramatic moment when Miguel discovers Hector is his late uncle. The only person who can save Hector from extinction is his daughter, Miguel’s grandmother, who is suffering from dementia. You will fight back tears as Miguel hopes to find a way to have his poor grandmother remember her father when she can’t remember anyone.
This move is graced with a dazzling screenplay and some great music, not the least of which is “Remember Me.” It is overpoweringly meaningful, and it is a reminder about how life is fleeting for us all.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a surprising second on my must-see list. Though both popular, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have been in some God-awful films. However, they make some valuable contributions in this enjoyable movie.
Four teenagers suddenly mutate into adults, where they have changed in fundamental ways. Beginning as four high school teenagers serving a period of detention while cleaning up a school storage facility, their use of the Jumanji board game suddenly leads them into a jungle where they fight for survival.
A high school football star finds himself in the body of the puny Kevin Hart. His nerdy white friend suddenly evolves into The Rock. Madison Iseman plays an arrogant, self-centered female student who finds herself in the body of Jack Black.
And while Karen Gillan commands center stage as a depressed student who now finds herself with the abilities of Wonder Woman, our gang of four is on a perilous trek to find a jewel that will allow them to return to their teenage life. You will laugh repeatedly throughout this surprisingly entertaining movie, and I know you won’t forget the hysterical scene where Jack Black seeks advice on how a man urinates.
“The Greatest Showman” is not a great movie, but it is wildly entertaining. A musical filled with powerful songs and spectacular choreography, it will leave you tapping your foot.
Despite being dismissed by many critics, it joins this year’s “Logan Lucky” as likeable movies that died quickly at the box office. That is unfortunate, as both bring some creative energy that lies at the heart of most meaningful movie experiences.
Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum, a man from a poor background seeking to find fame and fortune. Helped by a loving wife (Michelle Williams) and two adorable young daughters, he uses his genius to concoct a scheme where the public will pay to watch deformed human beings in various size and shapes perform.
What gives this film meaning is that these collection of characters, known as freaks in the real world, discover meaning flowing from a family formed under Barnum’s guidance. In the process, we watch great contributions from Zendaya, a creative performer on the trapeze, and Keala Settle, playing a bearded woman with a great singing voice who will capture your heart.
While Zac Efron is also memorable in a small role as Barnum’s assistant, you will never forget the performance of Rebecca Ferguson, here playing Jenny Lind, a famous European singer. Seeking to use her tremendous talent as a way to lure society’s upper crust into his world, his attraction to her dances on the edge of destroying his life.
As an example of why I like this movie, I stuck around and watched its lengthy credits so I could rehear two of the most powerful songs played in the film.
“All the Money in the World” is a dark, brooding film that is difficult to endure. Though Christopher Plummer gives an Oscar-worthy performance, his role as John Paul Getty creates one of the most unlikeable characters to have ever graced the movie screen.
In summary, his arrogant 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), is kidnapped in 1973 while pointlessly drifting through Rome. When a ransom demand of $17 million is made, his financially strapped, divorced mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), is forced to turn to her old father-in-law. However, you quickly learn all there was to know about the elder Getty when he holds a news conference and refuses to pay a dime to save his grandson’s life.
The rest of the film centers on Harris’ trauma, her son’s captivity, and a billionaire whose principal goal in life is to make more money. Furthermore, his devotion to financial transactions led him to play little if any role in the lives of his children.
Mark Wahlberg has a small role as an ex-CIA agent who serves as Getty’s right-hand man when facing trouble. He eventually becomes aligned with Harris as they try to save the life of her son, but how do you try to persuade a man to do the right thing when he may be the wealthiest, self-centered jerk on the face of the earth?
Ironically, one of the great performances in this film comes from Romain Duris, who plays Cinquanta, one of the young Getty’s kidnappers. He develops a bit of a friendship with the young lad, and this becomes important when a severed ear is sent through the mail to emphasize the seriousness of the kidnappers’ demands.
As noted, the film has some artistic significance that is swallowed by the fact that you would never take the time to see it again.
“Downsizing” is an overstuffed, confusing film. Matt Damon gives another lackluster performance on the heels of his regrettable role in the equally regrettable “Suburbicon.”
Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz are shamefully wasted, and only Hong Chau plays a character that holds your attention. See it at your own risk.•
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.