PG – 105mins – 2017
THE PRINCE OF HUMBUG
Eight years in the making, this original musical ring-mastered by Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman and directed by first-timer Michael Gracey is a spectacular if haphazard showpiece which often struggles to marry song and story with a true feeling of authenticity. Ironically for a film about a purveyor of hoaxes, The Greatest Showman has been criticised for taking giant liberties with its biographing of circus founder P.T. Barnum (Jackman) and his unconventional star attractions.
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15 – 116mins – 2017
THE ELITE OF THE ELITE
“This all sounds like an entertaining but far-fetched TV show.”
As an 80s-baby growing up in the 90s, I know I used to watch Baywatch. It was prime ITV Saturday night cheese. The Hoff in those red trunks, Pamela Anderson in that red swimsuit, plenty of slow-motion gunning through golden sands and diving into crystal clear Californian oceans while the theme song challenged you not to sing along…. But aside from those iconic cornerstones, I seriously struggle to remember much more about it. Yet, as I sat down last night for what I anticipated to be a full-on nostalgia fest, all I kept thinking throughout this $69million big screen revival was: surely the TV show wasn’t like this?!!
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15 – 98mins – 2016
BROS BEFORE HO-LIDAYS
While still in the young, wild and hunky bracket of his 20s, former Wildcat warbler Zac Efron has oft been cast as the rebellious, self-destructive type – whether ruining his own relationship (That Awkward Moment), his neighbours’ sense of community spirit (Bad Neighbours, Sorority Rising) or his career (We Are Your Friends). As the titular Dave in his latest comedy, the charming Disney alum plays the (slightly) straighter sidekick to his “loser” brother, Mike (Adam Ice Age: Collision Course DeVine), more akin to his enabler role in the deplorable Bad Grandpa.
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15 – 92mins – 2016
Now in their mid-20s, the bros of Delta Psi Beta have grown up, carving out successful careers and happy relationships. All, that is, except for former frat leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who feels lost and lonely in the “adult” world. Coasting in a retail job and kicked out of his recently-engaged best friend’s spare room, Teddy is drawn back to the lifestyle in which he excelled: agreeing to mentor a newly established sorority of alternative, free-spirited sisters who just so happen to have rented the house next to Teddy’s old adversaries, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne).
With 2014’s Bad Neighbours grossing a remarkable $270million from a modest $18million budget, a sequel was inevitable. And here returning director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and The Night Before team stick to the age old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Because Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (as it is titled in the US) not only repeats the very same ‘family versus frat’ plot, it also mines the same jokes and story beats from two years ago.
So we get more of Seth Rogen’s stoner humour (because all conscientious young fathers have a lounge littered with glass bongs), more outrageously inconsiderate party antics which every other house on the block seemingly has no objection to, more over-egged generation gap ribbing, more gratuitous opportunities to ogle Zac Efron’s abs and more awkward talky sex scenes between the “old couple” who really aren’t that old or out of touch at all.
Likeable Teddy’s implementation into the ‘battle’ is the only nifty touch, because everybody knows a college hot shot who peaked too soon, even if his initial antagonism toward Mac and Kelly feels a little out of place given the resolution scene at the end of the first film.
While there is a worthy message in Shelby’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) Kappa Kappa Nu plot about breaking from stringent (possibly even sexist?) rules and traditions and finding yourself at college, it’s a shame that any grand life lesson is sabotaged by the clichéd route in which the film reaches it. Namely: via weed, booze, flaunting your body and destroying furniture.
But then platitudes are hardly surprising in a film so desperate to replicate a winning formula that it goes to the effort of making “mama” Kelly pregnant again for no discernible plot reason than to give Mac and his wife more ammunition to be peeved at teenagers being teenagers. You won’t sit stony-faced throughout – there are some bad taste belly laughs to be had from Bad Neighbours 2 – it’s just a shame you’ve seen it all before – oily pecs and all.