Tag Archives: Joey King

Liar, Liar

The Lie

by Hope Madden

Kids are stupid.

There may be no more universally accurate sentence. But parents? Dumb and dumber.

Writer/director Veena Sud retools the 2015 German film Wir Monster with a great cast, compelling complications, and that same awful truth.

Kayla (Joey King) is not very popular, not very happy about her parents’ separation, and not at all excited for this weekend-long ballet retreat. When she sees her bestie Brittany (Devery Jacobs) at the bus stop and convinces Dad (Peter Sarsgaard) to pick her up, things turn ugly.

There are any number of “how far would you go to protect your potentially evil kid?” movies—some great (Luce), some less so (Prodigy). What sets this one apart is mainly the cast, plus a somewhat sly delivery.

Sarsgaard is wonderful, as always. He’s one of the most reliable actors working today, and he finds a way to humanize every character, add a bit of depth and some curious moral complexity. He certainly does that here, and with Mireille Enos (playing Kayla’s mom) as sparring partner, a great deal of backstory is communicated without being overtly detailed.

King, a veteran weepy horror protagonist, delivers a clever performance as someone you’re honestly never certain about. Unlike trainwrecks such as Brahms: The Boy II, The Lie knows why the character should be so hard to pin down, and that reason is not a gimmick. It’s integral to the story.

That story is sharply told, even if there are moments that leave you scratching your head. The police presence is something out of a TV drama, and not a very good one. But when all eyes are on this family dynamic, The Lie is often riveting stuff.

The film is far more family drama/thriller than horror, but Blumhouse could do worse than introduce its Welcome to Blumhouse program on Amazon with this solidly crafted, impressively acted film.

Is That a Monkey Paw?

Wish Upon

by Hope Madden

Wish Upon is, basically, a Twilight Zone episode – or a Simpson’s episode. Just toss in a bit of The Craft, add a dash of Final Destination, just a touch of Hellraiser, all topped off with the slightest hint of A Nightmare on Elm St.

Wait, how can you get away with such derivative pap? Get it a PG-13 rating – no one under 20 has ever seen any of those things.

What they’ll see here is a cautionary tale about succumbing to your high school angst.

Clare (Joey King) is unpopular in that Hollywood sense – meaning she’s artistic, adorable and quirky, but the Barbie doll lookalikes and their gay friend inexplicably hate her. Her two besties (admirably played by Shannon Purser and Sydney Park) love her, though. Plus, she has an admirer in that cute skateboarder, Ryan (Ki Hong Lee – man is he saddled with some bad dialog).

But her dad (Ryan Phillippe) is a total embarrassment – even if he did find her this cool Chinese wishing pot. (This, PS, is the whitest movie about Chinese demons ever made.)

Luckily, director John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) has King to rely on. She’s likeable, generally believable, and she offers a compelling deterioration, post-wishing. (Because wishing + puzzle boxes + horror movies = bad idea.)

Leonetti, working from Barbara Marshall’s script, seems to be suggesting that you should just accept who you are, and that pining for something as superficial as popularity and wealth will literally kill you and everyone you love.

It’s not bad advice. Might be a little over-the-top.

Wish Upon is a bland if competently made screamer for the not-ready-for-R set. It’s a John Hughes movie with more carnage. It’s a Taylor Swift song with a body count.

It’s fine. Unless you like good movies.

Verdict-2-0-Stars