Tag Archives: Zach Galifianakis

Part Man, Part Monkey

Missing Link

by George Wolf

Like its titular character, Missing Link is a bit of a mixed breed. An animated family adventure, its humor is more dry than zany, with a stellar voice cast and an often sophisticated air to its snappy dialog that is centered around a lonely Sasquatch.

And it looks freaking gorgeous.

Hugh Jackman brings charming life to Sir Lionel Frost, an ambitious, self-centered 1800s explorer on the trail of any big discovery that can get him admitted to the prestigious adventurer’s club led by the aggressively pompous Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry).

A hot tip leads Frost to a face-to-face with the fabled missing link between man and monkey who, as it turns out, provided that hot tip.

See, “Mr. Link” (an endearing Zach Galifianakis) is lonely, and figures Sir Lionel is just the guide savvy enough to lead him to his people, the equally urban-legendary Yeti tribe of Shangri-La.

So our heroes set off across the globe, enlisting the help of Frost’s old paramour Adelina (Zoe Saldana) while they try to outwit Stenk (a perfectly villainous Timothy Olyphant), the assassin sent to stop them.

This is the latest animation wonder from Laika studios, and the follow-up to 2016’s amazing Kubo and the Two Strings. Even if Mr. Link’s adventure wasn’t as engaging as it is, the film would be worthy on visuals alone, as you’ve barely digested one “wow” moment when another is there to blow your hair back.

From the texture of Frost’s gloves to the ripples in a puddle, from a slow dissolve into a binocular lens to a wide, eye-popping set piece on an ice bridge and beyond, Missing Link serves up a hearty feast of cutting-edge stop motion technology.

And while the pace may leave the youngest viewers a tad restless, writer/director Chris Butler (Laika’s ParaNorman) crafts a heartwarming, witty and intelligent tale anchored in the layered relationship of Frost and Link.

Jackman and Galifianakis make them a wonderfully odd couple, and play off the indelible supporters around them (including a gloriously droll Emma Thompson) to keep all the globe-trotting character driven, leaving just enough room for the messages about inclusion and progress to be subtly effective.

The result is a film that’s confident but unassuming, fun without being silly, and satisfying from nearly every angle.

 

Believing Takes Practice

A Wrinkle in Time

by Hope Madden

It was a dark and stormy night.

With this cheeky line, Madeleine L’Engle began an odyssey that entertained and emboldened, taught us to take responsibility for our own choices, highlighted the drawbacks of conformity and showed us how to be warriors for the light.

L’Engle’s novel, A Wrinkle in Time, though massively popular and never out of print since its 1970 publication, had its critics. Not Christian enough to be Christian, too Christian not to be, it was also among the first SciFi novels with a female point of view. This wasn’t taken super well by adults in 1970, but it was immediately and forever beloved by its intended audience.

A Wrinkle in Time was smart and groundbreaking, which, of course, makes it the ideal tale for Ava DuVernay.

Can the filmmaker who landed two near-perfect punches of social commentary in the last four years (Selma, 13th) bring this imaginative, vibrant, lovely classic of adolescent literature to life?

Yes and no.

With the help of scripters Jennifer Lee (Zootopia) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia), DuVernay remains faithful enough to L’Engle’s vision without being limited by it. But she stumbles to translate some of the more dated concepts in the book, creating a conclusion that feels a bit rushed and confused.

Her picture looks glorious, though, conjuring images and movements vibrant enough to stand up to our own imaginations.

Of course, the casting is where DuVernay, with little fanfare and no disruption in the story, breaks the most ground. Storm Reid (Sleight) turns out to be the best choice the director makes, offering the perfect mix of adolescent self-loathing and smarts as our reluctant hero, Meg.

On the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of her NASA scientist father, Meg is called on a mission across time and space to find him. She’s joined by her genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe, perfectly precocious and/or creepy, depending on need), a cute (and, let’s be honest, needless) boy from school (Levi Miller) and three unusual women (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling).

Their adventure is colorful and beautiful. It’s also full of lessons that feel less like a sledgehammer than reasonable nudging. (“You can do this. You’re choosing not to.”)

The supporting cast—Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw—balance the fantastical with the heartfelt. Galifianakis is particularly impressive.

Yes, there are more than a few corny, too-precious moments, but it is a kids’ movie. DuVernay can be credited with keeping that audience in mind to create a lovely film unabashed enough to bear-hug L’Engle’s message of positivity.

Cash Money Homies

Masterminds

by George Wolf

Does Masterminds carry the stench of death? Let’s go to the evidence.

This film has been on the shelf for over a year despite impressive comic talent, and that cast may be the only thing keeping the film from straight-to-video status. It finally opens this week, with little fanfare in a crowded field, and features a blooper reel that can’t wait to push the actual film out of the way and get going.

In other words, we doubt you laughed much for the previous 90 minutes, how ’bout some funny outtakes as you leave?

Strong case, counselor, but in the words of master litigator Jules Winfield, “Allow me to retort!”

Masterminds is not horrible.

It’s actually based on the true events of a 1997 bank heist that scored 17 million dollars (2 million of which is still missing). If you think the director of Napoleon Dynamite is an odd choice to direct this story, you’re correct, and Jared Hess delivers a very odd, haphazardly funny movie.

Zach Galifiankis is a trailer-park livin’ armored truck driver engaged to Kate McKinnon (their announcement shots are a riot) but pining for his co-worker Kristin Wiig, who becomes the bait in Owen Wilson’s scheme to get the cash. Once the job is pulled, Zach waits south of the border for Wiig to join him (“I had to get a disguise, I look like Gene Shalit!”), while Wilson dispatches hitman Jason Sudeikis to hunt Zach down in Mexico. Meanwhile FBI agent Leslie Jones looks for clues and a jealous McKinnon attacks Wiig with a giant tube of feminine cream.

Long stretches where you aren’t laughing are suddenly broken up by a randomly uproarious gag (see tube of feminine cream above), and the veteran cast always makes it watchable despite the extreme absurdity. McKinnon steals scenes with facial expressions alone while Zach and Sudeikis engage in battles of improvised strangeness.

So ladies and gentlemen of the jury consider: this film will sink quickly and quietly from the multiplex, then slowly grow once it hits the video and streaming market.

As Zach says, “Brace your boobies,” Masterminds may be a cult favorite in waiting,

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 

 

Fewer Tigers, More Zach

by George Wolf

 

Yes, Virginia, there is a hangover in The Hangover Part III, and it’s a funny one, but the madcap adventure-filled road that leads to it is a bit uneven.

Following a bona fide classic like The Hangover was always a tough assignment. The crazy freshness that film brought to the what-happened-last-night-formula just can’t be cloned, and the attempt to do just that in part 2 came off as a disappointing inside joke. The third installment gets some of the original mojo back by giving the Wolfpack a new reason get their Vegas on.

That reason is one Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), whose trail of enemies includes Mr. Marshall (John Goodman), a vengeful crime boss that eagle-eared moviegoers might remember from a quick mention in part one.

Seems Marshall wants the millions that Chow stole from him, so he kidnaps the Wolfpack, threatening to kill (who else?) Doug (Justin Bartha) unless Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) can bring their old pal in to face the music.

Director Todd Phillips returns, co- writing the script with his part 2 collaborator Craig Mazin. Together, they craft a tamer, quieter romp, replacing bathroom tigers and hooker weddings with healthy doses of Galifianakis and Jeong.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those guys don’t need much help to be funny, and Phillips may have realized they were his best chance at newly found laughs. The reason  part 3’s “morning after” scene works so well is because it runs during the credits, sending the trilogy off with a quick reminder of the fun we had discovering the first film. Another entire episode of retracing the Wolfpack’s steps, though, would be pointless, so instead we get a little heist adventure with a side of zany.

There are slow spots, to be sure, but there are laughs as well, maybe just enough to erase that bad hangover from part 2.

 

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars