Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers ***
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Yes, it is basically a legacy-quel spin on the premise of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
, complete with a villain threatening the unique properties of animated characters. It’s also funny, lively and generally entertaining, so sue me. In a world where humans interact with animated characters of all kinds, 30 years have passed since Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) starred in their Rescue Rangers
TV series, then had a professional and personal falling out. When their old pal Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) becomes the latest ’toon to disappear under mysterious circumstances, they reunite, along with an L.A. police detective (Kiki Layne), to investigate. In part the concept is an excuse to trot out gags and references to dozens of intellectual properties—and not just those in the Disney stable, which certainly adds to the surprises. Those jokes hit more often than they miss, including a fun extended bit involving “uncanny valley” early-2000s CGI characters, and a few well-aimed jabs at attending pop-culture conventions. There’s nothing remotely like Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant to provide a performance anchor, and director Akiva Schaffer (Samberg’s fellow Lonely Island-er) can’t match Robert Zemeckis’ anarchic energy. It is, however, much more effective than other recent examples like Space Jam: A New Legacy
at finding actual multi-generational appeal that extends beyond “I understood that reference.” Available May 20 via Disney+.
Downton Abbey: A New Era **
You’d be excused for wondering what the “new era” of the subtitle might be, considering this latest continuation of the series takes place only about a year after the 1927-set events of 2019’s Downton Abbey
feature. As it turns out, that new era is closer to 1952—the year Singin’ in the Rain was released. Because while half of this narrative involves Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and others traveling to the south of France to deal with a villa bequeathed to the dowager countess Violet (Maggie Smith), the other half involves Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) overseeing a film crew that rents out Downton Abbey to shoot a silent film. Which is then shut down when it’s clear that talkies are now all the rage. Which is a problem because the temperamental lead actress (Laura Haddock) has a terrible voice for talkies. Writer/series creator Julian Fellowes’ premise is such a bald-faced theft that it’s almost impressive, and at least occasionally distracts from a built-for-TV structure that edits scenes into 30-second snippets so we can keep track of all of the subplots involving dozens of characters. At least Smith is on hand to deliver her withering bon mots, and Fellowes can manage a few other tart bits of dialogue besides. This just plays like a desperate bit of franchise extension that almost never feels like an actual movie—except when it feels like another, much better movie. Available May 20 in theaters.
Director Carey Williams and screenwriter KD Avila can be forgiven that there’s really no road map for what they’re attempting here: a “one crazy night” youth comedy á la Superbad
, spiked with the knowledge that one crazy night can get people of color killed in America. On the verge of graduating from college, two Black best friends—high-achiever Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and party guy Sean (RJ Cyler)—and their nerdy roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) find their planned night of revelry hijacked by the discovery of passed-out white girl Emma (Maddie Nichols) on their living room floor, and the realization that calling 911 might lead to assumptions about their complicity. What follows is an odyssey involving understandable persistent fears of any encounter with police, the determined pursuit of our protagonists by Emma’s sister, Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter) using cell-phone tracking, and a few amusing episodic bits. But Williams and Avila are ultimately more interested in subverting this genre than operating within it, and that tonal shift—particularly as Kunle realizes that being a stand-up guy who does the right thing isn’t necessarily going to protect him—makes for a jarring experience, along with the challenge of making Maddie part of the problem when what she’s observing is pretty easy to interpret as sketchy. Watkins and Cyler give sharp performances, anchoring an intriguing effort that falls just short of figuring out how to combine angry with loosey-goosey. Available May 20 in theaters; May 27 via Amazon Prime.
Love in Kilnerry **
You can sense the good intentions in the premise of this fanciful comedy, but it’s hard to get past some fundamental clumsiness in executing those intentions. Daniel Keith wrote, co-directed (with Snorri Sturluson) and stars as Gary O’Reilly, sheriff of the sleepy seaside New Hampshire town of Kilnerry. The local chemical plant is being forced by the EPA to make some changes, including the addition of a new compound that might have the side effect of making folks super-horny. There’s the germ of a great idea here, focusing on the kind of moribund town where only the older people are staying behind, and they might be looking for an excuse to have their lives feel vital again. But Keith leans into double-entendre and plenty of leering jokes about sexual adventurousness, which actually works against the notion of treating desire of all kinds as normal and something that shouldn’t
be the stuff of punch lines. And when he tries to find real emotion in one particular thwarted relationship—involving Gary and local shopkeeper Nessa (Kathy Searle)—the connection never quite … connects. If you want to find comedy in liberation from repression, you need a bit defter hand with the gags, like maybe not making one about pederast priests. Available May 20 in theaters.
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. Available May 20 in theaters.