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To be honest, neither of us was exactly looking forward to the new Scooby Doo movie. I’ve got nothing against it but I also have no nostalgia for it or interest in it. But these pages don’t fill themselves so we shelled out our 30 bucks(still cheaper than going to the movies) and prepared to be whelmed. But you know what? We were pleasantly surprised.
Or certainly Sean was. We were just minutes into the origin story/meet cute of a young Shaggy and puppy Scoob when Sean was commenting on the interesting animation. He chuckled over many of the references. And he seemed to know some of the characters from outside the Scooby Dooby Doo universe.
Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world! Which apparently would be quite bad. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined. You’ll recognize Shaggy (Will Forte), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Fred (Zac Efron) as Mystery Inc. mainstays, even their inexplicably psychedelic van, but this time they’re teaming up with super hero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his super dog, Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) against the obviously evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). This movie is intended as the first in a rebooted, shared Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe, which nobody asked for, but I suppose explains the randos. Unfortunately, they distract a bit from what makes Mystery Incorporated so fun in the first place: exciting but wholesome teenage detectivery. And despite some of the callbacks to the original series, Scoob! doesn’t quite justify itself.
While it may not win over discerning adults, Scoob! is probably perfect for kids and Seans alike. It’s got a string of pop songs, some childishly crude humour, and a talented voice cast. Will Forte may not “sound like Shaggy” to some diehard fans, but as a casual viewer, I enjoyed him very much. I even though Mark Wahlberg fit in well, and to my knowledge he doesn’t do much animation. I felt a little sad for the other 3 non-Shaggy members of Mystery Inc who got the short shrift. I missed the chemistry between them, and with the addition of both super heroes and super villains (not to mention super dogs, villain dogs, and ghost dogs), we really got away from the winning formula that fans have come to expect.
Happy Disney+ day, everyone!
I know it wasn’t available worldwide on November 12 but it was here in Canada, which just happened to be our travel day home from Disney World where we saw lots of evidence that Disney is putting some major marketing power behind this streaming service. The Mandalorian, the Star Wars episodic series that debuted today, was publicized everywhere with flags and posters and merch – particularly in Hollywood Studios where Galaxy’s Edge calls home. And alongside standard Lady and Tramp stuffed animals were new models, based on the live-action dogs featured in Disney+’s original programming.
Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) gives his Darling wife (Kiersey Clemons) a puppy for Christmas, a lovely and darling little cocker spaniel she names Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who immediately lives up to the moniker. She enjoys a very cosy life nestled between her two favourite humans and can’t imagine life getting any better. But then she meets a street dog who goes by a lot of names but we’ll call Tramp (Justin Theroux). Tramp reveals that life is about to change and not for the better – Darling is about to have a baby, and everyone knows that when baby moves in, the dog moves out. Lady doesn’t want to believe it but of course when baby arrives, she is no longer the centre of her masters’ universe.
Sean and I had just suffered through the inevitable travel day that always puts an unfortunate end on every vacation (waking up at 4:15am is always brutal, particularly when poor Sean was up past midnight purchasing a whole additional suitcase to hold all the souvenirs we bought our niece and nephews, but since we had a relatively easy commute home via a direct flight that came in under 3 hours and Matt had 2 connections and hours of delays resulting in 14 hours of travel, it’s rude to complain…the snow, however, was morally depleting no matter how long you’d traveled to reach it). No matter how tired we are when we walk in that door, we have 4 little pups who celebrate our homecoming like we just won the Superbowl or walked on the moon. If they had access to ticker tape, we’d be hip-deep.
That said, we were cuddled in bed with our 4 4-legged friends (that’s 20 legs if you count ours) by mid-afternoon and were soon watching the newest and finest that Disney+ had to offer. I always find it hard to be away from my pups and this vacation was particularly rough because on our very first day away our dog sitter texted me pictures of bloody stool and I worried for 10 days straight (everyone seems fine). Anyway, I’d been lonesome for my little loves and this movie made me quite emotional.
Perhaps it lacks the sparkle that the first one had, and I’m not 100% convinced real-looking talking dogs (or any animals) is a good ideas, but it’s here, but it’s kind of sweet and it’s a safe family pick. Plus, keeping the antique setting is a lovely excuse for the most sumptuous sets and costumes.
And with some interesting voice work by Tessa Thomspon, a delightfully cast Sam Elliott, and a racist song replaced by a new ditty co-written by Janelle Monae. This updated Lady and The Tramp isn’t a huge hit but it isn’t a miss either – I think it’s worth a watch, especially for dog lovers who just can’t help themselves.
First off: Brett Haley. Can we just get a round of applause for this guy? He’s way too young to be making such grown up movies, and yet he’s dazzled me with I’ll See You In My Dreams, utterly charmed me with The Hero, and now he’s blown my fucking socks off. And he must be a damn good guy too – not just because he writes such thoughtful, sensitive stuff (the credit for which must be shared with his writing partner Marc Basch), but because his actors keep coming back. I’ll See You In My Dreams gave a much-needed starring role to the lovely Blythe Danner, with Sam Elliott by her side, and then Elliott grabbed the titular role in The Hero, with Nick Offerman as a sidekick, and in Hearts Beat Loud Offerman earns leading man status, with Blythe Danner gracing us with her presence yet again.
Secondly: Nick Offerman. Man. If you’ve known me for more than 30 seconds, you probably know that sort of low-key love him. Not romantically. The kind of love where I’d just happily get into some flannel pajamas and deposit myself between him and his lovely wife (Megan Mullally) and eat cashews with them all day long. Without knowing them personally AT ALL, I get the impression that the Mullally-Offerman household is pretty down to earth and, frankly, a bit goofy. And I think they both make really interesting choices as far as work – not really taking the glitzy roles their TV fame has assured them.
So you had me at Haley. Or Offerman. But both? Are you trying to kill me?
And then the story. Offerman plays Frank Fisher, single (widowed) father to Sam (Kiersey Clemons). The two basically grew up together when a dead wife\mother left them in a puddle of grief, but as Sam has neared adulthood, she’s needed her father less and less. And now that his record store is failing and she’s about to move away for college, Frank is wondering who in the hell he is. His landlady (Toni Collette…oh, did I not mention that the phenomenal Toni Collette is in this?) is sympathetic, his barman\best friend Dave is sympathetic (Ted Danson…oh, did I not mention that Ted Danson is in this, and he’s tending bar???), but good intentions aren’t enough to set this wandering soul on the right path. What does help, enormously, is making music with his daughter. The only problem? He’s ready to start a band with her, and she’s still adamant that medical school is in her immediate future. And what kind of father doesn’t want his brainy daughter to pursue her doctor dreams?
This movie gets everything right, but let me be more specific. The music. The goddamn music. A movie like this can be made or broken by how good the music is. We need to believe that music is a viable option, not just some over-inflated jam session, but a true and fresh talent that’s just waiting to be discovered. And we do. In part because Kiersey Clemons has a stunning voice. I’ve loved her in just about everything I’ve seen her in. She’s glowy yet somehow also unprepossessing. But I’ve never heard her sing before, so when she opened her mouth, I think we all did, in that jaw-droppy, holy shit kind of way. But let’s also throw heaps of praise Keegan DeWitt’s way. He’s Haley’s music guy (well, not just Haley’s – dude is in demand, and this movie makes clear why) and he helps to create this sound that is infectious, but also believable from a father-daughter duo, but wouldn’t be out of place on the radio or, perhaps, on my record player (hint, hint).
The music’s lyrics help advance the story as the two write heartfelt songs that are as gutting as they are toe-tapping. Did I cry? Of course I cried. What am I, some sort of monster? But ultimately, as the director himself puts it, Hearts Beat Loud is an “unabashed feel-good film.” It’s also mature and wise and casually inclusive, but screw that – it’s a damn good movie, a fun movie that presses gently on the heart’s chords, and one that deserves to be seen, and then hummed merrily on the way home.
You might not know Shameik Moore yet, but you will.
He’s not the only reason why I was grabbed by this movie: the script is smart, the soundtrack is awesomesauce, and the angle is fresh. But Moore, unknown to me, turns in an A+ performance while writer-director Rick Famuyiwa is making choices I’m quickly becoming addicted to.
The story: Malcolm is a good student in a bad school, a good kid in a bad neighbourhood. He dreams of Harvard and 90s hip hop but on his way to his admissions interview he winds up with a bookbag full of dope. He’s got two friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori – the little bellhop from The Grand Budapest Hotel), and though this charming trio is made up of teacher’s pets and band geeks, they resolve to navigate the dark web and treat their reluctant drug dealing like a 21st century enterprise.
This movie is tonally inconsistent, but it’s not because the film doesn’t know what it is, it’s because it aims to be a bit of everything, and I kind of liked that about it. Famuyiwa means to challenge our notion of what a drug dealer looks like – or what a Harvard applicant looks like, for that matter, but even the film itself defies expectations. It manages to seamlessly integrate these 90s throwbacks into a world where these kids have never bought nor owned a CD. They idolize rap but they play in a punk band. Welcome to 2015. Pharrell Williams and Sean (Diddy) Combs are listed as producers, so you know that shit is solid.
The cast is exceptionally good, and you need them to be to make this story work. Comedy-drama-crime: the film covers a lot of ground, but at its heart it’s an identity crisis, an acknowledgement of our many selves. Famuyiwa is not a newbie but this is his first film where I feel like I actually know him. You can’t infuse a script with this many pop culture references and not reveal yourself. Famuyiwa, I think I’m on to you.