Tag Archives: Nia Vardalos

Charming

So let me tell you about a movie that never should have been made. I might sometimes admit that certain bad movies have a right to exist, but this particular movie should be wiped off the face of the earth just to preserve human dignity.

Three decades elapsed between Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959) and The Little Mermaid (1989), three pivotal decades during which feminism swelled and laid the groundwork toward a sexual revolution and a women’s liberation movement. When Disney eventually went back to the princess well, it knew that passive, unconscious princesses were passé, and Ariel, the feisty, rebellious teenager was born. She is problematic in her own ways of course, but she was the first step on a path toward more progressive princesses like Anna and Elsa. Disney didn’t get there overnight. According to Charming (which I must stress, is NOT a Disney property), they needn’t have bothered. Though this 21st century film just got its North American release in 2021, it seems determined to set feminism back by about nineteen decades or so.

Need I say: written and directed by a man (Ross Venokur), this animated film has somehow decided to revisit those first three passive princesses, and stomp them further into the ground. According to the premise, Snow White (Avril Lavigne), Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale), and Aurora (G.E.M.) find themselves all simultaneously engaged to the same man, Prince Charming (Wilmer Valderrama). Although still very much leading them on, he plans to marry none of them. He’s not in love, he’s just cursed with being excessively charming. So gold-diggers like these princesses are actually planning their weddings and he can’t be bothered to let them know he’s just not that into them.

Note: though the princes in these first 3 Disney princess films don’t get elaborate back stories, they are three different and distinct princes. Only Cinderella’s prince is referred to as Charming; Aurora’s prince is named Phillip, though Snow’s is only ever called The Prince. And as for gold-digging, that’s not coming from me (Aurora and Snow are already princesses in their own right, and Cindy’s got some legit hustle), it’s actually the subject of an entire song called ‘Trophy Boy,’ inexplicably written by Fallout Boy’s Patrick Stump, with lyrics like “I want that ring on my finger like I want that crown” and “I don’t even care if he ever makes a sound just as long as when you see me, he’s around, and he’s bound to me.” Dear god.

Anyway, part of Charming’s charmed curse is that he has to find a true love before his 21st birthday or his kingdom will be doomed to live without love for all eternity. With his birthday just days away, King Charming sends him to run a gauntlet, a series of macho challenges designed to make him a man (raise your hand if you just vomited in your mouth a little) which somehow should help him find his true love. Don’t look at me, I didn’t write this stuff. Apparently neither Charming is confident in Junior’s ability, so they hire a guide, Lenny, to help him through. Only Lenny is actually – gasp! – a woman, Lenore (Demi Lovato), in disguise. And by disguise I of course mean a fake mustache. Lenore is a thief and is only interested in Charming’s money – that is, until she too falls victim to his inimitable charms.

This movie is an entire dumpster’s worth of sexist trash and my only hope is that this review symbolically lights it on fire. Watching it burn would be the only entertainment derived from this film, which is also incredibly miscast, extremely dull, and has mediocre animation at best. Nothing about this film works. It’s baffling that a movie can be this bad. If Venokur was gunning for ironic rather than moronic, he needed the help of a better writer and a more intentional director. Instead he puts his own curse on the film, and believe me, excessive charm is NOT its problem. I feel bad for the innocent victims caught up in its clutches: John Cleese, for example, who voices the Fairygodmother, and Sia and Steve Aoki, who also contribute songs.

Whatever you do, do not put scorch marks on your 2021 this early on in the year by accidentally watching a movie that will infuriate you. Protect your children from it. Hide the ashes of this review underneath the nearest rug. Let’s pretend it never happened. Ptooey (that’s the sound of me spitting on the embers). Peace out.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Bigger, Fatter, Greeker: 14 years after the original burst onto the scene, taking Hollywood by surprise and launching Nia Vardalos into instant stardom, comes its unnecessary sequel.

Oh sure all the endearing characters are back from the first – and their sugar-coated stereotypes too. Opa!

Watching this movie is a lot like visiting your family: yes they’re a little racist, and lot invasive of your personal business, but they’re familiar, and mostly harmless. They mean well.

Nia Vardalos, writer and star of both movies, pulls from her old bag of tricks and has literally nothing fresh to offer. Characters Toula and Ian (token white guy – John Corbett) have a daughter now who’s all grown up and wearing makeup. She’s threatening to go to NYU, and an empty nest does not look good on Greeks. What to do? Well, neglect your marriage, for one. But insert yourself into everyone else’s. Add 2 cups chopped spinach and about 8 sheets of phyllo dough and you’ve got yourself a recipe for spanakopita if nothing else.

This movie has a very slim demographic: die-hard fans of the first film (such as Nia’s mother, perhaps?) and ladies optioning their senior’s discount at the box office. I had the pleasure of catching a matinee of this movie among some very gray heads, and they laughed at some very strange moments that I failed identify as jokes. But yes, this movie is the kind of safe, benign, watered down humour that relies heavily on cliché: exactly the kind of thing your grandmother will enjoy.