Tuesday 21 March 2017

60 Second Film Reviews #26

Quick movie reviews, without the waffle. 60 Second Film Reviews is a highly irregular feature where I compile together brief reviews of recent films I've watched at home or at the movies - and generally couldn't be arsed didn't find time to write a proper review for.

On the slate this month are two recent at home releases; Disney's 2016 remake of Pete's Dragon and hectic holiday comedy Office Christmas Party.

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Christmas movies their own subgenre; movies where characters throw a massive fuck-off party that totally wrecks the joint is another. What happens when you meld the two? Well, you get Office Christmas Party, a movie so straightforward and unashamedly raucous that it looks like it was spat out by a computer that was told to blend together the two aforementioned genres along with an all-star cast of moderately priced comedic actors.

The set-up is fairly simple; Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn and TJ Miller work for a struggling computing company in Chicago. Their boss, Jennifer Aniston (who is also TJ Miller's character's sister), gives them an ultimatum; close an important deal with Sterling K Brown or the whole office shuts up shop only a few days before Christmas. No bonuses, no party, no festive cheer - just redundancy.

So, in order to woo their lucrative prospective client, the trio decide to throw the Christmas bash to end all Christmas bashes, complete with inflatable snowman costumes, live reindeer and a shit ton of alcohol. Things soon start to spiral out of control, as you would expect, and a lot of comedy in this film springs from said chaos. The plot stretches across a massive ensemble cast that includes the likes of Rob Corddry, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee and Randall Park, to name just a few. For the most part this movie is a good time; it doesn't waste time in getting to the crux of the film (the party) and at 105 minutes it certainly doesn't overstay its welcome.

In fact, there is very little I can mark the film down on, aside from the fact that Bateman is essentially just playing the same old character and that Chung isn't given anywhere near as much to do or say as she should. It's certainly no comedy classic and a lot of the jokes already feel dated but it's a perfectly watchable comedy that understands what it is. Slap it on, chuckle along at those that shine (McKinnon, Aniston, Bell) and you'll find yourself moderately amused for roughly an hour and a half.

I give Office Christmas Party: 7/10

Office Christmas Party is on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD now

Pete's Dragon (2016)

They don't make them like they used to - that's how the saying goes, right? Well, Pete's Dragon (the 2016 version) is the exception to the rule as it feels like it stepped right out of 1986 - and that's both a good and a bad thing.

It's a good thing because this a hearty and wholesome film for the whole family, the kind you might find filling multiplexes a few decades ago. No edge, no controversies - just heartwarming stuff between a boy and his fluffy dragon in the woods.

The performances are suitably saccharine to match; Bryce Dallas Howard is kind and gentle park ranger, Robert Redford her ageing father and Karl Urban the faintly nasty but also goofy logger who steps out of line.

However, the movie also feels incredibly dated. I haven't seen the original but 20 minutes into this film and it felt like I'd already seen it before. As Disney remakes go, this the safest and the most sickly sweet so far. It doesn't take any risks, reinvent anything and it doesn't do anything you wouldn't expect it to. It just serves up the same bowl of reheated oatmeal that we've seen before it countless 'young child and their cuddly secret monster companion' films.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh of a film that is, in essence, a family film designed to enchant young minds. In that regards, I would assume that you can count Pete's Dragon as a success. It would indeed appeal massively to kids of a certain age - but that's kinda where it ends. I don't feel like it offers much in the way of excitement or intrigue for anyone who happens to be over the age of 10 and suffers greatly because of that.

Maybe I just have no soul but I generally didn't like 2016's update of Pete's Dragon and feel like this is one Disney live action remake I could have skipped entirely without missing anything of great importance. It doesn't feel sought after or essential; it feels nostalgic, but only because of how familiar the plot feels, not because anyone has a burning love for the original.

I give Pete's Dragon: 5/10

Pete's Dragon is on DVD/Blu-ray and VOD now

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