This Film is Not Yet Watchable – May 2022

Yeah yeah, you know I was going to use this meme as a cover pic eventually. You can stop rolling your eyes. But there is a point to why I decided on such a tired joke to preface this particular edition of the column. And that’s the fact that this month is almost entirely about one thing, repetition.

With perhaps one exception, everything I’m going to feature this month has been done before, and in most cases, done much better. Even the “Redemption Reel” fits the theme, though the reason the selected film gets the title is because there appears to be something more to it than just a cheap rehash. There are even movies that aren’t eligible for the column due to their streaming-only, unrated releases that would otherwise be here under that banner, including yet another teen romance from Netflix’s YA teat called Along for the Ride, which is just another To All the Boys… story, an animated Marmaduke flick where every character’s design is pure nightmare fuel, and a Disney+ bastardization of the Cinderella tale called Sneakerella, which, you guessed it, is about a kid who wants to design shoes and become part of “Sneaker Culture,” which is a phrase that belongs with other modern oxymorons like “Compassionate Conservative,” “Military Intelligence,” “Jumbo Shrimp,” and “A Michael Bay Film.”

Thankfully, the powers that be at the various streamers seem to realize how horrible these concepts are, and thus are keeping them only on their platforms and not even screening them for the MPA, much less releasing them theatrically to ensure Academy qualification. But even without them, we still have six movies coming out this month that look utterly atrocious, including this month’s “Worst Trailer in the World,” and at best, one of them has any hint of originality, and even then it’s not the type of originality anybody asked for.

So yeah, with that in mind, it completely makes sense to introduce these write-offs with a 20-year-old joke whose subject actively despises it and wishes the source material that spawned it never existed. This pretty much sums up my opinion of all of these movies.

So guess what…

This is the May 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”

Firestarter – May 13

For one thing, the Remake Rule is in full effect. There is no reason to do this movie again. The original with Drew Barrymore is just fine as it is, even though it wasn’t all that special.

Second, did we learn nothing from the Pet Sematary remake from three years ago? Stop remaking movies based on Stephen King books. They’re not scary. The only one that even remotely worked was It, and that’s because it was the first cinematic adaptation, with the previous one being a TV miniseries. And while the first one was really well done, the sequel was a dumpster fire. We need to learn to leave well enough alone.

That’s all I’ve got here. I’ve already devoted more attention to this nonsense than it ever deserved.

Senior Year – May 13

Rebel Wilson is hit and miss for me. She’s undeniably funny, but far too much of her career has been devoted to making her into a female Chris Farley, essentially little more than a walking, talking fat joke. Now that she’s lost a lot of weight, theoretically that harmful pigeonholing can go away.

Still though, the major problem with her newest project, Senior Year, is that it’s all been done before. Never Been Kissed, 17 Again, 21 Jump Street, Billy Madison, The Best of Times, and any number of other movies I could come up with basically deal with the same core issue, reliving high school glory days and/or making up for lost opportunities in that very limited sphere. None of these films is particularly good, and Senior Year looks to just add to the pile.

Along the fringes, there are signs that Wilson is at least trying, but the premise of the movie is half-baked in the extreme. A conceited high school senior in 2002 goes into a coma after a fall during a cheer routine, only to wake up 20 years later and dedicate herself to reclaiming what she believes is her rightful title of prom queen.

Let me repeat that. After waking up from a 20-year coma, a woman re-enters high school, not to graduate and perhaps put her life back on track, but to become PROM QUEEN! Let hijinks ensue! And by hijinks, I mean already dated jokes about Gen Z, cringe-worthy pop culture references, and a seemingly endless supply of gags ripped straight those marginally better films I named above.

Rebel Wilson has the capacity for more nuanced thought in her comedy, but none of it appears to be present here. It looks more like an excuse to say “fuck” in a cheerleader outfit than anything else. And while she can be uproariously funny at times, especially when she calls out genre tropes rather than actively participating in them (Isn’t it Romantic, for example, which certainly had its moments), I confess that I didn’t laugh at a single punchline in this trailer. That doesn’t bode well, as these sizzle reels are typically designed to highlight some of the best moments the film has to offer. Maybe I’ll be wrong on this one, but it feels like a missed opportunity from the most forgiving perspective.

Family Camp – May 13

Geez, this month’s Friday the 13th is not shaping up to be a good one. Maybe Jason will come and quickly slaughter us to save us all the pain.

Anyway, speaking of pain, it’s a Christian movie! Yes, Family Camp is the brainchild of “The Skit Guys,” Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, who have a TV show where they use sketch comedy to spread the gospel. Because when I think Jesus, the first thing that comes to mind is laughter. Hey, given the setting, maybe Jason really will show up!

Of all the movies on this month’s list, this is the one that at least feigns an interest in doing something original. I can honestly say I’ve never heard of a buddy comedy set at a church camp. But even when you give it that small modicum of credit, the execution appears to be slapdash and sophomoric, as Woodard and James play dads of families that have to share a yurt, and they constantly try to one-up each other until they’re left to fend for themselves in the wild. This gives rise to physical comedy that even Adam Sandler and Kevin James would find second-rate, all to try to buy it back with some shoehorned religious moral about loving your neighbor or some such bullshit.

But the real sin here (pun intended), is that the film comes off as completely hypocritical and tone deaf. The inciting incident of the movie seems to be a wife (Leigh-Allyn Baker) giving her husband comeuppance for showing up late to church by making him take the clan to the camp. Because when I think of Jesus, the second thing that comes to mind is petty vindictiveness. I’d almost give the filmmakers and the “Skit Guys” credit for self-awareness in basically treating their own faith like an inconvenient obligation and punishment, were it not for the fact that literally one scene later in the trailer, the sanctimony is dialed up to 11 with Baker catching herself and making herself say “Oh my goodness” instead of “Oh my God.” It’s like they took Sheila Broflovski’s line from the South Park movie – “Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words!” – and used that as their personal mission statement.

I really don’t like shitting on every faith-based movie that comes out. I would honestly be fascinated if there was something new and different in the genre. But in reality there are basically only two styles: propaganda thinly disguised as a persecution complex, or poorly-plotted imitations of real film stories that rely on the built-in audience to just be satisfied by the messaging by invoking and projecting their version of the Almighty. In either case, the films are never about winning converts, but about pandering and preaching to the literal and figurative choir. So if you’re not willing to reach out to an audience with questions and attempt to answer them, why should I bother wasting my time or money paying attention?

Downton Abbey: A New Era – May 20

Okay, let me say right off the bat that I never saw the show. I have nothing against it, just never got around to it. And honestly, if you’re a fan, more power to you. My sister certainly is. So take what I’m about to say with the requisite salt, as I’m certain the show’s followers will largely enjoy this, just as they did the previous movie.

As a lay observer, I basically have three issues with this film/trailer. The first is purely a personal principle. I know movies are made from TV shows all the time. But Downton Abbey is something of a special case. The show originally aired in the U.K. on ITV, which is a free commercial channel. It aired in the U.S. on PBS, the only truly free network in this country, in that it’s a public station bound by FCC regulations AND it has no advertising. Essentially, anyone who wanted to watch the show got to do so without devoting any money to it. Now we have the second theatrical film, which like the first, outright demands you to pay for access. I’m not down with that.

Second, it is rare when a TV show has reached a degree of ubiquity worthy of a full-fledged movie, much less two of them. And yet, here we are again with a relatively niche show getting the cinematic treatment. I’m not saying the show wasn’t popular, but it had a very narrow audience, and for me, this is a very high bar to clear. It’s not enough to be temporarily in the zeitgeist, you need to be part of our collective history for a film to truly feel justified. I kind of feel the same way when it comes to another TV adaptation coming out this month, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, but in that case I fully admit that I am the target audience as a fan of the show, and I recognize that despite whatever quality it may have, it will likely boil down to just being a feature-length episode that could easily air on TV. There are exceptions to everything, of course. The Brady Bunch movies were wholly ill-advised despite the show qualifying for a big screen adaptation in my book. And on the flipside, Mission: Impossible has become a much more massive success as a film franchise than it ever could have accomplished on television. But for the most part, my default stands.

Third, and this is the one that relates most to this particular trailer, the clips here are basically telling you not to watch it. There is no real “new era” as the title implies, because all of this is set a century ago, but the crux of the film is that a Hollywood producer wants to make a film at Downton, and there are several scenes of dialogue from various characters pointing out exactly why this is a bad idea, both from their stuffed shirt perspectives and in the more general sense of it being pointless. Again, I’m not saying this will be a bad movie, as I have no real frame of reference having never seen the show. But I do know trailers and editing tricks, and when a film basically tries to employ reverse psychology by telling you it’s not worth seeing as a means to get you to see it, that can’t be a good sign.

Top Gun: Maverick – May 27

Look, I loved the original film. It’s one of the quintessential movies of the 1980s. And I’m sure that Paramount and Tom Cruise have put the maximum effort into this legacy sequel. The production values will likely be through the roof, and there will surely be a ton of audience applause breaks at the more breathtaking moments.

I just don’t care. I really don’t.

I’m so tired of this tactic of studios basically trying to cash in every single shred of nostalgia in the pursuit of profit. There’s a reason there was never a sequel to Top Gun before now. It wasn’t needed. The story was over. We were satisfied. Sure there were open-ended bits that could have been explored, but we all knew it wasn’t necessary. We could simply imagine what became of Maverick and Charlie and Iceman, and leave it at that. But of course, there’s no money to be made with imagination, so the studios seek to stamp it out by shoving every pre-existing IP down our throats and making us pay for the privilege of being conned.

And as usual, the key element of this never-ending grift is that we have to hit all the same notes as the original, so that rather than continuing the story or *gasp* creating a new one, what we’re really getting is the exact same package re-gifted to us in different wrapping paper.

I mean, just look at the absolute slew of callbacks and references in the trailer alone. Val Kilmer’s Iceman is referenced (he apparently will make an appearance in the film, but given what we know about how his health has declined, I can’t imagine it will be anything other than tragic; side note, how the Billie Eilish documentary got shortlisted but the heartbreaking Val didn’t is beyond me), Maverick’s back on the motorcycle, Goose’s son is here, played by Miles Teller, Maverick buzzes towers, bridges, and the pilots he’s training. I mean, you might as well just play “Danger Zone” over the whole thing for good measure.

And what isn’t a direct repeat is still thematically the same as the first movie. Instead of beach volleyball, there’s beach football. Instead of a squadron of only men swinging their dicks around, they added a couple token women rather than, you know, not swinging dicks and maybe giving the characters depth and dimension. Even Lady Gaga’s new song, “Hold My Hand” is basically “Take My Breath Away” with computerized beats, and it’s every bit as cheesy as any standard-issue Diane Warren ballad, so brace yourselves now for when it gets nominated for “Original” Song next year. I’ve actually warmed up a lot to Gaga over the years, but this song is just tripe.

Literally, I only saw one new thing in this trailer, and as usual, it’s for the worst reasons. Maverick has a new love interest, played by Jennifer Connelly. Why is she here? Well, because even though she is too old to be married to Tom Cruise, she at least looks significantly younger than Kelly McGillis.

So fine, whatever, pay $20+ to relive memories under a fresher coat of paint. It won’t change the fact that every single indicator tells us that this movie will have zero substance.

***

And with that, we come to the rockiest of rock bottoms, “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” For this edition, I sat down with my mouth agape at what appears to be the nadir of one of my favorite comedic subgenres, tainted possibly beyond redemption by one of the most self-centered douchebags in all of entertainment.

Good Mourning – May 20

This movie should be shown to the “Skit Guys” as proof there is no God.

***

And now that this latest bit of unpleasantness is behind us, it’s time to go out on a high note with this month’s “Redemption Reel.” I’ll fully admit that when I heard this movie was going to be made, I assumed disaster. But even the worst offenders in Hollywood can still surprise you on occasion.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – May 20

I know. I was shocked too. The Disney machine has grown into a nigh-unstoppable behemoth of garbage, ruining their previously beloved properties through reboots and remakes (DuckTales being the rare exception), to the point that only their original animated films (plus Pixar) have any kind of consistent quality. And my red flags were flying especially high when this project was announced, as Rescue Rangers was one of my favorite shows as a kid. I loved Chip and Dale as a duo. I loved their character designs modeled after Indiana Jones and Magnum, P.I., which even as a grade school student I could appreciate. I loved Monterey Jack and his hypnotic obsession with cheese. I loved that the fly was named Zipper, one of the first double entendre gags I ever realized. And in my weird little noggin, Gadget was one of my first cartoon crushes.

So it was with much trepidation that I watched this trailer. I braced for the worst, but instead found myself intrigued. The very first frames tell you that this isn’t another run-of-the-mill Disney remake, with the opening shots showing live action characters interacting with 2D cell-shaded animated characters, making me immediately wonder if this is a spiritual successor to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, one of the most creative movies ever made.

The narrative then takes a hard left turn into something of a midlife crisis story, with Chip now voiced by John Mulaney and Dale by Andy Samberg. Both are past their primes and washed up as entertainers. Dale does convention appearances to get by, while Chip is an insurance salesman in this hybrid world of humans and toons.

From there the clips show a heretofore unseen degree of self-awareness on Disney’s part, giving us reminders of how fickle entertainment can be, from a middle-aged, stubbly Peter Pan (I would give this movie HUGE points if he turned out this way after being “cancelled” for “What Makes the Red Man Red?”), to Chip still being in 2D while Dale is 3D CGI, having gone in for the toon equivalent of cosmetic surgery (itself a wonderful – and hopefully intentional – recognition that CGI is largely just an aesthetic rather than any indication of value). There’s an ennui to the characters that weirdly makes sense, given how long it’s been since they were at the fore of the public consciousness. And given Samberg and Mulaney’s comic timing and line-reading abilities, I kind of buy the weariness in Mulaney’s voice and the opportunistic enthusiasm in Samberg’s, to say nothing of how they seem to play off each other.

Honestly, the only bit that doesn’t work for me is the return of Seth Rogen’s “live action” Pumbaa, including the obvious joke about a dead-eyed character, a self-effacing gag meant to diffuse criticisms of the blasphemous Lion King remake. The less we remember that abomination the better, and given that Rogen is listed as part of the main cast during the end slate, I have a feeling he’ll be around for the bulk of the proceedings. So even when Disney appears to make an effort to expand its horizons and acknowledge errors, it still wants to promote its worst practices.

But apart from that, I have to admit that seeing this trailer made me genuinely curious. And that’s saying a lot. This movie may turn out to be a complete misfire and utter disaster, but for the first time in years, it honestly looks like Disney is willing to take a risk with its IP, and I can’t just ignore that. I truly don’t know what to expect when this movie comes out, and given Disney’s leitmotif, that’s damn near miraculous in and of itself, enough for me to at least say, “Okay, you’ve got my attention.” I want to take the clues and find the wheres and whys and whos. I never thought I’d feel that way about a live action Disney movie ever again.

***

That’s all I’ve got for this month. God speed at the theatres, and proceed with caution.

Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you planning to see any of these films? Am I being too harsh on any one in particular? Is there a trailer you think should have been included here? Let me know!

2 thoughts on “This Film is Not Yet Watchable – May 2022

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