Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Big Hero 6" and "The Hundred-foot Journey": mini-reviews

2014's "Big Hero 6": There's very little I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said by Steve Honeywell in his review. Steve zooms in on the movie's essential problem: while the story is affable and entertaining, it's also derivative and predictable. I completely agree. Humorously scripted and done with excellent voice work by the cast, the movie nevertheless fails in its attempt to head-fake us about who the real villain is. I figured out who it was long before the reveal, mainly because the dialogue had been leaning so hard in the opposite direction. As for the derivative elements: look for images straight out of "Kung Fu Panda," "The Matrix," and "How to Train Your Dragon," and watch out for the Iron-Man-beyond-the-space-portal scene that looks lifted from the first "Avengers" movie. This film is also, strangely enough, a Marvel tie-in (it's based on a Marvel comic), so there are plenty of familiar origin-story elements. What the movie gets right, though, is its gentle depiction of how to deal with the loss of a loved one, so it can't be all bad. That said, I have no inclination to watch "Big Hero 6" again anytime soon, and it's weird to think that these cartoon characters are all an integral part of the Marvel universe. Will Groot ever meet Baymax?

"The Hundred-foot Journey" is the story of an Indian family that, for reasons of political strife in the homeland, moves first to England, then to France, in search of a place to put down roots and open an Indian restaurant. The family settles on a property, in the middle of a picturesque French village, that sits exactly one hundred feet across the street from a Michelin-rated restaurant run by the imperious widow Madame Mallory (Dame Helen Mirren). What begins as a bitter rivalry between the two restaurants becomes a friendship—but you knew this going in because you've already seen the preview trailer, which basically gives away the entire movie. As with "Big Hero 6," the plot is entirely predictable. Dame Helen also seems to be struggling with her French; she speaks it with a heavy British accent. As fupomus go (my own term for the "food-porn movie" sub-genre), "Journey" is more self-conscious than "Chef" was—more self-conscious and a lot less fun. I also had trouble understanding why everyone who spoke French would keep alternating between French and English, even when they didn't have to. These complaints aside, "Journey" is a well-intended movie. Not deep or memorable, but not bad as a form of light entertainment—more amuse-bouche than plat principal.


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