“It’s a sequel to a videogame adaptation,” is probably a sufficient review of Sonic 2. The first Sonic the Hedgehog teased the introduction of Tails in the sequel, which also incorporates Knuckles the echidna. Although welcome faces from the games, having three CG characters undermines the first film’s primary strength, which was the believeable relationship between its humans and the anthropomorphised hedgehog. The human leads now share virtually no screen time with Sonic at all and many scenes are entirely digital. Although it is unclear how much of this was imposed by COVID filming restrictions, the result is a flashy spectacle with a fraction of its predecessor’s grounding, so that making it live action feels all the more unnecessary. Hiring professional voice actor Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Tails also serves to highlight the limitations of big name casting for the other virtual characters. At best, Sonic 2’s inoffensive but entirely forgetable mascot mayhem may distract younger kids for two hours, despite there being insufficient plot to fill even half the running time.
“It’s a videogame adaptation,” is probably a sufficient review of Sonic, although that downplays its unusual journey to the screen. After the first trailer met near-universal criticism for Sonic’s horrifying half-human appearance, the film was pushed back for the character to be redesigned — as a result, it was released a month before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered cinemas globally, making it one of the highest grossing films of 2020. In terms of quality, however, this elevated the movie only to abject mediocrity, filled with predictable plotting and derivative action — like a bar fight that replicates Quicksilver’s memorable scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Like Dwayne Johnson in Rampage, James Marsden deserves credit for creating a genuine sense of rapport with his animated co-star. Jim Carrey’s scenery-chewing Robotnik injects some freshness, arguably the strongest aspect of the film except when he seems like Ace Ventura in cosplay. Ultimately, a cute, energetic mascot will appeal to younger children, but even older children are likely to lose interest by the halfway mark.
“At some point when you create yourself to make it, you’re going to have to either let that creation go and take a chance on being loved or hated for who you really are, or you’re going to have to kill who you really are and fall into your grave grasping a character you never were.”
Ostensibly a documentary centred around Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, in drawing parallels between them it actually becomes a superior examination of Kaufman’s work with some interesting musings about the nature of identity. Carrey is reflective about what he discovered that people responded to in his successful comedies, but Man on the Moonwas a departure, a role Carrey pushed for because of the kinship he felt with the misunderstood Kaufman. There was something decidedly Kaufmanesque about Carrey’s insistence that was Kaufman during filming, possessed by the deceased comedian. Whilst this caused familiar method acting disruption, it went further as Carrey appears to have developed genuine connections with Kaufman’s family, who treated him affectionately rather than with horror. It is fascinating to see the rare moments when Carrey does break character — after one actor storms out and a crew member is brought to tears remembering her father, he opines, “I’m a terrible person” — and yet, through that fiction, people were connecting with something real; it was precisely what Andy Kaufman sought to achieve.
“Andy, you have to look inside and ask this question: who are you trying to entertain — the audience or yourself?”
Deliberately abrasive and inscrutable, Andy Kaufman is widely revered as a genius in comedic circles, despite leaving audiences routinely baffled by his offbeat performances. It makes sense that a biopic of the man’s life should contain some of the same idiosyncrasies, although it doesn’t always aid in communicating Kaufman’s intentions or his struggle. Carrey’s performance — his first movie portrayal of a real person — is a highlight, immersing himself utterly in a man for whom he clearly has deep admiration. Ultimately, however, Man on the Moon struggles to allow the viewer into Kaufman’s head, something better achieved by the recent Jim & Andy – The Great Beyond, a documentary about the making of this very film.
“Hey, Har. You wanna hear the second most annoying sound in the world?”
I have a soft spot for Dumb and Dumber, a stupid movie elevated by loveable losers played with charm by Carrey and Daniels, and a creative script that contrived situations in which Harry and Lloyd might appear competent to others. I avoided the prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd after hearing its only redeeming feature was how much Eric Christian Olsen looked like a young Jim Carrey. When this sequel was announced, I was tentatively optimistic with the return of Carrey and Daniels, the Farrelly brothers directing and the clever, grammatically infuriating title. I should not have been. Gone is the characters’ charm in favour of pure narcissism, whilst the script is content to revel in idiocy and vulgarity — the original indulged in scatological humour but Dumb and Dumber To is as consistently unfunny a “comedy” as I have sat through in recent memory. The opening scene serves as a warning: it shows that Lloyd has done literally nothing in the twenty years since the last film. He may not have changed but we have, and the film’s undercurrent of mild misogyny is unwelcome — it does acknowledge that the characters are in the wrong, yet still wants us somehow to find them endearing. To their credit, Carrey and Daniels fall seamlessly back into their roles and seem to be enjoying themselves. The road trip plot, which lazily mirrors the original with less flair, is at least coherent. Everything else is dumb and disappointing.
“You don’t see things how they are. You only see things how you are.”
Following the success of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, which showcased a unique vision and flair for visual storytelling, Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature is more ambitious in scope and frustratingly uneven. A bold opening twenty minutes with barely a word of dialogue follows Arlen as she is ejected from society into a desert wasteland and captured by cannibals. As time goes on, however, Suki Waterhouse’s sullen and confused expression makes Arlen a strange choice of lead despite some parallels with Alice tumbling down the rabbithole — and a disabled protagonist portrayed in an attractive light is welcome. Although beautifully shot with some big names turning in eccentric performances, the worldbuilding suffers from lack of breadth — that the expansive desert feels mostly empty is perhaps the point, as options for life in a harsh environment are limited without society, but we see a limited view of the communities that do exist. As a result, although some arresting images will no doubt linger, when the credits roll The Bad Batch‘s meandering musings largely scatter like sand in the wind.