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Entries in Queen Latifah (2)

Friday
Jul132012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Never before has a series been more average than Ice Age. That’s meant neither as a compliment or a criticism, mind you. It’s simply an observation. None of the entries do anything offensively bad, but none of them do anything particularly amazing either. Each installment’s quality is so close to the ones prior that the difference is negligible. The newest entry in one of the blandest franchises ever, Ice Age: Continental Drift, brings more of what we expect: hit-and-miss comedy and action that somehow manages to be both exciting and uninteresting at the same time. It’s impossible to feel anything other than ambivalence towards it, as it does nothing worthy of anger or cheer. It simply plays out before you, ends and life goes on.

Ice Age: Continental Drift once again follows the unruly herd of animals we’ve grown to somewhat enjoy, including mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) and saber-toothed tiger Diego (Dennis Leary), this time as they live through the shifting of the continents. Since the last time we saw them, Manny and Ellie have had a daughter named Peaches (Keke Palmer) who is now a teenager and crushing on Ethan (Drake). When she goes to a dangerous area to see Ethan, Peaches and Manny get in a fight. Soon after, they are separated due to the shifting continents, but vow to find each other again so that the last words they exchange aren’t from a fight. But while Peaches and her mother only need to walk away from the moving mountains, Manny is stranded at sea on a block of ice with his two buddies and Granny (Wanda Sykes), Sid’s grandmother. Eventually, they run into a sea pirate named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), foil him and steal his ship, to which Gutt vows revenge, following Manny and the gang on their journey home.

Once again, the story revolves around two or more characters being separated from each other and journeying to reunite. Each movie is the same as the last and it’s tiresome. Nearly all of the freshness from this franchise evaporated with the credits of the original Ice Age. Since then, every facet of every movie has felt outdated and overdone, with the sole exception of the Scrat character. Though the most silent of all the characters, he’s by far the most interesting and is instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen an animated movie in the theater over the last 10 years. The lovable squirrel who is always after that elusive acorn is the only thing in the entire franchise that has stood the test of time and still manages to delight while everything around him bores. However, Ice Age: Continental Drift severely limits new screen time for the little guy. I specify “new” because Scrat’s first two segments, including the opening that sparks the entire movie, have been seen before as shorts prior to other films. The filmmakers, in one of the most boneheaded moves I’ve seen in a long time, reused those shorts rather than create new material and much of the joy from seeing Scrat is sucked away in the process. The following Scrat segments don’t bring much to the table either because they’re far too short to be interesting, much shorter than the previous movies.

And just like the previous movies, the action is routine and the comedy fairly standard, aside from one hilarious joke about how the previous movie, where the characters found themselves in an underground dinosaur utopia hidden beneath the ice, didn’t make any sense. But as simple as these movies are, it’s amazing how the smallest things are overlooked. In Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Diego was suffering from a sickness, or old age, or something like that. It wasn’t really explained, even as his vision blurred and breathing grew increasingly heavy. Continental Drift similarly ignores that set-up, never minding the fact that 10 years have passed since we were first introduced to the gang and that many of them should be on a health decline.

There are also some annoying pop culture references in the film as well that, just like the other films, don’t fit into the Ice Age setting, a setting that doesn’t provide a lot of leeway for story development in the first place. But even with all those problems, Ice Age: Continental Drift and, indeed, the rest of the series, doesn’t do anything harmful—it teaches valuable lessons about family, love and friendship and it’s hard to deride it for that—yet it’s so spectacularly unspectacular that it’s hard to muster up anything more than an ambiguous shrug when someone asks about its quality. In a time when animated movies have eclipsed the whole notion of “being just for kids,” Ice Age: Continental Drift has no place.

Ice Age: Continental Drift receives 2/5

Saturday
May152010

Just Wright

When you watch a romantic comedy, you expect certain things. You expect an unlikely pair to fall in love. You expect a misunderstanding to create drama. You expect montages to show a passage of time. But rarely do you see a movie as traditional and formulaic as Just Wright, the latest rom-com clone to puke its way onto movie screens.

The film takes place in New Jersey and stars Queen Latifah as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who, along with her friend and roommate Morgan, played by Paula Patton, is looking for a husband. The problem is neither have found the right guy. Leslie wants a traditional man, someone who can love and protect her. She doesn’t care about stature or money. Morgan, on the other hand, is planning on bagging an NBA star from their local team, the New Jersey Nets. After an encounter at a gas station, the two are invited to a birthday party for the Nets’ star player, Scott McKnight, played by Common, who quickly falls for Morgan and asks her to marry him, but after a crippling injury that threatens the future of his career, Morgan bails and Leslie finds herself a live in therapist who plans on having him ready to play in the upcoming playoffs.

It’s not that the cutely titled Just Wright is unbelievable, because I could see how a charmer like Queen Latifah could win over a big time NBA star with a heart of gold, it’s just that the road the film takes to its inevitable conclusion is paved with every trick of the romantic comedy trade. It plays a familiar tune from beginning to end and strains your patience.

One of the biggest pratfalls of many romantic comedies is that the drama is something that the audience can’t relate to. The problems are sometimes so wrought with trivial matters that it creates a significant separation between the characters and the viewer. Just Wright, not surprisingly, lands the same fate. Outside of the romantic angle, the largest dramatic arc the film takes is the question of whether or not Scott will be able to play in the NBA again after tearing an important ligament in his knee. His contract is closing soon and he will become a free agent, but if he can’t get better by the playoffs, the league may become uninterested in him. Well, so what? He’s a millionaire, adored by the public and regardless of whether or not he can play basketball again, he’ll be just fine. Worse tragedies have occurred in the history of mankind. Suck it up Scott.

Many romances hinge on the drama, but another important aspect that this film similarly fails on is the chemistry between the two leads. Though Queen Latifah has always been likable, she’s dragged down by Common who couldn’t act his way out of a box. His past experience in films like Wanted, Terminator Salvation and Smokin’ Aces has given him little to do but stand around and scowl. Here he’s expected to emit something, anything really, but he can’t. Every smile looks forced and every line of dialogue comes out flat. The only compliment I can give him is that he has good form when shooting a jump shot.

I try not to be too grouchy when it comes to these types of movies, but I’ve become so burdened with watching this tripe that I can only take so much. Even the little things start to get to me. In one annoying example of trying to be cute, Scott feeds Leslie chicken noodle soup when she's sick. Well, that’s the thing. She has a cold. She’s not dying. She can lift the spoon herself. Gag worthy moments like this cluttered Just Wright and by the time the credits rolled, I felt sick myself.

Just Wright receives 1/5