The Big Sick

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 5:53 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references
Profanity: Strong and explicit language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Very serious illness
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 24, 2017
Date Released to DVD: September 25, 2017
Copyright Amazon 2017

The more specific the story, the more universal. This is a very specific story. Indeed, you are unlikely ever again to see a romantic comedy with one of the pair spending half of the film in a coma. And that is not the couple’s biggest obstacle. Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”), plays a character named Kumail Nanjiani in a story based on his relationship to Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan and called Emily Gardiner in the film), who is now his wife and the co-screenwriter of the smart, touching, heartfelt and very funny film. It is beautifully directed by Michael Showalter, as always unsurpassed in meticulous casting of even the smallest roles.

Real-life Nanjiani and his movie alter ego are Pakistani immigrants from traditional families. Every time he visits his parents for dinner, an unmarried Pakistani woman “happens to drop in.” They have made it very clear that they expect him to marry a woman who is Pakistani and Muslim. Gordon is neither; she is white and from North Carolina. Just after they break up because he could not say that they could have a future together, she suddenly becomes critically ill and is placed in a medically induced coma.  He gets the call when she is hospitalized and has to be the one to call her parents. He meets them for the first time in the hospital waiting room, where they are understandably frosty (he broke their daughter’s heart) and preoccupied (she’s in a coma).

They would rather that he not be there. And his parents find out that he has not been honest with them and they tell him they cannot accept his feelings for Emily. So, in the second half of the movie there is another kind of love story, about the love between parents and their children and the partners their children choose.

It is also a story about a man learning to be honest with himself about who he is and what he wants. What lifts this out of the recent glut of arrested development movies is its compassion for all parties (the film nicely acknowledges that Nanjiani’s brother has a very successful and satisfying marriage arranged the traditional way and presents as one of the candidates a woman so seemingly perfect for him that we almost root for her) and Nanjiani’s thoughtful, self-deprecating but confident performance. The best stand-up comics mine their own lives for material, with observations that make us see our own lives, and especially our follies and irrationalities, in sharper relief — that’s relief in both senses of the word.

Best of all, the movie itself is proof that they lived happily ever after.

Parents should know that this movie includes strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situations, family conflict, and very serious illness.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Kumail tell Emily about his family’s concerns? How should you decide what traditions to keep and which ones to leave behind?

If you like this, try: “Ruby Sparks” (also with Kazan, who wrote the screenplay) and “50-50” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, also based on a true story

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New for Easter — Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade

Posted on March 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Just in time for Easter — Scrat and his Ice Age friends have a new adventure with a hunt for an egg, Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade. Just 20 minutes long, it is a delightful family treat.

Harried prehistoric bird mom Ethel entrusts her precious, soon-to-hatch egg to Sid. When she recommends him to her neighbors – Condor Mom, Cholly Bear and Gladys Glypto – business booms at his new egg-sitting service. However, dastardly pirate bunny Squint, who is seeking revenge on the ICE AGE gang, steals, camouflages and hides all the eggs. Once again, with Squint’s twin brother, Clint, assisting Manny, Diego and the rest of the gang come to the rescue and take off on a daring mission that turns into the world’s first Easter egg hunt.

I have a copy to give away! Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Egg in the subject line and tell me your favorite animated film. Don’t forget your address! (U.S. addresses only). I’ll pick a winner at random on March 29, 2017. Good luck!

Reminder: My policy on conflicts

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Ice Age: Continental Drift

Posted on July 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The “Ice Age” folks have the formula down very well, and this fourth entry is one of their strongest, with enough of the familiar to be satisfying and enough that is new to keep things interesting.  The real expertise is the mixture of heart, humor, and adventure, in what is now one of the most reliably entertaining series for families.

It begins, as “Ice Age” must, with Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel who is the Sisyphus of the pre-historic era.  Scrat (voiced, or, I should say, squeaked and squealed, by  director Chris Wedge) wants an acorn, but it is his destiny to have it always just beyond his reach or to create chaos when he tries to bury it.  Both happen right off the bat as inserting the tip of the acorn into the ice has results that are literally earth-shattering.  Yes, it turns out that the reason the continents separated and moved to opposite sides of the oceans was because of a squirrel.

Meanwhile, our old friends Diego the cranky saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), Manny the anxious Mammoth (Ray Romano), and Sid the silly sloth (John Leguizamo) are on the wrong side of the dividing tectonic plates and become separated from Manny’s mate Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his tween daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer).  Just as Manny and Peaches are in conflict because she wants to hang out with her friends and he thinks she is too young, the ground buckles and cracks underneath them.  Diego, Manny, and Sid are adrift on an ice floe along with Sid’s dotty grandmother (Wanda Sykes).  Like Daniel Day-Lewis in “Last of the Mohicans,” Manny promises, “I will find you.”  But they have no cell phones or GPS or even maps.

And then things get worse, as they run into a pirate crew on a ship made from ice led by the piratical Captain Gutt (a sensational Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones”).  His first make is a female saber-toothed tiger named Shira (Jennifer Lopez).  Our heroes must battle Gutt’s gang and find their way back home.  Gutt and Sid’s granny are welcome additions to the cast, adding vitality and flavor to a cast whose conflicts have subsided in the previous chapters.  The animation is exceptionally well executed, especially the roiling water and a very funny reaction to a paralyzing plant.  The action scenes continue to be crisply executed and the happy ending includes lessons on loyalty for friends and family.  If it merrily ignores any historical or scientific legitimacy, it shows its value with wit and heart.

(more…)

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Ice Age: The Meltdown

Posted on March 25, 2006 at 2:06 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild language and innuendo.
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Tension, peril, characters killed, references to extinction
Diversity Issues: A metaphorical theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000GUJZ00

Once again, as in the first Ice Age, wooly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), and saber tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) set off on a journey. This time, they have to lead their friends out of the valley before the ice melts and it becomes flooded.

Along the way, Manny wonders if mammoths are about to become extinct because he seems to be the only one left, until he meets Ellie (Queen Latifah), a mammoth who thinks she is a possom. Sid meets up with some miniature sloths who think he is their Fire King. And all of the characters face predators and other obstacles as they try to beat the water to the edge of the valley. And every now and then we get to see the continuing saga of Scrat the prehistorical squirrel and his Sisyphus-like quest to get and keep an acorn.
Even by the low standards of sequels (it’s fair to expect at least a 30% drop-off in quality), this is a disappointment. There are brightly funny individual scenes, especially the “Fire King” encounter (though it seems to have been taken straight from one of the Hope and Crosby “Road” movies — or, come to think of it, all of them), but it doesn’t have the power or imagination of the original. Instead, itt has a cluttered plot with a formulaic mix of potty humor, mostly kid-appropriate scariness, and some encouraging lessons about responding to fear and the imprtance of family.

The primary relationship issues between the three leads were resolved the first time around and the new characters don’t add much interest or do much to propel the story. On the contrary, they serve as a distraction, especially the resolutely un-cute and un-cuddly mischievous possums. When their very un-possum-ish sister natters about her feelings as though she was in the middle of a Dr. Phil show instead of a life and death struggle to save members of her group, it is less likely to be amusing for children and their parents than annoying. A well-designed Busby Berkeley-style dance number to the Oliver! song “Food Glorious Food” is sung by vultures hoping that the characters we are rooting for don’t make it, so they can feast on the “putrid” meat.
This last example is a good indicator of the movie’s primary problem — an uncertain sense of its audience. A crowd old enough to recognize references that are 40 and 60 years old? A crowd old enough to find some dark humor in having vultures sing about how excited they are that animals we have just spent most of a movie with are going to die so they can eat them? As Ben Stein said so memorably in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Anyone? Anyone?”

 

Parents should know that the movie has some tense and scary moments with characters in frequent peril. Predatory fish with many very sharp teeth chase after the characters. At least one character is killed (offscreen and discreetly) and another has a near-death experience. There are discussions of possible extinction. Characters use some crude and insulting language (“idiot,” “moron,” “crap”) and there is some potty humor. An odd near-death visit to Heaven may be disturbing to some audience members.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we recognize and deal with our fears. Why were Ellie’s feelings hurt? How do you feel about the way Ellie and Manny resolved their argument about which way to go? Several characters in the movie were lonely. How can you tell, and what did they do about it? What does it mean to be “the gooey, sticky stuff that holds us together?” And they should talk about endandered species and efforts to protect them. Families might also want to learn more about wooly mammoths and other ice age animals.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original Ice Age as well as The Land Before Time and its sequels.

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Ice Age

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild peril
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril, off-screen deaths including family members of main characters
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2002

Ice Age” is a clever, funny, and touching story of an unlikely trio of animals who band together to return a human baby to his family.

The story is set when glaciers covered much of the earth, 20,000 years ago. As all of the other animals migrate south in search of food, three characters are moving in the opposite direction. They are a wooly mammoth named Manny (voice of Ray Romano), a sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo), and a saber tooth tiger named Diego (Denis Leary). In classic road movie fashion, they don’t like or trust each other very much at the beginning and the journey becomes a psychological one as they share experiences and confidences that make them see each other – and themselves – very differently.

This does not reach the level of Shrek for wit, there is no romance to keep the grown-ups happy, and the plot has no surprises. But it is told with terrific energy, imagination, visual invention, and humor and it moves along very quickly. Interestingly, the three lead voices are provided by performers who began as stand-up comics rather than actors. Their voices are edgy and distinctive, perfectly matched with their characters.

The computer animation is truly magnificent, from the majestic ice-covered mountains to the acorn treasure toted around by a hilarious squirrel who shows up over and over again in the travels of our heroes. The texture of the fur and feathers, the glint of the sun on ice, and soft sparkle of the snowflakes falling at night are perfectly rendered. The pristine settings convey a sense of vastness and promise that will make grown-up viewers pause to think about whether civilization has been all that civilized. All ages will enjoy the facial expressions, body language and — I have to say it — performances of the ice age mammals, so vivid and so true that you may forget that they are pixels, not people.

Parents should know that the characters face peril several times throughout the movie, and it may be upsetting for younger children. The mother of a young child is killed (off-screen) saving the child’s life. Another character recalls the death of his family. While it is fairly mild on the “Bambi” scale, the issues of human hunting of animals, animal predators, and extinction are raised. A character makes a skeptical comment about “mating for life.” There is some mild diaper humor.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Manny says about members of a herd being willing to risk their lives for each other. Why was it so important for Manny to return the baby, even though the humans had hunted his herd? How did that help to heal some of Manny’s sadness? Why did Diego change his mind about Manny? Why did Manny change his mind about Sid? Was it because of something Sid did or because of something Manny learned about himself, or both? What is different about the way that Diego and Manny react to human attacks?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy learning more about the real Ice Age, and should visit a local natural history museum or look at this virtual tour from the Smithsonian Institution’s museum in Washington. They should take a look at the real cave paintings from that era to see paintings of mammoths and saber tooth tigers by people who really saw them. Families with younger children will also enjoy the “Land Before Time” series of videos and Disney’s “Dinosaur.

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