Quiz Lady

Posted on November 2, 2023 at 5:26 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, some injuries
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 3, 2023

Copyright 2023 Hulu
Sandra Oh and Awkwafina playing sisters in a comedy? Sign me up!  They’re two of my favorites. There’s one wild sister with blue hair extensions, big earrings, and no impulse control and one shy, serious sister who dresses in drab monotone and watches her favorite game show with her 20-year-old dog every night? Sounds like fun! And Oh, the dramatic actress from “Killing Eve” is playing the wild one and Awkwafina, the comic who first came to public attention with a song about her private parts is the shy, serious one? Wait, what?

Yep. And it is clear that both of them had a blast making this outrageous comedy, which makes it all the more fun for us. Oh plays Jenny Yum, ten years older than her younger sister, Anne (Awkwafina), the responsible one who works in a CPA office, where she stays in her cubicle as her co-workers celebrate a birthday because no one thought to invite her and she would not join them even if they had.

Jenny and Anne had a chaotic childhood. Their single mother was off partying and gambling. Jenny responded by getting as far away as soon as possible. She has failed after half-hearted attempts at several careers but has developed some survival skills, small-time scams, asking her sister for money, and suing a restaurant for a fish bone found in her filet. Anne takes care of their mother, now in assisted living. She devotes herself to Linguine, the dog Jenny left behind, and to her favorite television show, a “Jeopardy”-like competition called “Can’t Stop the Quiz.” The kindly, bow-tied host, Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell) is a stable force in her life, almost a father figure. She finds his nightly sign-off, “Don’t go anywhere; I know I won’t,” reassuring.

Their mother runs away from assisted living, leaving behind an $80,000 gambling debt. The sisters are given two weeks to pay it back, with the loan shark holding Linguine as hostage. Jenny thinks the only way to get the money is for Anne to win it on “Can’t Stop the Quiz.” Anne, who cannot bear to have anyone look at her, is horrified by the idea of being on television. But she is desperate to get Linguine back.

All of this is just an excuse for extended farce as the sisters interact with a powerhouse cast of supporting actors, including Holland Taylor as a grumpy neighbor who loves Alan Cumming, Tony Hale as the owner of a Ben Franklin-themed inn, and Jason Schwartzman as the quiz show’s smarmy current champion, with ultra-white teeth veneers that practically glow in the dark. Plus there’s a display of hundreds of bow ties that is the background for a very sweet conversation. Wild physical comedy and surreal interactions are grounded by the way the sisters begin to resolve their differences. It is funny, it is outrageous, and it is surprisingly tender-hearted.

Parents should know that this film has mature material including drinking and drug use (an extended humorous drug trip sequence), comic peril and violence and very strong language.

Family discussion: Why did Jenny and Anne respond so differently to the way they grew up? If you were trying to play charades with a member of your family, what could you do that no one else would understand?

If you like this, try: “Lucky Grandma” and “Rat Race”

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Over the Moon

Posted on October 22, 2020 at 5:11 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and thematic elements
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril, sad death of a parent, themes of dealing with grief
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: October 23, 2020

Copyright 2020 Netflix
“Over the Moon” is a gorgeous, candy-colored fantasy adventure based on a Chinese myth, with an appealing heroine and some sensitive and child-accessible insights about grief and loss.

Fei Fei (sweet-voiced Cathy Ang) lives happily with her adored parents, who run a food cart specializing in mooncakes, a delicacy enjoyed each year at the Mid-Autumn Festival, inspired by the myths of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon. Fei Fei’s father (John Cho as Ba Ba) wants to explain her about the science of the moon but she would rather hear her mother’s stories of Chang’e, who consumed the elixir of immortality and mourns the loss of her mortal beloved, the archer Houyi.

But Fei Fei’s mother becomes ill, and dies (offscreen). Fei Fei and her father share their grief and take care of each other. Four years later, Ba Ba wants Fei Fei to meet a woman he is seeing, Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), who has an energetic young son, Chin (Robert G. Chiu). Fei Fei is devastated. She feels that she cannot manage any more change and that bringing another woman into their home would be disloyal to her mother. And she decides that if she could just go to the moon and prove to Ba Ba that the legend of Chang’e’s enduring love is real, he will understand that he should, like Chang’e, be devoted forever to his lost love.

Fortunately, Fei Fei has become a STEM-science and engineering student. And so, she builds a rocket ship. Actually, she builds several model rocket ships which all fail. And then she figures out a way to use something that is going on in her town to power the ship enough to take her and her pet rabbit to the moon in search of Chang’e.

But Chin stows away with his pet frog, throwing off the navigation. Things look dire until two glowing magical lions rescue them and take them to the moon, where they do meet Chang’e, who will not help them until they bring her the “gift’ she needs to reunite with Houyi.

Long-time Disney artist (and son of the “Family Circus” comic panel Bil Keane) Glen Keane brings his experience on films like “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Tangled” to his first film as a director, and we can see the Disney influence in the strong, big-eyed female leads and the Broadway musical-style “I Want” and other character-revealing songs. Chang’e is voiced by “Hamilton” star Phillipa Soo.

There may be a touch of Studio Ghibli inspiration as well, especially when the characters are floating in zero gravity amid a army (that is the collective noun) of giant frogs. The candy colors of the glowing space creatures are like jelly-beans illuminated by LED lights. A highlight of the visuals was the brief hand-drawn images of the Chang’e story.And the faces of the characters are exceptionally expressive, which grounds the story.

Gorgeous images and chases scenes, including one involving giant chickens on motorcycles, make this a visual treat. The Chang’e character is so imperious that it is not easy to appreciate her learning to be better, but a rare storyline for children about grief, and especially about how good feelings and new people in our lives are not disrespectful to those we have lost, gives the film warmth and depth.

Parents should know that this film includes sad (offscreen) deaths including the loss of a parent. There is some mild fantasy-style peril.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Fei Fei want her father to get married again? Why did she change her mind about Chin? What version of Chang’e’s story do you like?

If you like this, try: “Coco” and “Inside Out”

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