[For part one of my Labor Day weekend, click here.]
Thanks to the combination of Redbox and the cheap theater, over the long weekend I actually watched three movies. Snitch, an action movie of a sort, with a message about mandatory minimum sentencing laws and how far a parent will go for their child, in which Dwayne Johnson actually doesn’t hit anyone; Despicable Me 2, the hilarious animated sequel, in which villain-turned-softhearted-father Gru joins the Anti-Villain League and learns about much more than fighting villains; and Jack the Giant Slayer, a CGI extravaganza, in which legends turn out to be real, princesses aren’t useless because they’ll be Queen someday and might do some good, and Stanley Tucci is a rotten scoundrel.
I enjoyed them all, though Snitch took me a while to warm up to, since it was rather not what I was expecting. I was expecting the classic action movie. You know, where the son gets wrongly arrested and the father (Dwayne) goes in and kicks some drug cartel bahookey and the DA is so impressed they let his son go. In reality (it is based on a true story), the son refuses to snitch and put someone innocent in prison just to reduce his own sentence, which is pretty much what his dealer friend did, and the father gets dangerously tangled up in the drug world trying to get information that will lead to arrests and reduce how long his son suffers in prison. I was lucky to get a copy of the DVD that had the director’s commentary (Redbox DVDs usually have no extras) and he said that Dwayne Johnson was a deliberate casting choice, because in a situation like that, how brawny you are doesn’t get you and your family any more unstuck, you have to use your brains. That point wouldn’t have come across as well without Dwayne’s brawn.
Basically, mandatory minimum sentencing laws in regards to the “war on drugs” are actually more messed up than they sound and are inflicting unrealistically harsh punishments on low-level, often first-time, non-violent, offenders while not really having the impact at the higher level they were designed to. It ended up being more of a thinking movie and less of a blow-everything-up movie, which meant some rearranging of expectations in my head, but I did end up enjoying it. And there are already some changes being made on mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
Despicable Me 2 is just huge amounts of fun. I laughed a lot. And went “awww” multiple times. The animation is fantastic, of course, and the various storylines work together well – they include things like a fix for Gru’s singlehood, a boyfriend (or not) for the oldest girl, and, obviously, saving the world. 🙂 The signature yellow minions are giggle-inducing as always, and they get much more screen time than in the first movie. If you liked Despicable Me, you should definitely watch the second one. If you haven’t seen the first one, and you like animated movies or laughing or cute little girls or hilarious miniature sidekicks, you should definitely watch them both. They are cute and funny and heartwarming and will make you laugh and hug your kids (or want to, if you don’t have any).
Jack the Giant Slayer would probably have been more fun in theater, given the scope of its CGI, but it came out the week before my oldest brother got married and I was a little busy (and then recovering afterwards). I liked how they framed the movie with children reading a story about giants from a book – and then growing up to find that the giants and their realm of Gantua, between heaven and earth, are real. And the giants are angry at being banished there by one of the princess’s ancestors and looking for a way to get back down for some old-fashioned havoc wreaking. Jack and his magic beans provide them that way.
I also liked the scene when Jack and Princess Isabelle are climbing back down the beanstalk to warn the kingdom below of the giants’ thirst for revenge (having left her protector Elmont, fabulously played by Ewan McGregor, and the scoundrel Roderick in Gantua). She sits down on a gnarl of stalk and says something along the lines of “I’m so useless, all I did was cause trouble.” [Having seen it only once, over a week ago, I’m obviously paraphrasing here.] And Jack immediately contradicts her, “No, you’re not useless. Someday you will be Queen, think of all the good you could do then.” I will grant you, she didn’t do anything extremely useful, except later she showed Jack a shortcut in the palace when they’re being chased by an angry giant, but then again, she didn’t scream and fall down and cry and whine. And I appreciated that the thought was there, at least, that princesses don’t have to be useless.
There were multiple things to like about Jack the Giant Slayer – such as how they gave the giants personalities and conflicts amongst themselves; Fee, Fye, Foe and Fumm are actual giants, not just syllables in a rhyme; the great one-liners Elmont gets to deliver straight-faced; how convincing Stanley Tucci is when his Roderick turns his back on the humans in a bid to control the giants and thus the world and so on. I loved the moment when Jack wakes up at the top of the beanstalk and sees the sunrise from above the clouds for the first time. The CGI really was very good – the giants, the battles, the multiple beanstalks were all detailed and convincing. But at the same time, there were some real “facepalm” moments… like the cook giant picking his nose slurpily, like the king nearly getting crushed by the falling beanstalk when they decide to cut the first one down to stop the giants (he should have been no-where near it!), like Jack and Isabelle getting up unharmed after being dropped from giant-shoulder-height onto a marble floor in the palace… not to mention the cliches of the princess running away from a forced marriage, etc.
The good moments outweighed the questionable ones overall, though, and I was left grinning and happy at the end, after the neat twist. No, I won’t tell you how it ends, you have to watch it yourself. I wouldn’t recommend it for small kids, there’s too much tension and mayhem for that, but for older ones it should be fine.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on three more movies that I enjoyed. That said, I’m not sure I’d watch Snitch again. Despicable Me 2 would be highest of the three as far as recommending to others and wanting to watch again. Have you seen any of these movies? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment box is open!