Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022): A Bloated, Mind-Melting, Exciting Ride Through the Multiverse

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is directed by Daniels, the same team behind the 2016 film “Swiss Army Man” featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead body who communicates by farting. And if you think that is weird, you are not ready for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” possibly the greatest title in film history. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stars Michelle Yeoh (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Crazy Rich Asians), Stephanie Hsu (The Path, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Ke Hey Quan (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies), Jenny Slate (The Secret Life of Pets, Gifted), Harry Shum Jr. (Glee, Shadowhunters), James Hong (Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, Blade Runner), and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Knives Out). This film, or in a case like the one we are dealing with, this drug trip, centers around the character of Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat with her husband. When financial stability becomes an issue for Wang, she suddenly finds herself on a journey through the multiverse where she learns about the many lives she could have lived. She uses this newfound knowledge to hopefully save her own universe, along with several others, from a cataclysm.

I want to start off this review by reminding you that I waited a couple months to see this movie. I knew what it was. I knew the plot. I knew that a lot of people liked it. But due to other commitments, other movies, not to mention planning to see it once or twice only to have my plans scrapped, I had to wait on “Everything Everywhere All at Once” like I was in line at comic con. Fun fact, I am at a time of my life where I typically enjoy going to the movies by myself. I have nothing against going with friends, but there are many cases where I would prefer going to the cinema alone because as a reviewer, this allows me to concentrate harder on what’s on screen. But one reason why I waited so long to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is because if I wanted to go see this movie by myself, I could have. I would have probably had a good time. That said, this looked like a movie I had to see with someone else. So I invited my dad, told him I think he would like the film, and we were going to hopefully have a ball.

Without giving much detail, I think my previous sentiment is one to keep in mind, should you decide to watch “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” because it is a movie that is watchable on your own, but the more people you have around you, the better the experience will probably end up being. It is the same reason why comedy shows are better with sold out crowds. The laughter is that much more contagious.

Also I will remind you, this is a multiverse-spanning movie. The previous two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have brought audiences into the multiverse in their own ways and have done ridiculous numbers in terms of the box office. Unlike those films, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is an original idea. Of those two previously indicated unoriginal ideas, one of them literally has the words “Multiverse of Madness” in the title. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” is THE REAL MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Eat your heart out, Doctor Strange! I contend that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” could end up permanently owning the crown for the greatest multiverse-centric movie of all time. It is that good.

If you have been following me this year, I have talked about a specific idea within certain films. “CODA” and “Belle” are prime examples of this. That theme is a perfect bridging between extraordinary and ordinary. While those films showcase this idea to excellent degrees with a non-deaf, music-obsessed child living in a deaf family and a shy, rural-housed teenage girl entering a social media paradise where she becomes a star, these are not new ideas. Heroes always start off ordinary and then find ways to become extraordinary throughout their adventure. If they stayed ordinary, they would be one-dimensional or boring. But if you break down “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” it is not necessarily a film about saving the multiverse as much as it is about keeping a family together, keeping each other from going bizzerk. Because within the confines of alternate realities, mastering kung fu, superstardom, the main family of the film has to deal with the potential closure of their business, potential divorce, and as far as the parents are concerned, potential rebellion from the daughter.

Speaking of potential, I think “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had a ton of potential, and that potential was perfectly realized within this film’s small budget. For comparison, another recent multiverse-centric story, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” had a budget of $200 million. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on the other hand… A non-sequel, original idea not based on any preexisting intellectual property, not set in a cinematic universe whatsoever, cost $25 million to make. That is nothing to sweat at by any means. $25 million is a lot of money. Plus, there are movies that came out this year that cost less to make. “Hustle,” the last movie I reviewed, was less expensive. But to be fair, it was more limited in its theatrical release. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” supports the notion that smaller can be better. The more time you spend on crafting a compelling story and the less time you spend on the spectacle and paying Patrick Stewart to play Professor X again, the better the payoff.

Through her portrayal of Evelyn, Michelle Yeoh encapsulates what it is like to be a normal human being with financial issues. We see her trek through the film while her ordinary life continues to go down the crapper. Changes come in every which way and it is not only affecting her, but the people she knows. This movie plays around with the idea of one person seeing not only other versions of themselves, but their jealousy towards the lives the alternate selves tend to enjoy. Evelyn sees versions of herself that excel at kung fu or acting. If I saw myself in other universes living as say a successful singer or a baseball player, I would definitely consider rethinking my life choices or finding a way to embody my other selves.

Throughout the film’s runtime, we are heavily exposed to other members of the Wang family. Those who appear alongside Evelyn are her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and her father, Gong Gong (James Hong). Each character has their own individualities and quirks that make the film worthwhile. There is an incredible element of the film where we see the supposed differences between Evelyn and Joy in terms of how they live their lives, how they view the world. It makes for some entertaining moments of the film while also effectively progressing each character arc.

I also have to give a major shoutout to Jamie Lee Curtis, who gives an incredible performance as Deirdre Beaubeirdre, an IRS inspector who takes no nonsense whatsoever. I admire Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress, so I hope this is not taken the wrong way, but her character does such a great job at appearing so boring and yet so fiendish. She looks like she could ruin someone’s life in a snap. Of the film’s supporting characters, she is arguably the highlight.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is an arguable contender to be the strangest and yet most ambitious film I have watched in my life. One of my biggest compliments I gave to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is how they handled Benedict Cumberbatch’s variants from a looks perspective. When it comes to Evelyn in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” I would say a similar assessment applies. But the script and direction of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” gives Michelle Yeoh a greater excuse to provide a more solid, perhaps down to earth performance than the one Cumberbatch gave in his multiversal feature. There is so much that happens in this movie, not only in terms of the story, but the overall scope of… everything… At various points, the movie hinges to a precipice where things are almost completely out of control. There is a moment in this movie where I could see a lot of people thinking it is crazy enough, only to shock themselves in a matter of minutes with what comes up afterwards. If you are looking for a predictable movie, you have come to the wrong place. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is probably the most unpredictable movie I have seen since “Parasite.”

If you have not watched it yet, you need to check this movie out, and as much as I could go on about it, I am going to let you see for yourself, because if you are anything like my dad when he sat next to me in the theater, taking every single scene in… I think you should prepare to drop some unexpected f-bombs at the screen the moment you witness some of the wondrous sights this one of a kind feature seals within its doors.

In the end, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is one of the best movies I have ever seen. A24 is a crazy distributor. I either truly like a movie from them, which was the case with say “Eighth Grade” or “The Disaster Artist.” Or I attempt to make a case as to why some of their films are atrociously awful like “Midsommar” or “Zola.” There never feels like there is an between at times. And even if there is, I still have something supposedly notable or passionate to say about their films. Even “The Last Movie Star,” starring Burt Reynolds, which I thought was the definition of mediocre, elicited a passionate reaction out of me as to why I did not particularly think that film was the best. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is certainly above mediocre, is no exception to letting me bring out the passion. Oddly enough, I have a feeling I could somehow end up appreciating it more with a second viewing. If the jump after a second viewing is anything like the one I had for “Belle” recently, it could potentially be in the conversation for my top 5 movies of all time. If there is one movie that you should see by the end of the year, it is this one. I am going to give “Everything Everywhere All at Once” a 10/10.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now playing in theaters and is available to watch on VOD.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next reviews, which are for the brand new blockbusters, “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Lightyear!” I watched both movies this week and I am excited to share my thoughts! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Everything Everywhere All at Once?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that you saw this year? New or old, doesn’t matter. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022): A National Treasure of Comedy and Action

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is directed by Tom Gormican (Ghosted, That Awkward Moment) and stars Nicolas Cage (Con Air, The Croods) as himself, kind of. Joining the Academy Award-winning thespian are stars including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984), Sharon Horgan (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Game Night) Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Uncle Drew), Ike Barinholtz (Snatched, Blockers), Alessandra Mastronardi (To Rome with Love, Master of None), Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, Without Remorse), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, The Smurfs). This film follows Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage if you want to be more technical, as he hits a bit of a rough patch career-wise. When a high-paying opportunity arrives to meet with a superfan, Nick Cage is in for the role of a lifetime, working for the CIA.

When it comes to actors, Nicolas Cage is the definition of an enigma. He won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” and received another nomination for his work in “Adaptation” years later, so he is not short on talent, nor is he short on resume-worthy credits. But he also has a history of being an Internet meme. For example, one of my favorite YouTube movie critics, Chris Stuckmann, does a series of reviews by the name of “Hilariocities,” and the intro to each episode is centered around Nicolas Cage because of his tendency to take certain roles that make him look over the top and zany, sometimes not in the right ways. Cage has a history of choosing movies that are not remembered, movies that have gone straight to DVD, movies that occasionally make me wonder if he even reads the script before he signs on. One of my first positives of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is its tendency to be effectively tongue and chic regarding Nicolas Cage. Or in some cases, the way society, especially on the Internet, paints a picture of him.

I think putting Cage in the center of this film was a brilliant idea, because while I know Cage has done some prolific work in recent years like “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” and “The Croods 2,” he is an actor I would think of these days when it comes to, “X actor needs to pay bills, therefore X actor stars in Y movie without hesitation.” But even with that in mind, Cage commits every time, no matter how unrealistic the script. And for this movie, a lack of realism is perhaps no exception. If I invited Nicolas Cage to my birthday bash this year, he would likely tell me to screw off. At least this is what my head tells me, because actors are not always in the business of entertaining for parties or other related events. But the moments that arguably lack verisimilitude make “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” worth watching.

The bond between Cage and Pascal is a highlight of the film. I like both actors by themselves, but if you put them together, that is a recipe for greatness. Much of the movie involves Nicolas Cage being tasked by a couple people affiliated with the CIA to stay and keep an eye on Javi, who to his surprise, becomes his newfound companion. This takes a toll on Cage as he came into this situation with partial hesitancy and now that he is here, he now has a sense of trust with his new pal. The duo literally bonded over “Paddington 2!” I have never seen “Paddington 2,” mainly because I have not seen “Paddington 1” from the mid-2010s, but I will give this film credit where it is due, it has made me want to check out “Paddington 2.” But this movie is not just about Cage finding out he likes “Paddington 2,” or trying to get people he knows to watch “The Cabinet of Caligari,” this film can also qualify as a tribute to Cage’s career and legacy. Fans of his previous movies will probably rejoice as to how one particular aspect of this movie unfolds, as it is one gigantic callback to his cinematic library.

This film also knocks its portrayal of celebrity culture out of the park. Obviously, given how this is a Nicolas Cage film, it would be wise to realize how his fans see him on screen. But there is a great moment in the film that reminds me of how ballsy it is as a fan to stop a celebrity in the street. Because the reality is, celebrities have lives. They have places to be. That is a good reason you should not stop them in the street. But at the same time, getting to meet them presents itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity, making it that much more palatable to stop them and ask for a picture. This is why events like comic con exist. That way the celebrity guests are in one place and possibly there almost solely to make the fan’s day while also making a profit. But I will be real, if someone stopped me in the street to compliment that one review I did, I would be thankful and happy enough to take a second out of my day to talk to them. But the way this movie presents a case like that shows how unexpected such a moment can be. Nicolas Cage came off as the kind of guy who would not mind taking a selfie with a fan, but I also noticed how quick this scene was handled, showing that one person or the other had things to do. Entertainers are amongst an interesting profession because they are perhaps more likely than others to be stopped. Imagine if you were working in a landscaping company and someone came up to you and screamed, “Wow! I love what you did with my neighbor’s yard! All my friends are talking about it!” You don’t usually see that as much with people in such a profession.

This film, genre-wise, is part buddy comedy, part crime investigation, part action adventure. All in all, I have to say it is one of the most delightfully charming, exciting movies I have watched in the past few months. Cage and Pascal are ridiculously funny together, and I totally buy their out of nowhere friendship. I think their chemistry is more prominent to me at this point however compared to the CIA plot, which is not a bad entry to the script by any means. I enjoyed what I saw. But Cage and Pascal’s scenes together grabbed my attention so much that it made a good portion of the film feel rather forgettable, and I think that is its biggest weakness. Although at the same time, one thing I did not forget is how the film seemingly takes jabs at today’s somewhat cookie cutter approach to storytelling, where you have basic ideas regurgitated over and over and fewer adult-centric tales out there for people to consume. The way “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” handles such an idea is not only entertaining, but also increasingly relevant in a studio system that is often dominated by blockbusters and franchises of “things people remember.” And as much as I love movies like “Free Guy,” I can see why people find them uninteresting or out of line with what they find watchable.

In the end, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will leave you laughing, it will leave you smiling, it will make you want to befriend Nicolas Cage yourself. Not to take away from Nicolas Cage, but the supporting cast is also likable and charismatic. You have some great actors like Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris. All of them have an attractive screen presence. When it comes to movies about stars playing themselves, I prefer “The Big Sick,” starring the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, but “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is still worth watching. I recommend it. I am going to give “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” a 7/10.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for one of the biggest movies of 2022, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” Expect that review sometime soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where an actor plays themselves? Don’t you dare say “Space Jam…” Or the sequel, for that matter. Both are atrocities. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Bad Guys (2022): A Nonsensical, But Surprisingly Entertaining Heist Animation

“The Bad Guys” is directed by Pierre Perifel, who has helped animate several DreamWorks films including “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film stars Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Moon), Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens), Craig Robinson (The Cleveland Show, The Office), Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In the Heights), Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Watch), Zazie Beatz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2), Alex Borstein (Family Guy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh, Bad Moms). This film is based on a children’s graphic novel series by Aaron Blabey and follows a group of varying creatures who all commit crimes together. In an attempt to successfully continue their criminal activities and complete their mission, they attempt to become “good,” which given their long status of being hated or feared, is a bit of challenge on a number of ends.

I first saw a trailer for “The Bad Guys” back towards the tail end of 2021, and I thought it looked like another example of why people often stereotype animated movies as “kid movies,” because this movie did not look like it was made for me. Maybe if I were eight, I would have been sold. Not today. That said, I did go see this film given how there was a free screening for it over Easter weekend. So I did have time to watch it. But I cannot say I had the motivation.

Now, I want to make something clear, one of my least favorite critiques regarding family films is that the movie at hand is dumb, there are moments that do not add up, but “the kids will like it.” While that MAY be true, I also want to note that as I look back on my childhood, there are select movies that I STILL watch to this day that were intended for the family demographic because of how they have treated me like I was intelligent back then and continue to do so today. Pixar is honestly the king of this classification with films like “The Incredibles” and “Up.” I will add that “Lightyear” looks like it is going to continue that tradition when it releases in June. There are a few DreamWorks films from my childhood like “Kung Fu Panda” or “How to Train Your Dragon” that manage to maintain a childlike spirit but I also would not mind popping in again as an adult if I get the chance. Although I will say I have probably watched “Bee Movie” more than some would like to admit as a kid and have not done so since I was 13. Even for the memes. “The Bad Guys” came off as a disposable family film with cheap comedy gags. I did not think I would particularly like it.

Now that I have seen the film, it is kind of that… Except that I did walk out thinking that I saw something that technically qualified as… Well, good!

In addition to some cheap comedy attempts that the trailer seems to promise, there are some hints of cleverness in between. This movie has one of the funniest lines I have heard from a children’s film in recent memory. I won’t quote it verbatim, but one of the best moments of the film is when we see the Big Bad Wolf and Mr. Snake talking to each other, when all of sudden, Snake spits out a clock, and reminds Wolf of the time, saying that it is “the moment our friendship died.” I imagine this was written as a throwaway line, but for some reason it just hit me the right way.

The voice cast is actually rather impressive from Sam Rockwell as Wolf, Marc Maron as Snake, Awkwafina as Tarantula… Yeah, some of these names are QUITE generic… But ya know. It is not entirely the movie’s fault. It is based on a book. If anything, blame the book. I dunno… But still, generic names! Either way, each actor finds a way to swimmingly match their voice to each role. I almost cannot see anyone else voicing Wolf at this point. The only other voice I could see is maybe Matthew McConaughey, but given how he’s already got a major role in “Sing” and a bit of an accent, I think that Rockwell is a better choice. Awkwafina has a swagger to her voice that is perfectly sprinkled into her role of Tarantula, and to my surprise, Craig Robinson had an over the top attitude to the character of Shark that was finely executed. Anthony Ramos mixed okay with his character of Piranha, but I think he is an element of the film that relies on tired gags maybe a little too much.

My favorite voices of the film come from characters who are not quite in the forefront. First off, we have an over the top police chief who goes by the name Misty Luggins. Her aspirations are to capture the Bad Guys for good. As the movie progresses she becomes funnier and funnier, her one-dimensionality is honestly her strength. If anything, she kind of reminded me of the old lady from the “Madagascar” movies who refers to Alex the Lion as a “bad kitty,” only in this case, Luggins seems a tad more civilized. She just seems so passionate about reaching her goals, and even though she technically was on what this movie refers to as its antagonistic side, part of me could not help but root for her. I was also delighted to find out that she was voiced by Alex Borstein of “Family Guy” fame.

Also joining the cast is British comedian Richard Ayoade, who in this film plays a character by the name of Professor Marmalade. I love this character. Professor Marmalade is pretty much everything that the Bad Guys are not. While the Bad Guys are busy hacking, robbing, taking from innocent people, Marmalade on the other hand is quite benevolent, rather charitable. He has a history of guinea pig philanthropy and every moment of his presence is one to savor. Ayoade is perfect casting for this role because of the pure distinctness of his voice that has the right amount of innocence, kindness, possibly even geekiness. At first I thought this was Daniel Radcliffe, because when I first heard Professor Marmalade talk I was getting Harry Potter vibes. But I heard his voice more and more, and one, recognized it, and two, adored it. If Sam Rockwell was solid casting for Wolf, then Richard Ayoade is gargantuanly perfect casting for Professor Marmalade. Two thumbs up.

“The Bad Guys” is a well-voiced, not to mention well-animated little film. This film has a distinct, quick, almost comic book-like style that works for it. That said, here is my big problem. Humans.

Humans are a problem. War, global warming, lust, capitalism. Humans are a disaster and I have no problem in saying that. Humans are not perfect, and speaking of imperfections, there are so many humans in this film that it makes me, the Movie Reviewing Moron, wonder… HOW ARE THESE BAD GUYS GETTING AWAY WITH ALL THIS STUFF?!

Genuine question. How many sharks are there in this universe? Also, how many of them speak English?! This movie establishes that Mr. Shark is a master of disguise. How on earth do more people not catch him committing crimes or pulling off heists? I don’t buy any of this! This universe almost establishes that these talking animals are almost one of a kind. I would like to know how they continue to blend in a world that is implied to be dominated by humans, kind of like ours. Yeah, there are other creatures too, but they supposedly are few and far between unless maybe you’re a guinea pig. I think if you want a more practical universe, I would not say to take the humans out entirely. But maybe replace some of the ordinary citizens with other animal types. Maybe apes or tigers or cheetahs. If this movie looked something more like “Zootopia” or “Sing,” I’d buy it more. But it’s less believable because it sort of traces back to our reality despite some slight changes here and there.

This goes back to what I said about kids movies treating its audience like they’re intelligent. Now, I am in my 20s, so therefore I do not have the brain of a child, even though I do admittedly sometimes act like one. But the movie still entertained me despite its noticeable flaws, therefore even though I think this is something that should have been fixed before release, it does not exactly take away from the fun I had watching this movie. I get why they made the main characters different creatures. It helps by highlighting their distinctiveness, and may make the movie more attractive and marketable for younger viewers. But if you are gonna go this way, you might as well go all the way. Keep all of the main creatures as they are, but add a few other altering creatures into the background for a change. Just a suggestion. It’s a pretty big suggestion, not afraid to admit it, but nevertheless. Say what you want about all these superhero movies from Marvel and DC having characters with impractical abilities. Here’s the thing about Spider-Man. Let’s use Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man as an example. Sure, maybe in reality there is no one out there that can shoot webs out of their wrists. But the movie’s environment, vibe, characters, actions, everything within that first “Spider-Man” movie from 2002 felt like it was carefully constructed to make me believe that a teenager could live a life swinging around New York City. “The Bad Guys” fails on that goal because of the characters and environment that surround the ones in the title. Am I nitpicking? You could make the argument that I am. But I only say this because I have to be honest in my thoughts and remind those who I am sharing my thoughts with that I am trying to help. I am making suggestions based on my experience. That said, I liked the movie. I’d still give it a watch.

In the end, “The Bad Guys” is a good time even though I have a tendency to rip it apart somewhat. Would I want a sequel to this movie? I don’t think so, but I think this a fine hour and a half to turn off your brain, or if you are me, almost turn off your brain. This is not going to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, in fact I think if you want a better family movie to watch with the kids, “Turning Red” would be better for certain audiences. I think if you have younger kids “The Bad Guys” might be better, but it’s not a better movie. But as an adult, I DID laugh quite a bit, and I clapped at the end. There’s also some cool action, look forward to it if that’s your thing. I’m going to give “The Bad Guys” a somewhat generous 6/10.

“The Bad Guys” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got a few reviews coming soon between “The Northman,” “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Look forward to those! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Bad Guys?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you enjoyed as a kid that does not hold up as an adult? For me, that would have to be the live-action “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films. What about you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CODA (2021): An Audibly Triumphant Story With Every Emotion Ever Conceived

“CODA” is directed by Sian Heder (Orange is the New Black, Little America) and stars Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin in a film about a young girl who is born into a deaf family. She is the only one in the family who has hearing, and finds herself struggling to balance school, her family fishing business, college admissions, and an interest in music.

Despite the notability of this film’s recent Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, not to mention seeing this film in the theater recently, the latter of which almost causes a case for an automatic film review every time, I nearly decided to not review this film at all. But that is until I saw it. And we’ll get to my thoughts in a sec, but I want to note that “CODA” was a film I have looked forward to ever since I first saw the advertising. The reviews looked insane, and it came off as a wonderfully intimate tale about someone who is special and I would not know personally. But for various reasons, I missed the film when it first came to theaters, and I never got around to watching it on Apple TV+. But due to the film’s recent success at the Academy Awards, Apple decided to release the film again with open captions. Given this film’s subject matter, that is a great idea. They released it in several theaters around me, so I decided instead of suffering through “Morbius” a second time, I would take my dad to go see something that won’t make you rip your hair out.

We agreed on “CODA.” Hopefully our choice would be wise.

But of course, there are several movies that exist that have a hype train, only to have said train lose a little steam once it comes out. This happened to me last year with “Soul,” which Peter Travers of ABC News called “the year’s peak achievement in animation,” Josh Wilding of ComicBookMovie.com referred to as “one of Pixar’s most beautiful, poignant films,” and Bob Chipman of Moviebob Central claimed was “among the year’s loveliest, most poignant and moving pieces of work animated or otherwise.” Those are ridiculously positive, star-shooting thoughts.

I mean, I LIKED “Soul,” but at the time it also became my least favorite Pixar movie, so there is that.

Now with “CODA,” we have another insanely praised movie revolving around music. Adam Graham of Detroit News says “CODA” is “a big hug of a movie.” Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood suggests “CODA is more than “a moving story of what it means to be in a family, but also one about becoming your own person and following a dream.” For the record, despite this film’s wider release in August, it originally played at Sundance, so I think this notion from Esther Zuckerman at Thrillist should not be ignored.

“‘CODA’ is the kind of movie that you can imagine getting a standing ovation at Sundance, if this were a year where people were allowed to gather in a stuffy Park City auditorium.”

It’s been over a year since this film’s Sundance premiere. It’s been only a little time since this film’s recent collecting of Academy Awards. Is this movie the greatest thing since sliced bread or the next “Soul?”

Neither. There’s sliced bread, there’s better than sliced bread, and then there’s sliced bread with mounds of butter!

If there is any reason that you should spend a few bucks for Apple TV+, “CODA” makes an absolutely compelling argument. My dad walked out of the auditorium saying that this was one of the best movies he has seen in years, and I could definitely see why. I have gathered that he is fairly easy to impress as a moviegoer, but when he REALLY likes a film, I have found it to be obvious. And it is not just him who is yelling out a car window to everyone on the streets to go see this movie, because I for one think that this is one of the best coming of age stories of our time. Does it have some familiar elements or clichés? Perhaps. But it doesn’t always matter if a movie has clichés as long as they are utilized well.

At the end of the day, this is a genius narrative about a girl whose normality makes her abnormal. I have taken a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college, and one of the things I have taken from that class is that when I write a character who is “ordinary,” that I understand that there still should be specific qualities about such an ordinary character that stand out. When it comes to this film’s character of Ruby Rossi, perfectly played by Emilia Jones, this is exactly what my professor would want me to shoot for. She is in a deaf family, but she is the only one who has hearing. Brilliant. And it is not just a great concept, it has stellar execution. Because this film is completely relatable to someone like me, who was at an age range she previously experienced. Now, unlike Ruby, I knew what I wanted to do the moment I got out of high school, but the problem for me was taking that next step and actually moving on with my life, and I am sort of experiencing the same thing with my soon to be post-undergrad years. That by itself made me connect to Ruby, but when Ruby finds something she is passionate about, it is, almost perhaps understandably, the biggest shock and disappointment she can give to her parents who are having trouble hearing. That passion being music, which you have to HEAR to fully understand. Not only is she passionate about it, she wants to study it, which in addition, requires money… Oh boy.

I grew up in a family of two adults who had their own occupations and ran their own company at some point in their lives. Despite this, I consider myself lucky to have never felt the pressure to attach myself to a family business had I failed to express any interest. I have been given the opportunity to attach myself if I choose, but my main priority right now is film, it’s media, it’s communications, it’s entertainment. I felt for the protagonist because they have to choose between family and herself, and this is really the time of her life when she should be thinking about herself, what she wants to do, and the parents should allow her to do such a thing. They may not like the choice, and again, understandably so, but this is not their life, it is Ruby’s. But we also get a look at the lives the parents have, and there comes a point where Ruby leaving could mean that they have to rethink how they live their lives, and as this movie shows, conduct their own business. Not to mention, when you have to look at your current financial status, that also brings up a question as to what life you can provide for yourself and those you care about. On that note, the main family is perfectly cast. They have phenomenal chemistry. The deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors. Sian Heder brings us a wonderfully conceived screenplay and brings her artistry to the table while telling a story about an aspiring artist. Heder has not done a ton of notable work yet in her career, but I think “CODA” is going to put her on the map as a filmmaker around this time, like “Lady Bird” put Greta Gerwig on the map when she directed that film.

I know a lot of people, and I’m close with quite a few of them. None of them are deaf. So I cannot speak to the accuracy or authenticity of certain aspects of this film, but as for the entertainment value with everyone on screen, regardless of their ability to hear or speak in sign language, that was not short whatsoever. Although on that note, if I think if there were any way to improve “CODA,” there are honestly few things I can think of to begin with. But if I had to come up with something, there is one story element in the movie that admittedly becomes a bit predictable. My dad and I were watching, and we both knew, “Okay, this is where the movie’s going.” Usually I am not a fan of predictable storytelling, partially because when you watch a lot of media, the more repetitive it is, the more likely I am to tune out, but I also think when it comes to how “CODA” handles such a predictable moment, it achieves its goal of making you relate to or feel bad for the protagonist.

“CODA” has such a way of playing with your heartstrings that feels larger than life despite it being one of the most intimate stories I have ever seen, and part of it is because it relies on a lack of sound and written words to carry everything through. It really is film as it was meant to be. Visual storytelling. It does not tell, it only shows. There is a sequence at the end of this film that almost made me cry, and that is not only because the subject matter is incredibly compelling and ties everything together in a nice little bow, but as an editor, I was watching this and admired its ability to tell everything in a fast-paced, eye-popping montage that gave a sweet moment for every second on screen. Very few movies nowadays connect me in such an emotional way, and “CODA” is one of the lucky gems that just happened to knock on my door.

And don’t just take all the sappy comments I stated and put them in a box with this film set next to it, because this film has just about every emotion I could think of. I was figuratively biting my nails. I was jumping for joy. I was getting tears in my eyes. I was occasionally even laughing crazily. The film is surprisingly comedic, and there are a few moments where my dad and I were audibly laughing. One reason why I recommend going to see this in the theater if it is near you is because depending on your level of hearing, even when you hear nothing on the screen, you can still bask in the laughter of an audience, which is one of the most uniquely satisfying feelings I have gathered in my recent film experiences.

In the end, “CODA” is one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory. It won a couple of the big Best Picture awards, including the one that matters the most, the Academy Award for Best Picture, and obviously that warranted Apple to put the film out in as many theaters as it can the next weekend to get some money. I went to go see it the Tuesday after, but I have had my occasional ounce of disappointment here and there when it comes to certain projects. I did not see “Moonlight” until the weekend following its kinda sorta Best Picture win at the Oscars, and I was underwhelmed. Although the following year, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture. It took me awhile to watch that film, and it turned out to be a stunning and enchanting film with a great cast of characters, so anything can happen. “CODA” truly felt like it was made with the goal to win Best Picture, and it absolutely deserved it. I can barely think of any real problems in this film. Maybe if you don’t like tearjerkers, this may not be my first recommendation for you, but that is a claim leaning along the lines of subjectivity. Plus, even if you don’t like crying during movies I still recommend it, because I left the film feeling whole. I felt happy. It reminded me of my journey as an artist, but also immersed me into a world with people and situations that I do not come across in everyday life. Once again, Ruby Rossi is an ordinary protagonist, but this movie excels by reminding the audience of the extraordinary life she finds herself living every day. And this extraordinary life, made an extraordinary movie. I am going to give “CODA” a 10/10! If I had the chance to redo my top 10 list for 2021, this would easily belong in the top 3 or 4. I would not call it my favorite movie of the year, that honor still goes to “The Suicide Squad,” but it certainly comes close.

“CODA” is now playing in theatres and is available to watch on Apple TV+.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2!” I saw the film a couple weeks ago, and I have plenty to say about it. I liked the first film, so who knows how the sequel will pan out… Following that review, I will be sharing my thoughts on the new DreamWorks animated film, “The Bad Guys,” which is in theaters as of this weekend. Also, coming soon, I will have my review for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the all new A24 film starring Michelle Yeoh and directed by Daniels, the same minds who brought us “Swiss Army Man.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “CODA?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film that has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Not just nominated, but they also have to be the winner. This film is definitely a contender, I’ll say that much. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Turning Red (2022): Pixar’s Latest, and Best, Direct to Disney+ Feature

“Turning Red” is directed by Domee Shi, who also directed “Bao,” one of the more memorable Pixar shorts. This film stars Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong in a film about a young girl named Meilin Lee whose life and connection with those around her begins to turn upside down as soon as she transforms into a giant red panda.

Pixar is one of the best studios ever created, and I am honestly saddened to see what is becoming of them. And it is not the studio’s fault, it is instead the faults of Disney themselves, who happen to be putting their movies straight to Disney+. I could kind of understand it for “Soul,” because it was a good way to boost subscribers, it was free, unlike “Mulan,” and COVID-19 was incredibly rampant. “Luca” suffered the same fate months later for similar reasons, although I honestly think it would have done semi-decently in theaters if marketed well enough. After all, Pixar movies usually end up being some of the bigger hits of the summer. So I was disappointed to see that one go straight to streaming as well, even if it ended up being my least favorite movie from the studio. I was optimistic that Disney would not do the same for “Turning Red,” whose trailers I saw in theaters, and have enjoyed. …In theaters. Turns out, that’s not the case.

So I went to California to go see this film in a theater. That was not the main intention of why I went there, but that was something I happened to do while I was visiting. I look back on “Soul,” which to me, is an inferior Pixar title, and think it would have been cool to see it in theaters because the music would have sounded graceful through high-quality surround sound. Now that I HAVE seen “Turning Red” in a theater, part of me almost questions how this did not get a wider release. Because there are select parts that had my attention, especially at the end, that would have been nowhere near as enhanced had I watched this movie at home.

But as for the movie itself, I want to point out that the last two Pixar films, “Soul” and “Luca” are currently my least favorites they have done. Thankfully, “Turning Red” does not join those ranks. I would put it in the same caliber as maybe “Ratatouille,” a movie a really enjoyed, but also acknowledge is not maybe my favorite or least favorite. Again, Pixar is a great studio, and even with what I said about “Luca,” the film is still in the positive range for me. Their batting average is one of the best in regards to studios working today. It reminds me of Marvel Studios, except that they have a few movies that disappointed me and I would consider to be in the negative. When it comes to entertaining a massive amount of people, and not just giving the bare minimum when it comes to that, Pixar knows exactly what they’re doing. And getting Domee Shi to tell her story is a part of that.

One of my favorite Pixar movies is “Inside Out,” partially because of how emotionally satisfying it is by the end of it, but also partially because of how perfect of a metaphor it is for entering adolescence. Similar to “Inside Out,” “Turning Red” almost comes off as a metaphor for puberty, and I am kind of amazed that Pixar even decided to execute a movie like this because I think some adults will look at this and wonder if kids should even be watching it. Disney movies have sometimes been known for their dark turns in the story, especially when a member of the family dies. I will keep spoilers of “Turning Red” to a minimum, because I do recommend it, but the parts that may be the least kid-friendly are the moments that reflect the coming of age or growing up of our main character. If anything, I would say that this movie is almost a secret sequel to “Inside Out,” because if you remember that movie’s ending, it’s like we took one fraction from that film’s ending and made a feature-length story on what happens next.

This movie has a reference to “stripper music!” A kids movie!

The main characters of “Turning Red” make every other character in a Pixar film from Lightning McQueen to Mike Wazowski look completely silent and innocent. And by the main characters, I mean the teenage girls. Mei, Abby, Miriam, and Priya. I feel like watching them with their emphasized expressions and emotions not only highlight the chemistry they have with each other, but I felt like there were select scenes that highlight emotions from them that either would only reflect them at their current age or would highlight maybe the stereotyped awkwardness, perhaps even grossness, that comes with puberty. There are select facial expressions in this film that are off the wall cartoony to the point where there’s almost no real life replica for them.

In fact, not only does this film feature some of traditions of Pixar when it comes to their animation style with highly detailed, computerized 3D, which looks as impressive as usual. But there is also a bit of a Japanese anime style to this film as well, and it is fully embraced with FLASHY moments sprinkled every bit in between, poppy, bright colors, and I would even say the climax and its inner-workings feel like something out of an anime at times. But despite this film’s animated look, there is one moment, I will not say when, that something came onto the screen, and my jaw literally dropped at the sight of it because of how real it looked. Pixar is easily my favorite studio for animated movies, and part of it is not only because of their fun stories that bring joy and occasional tears, but also the effort that has been put into the film’s design. 2019’s “Toy Story 4” has one of the most surprisingly realistic looking shots I have seen of a cat in animation history. I think I just saw something equal to, if not greater than that.

“Turning Red” is Pixar doing what Pixar does best, because I often look at films from studios like Illumination and Dreamworks Animation and think to myself that despite their occasional enjoyability here and there, they almost dumb themselves down too much for the children who are inevitably going to be watching it because there are things happening on screen. Pixar does not do that. They feel like the wisest studio of them all. I almost feel like Pixar, when it comes to animation in the United States at least, is the thinking man’s animation studio. Disney Animation has a childlike spirit despite its darker themes. DreamWorks has its moments of maturity, but also resorts to immature jokes here and there. Illumination… My god. “Turning Red” seems to have a childlike spirit, but that is a compliment on the movie’s part because I feel like animation is, bar none, the perfect medium for something like this. I have seen images on the Internet of the film before it came out or just around release time regarding certain individuals refusing to watch this film because of the way it looked.

Okay. Now, film is subjective, not every movie is for everyone, but I will say if they did this film in live action, I think that they would have to change A LOT. Maybe some of the hyperactive writing could stay, but the expressions of the characters would not pop as much as it does here. I would love to see more of what Domee Shi does with her character and potentially what she can do with another directorial effort at Pixar. I think she and maybe Pete Docter (and Brad Bird should they make “Incredibles 3”) are the names I will await with eager anticipation in terms of when their next project arrives.

At the end of the day, this film is not just about someone who turns into a panda and lets all sorts of shenanigans unfold, it is about the struggles of growing up, the struggles of friendship, the struggles of family. At some point in these aspects, it is tough to maintain trust between one side and another. Sometimes you cannot please your parents because you want to please your friends. Sometimes you may not agree with everything your parents say, because maybe from their view, maybe they want the best for you. Their response could be somewhat justified, but in a case like this, the child may be significantly let down because they have wanted something so bad that it is all they think about. This took me back to a time when I was younger and I would ask my parents if I could play a slate of M rated video games. By the way, I played a ton of “Team Fortress 2” as a young teen. TURNED OUT FINE. The movie presents a similar case with 4 Town, a boy band who happens to be performing in Toronto. The girls want to go to the concert together, and the parents obviously want to interfere. From their point of view, they think the music is kind of ridiculous and think an event like this could be potentially harmful. But for the girls, this is practically their whole life. From the girls’ point of view, they almost see this as a part of growing up, which is part of what the movie’s about.

This film maintains a great lesson for children and adults. When I watch family movies or movies that are in the animated medium, I often note the lesson that they tend to provide for the children watching, it’s mainly intended for them. But I feel like a parent could watch this movie and take something from it too. It’s that good. It’s that effective. I highly recommend this movie to anyone and I wish it had a theatrical release.

The film also has a post-credits scene. For those who want to watch the movie, do not pause when the credits roll, there is more.

In the end, “Turning Red” is wonderful movie. It is not my favorite Pixar film, but it is funny, charming, and fast-paced. While there definitely are some moments in this film that try to go for the emotions, this may be a somewhat easier watch for some people than some of Pixar’s other fare in recent years like “Inside Out” or “Coco,” because films like those often seemingly attempt to make people cry. “Turning Red” starts off as cheerful fun and ends that way. If you want a joyful, happy go lucky film with some conflict, I highly recommend this picture. The main character of Mei is wonderful and brilliantly voiced by Rosalie Chiang. I would love to see more from the “Turning Red” property, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Also, big shoutout to Sandra Oh. Her resume from an animation perspective has been fire lately. She was in “Over the Moon,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and now this. She is making some great choices lately.

“Turning Red” is now available on Disney+ for free as long as you are a subscriber.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of reading, if you like reading things for a very very long time, you will LOVE the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! The awards were held on March 27th, but if you want to read the show now, here is an opportunity! Find out which 2021 films win’s Jacks awards! Should we do a fifth awards show, my next movie I am reviewing will probably not make it. Ladies and gentlemen, my next review… Is… Morbius.

Let’s get this overwith.

If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Turning Red?” What did you think about it? Or, which of the straight to Disney+ Pixar movies did you enjoy the most? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Adam Project (2022): Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy Team Up with Netflix to Deliver Another Excellent Collaboration

“The Adam Project” is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) and stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo (Dark Waters, The Avengers), Jennifer Garner (Love, Simon, Peppermint), Catherine Keener (The Croods, Incredibles 2), and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar) in a film where a man named Adam travels back in time and comes in contact with his 12-year-old self. Together, they join forces as they fight to protect time as they know it.

One of my favorite movies of the last year is “Free Guy,” directed by Shawn Levy. The director defined my childhood with the first two “Night at the Museum” movies so I owe him a debt of gratitude. And to know that Levy and Reynolds would be getting together for another teamup after their last totally epic, bonkers outing, was nothing short of exciting. I thought it was somewhat unfortunate that this outing would not be as big of a theatrical release given how this is a Netflix film, but I was still convinced to watch it. After all, I ended up earning a free link to watch “The Adam Project” over a week and a half before the film actually came out. So I watched it, gathered my thoughts, and now I am ready to share them with you all.

Let me just start off with this, “Free Guy” ended up being one of the most gutbusting and smile-inducing movies I watched in the past year. But I also recognize that it is probably not for everyone, even though it ended up being one of the rare action films my mom actually somehow ended up watching from start to finish. But even though these are two different movies, I think if you enjoyed some of the choices and styles represented in “Free Guy,” I think you are going to enjoy some of the choices and styles represented in “The Adam Project.” I do not think “The Adam Project” is going to win Best Picture, but it is a movie that for me, accomplished all of its goals it set out to acquire. It was action-packed, pretty, funny, and ended up having a little bit of heart. Basically, if you combined some of the bigger movies of the 1980s like “Back to the Future” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” with “Free Guy,” you basically get “The Adam Project.”

Think about it. All these properties have time travel, the protagonists have to save the timeline in addition to civilization and themselves, and the combo between young and older Adam kind of gives the same vibe I get when looking at the T-800 and young John Connor in “Terminator 2.” Basically, this is “Free Guy” without all the licensed crap attached, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I was extremely satisfied to see Ryan Reynolds holding a Captain America shield in “Free Guy,” but let’s just say I am glad that not every movie in existence is like that.

Ryan Reynolds does wield a lightsaber in this movie. …Kind of. So there’s that.

“The Adam Project” takes its time and sticks to its main characters, there are no humungous cameos, although there are plenty of notable actors in the film. For a film like this, I prefer that. In fact, there are one or two lines in here that I almost feel like are a dig on movie watchers in general, but also a select few that specifically target the stereotypical moviegoer who usually shells out a few bucks for the latest comic book movie, waits two months, shells out another few bucks for an even newer comic book movie, and so on. It’s all part of the lovable chemistry between these two Adams, and speaking of which, we are going to talk about one of them.

This movie is the acting debut of Walker Scobell, and for a first role, Scobell is given a lot to do. And he does all of it well. All of his lines feel authentic, he’s got the right level of hyperactivity for a role like this, I think as far as a young Ryan Reynolds interpretation goes, the hair’s an interesting choice, but we’ve all made altering choices in life. Scobell is an actor I want to keep my eye on, and “The Adam Project” is hopefully the start of a lively career. Ryan Reynolds is also a terrific addition to this dynamic duo. There is a really compelling scene when they first meet, I totally buy into their relationship from the getgo. I believe everything they’re saying. I believe they’re the same person. All I want is for them to stand together a bit longer.

One of the best and worst parts of “The Adam Project” is the visual effects. Like many modern science fiction movies, there are a ton of polished, crisp ships flying around everywhere. There’s a lot of computer generated detail that goes into a movie like this. So when there’s a battle in the air, that provides for an entertaining experience, and one that makes me envious of those who ultimately end up watching this film theatrically. On the other hand, there is a fair share of visuals that look like they belong in a video game. Now, I like video games. Video games are fun. But there is a clear difference between how things should look in a movie and how things should look in a video game. Some of the weaponry in this film looks like stereotypical sci-fi nonsense, and some of it works, but there’s also some that look like they would never exist in real life. They have colors that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

I think the big problem I have with “The Adam Project,” as nitpicky as it may sound, happens to be the scenes where the color palette is as bright as it can be. While this bright color grade matches the lighthearted fun the film has, it also makes the film look too clean and dream-like. It’s like every other scene has too much blue or too much green. Or the lens is permanently soaked in water. It kind of reminds me of what some people say about the “Star Wars” prequels compared to the originals, noting that the prequels are much cleaner than their original counterparts. I wonder if maybe the film changed the color grading a little, or maybe if they shot it in a different format, perhaps on film, that we would have a look that felt more believable. At times, the film reaches for the stars and goes for something that almost resembles a fantasy vibe, but I also want a tad of realism.

Although let’s end this review on a happy note. I am also delighted and surprised to confirm how emotionally charging this film is. I’ve talked about about the two Adams and their connection to each other. But the one thing that I should note to the parents or families reading this, I think the characters will resonate with you in one way or another because of their family dynamic. I’m not just talking about Walker Scobell and Ryan Reynolds, but Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner play roles that feel occasionally nostalgic and charming to take in, especially when you have one or two of the Adams by their side. The end of the movie really got to me, especially as someone who may relate to the young Adam, but not in the way that he experiences life. Let’s just say that I did not go through a family tragedy in the way he did, but I empathize with him at his age for what happened AFTER said family tragedy. This movie is wonderful, watch it if you can.

In the end, “The Adam Project” is a film that feels like it was made in the 1980s, but with a 2022 flair. And I mean that in a good way, because the 1980s have brought some pretty kick-ass movies. I love the connection between young and old Adam, the supporting cast for the most part brought plenty of fun and charisma to the final product, and I had my eyes glued to the screen the whole time. Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds are supposedly making “Deadpool 3” together if all goes according to plan. You know what? If it is bound to be as good as the last two movies they made, sign me up! Because “Free Guy” was awesome and now, months after that movie came out, I’m going to give “The Adam Project” an 8/10!

“The Adam Project” is now available to watch anytime on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews of “The Batman” and “Turning Red,” coming soon! But before that, ON SUNDAY, MARCH 27TH! PREPARE FOR THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE LEAST MOST IMPORTANT AWARDS CEREMONY OF ALL TIME! THE 4TH ANNUAL JACKOFF AWARDS! Again, that’s SUNDAY, MARCH 27TH! It’s the same day as that other ceremony that refuses to present the entire Film Editing category. If you want to vote for Best Picture, vote here! That said, if you enjoyed this post, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Adam Project?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on “Free Guy?” Which of these two films do you like better? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jackass Forever (2022): Launching 2022 Cinema with a Bang

“Jackass Forever” is directed by Jeff Tremaine, who has served as a director on several other “Jackass” projects, and stars Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Wee Man, Danger Ehren, and Preston Lacy in a fourth installment to the “Jackass” film variant. You’ve had three movies, a television series, it’s got a history. Basically, it’s about these guys who do all sorts of dumb, crazy, but also hypnotizing stunts for the entertainment of those watching. Johnny Knoxville is in his late forties, but that is not stopping him from getting together with his crew. We see returning faces like Steve-O and newbies like Sean “Poopies” McInerney. The formula has been done before, but it can always make for comedy that people enjoy, therefore we have another installment.

“Jackass Forever” is the first 2022 film I’m reviewing, and I am honored to tackle this one first, because I’ve basically skipped the month of January, where we get pure trash like “The 355,” and now I’m going straight into a fresh, new February smell. Ahhh! The smell of an overrated holiday that ruins all things love… I saw “Jackass Forever” last week in one of the more impromptu movie outings I’ve done in recent years. I was heading home from school, I had nothing better to do, and with AMC A-List being my best friend, I was able to get a free ticket to this film on opening night. I never watched the “Jackass” television show, I have not seen any of the movies, but I honestly want more after seeing this film.

I feel like “Jackass Forever” came out during the perfect time. Saying “this is the film we need right now,” feels a bit weird, and arguably degrading, but in the case of “Jackass Forever,” it is true. Audiences are looking for an escape from the terrors of serious everyday crap. Watching guys get shots to the balls is the perfect cure to this ongoing illness. Because we have gone through days where maybe we were in pain, and it has probably felt exhausting. Seeing a bunch of dudes put themselves in pain is both satisfying while also making for one of the best theater experiences I’ve had recently. I’ve watched a lot of comedies both in the theater and at home, so some of them have become predictable. “Jackass Forever” is predictable if you know what the film is going for, but it’s the effect of said predictability that packs a punch.

While I was never a huge fan of “Jackass,” I have been an avid watcher of “Impractical Jokers” over the past few years. I’ve met the guys, I’ve seen them in concert, I have autographs and merch from them. I have enjoyed the content they’ve provided over the years. When it comes to the one “Jackass” movie I saw, “Impractical Jokers” could take a serious lesson from this. The thing this movie gets right that “Impractical Jokers” does not is that it devotes itself to being one thing. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a story from start to finish, but in between we get the challenges and punishments the show is famous for. Those pranks and acts of folly are easily the best moments of the film. “Jackass Forever” is all folly, all the time! Is it dumb? Yes. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Am I complaining? No. Because at the end of the day, all we need to bust a gut is to see Machine Gun Kelly do his best to avoid getting crushed by a giant hand.

I mean, even though there is no real “story” behind “Jackass Forever,” I still connected with the people on screen. Even though I wanted to see them get seriously hurt, I felt bad for them when they actually did. It’s established that Johnny Knoxville was 49 when this movie was shot. In fact, he’ll be 51 in March! It begs the question, should he and his idiot chums pack it up and go home? Maybe watch a ballgame? Play some golf? This movie proves that they should not. I will not go into much detail, but there was a stunt where I looked at Knoxville and thought, “ARE YOU MAD?! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!” I think at the end of the day, Knoxville does not care if he dies. I think the audience would, but the point is that Knoxville is an entertainer, and clearly a damn likable one. He puts the audience before his life and arguably even before the life of some of his colleagues, which I admire for the fact that we got an entertaining movie, but also makes me fearful if I ever choose to befriend this guy.

Okay… I mean, I think we all care about whether we die. Life is wonderful…

Stunt-wise, I have a few favorites. I will not say what happens, but if I had to tell you which ones I’d look forward to, my picks would be these, in no particular order. The Dum Dum Game, which is where Johnny asks fourth-grade level questions to the guys. If they’re right, yay! If not, they get hit in the nuts. There’s also a really funny encounter between Ehren and a bear who seems to be really attached to him. I looked forward to that moment since the trailer and it doesn’t disappoint. Another one I would recommend is this one moment where Rachel, one of the newcomers, has to lick a taser. It’s not something I would do on my own time, but it is something that I enjoyed watching as it happened.

If I had any problems with “Jackass Forever,” they would be rather minimal for the movie at hand. The only thing I could come up with is that even though comedies tend to be one of the more rewatchable genres for me because I want to go back and experience the funny parts another time, the big problem for me here would be that I would need to watch this in moderation because this film was funny the first time around, but if you watch something a number of times, the laughs will not be as present. Going back to “Impractical Jokers,” when I see the same episode a number of times, the comedy loses its effect just a bit. I don’t want this movie to do the same.

In the end, “Jackass Forever” is something I could watch forever. For the kind of movie it is, it does everything it needs to do. I really surprised myself with this one, because the reality is that this movie is stupid stunts on its surface. Little did I know how much I would end up laughing at them. This movie is so funny that it’s possible for the first time in my life, I was incredibly nervous to hold my drink out of the fear that I might end up spilling it. There was a moment I was chuckling, part of me was expecting something even funnier to happen and I thought, “Oh! Better put the drink down!” The best kind of movie experiences are the ones that are determined by what you do with your food. When “The Desolation of Smaug” got really good, I literally put down the popcorn and locked my eyes with the screen as I witnessed a sequence that made me a Middle Earth admirer. Remember “A Quiet Place?” Eating popcorn and drinking soda was hard because the movie encouraged you to be as silent as possible that I worried if I chewed popcorn, it would ruin the movie. It would take the immersion out of the experience. While “Jackass Forever” might not end up being this year’s best film, it is solid entry to the 2022 cinematic calendar as it unfolds, and I’m going to give it an 8/10.

“Jackass Forever” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Jackass Forever,” be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Moonfall,” which like “Jackass Forever,” is ridiculous. But unlike “Jackass Forever,” it’s not exactly fun. I’ll have more details when the review arrives. If you want to see this and more great content, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jackass Forever?” What did you think about it? Or, what’s your favorite “Jackass” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Licorice Pizza (2021): Paul Thomas Anderson Delivers a Pizza Crap

“Licorice Pizza” is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, The Master) and stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Tom Waits (The Old Man & the Gun, The Dead Don’t Die), Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy, A Star is Born), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Time). This film follows the connection between Alana Kane and Gary Valentine, not to be confused with the guy who plays Danny on “King of Queens,” as they spend time together in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 05: Director Paul Thomas Anderson attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Paul Thomas Anderson is a name I have not followed as much as other directors, and it is something I feel guilty of doing in regards to my film watching journey. Not only because he is an acclaimed name, but he also went to Emerson College, which I was probably going to attend had I gotten past the waitlist. So he has a bit of history in Boston, which as someone who lives near the Massachusetts state capital, is something I take a bit too seriously. I’ve seen “The Master” towards the end of the 2010s, but that’s all I have watched from him. I remember it being magnificently shot, but the story is not something that stuck with me to this day. I still need to watch “There Will Be Blood,” I own copies of “Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread” and still need to watch those. I still haven’t seen “Boogie Nights!” There are quite a few directors I have gotten around to over the years in terms of catching up on their filmography, but Paul Thomas Anderson fails to make the list.

When I saw the trailer for “Licorice Pizza,” I thought it sort of nailed the nostalgic aspect. The film takes place in the 1970s, and not only does it get a thumbs up for the production design that reminds me of walking into my grandparents’ house, but some of the music is okay as well. I think this film from a presentation point of view, checks a lot of boxes. It looks like it is from its focal decade, the acting, despite the leads having no evidential experience, is top-notch. For all I know, it could be on Anderson’s part. If I have learned anything from James Gunn over the years, he can take an actor with less experience like John Cena and make them pop. The best thing I can say about “Licorice Pizza” is that Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman give good performances regardless of the material that’s given to them.

I’m not using that last sentence lightly, because “Licorice Pizza” is probably the most uncomfortable I have felt watching a movie in some time. Okay, well, maybe not as uncomfortable as “Music,” that s*it was downright personal. I live in the age of social media and in my teens I would talk to people far from my age group and nothing weird happened. Although I believe it is commonly agreed upon that adults should not be dating teens that are ten years apart in age. Gary in this film is 15 years old and Alana is 25.

Do you see the problem?

Now, if Alana was 18, that would be one thing, because that’s also technically an adult, but she is also old enough to still be in high school, just like Gary. TWENTY-FIVE?! The film is kind of a back and forth sort of thing in terms of the romance, where Gary sometimes claims Alana’s his girlfriend, but then the two go back to calling each other “business partners” or something else, but I honestly could not justify myself liking the character of Gary. Because when I think of these sorts of relationships, maybe I’m thinking the adult is in the wrong of dating someone that is significantly younger than them. But with Gary, he’s a literal pervert, and he’s not afraid to hide it. And he’s not a cool pervert like Ron Burgundy who has some personality, granted the movie he’s in respectively has a different vibe, but every time I look at Gary and he says some other line, I want to put some tape over his mouth.

Look, I’m a guy, and it is scientifically evident that guys love anything that has to do with sex. We are revolting creatures. But oh my god. Gary is a downright creep who I occasionally wanted to punch in the face throughout this film’s poorly paced runtime. Seriously, it felt like it was 15 or 30 minutes longer than it actually was. If it’s not about getting to see Alana’s boobs, it’s about making money. Downright power. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, I’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort in that film has a semi-similar personality, but he’s also proven that he can be chill, he can be cool. Granted Belfort’s not a teenager, that’s one big difference. Even so, I never got that positive vibe from Gary. I felt like he was trying too hard to be cool when in reality, he felt disgusting.

Now, and I cannot believe I have to say this on a blogging platform that my family reads… I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson is interested in showing his junk to young girls. I mean, if the genders were reversed, where Alana sees a 25 year old Gary’s junk, who knows? I am comfortable with a storyline about sexual exploration, it’s not something I wouldn’t expect out of some coming of age tales, but this was poorly executed in the worst way possible. I would not want Gary as my friend, and I would want out of any matters involving him if he ever tried to get into Alana’s pants.

One of the most important things about a romance film is that the two leads are likable. I don’t even like their characters by themselves all that much, and even less so together. Because despite what I’ve been saying about Gary coming off as a creep, movies have shown how characters can develop and change. Compared to some other films that I’ve seen, including another recent 1970s nostalgia fest, “The Tender Bar,” I could not really catch onto much character development, especially from Gary. I think Alana’s character has some moments where I could feel her emotion, her stress, the want to escape from reality and other people, but it’s barely enough to make this movie the slightest bit watchable.

If I had any other positives to give “Licorice Pizza,” it is that Bradley Cooper shines as Jon Peters. He honestly came off as a bit of a drugged-up Hugh Hefner type. I think his presence in the film allows the costume design to show its power. Cooper was well directed by Anderson and I would not have minded seeing more of him.

In the end, “Licorice Pizza” is a film that I was looking forward to, but as soon as they stated the age difference, that was an immediate turnoff. This harkens back to the saying that first impressions matter. And if you think this is my only problem with the movie, I’ll mention once again that this movie could have been fifteen to thirty minutes shorter. The movie occasionally dragged, it felt boring. Gary Valentine is by no means a likable character. In fact, he’s probably the character that I hate the most of any project I’ve watched in the past 12 months or so. If you think “West Side Story” was worth skipping because of the Ansel Elgort controversy, I will not stop you from doing that. But based on the fictional elements presented in “Licorice Pizza,” this is a film that part of me wishes I could have skipped. It’s barely any fun, it’s creepy, and I wish the script was good enough to match the amazing talents of some of the actors on screen. I’ll probably go back and watch some of Anderson’s work like “Phantom Thread,” but I hope his next project, whenever that comes out, won’t be as off-putting as this. If you want a 1970s nostalgia fest, just go watch “The Tender Bar.” It’s on Prime Video, and worth your time. I’m going to give “Licorice Pizza” a 4/10.

“Licorice Pizza” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This week I’m going to be watching the all new Japanese animated film, “Belle.” I have heard nothing but good things about this flick, and I am quite curious to see how it is. I will have a review coming soon, and if you want to see more content like this, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Licorice Pizza?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film, one specifically that IS NOT in the horror genre, that genuinely makes you uncomfortable? For me, I’d say that would be “Music,” which I literally talked about in my worst of the year list a couple weeks ago! Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sing 2 (2021): Where Modern Music Meets Overly Goofy Cartoon Gags

“Sing 2” is written and directed by Garth Jennings, who was the writer and one of the two directors behind the original “Sing” as well. This film stars Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Serenity), Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies, Wild), Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy), Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Rocketman), Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine), Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, Sausage Party), Pharrell Williams (Black is King, The Grinch), Halsey, Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest), Letitia Wright (Black Panther, Black Mirror), Eric André (The Eric André Show, The Lion King), Adam Buxton (8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Adam and Joe Show), Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead), Jennifer Saunders (Shrek 2, Absolutely Fabulous), Nick Offerman (The Founder, Parks and Recreation), and Bono of U2 fame.

Hey don’t blame me! I cannot leave a single name untouched!

This film is the sequel to the 2016 film “Sing,” which was about Buster Moon trying to save his theater and attempts doing so by creating a singing competition, which provides for some bumps along the way. In this sequel, Buster Moon and his pals are attempting to create a new science fiction live show for a venue in Las Vegas wannabe Redshore City. In doing so, they pitch to Mr. Crystal, a sleazy producer, the idea of getting Clay Calloway, a reclusive lion who used to make music, to be part of the show. And of course, nostalgia being nostalgia (look at “Star Wars” dominating the world), he loves the idea and thinks the group should get him to be in the whole thing. Between the intense mission of convincing this former artist to tag along in addition to nepotism and internal drama, things have only gotten harder for our SINGers.

Is that a proper term? SINGers? Does that work?

“Sing” is the kind of film that you watch, have fun with, and then move onto the next thing. And sadly, despite my slight negative vibe that could be triggered with such a statement, “Sing” was what I considered to be my personal favorite of Illumination’s content. I don’t care for “Despicable Me.” The minions kind of drive me crazy. “The Secret Life of Pets” was an okay watch one time, but never again. The sequel however, is just plain insufferable. “The Grinch” almost made me hate Christmas. And I love Christmas! I think Christmas, in more ways than one, is one of the best times of the year, minus all the blasphemous music. Mariah Carey, all I want for Christmas is for you to go away. It’s like if top 40 started drinking eggnog! And speaking of top 40, “Sing” and its sequel partially rely on their own interpretations of popular songs. In the original film, you had songs from Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Frank Sinatra. I feel like my biggest critique of that first film is the fact that a few of the standout songs come off as processed radio brought into the mix simply for its popularity. And I think the same can be said for “Sing 2.”

I don’t think it’s wrong to put newer songs into a film like this, but doing so also risks the film possibly relying on what’s trendy. This new film has songs like “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” which has been a hit for some time. I really like the scene where it is performed, but I wonder if people will look at it years from now and think of it as a product of its time.

If you want my short, honest opinion of “Sing 2,” I would have to say it is… Fine.

…Just. Fine.

Crap.

I think that is one of the most interesting things one can say about a movie. The fact that a movie can be considered just fine does not mean it’s great nor terrible. However, in the case of “Sing 2,” the film cannot convince me to land on a particular side of the spectrum. In some situations, the movie feels like your typical Illumination fare, because unlike Pixar, which always seems to understand the assignment in creating a FAMILY movie, “Sing 2” occasionally relies on gags that feel as if they’re only aimed at younger viewers. Granted, the film is fun for all ages, but compared to some other films I’ve seen this year, including the recently reviewed “Encanto,” it feels a bit more on the kiddy side.

The thing I appreciate about both “Sing” installments is the idea of not giving up on your dreams. I think both films succeed when trying to convey that message to its viewers. The heroes in this film collectively struggle in their own way when it comes to accomplishing their goals, or in this case, following their dreams. We see Rosita struggling to live up to the pressures and enormity of being in a starring role. We see Buster Moon trying to encourage everyone to stay on their toes and try to fight for another day. We see Clay Calloway deal with the internal battle of his past. He stopped playing his music because it reminded him way too much of his dead wife. WAIT, did Christopher Nolan have some writing credit in this film I’m not aware of? I think an additional takeaway this film can provide is that not only do we see these dreams potentially hit roads that contain possible dead ends, but part of why these dreams hang in the balance is because of entertainment giants. Mr. Crystal, ever since I first saw his character, kind of reminded me of a Simon Cowell-type, and that vibe is significant in terms of where the film goes.

Speaking of Mr. Crystal (left), this film introduces a couple new characters, Mr. Crystal included. Alongside Mr. Crystal is his daughter, Porsha (right). As our heroes enter the urbanized, neon streets of Redshore City, they meet these two characters who become integral to the story. Mr. Crystal is an entertainment mogul who puts his faith in said heroes. You may think someone like him to be a bit of a snobby, almost creepy, egotistical moron who wants things to go his way. If so, you’re right. He’s also well-dressed, and I think when it comes to getting a guy who can sound snarky and snobby at the same time, Bobby Cannavale is a great choice. When I hear his voice, I feel like I’m watching an older mob movie with modern elements infused. But Crystal’s also a family man. …Kind of. That’s because this film contains a subplot involving his daughter, Porsha, potentially taking on the lead role of the space opera everyone’s producing.

For the role of Porsha, they managed to get Halsey to lend her voice. Halsey is not known for having an acting career as much she is known for singing. I think this is a somewhat fascinating, yet practical choice, because I have rarely seen Halsey on screen. Apparently she had a small role in “A Star is Born” a few years back but I would not be able to remember when she was on screen. I barely even know anything about Halsey. But having seen her IMDb, most of her work has been music related, so seeing her cast in this role makes sense. It is a movie about music, about singing. Why not have her? And I would say given her material, she was well directed on Garth Jennings’s part. Going back to what I said about her not being in many pieces of film or television, one of the driving aspects of her character was that she was a terrible actress. Halsey, who does a good job acting in this film, managed to convince me that her character in particular was the worst actor of all time.

Ladies and gentlemen, acting!

There are also a couple new characters who I was not particularly fond of. There’s a monkey named Klaus that instructs Johnny and others through an intense dance routine. I think in terms of the script and story, he served his role adequately. But he kind of felt one-dimensional. The same can be said for Darius, an actor who wants nothing other than fame, fortune, more fame, and more fortune. When Darius is on screen, he’s occasionally entertaining, but he lacks depth. He lacks dimension. He almost feels like a throwaway character despite being part of the film. Although it was fun to see Meena the elephant try to accustom herself to being romantic despite not having much experience in such a thing.

In the end, “Sing 2” is a step down from the original, and frankly, just proves once again that when it comes to animated studios, I still prefer DreamWorks and Pixar. If you asked me years ago if a “Sing 2” was a good idea, I’d say yes. It would not be the first thing I’d see, but it is worth at least a glance. I’d say the studio and crew should give it a shot. The first one was good. And having rewatched the first one recently before going to the cinema to see this, it’s still good. I just wish “Sing 2” lived up to its predecessor. I’m going to give “Sing 2” a 6/10. This is a positive grade despite some negative things I have previously stated. But I think if anything, the positives will not be enough to get me to watch this film again anytime soon.

“Sing 2” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy now on streaming platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be a for a film that is somewhat personal to me. And if you know where I reside, you’ll get where I’m coming from. Some of you reading this may feel the same way. That film in particular is Amazon’s new feature, “The Tender Bar!” This film just released over the holiday season, it just dropped on Prime Video, and now it is a good time to talk about it. I cannot wait to discuss this film. It’s going to be a ball. If you want to see this and from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sing 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which is better? “Sing” or “Sing 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Encanto (2021): We Do Talk About the Joys of This Fun, Colorful, Animated Adventure

“Encanto” is directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith. It’s little weird for a movie to have three directors, but Disney also did this for “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which kicked butt, so what does a nobody like me know? This film stars Stephanie Beatriz (Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Maria Cecilia Botero (Her Mother’s Killer, La Bruja), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, John Wick: Chapter 2), Mauro Castillo (El Joe: The Legend), Jessica Darrow (Grand Theft Auto V, Anomaly), Angie Cepeda (Pobre Diabla, The Seed of Silence), Carolina Gaitán (El Final del Paraiso, Narcos), Diane Guerrero (Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin), and Wilmer Valderrama (NCIS, That ’70s Show). This film follows a young girl named Mirabel who lives in a magical house with a magical family. Only problem, within this magical lifestyle, she is the only one who has never inherited a magical power. The rest of her family however, has that one ability that makes them special. However, Mirabel discovers that all this magic is disappearing. Once this is realized, she sets out on a quest to restore the magic and her family.

This film released in November. Due to life and school kind of making me want to take some time for myself, I will admit that some of my content has been evenly spread lately, and this is a film that I did happen to see during the month it released. There may be some movies that might not get talked about in the near future, depending on time constraints and business. “Encanto,” however, is not one of those films. This film is not from Pixar, but whenever I watch a trailer for a Pixar movie, I always look at it excited about the concept, but often worried about the execution. It looks fun, but it doesn’t come off as extravagant or unique. And when it comes to this theatrical-exclusive Disney feature, or at least when it came out, I felt the same way here as I do with some Pixar films. The concept of someone having no magical powers within a magic-heavy environment was intriguing, but I just wish the marketing did a little more to entice me. Thankfully, this movie, much like a few other animated titles I’ve seen throughout my life, managed to surprise me.

Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Macy’s–Wait? Macy’s? That can’t be right!

*Clears throat*

Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Disney. The company has had years of providing spins on fairy tales, doses of imagination, and spent lots of time and money developing its Magic Kingdom in Florida, which is a state that’s a bit of a Magic Kingdom unto itself. So to see a story like this where magic, a mysterious concept, become an ordinary element in one’s world, is not much of a surprise. At it’s surface, it’s yet another edition of the whole idea that “everyone’s special” and this even goes for the nobodies of the world, which in this case is Mirabel. This is not the best story done in that regard, but I think it has a special place in the Disney library as it successfully masters the idea of a family either coming together or having notable differences. I think it does a really good job at highlighting ups and downs of being in a family and in the case of Mirabel, wondering if you are “good enough.” Let’s face it… EVERY PARENT HAS A FAVORITE CHILD. If my future children read this, let’s just hope this theory is proven wrong. I’m not here to declare that Mirabel’s parents thinks she’s the worst child, cause, you know, “every parent has a favorite child,” whether they admit it or not… But I do think inside Mirabel’s mind, she’s thinking her parents see her as the least favorite child through what could be defined as no fault of her own.

One of the best things about this film is that there is no real villain getting in the hero’s way. Granted, there are obstacles, there are happenings, there are events, there are occurrences that our hero has to deal with, some of which provide for a fun movie. But one thing I like about this film is that despite coming from a studio that has created iconic villains like Scar, which has been known for haunting some children’s nightmares, it is kind of refreshing to see a film with no real antagonist. It kind of reminds me of a Netflix film I saw last year, which has given me tons of Disney vibes throughout, “Over the Moon,” because that film, which technically does have an antagonist, doesn’t really have anyone that happens to be truly vicious or evil depending on your point of view. Granted, the film’s antagonist comes close given some of the things they do, but nevertheless. To me, they felt good at heart.

Now this film came out in 2021, which if anything, should be a year where almost any major studio film should look good at minimum. Animations in general over the past number of years have always had a wow factor in terms of the renderings and computer generated scenes. Everything always looks grand and powerful. “Encanto” is no exception. Unlike the previous major Disney animated film that came out in 2021, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Encanto” takes advantage of its rather lighthearted and whimsical vibes and often allows as much color as it can into certain scenes. This provides for stunning images that are likely to stay with some viewers.

The music in this film, when it comes to Disney fare, is frankly forgettable. I will admit, this is a case where it has been some time since I watched the movie, so a second viewing could refresh my memory, but in the context of this review, where I’m talking about a film that kind of partially on music-heavy segments and catchy tunes for entertainment value, forgetting a good portion of it can be a problem.

I do think that children are likely to be entertained by “Encanto.” Granted, having watched a lot of movies as a child, I was often entertained with whatever was in front of me. I do think it successfully captures the idea that even if you are unique or extraordinary, it does not mean you’re perfect. Things fade. Life is not kind. It also suggests that those who are not as unique on the surface still have a chance of potentially proving to be the best version of themselves.

In the end, “Encanto” is a charming animated flick that I recommend to a lot of people. This is not my favorite animated film of the year, but when it comes to this year’s slate, I think it will have more staying power than “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” which was… Interesting. I make fun of Disney all the time, but at the end of the day, they know what they’re doing because they can simply make movies for kids, which seems to be the intention with almost every animated project, but they always find a way to understand these are not KIDS movies. They’re family movies. They’re smarter. I’m going to give “Encanto” a 7/10.

“Encanto” is now playing in select theaters and is available to buy or rent through streaming. The film is also available on Disney+ to all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, guess what? I have another animation to talk about soon, and that is the new Illumination film “Sing 2!” The first “Sing” film is my favorite Illumination project, and I say that as someone who has not really watched “Despicable Me,” so I might be providing somewhat invalid results. Is this sequel better than the original? You’ll find out soon enough! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my top 10 best and worst movies of 2021, coming soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Encanto?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite animated film of 2021? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!