March 2, 2012

Every week brings a crop of new films, and with it, the requisite crop of new film reviews. Here, we wade through the professional criticisms and accolades in an attempt to find some sort of consensus, so you know which films deserve your buck, and which don’t. These are the winners and the losers.

Winner of the Week: Boy

The New Zealand independent film Boy, the latest from Eagle vs. Shark director Taika Waititi, traces the blossoming relationship between an 11-year-old and his estranged father. The A.V. Club called the film “enormously likeable,” noting that it succeeded where the recent adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close failed in trying to tell a dramatic story from a child’s perspective.

The Village Voice, despite finding the film “aimless” overall, praised the “abundant charm” of the nonprofessional actor James Rolleston’s debut in the title role, and Time Out New York called the film’s quirky style “further proof that Wes Anderson has overtaken Quentin Tarantino as the world’s most mimicked indie auteur.”  And just as Anderson has faced his own criticisms for favoring style over substance, Boy was also called out for its reliance on whimsy and offbeat charm. Even The New York Timesoverwhelming positive review noted a number of “less solid moments, but they’re mostly forgivable.”

Loser of the Week: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Although a number of publications, including Entertainment Weekly and USA Today, found some lighthearted charm in the new animated take on Theodor Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss) classic environmentalist children’s book, the response to Universal’s film was overwhelmingly negative. Movieline noted, “The Lorax is so big, flashy and redundant that it courts precisely the kind of bling consumerism it’s supposed to be condeming.” TheNew York Times’ A.O. Scott called the movie “a noisy, useless piece of junk, reverse-engineered into something resembling popular art in accordance with the reigning imperatives of marketing and brand extension,” a reference to its almost seventy “launch partners”—including, most egregiously, Mazda.

The Washington Post found the movie heavy-handed and “preachy,” and Variety complained that the contemporary penchant for overstuffing children’s films with jokes and allusions was a direct affront to Geisel’s clean and elegant style. Over at The Daily Beast, Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers used the film’s release as an opportunity to examine the impossibility of translating Geisel’s beloved children books to film. Noting that today marks the 108th anniversary of Geisel’s birth, Travers pleaded, “The music is bad, the movie is bad, even the voice work is bad. I say this is bad, and I say, Hollywood, stop destroying Dr. Seuss, it’s his birthday.”

Comments >
The Bullet Holiday Gift Guide