Mike at the Movies

Photo | Submitted Yeti Migo discovers that the Small Foot really does exist. (Mike at the Movies)

Photo | Submitted
Yeti Migo discovers that the Small Foot really does exist. (Mike at the Movies)

Smallfoot (PG)

This film is a surprisingly effective allegory on religion and politics. Couldn’t see that coming?

Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum, stumbles upon what he calls “Smallfoot,” (Percy voiced by James Corden) who has been dropped into the Yeti world in an airplane crash. The bulk of the film chronicles their adjustment to each other’s customs and traditions, including religion.

Stonekeeper (Common) is the high priest of the Yeti commune and as such admits eventually that his religion is made up out of necessity to keep the village together. Ignorance is bliss. Migo, having seen the human society, realizes they are not evil and, if that is a fact, all of the Stonekeeper’s religious doctrines may be phony as well.

The fact that Meechee (Zendaya) falls for Migo and believes as he does, even though she is Stonekeeper’s daughter, complicates things.

Meanwhile, Percy, as a failing TV host for a nature program, realizes that a Yeti would bring better ratings and tries to capture one on his iPhone, even as he is abandoned by his producer, Brenda (Yara Sahidi).

There is much music, most of it charming, including a rap history of the Yetis by Stonekeeper. When Percy’s footage of the Yetis goes viral, the human troops mount up, ready to kill the tribe. What happens I’ll leave for you to find out, but the allegory continues effectively to the end.

This is probably acceptable to most kids, though few will see the allegorical parallels and they won’t need to in order to enjoy
the action and the cross-cultural bits that drive the plot.

Night School (PG-13)

The only problem with this film is that it stars Kevin Hart and that means he has the most minutes on screen, managing to ham things up or slapstick his way through another part with numerous references to his height. What is shocking is the level to which the movie is stolen by Mary Lynn Rajskub as housewife Theresa. She is one of a number of losers who are back at school for their GED.

Hart (Teddy Walker) is out of options, having faked his way into a fancy apartment, Porsche and high restaurant bills as well as an amazing woman that he has convinced to marry him (Megalyn Echikunwoke as Lisa). He has the promise of a good job in business if he can only pass his GED. The problem is that, as his night school teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), discovers and tells him, “You are a big mess of learning disabilities.” Dyslexia is only the simplest of them; dyscalculia the one that is really giving him trouble.

Theresa, in the meantime, suffers with an abusive husband who, in addition to keeping her on a short leash, gave her three awful children. She continues, however, to say, “I’m blessed!” which we all know is a lie. Her delivery, timing and physical presence as the housewife who wants to be more is a stitch.

In order to survive, Teddy takes a job at “Christian Chicken,” first as a counterman, finally as a chicken with a large cross and large “Christian Chicken” sign he has to wave. Unfortunately, his nemesis from school, (Taran Killam as Stewart), now the principal of the high school that hosts the night school, finds him there and hassles him.

The usual twists and turns in a rom-com ensue and the picture winds to a predictable ending with Hart trying to act and failing, as he does in every straight scene.

The film is worth it only for Rajskub’s performance. If you like sloppy physical comedy, including teaching biology and math by martial arts, you may find some of this amusing.

Little Women (PG-13)

What a crying towel of a film! Set in two ages, one older, one ostensibly modern, this mishmash attempt to redo the original for the approximately 20th time on screen and television attempts to tell the story of the March girls—Beth, Amy, Meg and Jo—and their suitors, friends and parents (though Dad is mostly absent in the war) as they grow to maturity and, in this case, into pregnancy, a surprise marriage and a final happy ending. The lead in this film is Sarah Davenport as Jo with her sisters played by Melanie Stone as Meg, Allie Jennings as Beth, and Elise Jones as young Amy with Taylor Murphy emerging as a tall and gloriously blonde older Beth (after being short and dumpy as a youngster).

The film may have attempted the impossible by alternating between periods. This fails as the ages are too close to provide much contrast.

This is a movie for a Kleenex franchise as the writers provide ample cues to turn on the waterworks, most of them bathetic. There are endless Christmases and homecomings and Thanksgivings and reunions (CUE the Kleenex) and maturity jokes and disappointments (young Amy finds a reason for that Kleenex but it’s not to dry tears), and the acting is hardly first-rate. Amy Madigan plays down as the ineffable Marmee and Ian Bohen is a hunky but stiff Freddy, Jo’s “tutor” who refuses to submit any of her manuscripts. Eventually, of course, Jo gets published and guess what the title is?

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