Mini Reviews (January 2018)
The Greatest Showman, Father Figures
The Greatest Showman (January 3/18)
An impressively engrossing contemporary musical, The Greatest Showman follows Hugh Jackman's P.T. Barnum as he opens a circus populated with oddball characters and must subsequently balance his newfound success with his personal life. Filmmaker Michael Gracey does a fantastic job of immediately drawing the viewer into the briskly-paced proceedings, as The Greatest Showman kicks off with an energetic and completely irresistible musical number that effectively (and instantly) sets a tone of larger-than-life escapism - with the pervasively affable vibe perpetuated by Gracey's flamboyant visuals and a series of thoroughly charming performances. (In terms of the latter, Jackman's typically spellbinding work is matched by a strong supporting cast that includes Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and a scene-stealing Zac Efron.) The movie's propulsive narrative does begin to crumble apart upon heavy (or even light) scrutiny, admittedly, and the various protagonists aren't quite developed beyond their most outward attributes, and yet The Greatest Showman grows more and more engrossing before reaching its expectedly over-the-top finale - which certainly does confirm the picture's place as a far better-than-expected bit of family-friendly entertainment.
Father Figures (January 3/18)
Father Figures follows siblings Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle Reynolds (Owen Wilson) as they embark on a journey to find their birth dad, with the trip bringing the mismatched pair face-to-face with a whole host of quirky characters (including J.K. Simmons' Roland Hunt and Christopher Walken's oddball Walter Tinkler). There's nothing terribly fresh or original about Father Figures and yet the movie does remain fairly watchable throughout, with the charismatic work of leads Helms and Wilson generally anchoring the somewhat lazy narrative (ie the film is at its best when focused on the low-key banter between the two). It's just as clear, though, that the picture could (and should) have been so much better, with the most obvious issue here a meandering narrative that's compounded by a head-scratchingly overlong running time. There is, for example, a padded-out and entirely pointless subplot involving a wacky hitchhiker (Katt Williams) that contributes heavily to the second act's flabby feel, and it's impossible not assume that Father Figures would've been far better off had it been shortened and streamlined. It's no small feat, then, that the movie builds to a final stretch that's actually far more compelling (and even heartwarming) than one might've anticipated, with the end result a sitcom-like cinematic endeavor that's inoffensively entertaining virtually from start to finish.