Posts Tagged ‘film’

Sometimes, friends, I just don’t even know where to begin.

I like to consider myself a fairly seasoned veteran when it comes to all things cinematically bad (I don’t call myself “Trash Film Guru” for nothing), but once in awhile something comes along that defies even my ground-down-over-time ability to adequately process. I’ve seen plenty of films that make no sense whatsoever — some good, some decidedly less so — but one thing even the most inexplicably bizarre servings of celluloid sewage have in common is that they were all trying to do something. Maybe it wasn’t something worth trying. Maybe it was something they flat-out shouldn’t have tried. But right or wrong, they all see it through to the end and sink or swim based on whatever fucking idea or premise they started out with.

Such is not the case with director John Hijiri’s 2009 zero-budget mega-turkey Jaws In Japan, which I caught earlier today streaming on Amazon Prime under its alternate international DVD (and whatever you do, I wouldn’t recommend sinking your hard-earned money into that) release title, Psycho Shark. This flick is like nothing I’ve ever seen simply because it seems to change its mind not once, but twice, about why it even exists. And as its thankfully brief 70-minute runtime drew to a close, all I could think is that it probably shouldn’t even exist at all.

Initially, Hijiri and screenwriter Yasutoshi Murakawa seem to be happy to simply dish out yet another Japanese bikini-romp, which makes sense given that its supposed “stars,” Nonami Takizawa and Airi Nakajima (as fun-loving college girls Miki and Mai, respectively) are what’s known as “gravure idols,” and neither of them can act worth a damn. Pretty early on, though, the decision is made that watching two admittedly quite pretty young ladies run around half-naked isn’t enough in and of itself to keep viewers interested if they’re not gonna get completely naked at some point, and so, while the “wear a swimsuit at all times” trope doesn’t go away, by any means, it’s simply steered into service of something that has the makings of an ostensible plot. Cue abrupt change number one.

This is the point at which our nubile co-eds find themselves completely lost on the island paradise they’re vacationing at and end up meeting a skeevy local who guides them to a hotel owned by a creep with blood under his fingernails who’s probably killing off tourists but, like an idiot, leaves their camcorders around for people like Miki and Mai to find. So, yeah, what we’re apparently looking at now is some sort of “found footage” serial killer flick.  And a damn boring one at that.

Unless, of course, roughly 45 mish-mashed minutes of watching shit “shaky-cam” footage, watching girls watching shit shaky-cam footage, and watching those same girls sleep, go to the beach, and take bikini-clad showers sounds gripping to you. There’s honestly more attention paid to — and more dialogue focused on — those ever-present bikinis than there is to the “killer on the loose” storyline, which is fair enough given that bikinis are more interesting than said storyline, but seriously — why not just make a “gravure” feature and leave it at that?

Evidently, Hijiri and Murakawa decided their “mockumentary”-style movie-within-a-movie wasn’t working out too well, either, so with approximately ten minutes to go, they abandon that conceit in favor of abrupt change number two : a giant CGI shark. Earlier scenes in this film borrowed obviously (and ineptly) from both Psycho and The Ring, but seriously, even though the film’s title gives it away, the sudden and hard pull into Jaws territory makes no sense whatsoever and feels very much like the last-second addition that it is (which makes me wonder what they were gonna call it before tacking this shit on at the end, but whatever). If you’ve got whiplash at this point, rest assured, you’re not alone.

Or maybe you are, because chances are that nobody else is awake at this point. Seriously, unlike other rankly amateur cut-rate CGI abominations like Birdemic, there’s just nothing weird or interesting going on here to maintain your interest until that shark shows up at the end, and by then it’s all far too little, far too late. It seems really strange that a film with pretty young women running around in next to nothing capped at the end with a laughably absurd CG monster could be boring, but that’s exactly what Jaws in Japan is. In fact, it’s downright interminably dull. And while I can certainly forgive (heck, more often than not I love) ultra-low budgets, cheesy FX, and absurd stories, one thing I can’t forgive is dullness. And no matter how many times Hijiri tries for a “do-over” with this thing, he never figures out how to turn it into anything you’re going to give a shit about.

One flick that’s been spoken of with, it seems, nothing but respect — if not something very much akin to awe — over the years is writer/director Amanda Gusack’s 2005 “found footage” indie horror In Memorium, a true no-budgeter that’s said to share a number of stylistic similarities with its better-known semi- contemporary, Oren Peli’s original Paranormal Activity, but while that 2007 film  ended up serving as the spingboard to perhaps the genre’s most unlikely franchise and made Peli a genuine “big-wig” in the cinematic world, this one just sort of continued to be recommended by word of mouth (whether those mouths be literal or digital) but seen by very few, and Gusack herself made one more film, 2008’s relatively-larger-budgeted The Betrayed, before apparently throwing in the towel on this whole dream of making movies altogether. There really is no justice in this world.

Still, maybe the tide is turning — albeit slowly and too late. In Memorium, goofy title spelling and all, has for some reason recently become available on any number of “home viewing platforms” (including Amazon Prime, which is how I caught it), and so we can now legitimately ask whether this or Paranormal Activity has stood the test of time better. Even though most of us are seeing this for the first time.

I’m probably being a little bit hard on Peli’s “game-changer,” especially given that I actually liked it quite a bit on first viewing (and have enjoyed a couple of its sequels even more), but really, it doesn’t necessarily withstand the scrutiny of repeat viewings very well before it starts to grate, although in fairness that may simply be down to the fact that Micah Sloat is one of the most annoying characters (and actors) in horror history. But hey, if it aped its entire premise — as it now seems it did — from a prior film, well shoot, that just ain’t fair, is it?

Maybe a quick plot summary of In Memorium will help you decide if you think Paranormal Activity was, indeed a “copycat” effort or not : an aspiring filmmaker named Dennis (played by Erik McDowell) recently found out some very bad news — he’s got terminal cancer and will be lucky to survive the next two months. He’s gonna do his best to turn his suffering into art, though, by moving himself and his girlfriend, Lily (Johanna Watts) into a new house with a high-tech security set-up, and his hope is that after his passing she and his brother/frequent visitor, Frank (Levi Powell) can assemble some sort of documentary of his final days from the raw footage captured by the various security cameras set up all over the residence. What are you supposed to do, though, when said security cameras seem to be capturing something else altogether — something that suggests, weird as it may sound, that cancer might actually be the least of your worries since you’re in more pressing and immediate danger from another threat altogether? One that appears to involve the supernatural possession of someone very close to you?

Stark and austere blacks, whites, and grays are the primary visual language that Gusack communicates her lean, 73-minute story in, and not only are they stylish and effective, they fit the somber tone of the story to a proverbial “T,” and the actors, while clearly not professional, still seem to come off fairly natural in front of the camera(s). It certainly looks and feels like every bit the homemade production it is, to be sure, but that’s more than merely “okay” under these circumstances, it’s down essential in order to lend the project the credibility it needs in order to be well and truly effective — and is there’s one thing In Memorium is, it’s wildly, dare I even say admirably, effective. When you have no money, the best kind of film you can make is one that not only requires no money, but that can literally only be made with no money, and to her eternal credit, Gusack has crafted a production here that wouldn’t work with anything like “normal” or even “cheap” production values. Money — even a little bit of money — would compromise the faux-authenticity (goddamn, but there’s an oxymoron) that oozes (quietly but menacingly) from every frame of this film, and if you’ve been looking for iron-clad proof that “less is more,” then congratulations! Your search is over.

I could go on and on, I suppose, praising the strong atmospherics, genuinely surprising scares, artistically-composed scenes, smart dialogue, etc. on offer here, but honestly, I’m a critic with a conscience, and every additional minute you spend doing something other than watching In Memorium is time that could be better spent by checking it out for yourself. Amanda Gusack, if you ever happen to read this, please! Get back behind the camera as soon as you can.

There’s no excuse for it at this point beyond a pathetic combination of sadism and addiction : when new(-ish) “found footage” horror flicks show up in the Amazon Prime streaming queue, I’m in. Particularly if they’re of the “micro-budget” variety. 90-plus percent of these things are absolute turkeys, and of the less-than- ten percent that aren’t, only a small handful rise above the level of “merely competent,” but in my admittedly very tepid defense, there are still a few gems to be found while sifting through all the wretched, nigh-unwatchable dross. Unfortunately, the one I chose to subject myself to last night, 2016’s The Final Project, isn’t one of them.

The brainchild of director/co-writer (along with one Zachary Davis) Taylor Ri’chard, this rancid and rankly amateur effort follows the exploits of six university students who are collaborating on a — you guessed it — final project for their filmmaking class that sees them make the trek to Vacherie, Louisiana to explore the infamous Lafitte Plantation, a purported hotbed of supernatural activity ever since a slave who was a (probably less-than-willing) mistress of the joynt’s owner, along with four union soldiers, lost their lives there during a Civil War battle. Their restless spirits are said, wouldn’t ya know, to still be shuffling around the property, and lots of other poor saps have met mysterious ends there in the ensuing years, but while you or I would probably figure that was as good an excuse as any to stay the fuck away, that’s just not how things work in the world of “mockumentary” horror, and so nominal group “leader” Genevieve (played by Arin Jones), her boyfriend Gavin (Sergio Suave — who I genuinely feel sorry for if that’s the name on his birth certificate), her ex, Jonah (Leonardo Santaiti), the level-headed and responsible Anna (Teal Haddock), whiny spoiled brat Missy (Amber Erwin), and the generally useless Ky (Evan McLean) decide to roll the dice against fate and hope that they have better luck than, it would seem, anyone else who’s ever set foot on the grounds. Good luck with that.

You needn’t worry about whether or not they survive, of course — their demise is telegraphed from the outset when a silhouetted narrator/presenter says flat-out that he “will never understand why they would go to a place that was known to be haunted. The Lafitte Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana is a place you don’t play with. They knew that.” So, the first thing we know about these kids is that they’re stupid. The second thing we know is that they’re dead. And soon enough you will be, as well — dead bored, that is.

GoPro head-cams are the filming apparatus of choice here, but curiously enough, only some of the scenes appear to have been shot with them, with a number of others resorting to standard-issue (for this sort of thing, at any rate) “shaky cam” stuff, so don’t ask me how that works. Maybe Ri’chard hopes you’ll be so distracted by the bog-standard bumps, crashes, shrieks, and one-by-one disappearances of characters that are peppered throughout at the absolute most predictable times to notice the logical inconsistency inherent in his basic premise, but that would require said by-the-numbers “scares” to be interesting, and trust me when I say they’re anything but. When you pair up this wretched dullness with the film’s substandard acting — which ranges from simply incompetent on the high end to cringe-worthy and dreadful on the low end — the final result is a finished product that has absolutely nothing going for it. And since when does “raw footage” feature incidental music, anyway? Chalk that up to being one more head-scratcher in a flick that’s packed to the gills with them.

Look, I’m trying my best not to be a complete asshole here, but it’s really tough. This film has lame dialogue, poorly-staged “jump scares,” a generic “mow ’em down until we get to the final girl” plot structure, ineffective scene staging, up-and-down (mostly down) sound quality, subplots that are as uninvolving as the main one — look, it’s just no damn good. I give Ri’chard points for assembling a diverse cast that flies in the face of this subgenre’s depressing history (and present) of all-white ensembles, but if none of ’em can actually act, well — what’s the point?

And that’s really the big question all the way across the board here. If The Final Project turns out to be exactly that for Ri’chard, Davis, and their actors, I don’t think any tears will be shed.

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As far as modern UFO “flaps” go, none are more well-known than the so-called “Phoenix Lights” incident of 1997, and while I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten anything like an “official explanation” as to what went down, I’ll guarantee you this much — the reality of the situation, whatever it may be, is probably far more interesting than 2016’s “found footage” indie micro-budgeter The Phoenix Tapes ’97. Even if all it was all just swamp gas or reflections of the planet Venus.

The authorship behind this particular piece of garbage is difficult to ascertain — the film has no credits, but that’s par for the course with these things. What’s far less common is the fact that this flick has no IMDB page, and that its official website lists none of the names of the people involved in its production, either. It does, however, make the more-than-dubious claim that the flick was “banned” from all streaming services save for Amazon Prime (which is where I caught it, obviously), a pathetically transparent slice of old-school hucksterism designed to foll the gullible into thinking that maybe this is the “real deal,” after all.

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Which, needless to say, it isn’t — but if it were, events would purportedly have happened thusly : a guy named Dustin Miller was a “top-secret government agent” of some sort who was killed during a routine traffic stop in Texas. His father, Pete, was never satisfied with the authorities’ accounting of his son’s death, and when he finds a barely-plastered-over “cubbyhole” in his deceased offspring’s home, he thinks he’s found the real reason for the young fella’s untimely demise : hidden videotape recordings that shows the “truth” about what those mysterious lights in the sky were all those years ago. Pete’s determined to put put this material into the public’s supposedly eager hands, and so while he may be on hand to say a a few words at the starting and finishing lines, the rest of the movie is the “unedited footage” just as he found it.

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Trust me when I say you’re gonna wish he’d left the whole thing alone. What we’ve got here is tedious “road trip” nonsense featuring four dumbfuck “bros” who have rented an RV to go spend a weekend in the Arizona desert. All they wanna do is get drunk, talk about girls, give each other shit, and crack dick and fart jokes, but instead on their very first night “away from civilization” (but evidently not that far away — listen closely and you’ll be able to hear somebody’s dog barking in their back yard) they hear loud explosions and see a meteorite (or something) crash into the nearby hills. This affords us the only mildly interesting and competently-executed scene in the film, but things go from almost-worth-staying-awake-for to depressingly dull in a hurry when we get the usual shaking of the RV and noises on its roof right after the big boom. When they wake up, the Winnebago’s dead and one of our quartet of clowns is missing, but don’t worry — his friends will be joining him soon enough, as on night two, shortly after witnessing those famous light in the sky, they’re dragged off, one by one, by a vaguely-visible shape that’s just, ya know, gotta be an extraterrestrial invader of some sort. With the tape still rolling the whole time, of course. The end. Sound like something you want to check out? Nah, I didn’t think so. You are, after all, much smarter than I am.

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Look, I get it — evil aliens have become a staple of the “mockumentary” subgenre in recent years, and if I had no money and wanted to make a film with my friends for some reason, this might be the way I decided to go. Or not.  Thankfully, I have a job and other shit to do, so it’s not like it’s something I need to think about. It’s just too bad that whoever really is behind this thing (my money is on one of the film’s nominal and nameless “stars” being the guilty party) didn’t listen to the little voice in their head telling them that they were wasting their time by doing this.

I’ll tell you one thing, though — if I ever made anything as dull, predictable, amateurish, and just plain lousy as The Phoenix Tapes ’97, I wouldn’t put my name on it anywhere, either.

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If I had the energy, ambition, or desire, I would begin this review with a lengthy preamble about the reasons why Charles Manson and his so-called “family” continue to hold such a grim fascination for so many of us, but you know what? The internet is chock full of thoughtful and articulate (as well as a number of hopelessly dull and derivative) essays on that very subject already,to the point where there’s literally nothing I can say about it all that hasn’t been said already. Suffice to say that even now, nearly a half-century after the Tate-LaBianca murders sent shock waves through the nation (and, indeed, the world), those waves continue to reverberate in ways both expected and unexpected and the very word “Manson” has become firmly ensconced as the brand name of choice for murder, madness, and mayhem. No amount of haughty proclamations about the killings associated with him marking the end of the so-called “flower power generation” or the supposed death of American innocence (there’s any oxymoron for you) changes that fact. These are the most notorious crimes in our country’s history, and even though there have been more horrifying incidents both before and since, for some reason odds are good that they always will be, and Manson himself will always be America’s “go-to” bogeyman of choice.

And while I’m being lazy, let me just say that we won’t be delving into the richly sordid history of Manson (or his numerous marginally-fictionalized stand-ins) on film here, either. The heyday of “Mansploitation” is obviously long over, sure, but every now and then we still get a new “Manson-centric” cinematic production and I don’t see that ending anytime soon, either. The most recent entry into this loose canon (sorry for the lame pun) is writer/director (and fellow Minnesotan) Brandon Slagle’s House Of Manson, a decidedly low-budget indie effort filmed in 2014 in and around the Los Angeles environs that has spent the last 18 months or so making the rounds on the film festival circuit and is now available for streaming on any number of so-called “home viewing platforms” (I caught it on Hulu) as well as on DVD. Its most recent corollary is probably Jim Van Bebber’s equal-parts admired and reviled 1997 effort The Manson Family, but beyond a similar DIY-ish ethos, the two films probably don’t actually have that much in common beyond their lurid subject matter. Where Van Bebber embraced a mish-mash of experimental filming styles, Slagle plays it fairly straight, for instance, and ditto for the narrative through-lines followed by each flick, with Van Bebber slyly calling into question various aspects of the established version of events largely extrapolated from Vincent Bugliosi’s hopelessly blinkered best-seller Helter Skelter, while Slagle hews to a pretty tight “party line,” with most of his take matching up almost disturbingly closely with the self-serving view  offered by principal- killer-turned-Christian-con-man Charles “Tex” Watson.

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And therein, I think, lies the problem. For all we supposedly know about the “Mason murders,” I would contend that our “information” all comes from either prosecutors, cops, or people with a distinct motivation for making themselves look less guilty. I think it’s entirely reasonable to have more questions than answers about the whole thing even after all these years, but if you’re looking for anything other than the same sort of standard-issue reiteration of events that you’d find in any number of, say, Lifetime movies about “Charlie and his girls,” you’re not gonna find ’em here. There are some fine performances, to be sure — Ryan Kiser, in particular, is borderline superb as the most relatably human Manson since Steve Railsback (a take that was considered to be “too sympathetic” at the time and basically derailed the actor’s then-quite-promising career), but he can still flip on the “trippy guru” and “homicidal madman” switches fairly effortlessly at the drop of a hat, and special mention should also go to Devanny Pinn as Susan Atkins, Reid Warner as Tex, Serena Lorien as Patricia Krenwinkel, and fellow Daily Grindhouse contributor Tristan Risk as murder victim Abigail Folger, as well. Honestly, there’s a lot of good acting on display here, and some of it’s even great.

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Is that enough in and of itself to make a film worth watching, though? Sometimes, sure, what the hell — but not when you already know everything you’re gonna see, and furthermore pretty much know it all by heart. When you’re treading territory this depressingly and horrifyingly familiar, it can be tough to find something new to say, no question about that, but again — there are so many lesser-explored tributaries coursing out of these tragic occurrences, not to mention competing theories as to why things happened the way they did and what the true motivations behind them were, that you would  think it wouldn’t be all that difficult to, at the very least, give audiences something new or different to think about in relation to the Manson, for lack of a better term, phenomenon.

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That’s not on the agenda here, though, which means that for all its laudable elements, House Of Manson is a rote and thoroughly unimaginative affair, a remake of no specific film, but rather of any number of them. It’s not without artistic merit, by any means, but it also seems to have no particular purpose. If you want to see what the Manson story looks like when it’s done with less money and lower production values than you’re used to seeing, fair enough, this is the movie for you. But if you’re looking for new insight or details or even just some semi-surprising little wrinkle you won’t find in a thousand other places, no such luck.

I know a lot of effort went into this production — behind-the-scenes stories about its truncated filming schedule and the grueling work that necessitated as a result of it make it clear to me that it was most definitely a labor of love. I just wish that I could love it back.

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One of these days, I’ll learn to resist new micro-budget “found footage” horror flicks added to the Amazon Prime streaming queue, but today wasn’t that day, and you know what? I’m kind of glad for that fact, because the latest one that I watched — Irish writer/director Peter Bergin’s 2015 offering, Territorial Behavior (which is apparently also available on Blu-ray and DVD, if you’re so inclined)  — turned out to be, while admittedly wholly unoriginal, pretty fun, well-executed, suspenseful stuff.

What Bergin is aiming for here is the classic bait-and-switch : outdoor survival instructor Bailey Rhodes (played with something more than competence but less than actual charisma by Ronan Murphy) heads out to the Montana (by way of Ireland) wilderness to film a tutorial video for prospective students/clients, but he soon finds himself squarely in the cross-hairs of a group of violent poachers who seem, shall we say, overly protective of the area. In fairly short order our guy Bailey is plunged into a real struggle for survival that he’s only marginally (at best) prepared for, but when he begins to piece together various clues he finds in the wild, he comes to the conclusion that there’s likely something far more dangerous after him than his human antagonists, and guess what? That means this would-be rugged outdoorsman is way out of his depth —

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It has to be said that the Irish scenery in this flick is absolutely beautiful and not altogether ineffective as a stand-in for Montana, and that the actors (special props to Bridget O’Connor as Amber, Corey Macri as local sheriff Marvin Krantz, and Aaron Lee Reed as sleazebag poacher Todd) sound more or less quasi-authentically American, so while the illusion isn’t complete, it’s complete enough, especially for a shoestring production of this nature, to be considered as convincing as possible. Ditto for the “shaky-cam” footage, which never becomes grating and manages to avoid some of the obvious logical contradictions (how can he be standing in front of the camera if he’s holding it, etc.) that too often plague this budget-conscious subgenre. These probably qualify as low-grade compliments to those pre-disposed to write off anything and everything “found footage,” sure, but they belie a level of care and attempted professionalism that those of us who do still spend a fair amount of time watching these things will certainly appreciate.

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What’s a little less easy to be kind towards is the fact that the plot for Territorial Behavior is about as by-the-numbers as it gets, to the point where you pretty much know exactly what is going to happen and when, but at least Bergin is skilled enough with the atmospherics to maintain your interest throughout. He has a pretty good grasp on what he can successfully pull off and what would be ridiculous to even try, and his strategy of keeping the fight well within his weight class actually allows him to land some fairly solid punches on occasion, even if you see all of ’em coming from a mile away. Too many other newbie directors in his position let their ambitions get the better of their abilities, resources, or both, but if you can do simple and straightforward better than you can do artsy and experimental, trust me — stick with the simple and straightforward. I’m pleased to report that’s precisely the philosophy this film adheres to.

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Still, there’s no doubt your enjoyment of Territorial Behavior is going to be entirely dependent on how sick of the “mockumentary” conceit you happen to be personally. If you can’t stomach it for any reason, then nothing here’s going to change your mind. And if you’re looking for at least something of a new take on a very shop-worn trope, you’re not gonna find that here, either. If you’re still a fan of “found footage” in a general sense, though, and merely need to see it done with an admirable level of care, concern, and attention to details both large and small, then this admittedly modest production should prove to be right up your alley. It’s nothing you’re going to want to rush to see ASAP by any means, but if you do decide to give it a go, you’ll be happy that you did.

So does that mean this was a subdued but positive review, or a politely negative one?

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It may not be a “cool” thing to admit, but I’ll let you in on a little secret — it’s okay to just want to feel good once in awhile.

It is, after all, a hopelessly fucked-up world that we live in right now : our nuclear arsenal is in the hands of an unhinged, delusional madman who is clearly cracking under the strain of a job he probably didn’t even want and is in no way even mature enough to handle; a lunatic religious zealot is eagerly waiting in the wings to succeed him when he undoubtedly crashes and burns; our closest international allies seem to be inexorably lurking toward a barely-rebranded fascist nationalism themselves; rising global temperatures and sea levels probably threaten our future even more than the would-be despots do — if you think about too hard, it can all seem pretty hopeless.

Can these problems be solved? Shit, I dunno — the jury’s out on that one. But they certainly can be avoided for a couple of hours here and there, and there’s no shame in doing just that every once in awhile. For those of any age seeking temporary relief and solace, then, may I humbly direct your attention toward director Chris McKay’s borderline-astonishing The Lego Batman Movie.

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I admit to never having seen The Lego Movie “proper,” but if it’s anything like this one, that’s my loss — and one I intend to rectify pretty quickly. I can’t pretend to know what it is about translating the grittiest and grimmest of costumed vigilantes into a CGI-animated toyworld that’s such a stroke of near-genius, but the truth is that it not only works, it does something that no live-action iteration of the character has been able to do on the silver screen for the last couple of decades : it makes him fun again.

Make no mistake — the increasingly Dark Knight as envisioned by Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan and, especially, Zack Snyder is the elephant in the room here, but rather than take inspiration from it, McKay and his army of screenwriters choose, instead, to offer a rebuttal to it. Sure, Batman as voiced (superbly, might I add) by Will Arnett is a brooding and dour figure — albeit one who loves, even needs, the gratification that comes from the limelight — but this film isn’t afraid to say that this is a problem. To that end, butler-cum-father-figure Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is doing his best to get the closest thing he has to a child to let other people in, to move past the loss of his parents all those decades ago and find a new family.  Too many nights alone with microwaved lobster thermidor aren’t good for anybody, after all.

Batman “purists” probably won’t be too terribly happy with some of the liberties taken here : Robin (Michael Cera) isn’t just Bruce Wayne’s ward but his (accidentally — its a long story) adopted son; Barbara Gordon assumes the role of new Gotham City chief of police, replacing her just- retired father, before she dons the Batgirl costume more or less by default; Daleks and King Kong don’t exist in the DC Universe, etc. Well, grouse away, fan-boys — no one else cares.

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Perhaps the most daring and unexpected twist to the Bat-mythos offered here, though, is the refreshingly honest take offered on the relationship between Batman and The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Freed form the constraints of continuity and editorial protectionism, The Lego Batman Movie admits what no other Bat-flick can — that these two arch-foes need each other, and that any enmity this deeply felt can only spring from a place at least vaguely approximating (strictly platonic, rest assured, nervous parents) love. You know it. I know it. And it’s high time someone said it.

If you never expected this much pathos-via-broad-brushstrokes in what is still, after all, a kids’ movie, don’t worry — it’s all couched in laugh-out-loud humor, obfuscated under mounds of “Easter Eggs” for the observant fan, and delivered with an entirely un-ironic earnestness that you just can’t help but love. This is a movie that has no qualms about admitting that it wants you to like it, and then dares you to find a reason not to.

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I never did, of course, and neither will you. A world this colorful, this joyful, this smart, this optimistic, and this fun is probably one we’d all like to live in — but then we’d be made of plastic and lock onto sidewalks and streets with our feet. So, ya know, nothing’s perfect.

As the title for this review states plainly, though, this film really is about as close to it as you’re gonna get. The Lego Batman Movie is the best Batman movie ever, by far.