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Baby Driver – A Movie Review


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Is there a more hyped movie coming out this summer than Baby Driver? Have you seen the commercials for it? It has been hailed as the most original film in years. It has been called brilliant. It has been widely praised.

Could it possibly live up to the advance press?

As it turns out, almost. It comes very, very close to delivering, dare I write it, on all cylinders.

What struck me most about Baby Driver is that, in a time of franchises and shared universes and sequels dominating the box office, this movie is original. It is a singular vision, fully realized by one voice: writer/director Edgar Wright. It is clear from the first frame that each and every aspect of the movie is under Wright’s control and each spins out of his mind.

And that is a lot of fun.

I love superhero movies and sequels as much as (more than?) the next person, but, as I watched Baby Driver I marveled at how fresh it felt. There is fun to that. And there is a palpable danger to it.

In the typical summer movie or the latest chapter in a franchise, a definite set of rules dictate the proceedings. The conclusion of these sorts of films are all but known as the opening credits unspool.

Such is not the case with Baby Driver. It is wild. It is fun. It is unpredictable and, because of that, it is dangerous. Very few of the characters behaved in a predictable manner. Very few of the situations played out as I thought they would. I did not see the end of the movie coming.

What a pleasure!

Ansel Elgort makes a terrific protagonist for Wright. As the soft-spoken, music-listening, fast-driving, Mozart in a go-cart Baby, Elgort effortless exudes cool. He is the center of the wheel in Baby Driver and Wright chose his lead very well. This could be a breakout for the star and his upcoming roles suggest that we will be hearing more from him. But, as good as Elgort is, Wright was smart enough to surround him with a truly remarkable cast.

Kevin Spacey is perfect as Doc, the brains behind each heist in the film. Witty, cool, unpredictable, Doc is an immediately indelible Spacey creation. Jamie Foxx is equally good as Bats, also unpredictable (seeing the pattern?), fully energize, Foxx is having a lot of fun in this one, and he shares that fun with the audience. And Jon Hamm rounds out the leading quartet brilliantly. His smooth charm, his steely gave and his good looks that cannot be hidden under a silly haircut or behind a three-day growth serve to make Buddy a key part of this unexpected joy of a film.

It should be noted that the suddenly everywhere Lily James is wonderful as well. She plays Debora, Baby’s girl friend, and makes a role that could fade into the background in a cast like this stand out. She and Elgort have chemistry and are well matched. She more than holds her own.

The characters are fascinating and well drawn. They are three-dimensional and clever. They are dangerous, like the movie itself. The plot is twisting, turning fun. The action (done without the aid of any CGI) is stunning. The music buoyant. The only thing that holds the movie back the slightest bit is the weight of expectation. It is great? Yes. Is it the greatest thing I’ve ever seen? No.

But it is a hell of a lot of fun.

In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fun time at the movies this summer.

BABY DRIVER receives FOUR AND A HALF iPODS out of a possible FIVE.

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Horrible Bosses 2 – A Movie Review

photo from imdb.com.

photo from imdb.com.

Moviegoers know what they are getting when they buy a ticket to Horrible Bosses 2, right? The audience for the film is those people who made the first installment a major hit three years ago and they know what to expect: odd chemistry among stars Jason Bateman, David Sudekis and Charlie Day, over-the-top set pieces, a kind of heist movie gone sideways, crass humor and a laugh-until-you-cry scene or two. Horrible Bosses 2 lives up to these expectations, but does little to clear them. What the movie has going for it is that the audience isn’t looking for it to break new ground, just to cover the old and familiar ground in slightly more amusing ways. Horrible Bosses 2 manages to do that, but little more.

I love Jason Bateman as Nick Hendricks. His should-be-patented withering stare of disbelief never fails to make me laugh and Bateman’s the best thing in the film, much as he was in the original iteration. In the first film, it was Nick who grounded the movie (such as a movie like this can be grounded at all). He was the “everyman” window into the thing – a good worker pushed too far who gets swept up into a ridiculous plot by forces almost beyond his control. At each turn, he was desperate to pull the rip cord on the increasingly insane proceedings. This dynamic made for some of the funniest parts of the original and created a fun dynamic among the three leads. It’s all but missing in the sequel. Nick barely resists the idiocy here and the loss of that conflict is felt.

Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day are amusing enough, but their characters are written so similarly in Horrible Bosses 2 that it’s difficult to draw a distinction between them. Wide-eyed and bumbling, they are all but interchangeable and the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. Need someone to say something dumb? Give the line to Sudekis’ Kurt or should it go to Day’s Dale? Or does it matter at all? No, it doesn’t.

In the end, though, what really hinders the film in contrast with the original is its lack of compelling adversaries. I like Chris Pine a lot and he’s certainly game here, but he’s neither funny enough nor sleazy enough to make much of an impact, and Christoph Waltz, who is a very talented actor to be sure, appears annoyed that he took the role at all. Don’t believe me? Be sure to stay to see his outtake in the closing credits. Waltz seems to be saying “what am I doing in this movie?”

The script finds a way to bring back Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, and each has her or his moments. But their presence, especially Aniston’s and Spacey’s, serves to remind us that the first movie was both funnier and more original than the one we’re currently watching.

I won’t say I disliked the movie entirely and there were a few moments during which I was laughing so hard that I had to wait for my breath to catch up. There just weren’t enough of those for me to say that Horrible Bosses 2 was a great success. 

Horrible Bosses 2 receives 2 1/2 Shower Buddies about of a possible 5.

 

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