Wondering Where All the Whimsy Went? Watch ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ and Find Out

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Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Lesley Stahl

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Few Arguments and Brushes with Mortality

Release Date: June 24, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: While staying at an Airbnb, a documentary filmmaker (director Dean Fleischer-Camp as himself) makes a fascinating discovery: one inch-tall anthropomorphic shell Marcel (Jenny Slate) and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini. They’ve been living in the house for as long as they can remember amidst a rotating door of human roommates. Dean is so taken by Marcel and his unique worldview that he uploads footage of him to YouTube. It immediately becomes the most viral thing on the Internet, which leads Marcel to wonder if this is the perfect opportunity to track down his missing family members, who were removed from the house during an incident a couple of years earlier. Luckily for Marcel, his story attracts the attention of his beloved 60 Minutes, whose crew is excited to interview him and investigate any leads related to his family. But is Marcel truly ready to venture out into the wider world?

What Made an Impression?: Marcel originated as a 3-minute video that Slate and Fleischer-Camp posted onto YouTube back in 2010, just a few months after her one and only season on Saturday Night Live. At the time it was a boon for her career (which has continued to chug along steadily in the decade-plus since), but it never seemed like it was anything more than a one-off goof, at least not from my vantage point. Who could ever have thought that something so whimsical and (literally) lightweight could ever bear the weight of a feature-length story? Well apparently, Slate and Fleischer-Camp thought it could, and I’m glad they believed, because I’m now obligated to report that Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is absolutely delightful.

What really holds it all together is the fact that nobody ever questions the existence of Marcel and his family. They’re a little surprised and plenty entertained, but the world is just profoundly accepting of the fact that creatures like this can exist. And why wouldn’t you be, when they’re just so guileless and openhearted? He might be small in stature, but a visit from Marcel is like a big hug from the universe reminding you that true wonderment is still possible. Also, investigative journalism is a big deal to plenty of people for good reason. To paraphrase a certain superhero classic, you’ll believe a man can be a shell.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is Recommended If You Like: Aardman Animation, Grey Gardens, Documentary Now!

Grade: 4 out of 5 YouTube Views

‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ is Here to Ask: How Can You Possibly Resist Seeing the Belcher Clan on the Big Screen?

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The Bob’s Burgers Movie (CREDIT:
20th Century Studios/Screenshot)

Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Larry Murphy, Kevin Kline, Zach Galifianakis, David Wain, Gary Cole, Sam Seder, Aziz Ansari, David Herman, Brian Huskey, Jenny Slate, Ron Lynch, Stephanie Beatriz, Nicole Byer

Directors: Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Surprisingly Scary Situations

Release Date: May 27, 2022 (Theaters)

Has it really been 12 seasons and over 200 episodes of Bob’s Burgers already? It somehow still occupies that “New Show” headspace in the Media Consumption Lobe of my brain, and yet an entire generation has now been raised by the Belcher crew. However long it’s lasted, this delightfully quirky animated Fox standby remains a reliable AND exciting part of my viewing routine. It’s a perfect way to spend a half hour on a Sunday evening (or the next Monday morning, or sometime later in the week when Peak TV obligations are really piling up). Just as middle child Tina still goes crazy over butts after all these years, so too am I eternally jazzed about the prospect of a big screen Belcher adventure as if it were the first time I were ever going to the theater. As long as it stays true to its underdog self, then I and legions of other loyal fans will be satisfied.

What’s profoundly striking about The Bob’s Burgers Movie is how much it doesn’t differ from a typical episode, beyond the stretched-out running time. Yes, the screen is a little wider, and the animation is a little more high-definition. But there’s no big-name stunt cameos or any trips across the universe. Instead, the whole thing is confined to a few of the typical locations in the same old anonymous East Coast beach town with the regular voice cast doing what they’ve always done.

What is different is that the stakes are a little higher. The family restaurant is the closest it’s ever been to bankruptcy, Tina’s ready to ask longtime crush Jimmy Pesto Jr. if he’ll be her summer boyfriend, the danger at hand is legitimately life-threatening, and there are some wonderfully go-for-broke musical numbers. But once again, these are motifs that have already come up multiple times on the show, so it’s only mild heightening. True, it’s not every day that a giant sinkhole opens up in front of Bob’s Burgers and makes it basically impossible for customers to enter. Nor is it every day that skeletal remains are found in front of the restaurant, and in a giant sinkhole no less. And that is what happens in the movie, as it sets off a juvenile murder investigation and some renegade burger cart hawking on the boardwalk. To the uninitiated, that might indeed sound like something wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary. But this is an adaptation of a show that just pulled off an ambitious Blade Runner homage in its most recent season finale. I’m not complaining about this familiarity; instead, I’m happily listing all the ways that The Bob’s Burgers Movie feels like home.

So, the first big-screen adventure of one of my favorite animated families is far from mind-blowing, but as I walked out of the theater, I had this thought: wouldn’t it be lovely if this became a new annual tradition? On the weekend after the latest season finale, we always get a new Bob’s Burgers movie. We spend most of the year getting our patty-bun-and-topping fill at home, and then we commune with our fellow burgerholics out in the wild, and maybe introduce a few new friends and family to the routine each time. Isn’t that a world you’d like to live in? Isn’t that a world you’d like your children to live in? We’ve already had so many Burgers of the Day, now it’s time for the Burgers of the Year.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie is Recommended If You Like: Food Puns and Thick Buns

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Burgers of the Day

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’: Accurate

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Everything Everywhere All at Once (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr.

Directors: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Running Time: 139 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: March 25, 2022 (Theaters)

Everything Everywhere All at Once captures how I feel all the time. I’m not always an outwardly emotional person, but inside I’m perpetually cooking in much the same way that the multiverse is constantly bumping up against itself in the Daniels’ vision. (Damn, Daniels.) Basically, so many of my daily thoughts are something along the lines of, “What do I have to do to make my life a recreation/mashup of The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rick and Morty, In the Mood for Love, 2001, Kill Bill, Ratatouille, and that SNL sketch about googly eyes with Christopher Walken?” And now some folks actually went ahead and did it!

Grade: Everything out of Everything!

How Well Does ‘I Want You Back’ Handle Its Manipulative Premise? Let’s Find Out!

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I Want You Back (CREDIT: © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)

Starring: Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Gina Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Omar Gooding, Dylan Gelula, Isabel May, Pete Davidson, Jami Gertz

Director: Jason Orley

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R for Adults Behaving Hot and Bothered

Release Date: February 11, 2022 (Amazon Prime Video)

Plenty of romantic comedies feature highly manipulative, perhaps even psychopathic behavior, and I Want You Back is just the latest example. That feature of the genre isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. It all just depends on how you present it. If you’re going for something cynical or a heightened/surreal vibe, then this behavior fits perfectly. If however you want to conclude with the sweet-as-treacle traditional happily-ever-after, then the message might end up a whole heck of a lot darker than intended. In the case of I Want You Back … it’s complicated. It features likable actors who can go vicious or weird if that’s what’s asked of them, but this time they’re aiming for something more grounded and thoughtful. But they’re not perfect either. They make some bad decisions, eventually they have to deal with the consequences, and the narrative grapples with how to move forward from those consequences.

Here’s the setup: Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are both blindsided when they’re dumped from their respective long-term relationships. Breakups are always hard, but these ones are especially tough, because these two mortal fools have convinced themselves that their now-exes (Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez) were The Ones for them. So when they have a chance encounter in the office building where they both work, they hatch a scheme wherein they will rip apart the new relationship of the other’s ex so that they can be reunited. Along the way, they get up to a few shenanigans, deliver some chuckle-worthy dialogue, forge some unlikely friendships, and learn a little bit about themselves. But the clock is ticking, and The Truth Bomb is just waiting to go off…

Let’s jump ahead to discuss the point when Peter and Emma’s scheme fully unravels. Predictably, everyone who’s been an unwitting pawn is so aghast at the lack of forthrightness and integrity when they thought everything had been genuine. It would be realistic if everyone remained angry with each other for weeks, months, or even years afterward. But instead, they talk it out. Is it enough to justify a happy ending? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not personally sure myself. But I am certain that it’s ultimately healthiest to address these emotionally distressing situations head-on. It may be supremely difficult, but settling on anger most likely means allowing these situations to fester into something even more toxic. Since I Want You Back recognizes that, it mostly wins my approval.

I Want You Back is Recommended If You Like: Sitcom Stars in Movies, Quarter-Life Crises, Abortive threesomes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Airplane Safety Masks

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/1/21

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The Chase; Celebrity Wheel of Fortune; The Hustler (CREDIT: Ron Batzdorff/ABC; Carol Kaelson/ABC; Christopher Willard/ABC)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Pieces of a Woman (January 7 on Netflix)

TV
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks (January 1 on BBC America)
Earth to Ned Season 1 Part 2 (January 1 on Disney+) – A delightful talk show hosted by an alien. I wrote about it on my newsletter.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 Premiere (January 1 on VH1)
Call Me Kat Series Premiere (January 3 on FOX) – Starring Mayim Bialik and cats.
The Great North Series Premiere (January 3 on FOX) – New animated show with the voices of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Jenny Slate, Will Forte, and others.
-Alex Trebek’s last week of new Jeopardy! episodes (January 4-8, check local listings)
The Hustler Series Premiere (January 4 on ABC) – Another game show on ABC! This one’s hosted by Craig Ferguson.
History of Swear Words (January 5 on Netflix) – Hosted by Nicolas Cage himself.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 2 Premiere (January 5 on NBC)
Name That Tune Reboot Premiere (January 6 on FOX) – Hosted by the one and only Jane Krakowski.
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune Series Premiere (January 7 on ABC)
The Chase Reboot Premiere (January 7 on ABC) – Jeopardy! all-time greats Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer square off against contestants. Sara Haines hosts.
Mr. Mayor Series Premiere (January 7 on NBC) – Ted Danson gets right back in the sitcom swing.

This Is a Movie Review: Venom

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

How do you make a gelatinous black alien goo-villain like Venom the hero of your movie? As the makers of Venom have decided, you have it (him?) fall in love with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). Although, it’s not so much love as it is deep platonic friendship. But maybe developing a deep platonic friendship is a kind of falling in love? Whatever you call it, it works.

Overall, this movie is filled with delights because of its unerringly playful approach. That applies to the action scenes, with Venom’s fluid presence shooting out in unpredictable directions. It of course applies to the back-and-forth repartee between Eddie and Venom inside his head. (Wisely, a few other key characters are aware of what is going on during these conversations, but that doesn’t make them look any less insane.) And it absolutely applies to Eddie/Venom’s constant attempts to figure out how to feed their ravenous hunger. And then there’s that tongue. Oh yeah, that tongue. We could’ve used more of the tongue, honestly. But Venom, and Venom, is more than just that tongue, and it’s better for it.

I give Venom 400 Tater Tots out of 500 Host Bodies.

This Is a Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

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CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Global Road Entertainment

I give Hotel Artemis 2.5 out of 5 Rules: https://uinterview.com/reviews/movies/hotel-artemis-movie-review-an-intriguing-premise-can-only-carry-this-thriller-so-far/

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Despicable Me 3’ Plays to Its Strength Just Often Enough

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CREDIT: Universal and Illumination

This review was originally posted on News Cult in June 2017.

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Pierre Coffin, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG for Off-Color Minionese Jokes

Release Date: June 30, 2017

“I miss the Minions,” Gru laments about halfway through Despicable Me 3. Ever since the 2010 release of the first in this series, missing the Minions could only ever be relative. But when those little yellow pills are not on screen, you feel it. They may be divisive, inspiring just as much ire as they do unbridled joy, but there is good reason why they have been the breakout characters. As much as they inspire little kids (and some adults) to babble incessantly in Minionese, they are not lacking in ingenuity. Indeed, their moments in the spotlight continue to be the most imaginative, inventive, and playful in the DM-verse. When in DM3 they stumble into a live singing competition and are forced to come up on the spot with a signature babbling version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” their versatile ability to think on their feet is as inspiring as ever.

Alas, this buoyancy is not present throughout, as directors Pierre Coffin (also the voice of most of the Minions) and Kyle Balda and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio commit the cardinal sequel sin of splitting up their characters into dispersed storylines. Gru (Steve Carell, having a ball as always), Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and the girls all head out to the European mash-up/Marx Brothers reference country of Freedonia to meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (Carell pulling double duty), but everyone has their own thing going on. The much more outwardly charming Dru tries to pull Gru back into a life of villainy to fulfill a family legacy, while Lucy is more focused on getting the girls (who have their own subplots that have essentially nothing to do with anything else) to really truly think of her as a mom.

The Minions’ storyline succeeds the most by following an instinct of loyalty and getting everyone back together. Dru is not the only one trying to drag Gru back to a life of crime, as his little yellow assistants commence an insurrection that results in a mass resignation. They ultimately wind up imprisoned (if you love the Minions, you will love seeing them become the ruling jailhouse gang), where they see the error of their ways and craft an impromptu aircraft out of prison toilets and washing machines. There’s that ol’ Minion ingenuity, implemented for the purpose of absurd goodness.

This is a busy movie, leaving little room for its ostensible villain to make much of an impression. This series has never really needed strong antagonists, as its most interesting conflicts have been more internal. But with the heroes all now mostly on the side of good, it would help if diamond thief Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) were more of a complementary counterpoint. Instead, he is just a bizarre presence sticking out like a sore thumb, with his defining characteristic being his fetishization of the ’80s.

There is a weird tension at the heart of Despicable Me 3. So much happens, but so much is left teased. The ending suggests that this has been one 90 minute-long trailer for the next real Dru-centric adventure. But really, the problem here is that there is not a strong enough capitalization on this series’ enduring sweetness. The girls are adorable, they love Gru, Gru’s a great dad, Lucy never needed to try so hard to be accepted, and the Minions are so, so loyal. Everyone is on the same side, thus why it is such a shame that they are not all in the same scenes as often as possible.

Despicable Me 3 is Recommended If You Like: Cramming as Many Plotlines as Possible Into 90 Minutes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Minions Blowing Raspberries