Capsule Reviews: 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie,' 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,' 'Renfield' & 'Paint'
by Philip Price
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is perfectly pleasant. It does exactly what it intends and little more; never eclipsing expectations. The movie crams in a lot for the purpose of pleasing everyone but does so in a fun, cohesive fashion that somehow manages to still feel adventurous while remaining completely safe in every conceivable way. The animation is truly stunning though, and Jack Black gets to sing, so I was pleased.
"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is currently in theaters.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is some dorky ass shit, but John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein's filmmaking feels inventive and props to them along with co-screenwriter Michael Gilio for seeming to graft elements of the game (which I am completely uninitiated with) onto what is essentially a heist film, taking the time to shoot on real locations that ultimately make-up for the lackluster CGI, and most importantly for having a good sense of humor BOTH about itself as well as in general.
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" is currently in theaters.
“Renfield” is a slight, but still largely enjoyable and VERY bloody romp that doesn’t overly concern itself with themes that might seep in from the story that props up its thin plot. Director Chris McKay (“The Lego Batman Movie,” “The Tomorrow War”) executes some gnarly kills while seamlessly weaving in some great little comedic touches with the action. The film has notably fun costumes and production design as well. As for the performances, Nicholas Hoult manages to carry the weight of Renfield's worries while generally remaining optimistic in spite of his obstacles; shouldering much of the horror/comedy tonal shifts the movie asks of him. Nicolas Cage is obviously having a blast and the movie is at its most fun when he's on screen, but Ben Schwartz goes from intentionally obnoxious to almost completely unbearable really quickly while Awkwafina's Rebecca is too one-dimensional to leave the planned impression despite firing off some of the best lines in the film, most of which she likely improvised.
"Renfield" is currently in theaters.
“Paint” very much feels like one of those awkward, tweed-heavy comedies made in the early aughts that exists under the permanent shadow of Wes Anderson. The Owen Wilson of it all probably doesn't help with that impression, but Brit McAdams' film is both somewhat refreshing if not wholly confounding in its satirical dryness and complete lack of any real intent. The supporting ensemble is a prime example of the film's charm in that folks like Michaela Watkins, Stephen Root and Wendi McLendon-Covey are having fun playing with the tone McAdams is aiming for while also seeming to have no real idea what's going on or where this thing is headed. Some genuinely funny laughs come from this very specific sense of humor including the pronunciation of "Cheesepot Depot," the lack of any attempt to make characters look younger in flashbacks, the stunned kid magician in the telethon scene, as well as the "No Smoking" sign bit, but is this enough to sustain even a 90-minute comedy? Not really, but I also walked out chuckling, so...maybe? Or maybe I just desperately miss Wilson appearing in comedies where he possesses an outrageously irreverent attitude much to the chagrin of the characters around him but to the pure delight of the audience watching him. Either way, “Paint” includes just enough of this very niche brand to make that corner of the market I'll gladly include myself in, happy.
"Paint" is currently in select theaters.