By Laurie Coker
Rating: Zootopia: A, London Has Fallen: C, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: C+ and Knight of Cups: F
Opening just before spring break week are four extremely different films – an animated adventure, an action film, a drama/comedy and a film that falls in the “what the heck?” genre of filmmaking. Zootopia, London Has Fallen, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Knight of Cups all hit the theaters on March 4th hoping for the start of spring to bring audiences inside, rather than out. While the kiddies and their parents will love Zootopia, the other three are positively adult fair and range from average to ugh.
Zootopia offers a charming story and insightful themes that are sure to please children and parents alike. An all-star cast voices creatures like bunnies, foxes, sheep and shrew that live in a melting pot of a community and comingle as if lions don’t find rabbits delicious. Witty writing and outstanding animation, coupled with high-speed pacing keep even the littlest viewers engaged and their adult companions highly entertained. Themes range from friendship to social issues and creators manage to keep a slightly regular story delightfully irregular. Disney does it again and Zootopia is a must see when the kids are underfoot and I am placing an A in my grade book.
Leading off the three more mature audience films is London Has Fallen, a prequel of shorts to Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart in the roles of an exceptionally capable secret service agent, Michael Banning (Butler) in charge of watching over Eckhart’s president of the United States. In the same vein as the first, London Has Fallen is a high-speed, action-packed thrill ride, but unfortunately, it is not nearly as exhilarating as the first. Bottom line, if car chases, gun and fist fights and explosions were all that made a film in this genre good, then London Has Fallen would be just fine, but little is new and everything is unsurprising about it, and even the quality chemistry between Butler and Eckhart can’t rescue London Has Fallen from doldrums of predictability. I am giving it a plain and simple C.
Tina Fey starring, as real-life Afghanistan and Pakistan reporter Kim Baker, on the heels of the successful Sisters, shows her comic talent again in Whiskey Tango Fox Trot the story of a reporter’s stint in the Middle East. Fey is in great form, but the story’s transparent tale keep it from, simply put, being better. Fey can’t elevate it above average at best. It trapezes on the edge of political themes and never fleshes any of them out. To be fair, Fey balances nicely between the dramatic and comedic, but she can’t save the safe story from meandering mediocrity. Fey is funny, the script has its moments of charm and camaraderie, but I can only place a C+ in my grade book. It could have better explored the impact of the real-world situation, but never does enough overall – unable to fine the correct balance of serious, smart, and silly.
Finally, Knight of Cups, starring Christian Bale, is a ridiculous mess of a movie from the weird mind of writer/director Terrence Malick. Following Bale’s screwed up writer Rick, the story (if I dare call it that) wanders between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in a strange odyssey of sorts that plays out in snippets and vignettes of sex, drugs, daily grind and directionless meanderings. I imaged as I watched, Malick sitting in a room with the film’s editor and hundreds of feet of film and both clipping it into bits, then taping pieces of it randomly together, until they came up with what is surely one of the most nonsensical messes I have tried to endure. Bale, in perhaps his most uninspired roles, looks more like a zombie than a live person. It is easy to offer up an F for this this failure of a film – I can’t even give it kudos for artist flair.
Typically spring winds bring in wonderful weather, but it isn’t typically the season for quality movies. However, one great, two so-so and one bomb out of four aren’t bad odds, but ultimately Zootopia is the one to see for full price in theaters, but save London Has Fallen and Whiskey Foxtrot Tango for matinee or DVD and avoid Knight of Cups all together.