Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Another dysfunctional family.
Oh boy, do I love a good dysfunctional family story. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit. They’re okay now and then, but so overdone it’s ridiculous. The only thing that can save them is a good script and decent acting, which for something done all the time…it can be difficult. The Family Stone is a film I’ve heard of before but never seen, and now that I have, I’m….generally happy I did end up seeing it. It’s an ensemble comedy, which is always a bit iffy for me, but I think by the end they did their job.
The film follows Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) for the most part, a successful business woman, but socially awkward around families, or anyone else that’s not rigid like herself. One fateful year, her boyfriend Everett took her to his families for Christmas in hopes of asking her to marry him with his grandmother’s marriage ring (the ‘family stone’). One slight issue – everyone apparently hates her, mostly because she is socially awkward and never can say what she really means. The more she opens her mouth, the more his family despises her. When she calls her sister to come over and give her emotional support, that’s when things get really confusing. Meanwhile, Everett’s mother has some troubling news that’s sure to put a damper on the holidays.
First of all, can anyone say “predictable”? Normally I let predictability slide in the case of holiday films. That’s what they are, predictable, but there was something about this film that felt overly foreseeable. By around 35 minutes, you could probably conclusively make a completely accurate description of the rest of the movie. I’m not sure if they were really trying to keep anything a secret or not, but if they were, they failed pretty miserable. The great thing is that after the film is probably half finished, you beautifully stop caring about predictability and start caring about the characters.
Yes, there is way too many people here. All of these great actors coming together is nice and all, but because they are all so famous, the writers have an obligation to focus equally on each one, making the audience lose track on who exactly the main character is. That unfortunately happens here. Also, no one on earth is going to believe that anyone in this so-called family is related, even though they are supposed to be. Here’s the thing…in real life, blood doesn’t define family – family defines family. People who care about each other – that’s family no matter what. That’s when you realize that the characters aren’t the family here, the actors are.
These guys all perform so well together, you really believe they do care about each other and love each other, and an important message in the film is how seriously messed up a family can get, and how many times really harsh things can be said, and how unlimited a family can be in their level of forgiveness. Overall, that message is loud and clear here. There are a few really powerful scenes in the movie that really spice the film up, including a discussion on gays, and how offensive it is for people who don’t even know what they are saying, for people who mean well. Meaning well isn’t the same thing as being fine. Just saying.
All in all, by the end of the film, yes it’s really predictable, there is too many people, and you can tell they aren’t related, but it is heartwarming, and you care about the characters regardless. Pretty decent, honestly.
The characters make this film enjoyable. It’s almost impossible to explain the importance of how they present families and support. The added unpredictable nature of love is admirable too, albeit a bit cliché and overdone.
There’s no real way to tell who the main character is when all of these a-class actors take over. The writers have an obligation to give every actor equal focus…which makes sense, because they deserve exposure, but that lessens the quality of the film. Also, the movie is really, really predictable, I mean really, really predictable.
Ben Stone: [to Meredith] You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.
It’s Secret Santa time again! Once more, I set up the video camera and do a special video review just for you, and this time, it may or my not rhyme…Santa’s Slay is a 2005 horror/comedy holiday film about the “true” origins of Santa Claus. Basically, he was Satan’s son, who lost a bet to an angel, and had to bring cheer to young kids for 1000 years. His time was up though, and he was free to kill again. Here’s the review!
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A guilty pleasure.
I’ve never really been a fan of stoner movies. Maybe I can’t connect with them or the message they are trying to relay, but for the most part, they just aren’t my thing. I’ll admit that once in a while regardless of what I think of it, I do see potential and the good others see in it. It’s hard sometimes not to be biased, but it’s something I had to do with the Harold & Kumar collection because I wasn’t a fan of the first film. Once I got past the first, I saw the second and third, which for me personally, are gold for the series.
- Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
- A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Since this is a trilogy, it’s rather short and I won’t take much time reviewing it. I will first kind of go through the timeline of how this film works.
Basically you got two stoners, one more responsible than the other, that meet up once and a while and get high. After getting the munchies, they decided to hit the road for a “45-minute” drive to White Castle. After a thousand hilarious obstacles stop and delay them, they get to their location and eat their burgers.
After eating their burgers, Harold gets all of the convincing he needs to get his dream girl, so he does, but he didn’t have the ability to spend time with her, as she left for a 10-day trip to Amsterdam, the weed capital of the world. They decide to go after her and board a plane. Dumb Kumar decides to light up on board and is mistook as a terrorist with a bomb, not bong, and they are taken to Guantanamo Bay prison. When they escape, they head cross-country to find someone who will pardon their fugitive status, which ends up being George Bush. Finally, they get to Amsterdam and all is well.
Six years later, the two have went their separate ways in life, but Santa Claus brings them together with a massive joint, and together they search for a beautiful Christmas tree to replace the one that Kumar burnt down.
It’s all about the hijinks, really – not the plot. They just needed a simple plot as a place holder in order to excuse all of the banter that typically goes on between the two. Each film progressed with emotion and over-the-top random humor. By the end, let’s just say you’ll be happy it’s over. If there was a fourth, you know they’d try to top it, and it would just be ridiculous.
Of course, none of it would really work without the amazing chemistry between Kal Penn and John Cho. You would watch these two in anything and everything. The things they say sound more real than anything scripted, and then there’s the humor. The style of comedy in this film is mixed between self-aware comedy and subtle satire. These films are very satirical about issues that are real and important. Maybe not so much for the Christmas film, but I don’t really care. The Christmas film is made just for fun, so just enjoy it for that.
If I had one thing to say, it would just be a warning. The movie is really crude and obscene. It’s not a family movie or something you’d want to watch with your parents. It would be really, really awkward if you did. So that’s why I pretty much place this in the “guilty pleasure” category.
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Just enjoy it.
Here we are again. Just like so many other series before it, Harold & Kumar finally rest upon their last film, which so happens to be the film that has completely lost track of its original satirical intent. That must mean we as an audience must now yell and scream obscene remarks about how terrible the film is, am I right? You keep telling yourself that…I liked it. As far as the franchise goes, the best one for me is clearly the second film, which had the best of both worlds, but the third one is a close second. Yes, I consider the first film the worst one…technically, but they are all so close in comparison. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is another one of those R-rated Christmas tales that’s just a hoot and holler. So stop your nitpicking and just enjoy the thing.
Alright, so as people grow older, you know reality sinks in and you grow apart from friendships, even those you previously considered most important. The same applies to Harold and Kumar, because since the second film, a few years have passed and Harold is now married and living a very responsible life. Meanwhile, Kumar is still getting high and ignoring life, but that’s about to end when Vanessa tells him that she is pregnant and he must get his act together. When a package comes in the mail for Harold, Kumar decides to drop it off at his house. When he arrives, they realize that the package was a huge joint, and Kumar ends up accidentally burning Harold’s Christmas tree down. That tree was specially grown by Harold’s father-in-law, so the two set out on an epic journey to retrieve a new tree to make it seem like nothing ever happened.
Okay, so the franchise is getting more and more emotional. That’s a bit of a problem. I don’t mind a little drama when it is needed, but it’s a problem when the franchise also decides on getting more over-the-top with each film. On one end, you have the film trying to be more human and realistic, while on the other, you have it trying to be the most absurd, random, over-the-top stoned comedy. It’s probably to keep the film feeling more balanced between the two extremes, but there’s just something about too much emotion that feels wrong for the series. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t a huge issue.
The comedy was great, but again…flawed. The first two films thrived off of the idea of subtle satirical undertones masked through primarily racial jokes. Now, they had the same type of spirit and jokes here as well, but it seemed to me that almost all of the satire stuff was gone and the rest of the humor was used more aimlessly just because they could. By doing that, they were able to touch territory they weren’t able to before as the writing was quite random, but honestly – that random writing was hilarious. It was hilarious because, and this is important, it was self-aware.
The one thing that has been consistent throughout the whole series in terms of the jokes, is that it is very self-aware. Now, the other film were always slightly self-aware, that’s the whole point of satire, but satires aren’t always obvious. They are made to attract the subconscious. This film, instead of using satire style, they used pure self-aware comedy – it kind of turned into a parody of itself. Which I’m fine with. You see, this film is 3D, and it makes fun of 3D films by being 3D. People point to the camera, and the guy literally asks the other what he’s looking at (us). Neil Patrick Harris says “I’ll see you in the fourth”. Kumar’s alias in part of the film is that he works for the White House (prior to filming this movie, Kal Penn actually did work at the White House). This stuff is hilarious, and it’s all because they changed things just enough.
Some of the jokes might be a little too much to ask the audience to accept, especially the whole subplot of getting a baby high on practically every illegal substance known to man. People could reasonably call that disgusting and inhumane for a movie to even think of doing that. I will say that the way they did it in this film made it clear to the audience that it wasn’t realistic, just cliché like everything else in the film. You could tell that she wasn’t high and they were just making fun of drug side effects. But people really are sensitive, and it won’t even matter. You can do drugs and make crude humor and curse all you want in a film, but as soon as you use a baby as a comedic tool the way they did here, you’re going to get some angry customers, just saying.
All in all, even though the comedy differs from the last two films, I still found it pretty funny. It was full of inside jokes and self-aware mocks, and I loved it. The theme of Christmas seemed to fit right in with Harold & Kumar.
Let’s be honest here, the other films were over-the-top, but I mean come on, Christmas magic just doesn’t fit the profile of the others at all. It’s hilarious and outlandish, but I could see a lot of people being disappointed. The first film was actually realistic in the sense that people that know how marijuana works could see that happening in real life. This one lost most of what the first film set out for. I couldn’t care less, but my opinion differs from the general public.
Kenneth Park: This is a Sharp 52″ Aquos Quattron TV with state-of-the-art 3D technology that makes Avatar look Avatar-ded.
Harold: I don’t know. Hasn’t the whole 3D thing jumped shark by now?
Kenneth Park: Mr. Lee, you don’t understand. This is the best 3D you’ve ever seen. It’s gonna be amazing!
[Kenneth gives two thumbs up to the audience]
Harold: Who are you looking at?
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Sweet and silly.
I have to admit. The Family Man clearly takes a few plays out of major Christmas films, but I think it gets away with it. You got It’s a Wonderful Life mixed with A Christmas Carol (pretty much). I don’t call that unoriginality, I call that chemistry, or biology, or something like that. Once these two elements converge, it creates a completely different story all on its own that just seems to fit with the others. It’s inspiration at most, and while others call it “predictable”, I just snap back with “It’s a Christmas movie, take a chill pill!”
Centered on millionaire Jack Campbell, this is a magical tale of redemption. Something you’ve seen in both It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. He feels as though his life is perfect as he swims in his metaphorical fields of gold. However, when he runs into a man threatening a store clerk, he offers his assistance, and it turns out the crook was actually an angel…or something…that sends him to an alternate universe where he never got rich and instead chose love with his college sweetheart, Kate Reynolds. In this alternate universe, he is married with two kids, and as often as he tries, he attempts to somehow get his old life back, and if he can’t, he tries to stick with his old ways and tries to build his old life from the ground up. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he shouldn’t do, because as the audience falls in love with the family, they start to see how his greedy stuck-up ways is rude and appalling. He needs to redeem himself before he loses both lives.
I consider this one of the best Christmas films around. Yes, it takes plays out of the two films mentioned above. He is rich and greedy like Ebenezer Scrooge, and won’t let his workers stay home for Christmas. Then an angel comes by and shows him what his life would be like if he didn’t exist…or I should say – if his rich self didn’t exist. By adding these two together, you get something just as magical, but different enough to feel unique. I gotta say though, that’s not why I love this film, not even close. That’s just a mere snippet.
In actuality, you love the family. Every one of them, and even the neighbors. It’s well-done chemistry ten-fold, because it is an entire community of great chemistry. Not only that, but there is a very good mixture between the comedy and the drama. Nicolas Cage in a fish-out-of-water tale involving his own life is constantly hilarious, but because you love the family, there are these really effective emotional scenes – from everyone around. It feels so heartfelt with a pinch of holiday magic made this film truly a wonderful experience.
The plot is not all there. Instead of building character and developing true moments of rising action, it kind of plays along like a broken record. You see his character mature and grow, and then he goes and does something else that’s just equally as stupid as before. That’s when things start to feel a little predictable – and not in the way you’d expect from a Christmas tale. A way that feels like the film is dragging on at the same time…which granted, isn’t the best feeling in the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it, because it’s still a “buy” from me.
As I mentioned before, I still consider this one of the best Christmas films, filled to the brim with great family messages, moments of hilarity, and heartfelt characters you can really love and care about.
As magical and sweet as this film feels, it still plays like a broken record. Nothing seems to advance in the way that is should, because every time this guy grows and matures, he goes and does another stupid thing that makes you question if he has learned anything at all.
Wouldn’t it be cool to see a sequel to this film where we see where the “family man” version of Nicolas Cage is sent into rich version’s universe? Ha.
Jack: Well, you know everything worked out. I mean, I like Annie.
Kate: Well, good Jack, maybe we’ll keep her.
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Sorry, it’s better.
Maybe I just have really strange tastes, but I keep liking movies when I shouldn’t, and I keep hating movies that I should enjoy. I’m backwards, man. Sure sure, I do love several films that everyone else does as well, but more often than not, I’m sticking up for the bullied movies. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay for me felt like such a better and complete film. They both had the same exact format of telling jokes, but the overall goal was more concrete and the humor felt a lot more present this time. But hey…that’s just me.
This film begins seemingly the day after the first film. Remember Maria, Harold’s elevator dream girl from the first one? Well, she went off to Amsterdam, the pot capital of the world, and because Harold couldn’t wait 10 days for her to return, he and Kumar buy plane tickets right away. Kumar botches everything up on the plane because he brought a bong and wanted to smoke mid-flight…on the way to the pot capital of the world. They get caught and are thrown into Guantanamo Bay for being suspected of terrorism. So they escape from Guantanamo Bay and before they can even think about getting to Amsterdam, they need to stop by Kumar’s ex-girlfriend’s house to ask her fiancé to clear their names (he has political connections). Obviously, hilarity and mishaps ensue.
So according to the world, or at least a good-sized portion of it, people don’t really like this film, at least nowhere near as much as the first. This is a fact that irks me, because normally, I understand everyone’s opinion even if I have a different one. Now, I’m just confused, because I actually really enjoyed the movie, and thought that all around – it was better put together than the original. If I could guess why people didn’t like this as much is because it had less character development and maybe less jokes that were subtly satirical.
So did it have less character development? Yes, it did because the film takes place a day after the first one…which has all the character development that you really need, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have character depth. I complained that the first one had very little emotion from anyone on screen, and the whole side character of Kumar trying to stop his ex from marrying a douche had a lot of respectful emotion all around – definitely more than anything we saw from him in the first film.
What I probably understand the most is how the jokes remain in the same light as the first, but are a bit more meaningless. The first film was constantly satirical jokes dressed up as racist jokes. The whole idea of “how society views me, and how I view society” was a strong undertone of the first film…and while that existed here, it didn’t have as much of a variety. Most of it had to do with the flawed system of the government, how they are ignorant and what racial profiling really means most of the time. It means they are often close-minded – never meaning to ever listen to your side of the story.
The rest of the jokes seem random. How society views southern families as incestuous, for example. That was something that seemed overly random in the scheme of things, and made mostly just to have you laugh. Guess what, I don’t have a problem with trying to make someone laugh without a hidden agenda. So the rest of the jokes may be technically meaningless, they are still funny, and I actually laughed more here than I did on the first, so sue me.
I think a big part of why I liked the comedy this time around was because it was even more over-the-top. Think Forrest Gump. You know how he runs into some really important and historical places? Same thing here, just instead of historical, you got famous and infamous social circles that they run into. To me, it really felt like the plot finally fit perfectly.
Something I would have liked more was a more concrete plot. The first was so simple that it had a self-explanatory title. They go to White Castle…that’s it, that’s the plot. The title here was escaping from Guantanamo Bay, but guess what – they are there for probably five minutes before they escape. That wasn’t the main plot, guys. It was simply used because the main plot has nothing really special about it. They are going to Texas to get a political pardon…definitely not as strong of a plot.
Once again, Kal Penn and John Cho have some of the best chemistry around, even if you don’t like the plot or jokes, watch it for them. As for me, I thought the jokes were fresher, the editing was clearer, and the ideas were stronger ones, and I enjoyed the thing much more than the first.
I do understand that some of the jokes just don’t make as much of an impact as the first film for others. For me, I thought it was downright hilarious, but I get it, it wasn’t as satirical, so it was a bit different. I also get the plot was a lot less memorable past Guantanamo Bay, I agree, I just don’t care as much, because I’m here for the laughs.
A Nokia 770 is sometimes a device used in films to look cool, like a different-looking mini-tablet with (usually) high-tech futuristic modifications. It was used in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a hacking device, and it was mentioned by name in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, saying that satellites are running a trace on it. Here’s some fun news, I owned one of these, and actually…I still have it around somewhere, and guess what…it sucks. It was one of the FIRST internet tablets around, and it did almost nothing but load mobile webpages as slow as dial-up internet. They use the thing in film now because it has a really neat design, but it just bugs me that they keep doing that. The thing had 64MB of memory…that’s nothing, boys and girls, nothing.
Harold: He’s not a terrorist, he’s just an idiot.
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
I think I’ve seen Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle at least two or three times now, and I’ve tried so hard every time to understand it a little more and to have a little piece of me enjoy it. I think I hated it the first time, kind of understood it the second time, and this time I definitely understand most of it in regards to plot and undertones…but my level of enjoyment hasn’t even altered a little. I find it slightly funny, but not to the extremes the general public does. Let’s break it down, which won’t be too difficult.
Right, well Harold is a responsible Asian man that likes to have fun once in a while. Kumar is an irresponsible Indian fellow that doesn’t even believe in having anything less than fun all of the time. These two are friends, and on one night when they smoke pot together, they get the munchies. After a White Castle TV commercial airs, they decide to go to White Castle that night, or die trying. Along the way, they are stopped way too many times by obstacles that are smothered in over-the-top racial stereotypes, pot humor, sex, and bathroom jokes.
In short, the plot goes very little beyond the self-explanatory title. The reason I tried so hard to like the film, is because I know my tastes don’t exactly include pot comedies. There are some I do like, but most of the time…it’s just not my thing. I can’t get into it because they keep seeming like films clearly aiming for not only a 420-friendly audience, but an audience that is currently high while watching it. That, I can understand. I have nothing against marijuana, honestly, but I wasn’t high when watching, so it doesn’t affect me the same way. That being said, there are things I can respect about it, which is why my rating wasn’t as bad as what I’d give it for how I felt about it in general.
I can respect a lot of where the inspiration for comedy derived from, and that is the fact that it is a subtle social satire, yikes, say that three times fast. It went into important issues like racial stereotypes by exaggerating the truth. Police are so blinded by their racist nature that Harold & Kumar escape the jail with a huge bag of weed. Society thinks weed is so bad for you that one hit will instantly make you commit suicide. I did catch these messages, but not everyone will…I mean they are so drowned out by being over-the-top that it’s not exactly obvious and almost feels like grasping for straws by even mentioning it.
I also really love random humor, and I know others do as well. These are reasons for making my rating higher than it normally would be, but the fact is…the humor didn’t work as well on me as it does others. Those random jokes worked about one-third to half the time for me. I partially don’t get the film because I’ve never once cared about White Castle. The film is an hour and a half commercial for the thing, and it didn’t even start to peak my interest.
All in all, I can partially see why you guys like it…it’s just not my thing. My ratings are partially based on how I feel about it and the recognition that the general population actually likes it. It’s not too bad, but I think I’ve seen better from pot comedies.
Honestly, Kal Penn and John Cho are fabulous together. I won’t even begin to pretend that they aren’t. Too many films have a duo of a white and black guy, or a white guy and girl, or someone else who is white in the duo. A duo of an Asian and Indian guy is priceless, and their proven ability to bicker randomly while acting high is perfect. The hidden subtlety of satirical plots is really important.
Mostly from my preferences – there wasn’t enough real emotion coming from…anyone, really. The plot itself involves a restaurant widely-known for its ability to send you to the bathroom, and one that I care very little about. I just didn’t care for most of what I watched.
Harold: Dude, we’re so high right now!
Kumar: We’re not low!
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It’s Turbo Time!
What are some of the best Christmas movies ever made? Obviously, there is A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, etc. etc., but what about the other…newer films? Honestly, it doesn’t take a lot to be a bad Christmas movie in a lot of people’s eyes. I don’t necessarily say bad…I say different. Not every movie can meet the standards of the best Christmas films, because let’s face it, there’s not much territory left for greatness. I will say that a really great film comes along every 5-10 years that at least makes my annual Christmas film list, and one of those is without a doubt Jingle All the Way, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the workaholic father that never has time for his family or son in this family-oriented Christmas flick. When he misses his son’s karate class, he promises to make it up to his son by buying him what he’s wanted the most, a Turbo Man action figure. Problem is, this time of the year, you won’t be able to find it anywhere because it’s the hottest toy of the year. So battling other angry shoppers, he grasps at straws to find a solution, any kind of solution, to get that toy.
As I go through the month watching these Christmas films, I’m starting to notice a trend in what a better Christmas movie entails, and that completely differs depending on who you are. If you like movies that aren’t exactly about Christmas, but take place during the season, then you have a completely separate selection than those who like a Christmas film to be just that – a Christmas film. So some of you might call Die Hard a Christmas film, I don’t. I say it takes place during the holiday, but that’s about it. I do call Jingle All the Way a very solid Christmas tale, and I love it.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Arnie films – action, comedy, family-friendly, you name it. Each one have these different elements that really help the film out, because Arnie has such a loveable personality all around, and yes, he is a very funny guy. He fits so well tearing people apart, but also as well as a family man. Jingle All the Way has a lot of Christmas spirit and is just goofy enough to have a consistent light tone throughout.
Beyond that, the plot of the film is simple, yet solid, exactly how a Christmas film should be. All he has to do is get a toy, that’s the entire plot, but the way it is portrayed is really humorous and the action of Christmas hijinks never stops. You notice that there was plenty of moments where they could have easily screwed up the obstacles, but thankfully, they keep getting bigger and bigger until the eventual climax of the story
There are unbelievable things that happen now and then, like running into a bunch of Santa costume-wearing crooks selling stolen and broken toys, and honestly a lot of what happens in the end, but it is hilarious enough to shrug off as “Christmas magic”. In the end, this film is one I love to watch year in and year out. Without Schwarzenegger, the film would be nothing, as it apparently depended on him saying key things that were clearly molded and stereotyped solely for him. That is something I’d normally complain about, but I’m glad they did it – it has a very slight feeling of a self-aware parody, and I like that.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great actor who always has a different level of entertainment to bring to the table in practically everything that he is in. Jingle All the Way is a very funny instant classic Christmas tale that people will be watching until the end of time.
Not much, is a bit too over-the-top goofy in parts, and it has some plot holes (the gift certificate introduced at the radio station guaranteeing a Turbo Man doll completely vanishes in the next scene). For some, this may be bad.
Howard: Put that cookie down! NOW! (Sorry, had to.)
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
I lost interest.
One of the more recent horror films that made waves was Insidious, and my very picky nature didn’t really personally like the way they went about it, but there was a lot I could respect it for in terms of scaring other people. The reasons I didn’t really like it were simple: it focused way too much on showing you, showing you, and showing you more. The things they did show you, I wasn’t so impressed with either. I prefer a horror film to not show you anything and let your mind create the monster instead…but I get it, some people just aren’t creative or scared easily, so a movie sometimes has to provide the imagery. It’s not my preference, but I understand the appeal to others. As far as I was concerned, it did an okay job thanks to a very solid and easy-to-follow plot. The sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2 had some interesting element of its own, but overall, I lost a lot of my interest and respect for it.
Let’s go over the plot. For the most part, this film takes place immediately after the first film. Renai is being questioned by police about her husband Josh, who they suspect to be the murderer of the psychic, Elise. You see, they have a hard time accepting the excuse that a ghost did it. Back at home, it would appear that the house is still haunted, even though they supposedly fixed everything, and that leads them to believe that Josh is inhabited by the old woman ghost seen in the first film. Another investigation is set up, and a dark murderous plot is uncovered from the past that may just hold the key to locking all of this up once and for all.
Because I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film, I decided before I watched this film to create a list of things I would have liked to see in the movie in order to make it better for me. I thought that it needed to show less demons. I didn’t think they would, and they don’t…so that’s a no. Then I said, the ones you do show, make them scarier looking…I’ll give this to them. It’s not that much scarier, but I would say creepier at least. I then added that the film needs more astral projection – the last film had most of that in the last few scenes. I’ll give this point to them too, there is quite a bit more astral projection in this film. I wanted them to keep the desaturated grungy look, and as far as I could tell, this was half half. The film starts out looking really colorful, and then it seems to get grungier as it moves along. Mostly, I wanted them to raise the bar of suspense in this film, because I think suspense is a better tool for horror. Did they build suspense here? Yes and no.
You see, the first half of this film really has a good amount of suspense. It really does feel as though it is a horror film at this point, even more so than the original. For the first half of the film, I was seriously considering rating it higher. Then the second half happened. Man am I disappointed in the second half. That’s when all of the answers started coming in, but the problem was there was way too much actually going on in the film to keep track of…too many people, too many demons, too much weird history that’s hard to notice a connection to the family…I don’t know. Then there was the lack of suspense. The rest of the film had no suspense as all it did – constantly, was show the ghosts and demons relaying a history about a crossdressing killer…I liked that better when I saw it first in Psycho.
The best part of the film, and I hold this firm, is when they explained time as something disconnected from “The Further”, or otherwise known as the astral realm. It is like…a time vortex in a way, you can go back and visit previous events in your life. I really liked that, because it went back to the first Insidious, and answered a few questions left open for interpretation. At the same time, that might be a little too much to actually accept by an audience. I found it, at the least, interesting.
The film answered questions that the first left open for interpretation; the first half had a good level of suspension; feels complete; the astral realm had no connection to time, etc. These things are good.
Too much to list. For an idea: it’s not scary, too much trying to show us what’s scary, too much plotlines going on at once, and the very fact that it left it open for a sequel. You feel cheated on what could have been a better story.
Ghost Lady: Don’t you dare!
Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Bit too flaky.
Anyone out there a fan of John Grisham? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a fan. I’ve read plenty of his novels, and even own around 90% of them, including a little book called Skipping Christmas. As you know, the man is very famous for specializing his novels around legal thrillers. Once in a blue moon, he’ll write about a sport like baseball or football, but it was more of a shock when Skipping Christmas came out. A Christmas story? Well I read it, and I read it pretty quickly because it was compelling and written rather well, but the decision to make it into a movie was a little lost on me. It was an interesting book yeah, but not all of his novels are made into films, and this doesn’t rank anywhere near his best entries. However, it was made, what can I say? I don’t know what it is, I keep watching Christmas films, and I keep getting disappointed. I’ll just say that Christmas with the Kranks works more in book format than it does for film…film just made it look corny.
The story starts with the Kranks, Luthor and Nora, as they are saying farewell to their daughter, who is off to Peace Corps. The Kranks are incredibly famous for their annual Christmas party, but they decided since their daughter is away, they would skip Christmas and everything holiday related that year and instead go on a cruise to the Caribbean. This stirred up an uproar from practically everyone around them from people at work, in the mall, and every single one of their neighbors, who take Christmas…very seriously. It didn’t matter to the Kranks though, because they had their plans set in stone…that is…until their daughter calls and tells her parents that she is coming home for Christmas.
Honestly, I loved this book and read it quickly. Knowing Tim Allen would be playing Luthor was actually more of a surprise to me, because I didn’t think he fit the role very well, but I conceded. Allen is great in Christmas-themed films, and I’m a firm believer in creative freedom, so I let it slide…for the most part I was right to worry. I’ve seen Tim Allen in so many different things, and I just don’t think this role fit him very well. He didn’t even seem to enjoy it all that much. That being said, the movie actually followed the book very closely, and for that I praise it for…it just works better as a book.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to see any of John Grisham’s novels adapted to the big screen, and I can’t wait for The Associate to get a release, so yeah…when I first saw it, all I could see was the clear references to things from the book, which was constant. I didn’t really have a chance to realize that the movie itself really isn’t that great. It feels so cheesy…the neighborhood mob, the cartoonish effects, frosty’s glowing eyes…I don’t know…it just felt wrong for film. The book had most of the stuff the movie did, but I don’t know, Grisham’s expert writing made it seem awesome.
I don’t want to seem like I hate the movie, because I don’t. It still means something to me because I love the book, and I see this every other year or so because the premise is admittedly fresh. It wasn’t exactly presented in the best light, but trust me when I say if they did everything perfectly, you’d have actually liked it. If they had less over-the-top moments, overacting, and more passion overall, it would be decent, I guarantee it. Instead, Christmas with the Kranks ultimately is lost among a pile of other misfit films.
If you read the book, Skipping Christmas, you would realize that this adaption stays true to the book most of the time. You would probably also agree that the premise is intriguing, and the pacing isn’t really that bad.
The way this film is presented is in such a fashion that you really don’t care about the characters. Not even Tim Allen, who has a proven history of making successful Christmas films filled with great family-friendly Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, a good portion of that isn’t found here, and you start to realize that this story works better inside the pages of the novel.
Nora Krank: You forgot the white chocolate!
Luther Krank: They didn’t have any.
Nora Krank: Did you talk to Rex?
Luther Krank: Who’s Rex?
Nora Krank: The butcher.
Luther Krank: …as odd as it sounds, I didn’t think to ask the butcher where the chocolate was!