Sunday 22 October 2017

Review: Trolls - the message about happiness is a great one

Cert G: Now showing

Troll dolls have been rebooted for DreamWorks's latest animated film
Troll dolls have been rebooted for DreamWorks's latest animated film
Queen of Katwe

Troll dolls have not been a thing to children for many years. Up until now. DreamWorks Animation has rebooted the multi-colour rainbow haired creatures for its latest film, and the merchandising is coming your way too. It's an all-singing, all-dancing catchy reinvention that will appeal to children of all ages and is entirely endurable, not to say even enjoyable for adults.

There are super-happy Trolls and there are super-miserable Bergens. The Bergens believe that the only way to achieve happiness is to eat a Troll, so 20 years ago the Trolls fled to safety. They have been very happy since and the Bergens mired in misery. However, in their happiness the Trolls have become complacent about their safety.

Their new leader Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is all about the happiness. There are hourly hug alerts, regular raves, lots of singing and every blissful moment is scrapbooked. Her subjects adore her, but one, Branch (Justin Timberlake), remains on the outside. A survivalist Troll, he prepares relentlessly for the next Bergen invasion and refuses to partake in the parties he feels sure will draw the enemy's attention.

When Branch is proved right and Trolls are carted away by evil Chef (Christine Baranski) to make a happy meal for Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Poppy and Branch head off on a rescue mission which will also involve a Cinderella-type tale for scullery maid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel).

Written by the team behind Kung Fu Panda and made by the people who brought you Shrek, it's sweet, funny, irreverent and gender-balanced. It has fab tunes and the message about happiness is a great one. Go Trolls. 3 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Cert 12A: Now showing

Glance for a second at the poster for Keeping Up With The Joneses. You'll see Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm, each prettier than the other, holding guns and dressed in chic black. Beside them, Zach Galifianakis wields a barbecue utensil beside a homely Isla Fisher. If the image conjures ideas of a silly Arlington Road meets Mr and Mrs Smith, then the ad men have done their jobs. Slinky, perfect spies move in next door and throw naff, sexless suburbanites into a tizzy. Got it.

The only problem with all this is that Arlington Road was dark and thrilling while Mr and Mrs Smith was camp and stylish. …The Joneses, while certainly more closely related to the latter, achieves little except to pair-up Don Draper and Wonder Woman, get Galifianakis doing his trademark mugging, and shoot Fisher and Gadot wearing lingerie. There is nothing fresh brought to the oft-trodden template bar a different set of devastating super-spies.

This could be forgiven if there were enough chuckles to sustain things but director Greg Mottola relies too much on the physicality of Galifianakis and the chalk-and-cheese dynamic of the two couples. And yet, unoriginal as it is, part of you does envision a use for ...The Joneses as fodder for days when the brain needs 100 minutes or so offline. 3 Stars

Hilary A White

Queen of Katwe

Cert PG: Now showing

Queen of Katwe

In the First World the greatest poverty is one of aspiration, where people don't expect much for themselves but will not starve to death. In the Third World poverty really does mean hunger, no shelter and a very real risk of death. Following the death of her husband, Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong'o) is left trying to support three of her children by selling corn in a market in the Ugandan coastal town of Katwe. Her eldest child (Taryn Kyaze) has chosen to make her own way by being supported by a man but Harriet plans for her remaining children to follow her in the market. School is a luxury she did not have and cannot afford for her children.

When her young teenagers, daughter Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and son Richard (Ivan Jacobo), get involved in a church-run chess club, Harriet is initially suspicious. She has been warned that clubs like this feed the children as a front so bans them from attending. Phiona, however, has already shown enormous promise. Despite the fact that she cannot read, she can interpret a chess board many moves ahead and the pastor, Robert (David Oyelowo), works hard to convince Harriet, and Phiona, that she can really take on the world. But poverty eats hope and there are many obstacles along the way.

Director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directs this true story from a screenplay by William Wheeler. It's a Disney film so while it doesn't shy away from the realities of poverty it is neither depressing nor too gritty. It's uplifting, feel-good, nice, well shot and really well acted. Newcomer Madina Nalwanga is remarkably understated in the lead and Nyong'o and Oyelowo offer solid support. Won't appeal to everyone, but it's a sweet movie. 4 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Jack Reacher:  Never Go Back

Cert 12A: Now showing

It's been four years since Tom Cruise last played Jack Reacher, the ex-military drifter whose unorthodox search for the truth makes him powerful enemies. This time Reacher goes to Washington DC to meet Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) with whom he has been solving cases. But following the murder of two of her people in Afghanistan, Turner is arrested and Reacher soon after. They escape, natch, with Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be Reacher's long-lost daughter, and are pursued by both officialdom (Aldis Hodge) and professional nutter (Patrick Heusinger).

The plot is thin, a bit ridiculous, rather tenuous and silly. But the most unnerving thing is that it is a less than committed performance from Cruise. It's odd. 2 Stars

Aine O'Connor

I, Daniel Blake

Cert 15A: Now showing

Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winner is unflinching, timely, essential and deeply moving thanks to its depressing realism and wonderful central performances.

In the aftermath of a heart attack Daniel is signed off work. But contradictory bureaucracy means that despite having worked all his life he is not eligible for social welfare. He befriends a young mother, Katie (Hayley Squires), who is subject to similar issues and their friendship forms the human backdrop to the automated nonsense that so much of life has become. Dave Johns gives such an impressive turn in the beautifully written lead role that his frustration with the situation in which he finds himself gives the story fire. The film's deftness of touch makes it extremely watchable and nowhere near as turgid as it sounds. 5 Stars

Aine O'Connor

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