Movie reviews: The Red Turtle, The Other Side of Hope, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (12A, 129mins) ★★
- The Red Turtle (PG, 81mins) ★★★★
- The Other Side of Hope(12A, 100mins) ★★★★
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (G, 90mins) ★★
Spinning five films out of a hokey theme park ride is pretty good going, even for Disney, which has splashed out a cool $230m (¤205m) on this latest Pirates of the Caribbean adventure. It sounds like a sound investment when you consider that the last episode, On Stranger Tides, grossed $1bn (€890m), but I wonder will Salazar's Revenge be a bridge too far. Because despite some remarkable special effects, the whole enterprise feels tired, contrived, and nothing seems wearier than Johnny Depp's pantomime pirate routine.
Will-o-the-wisp sea dog Captain Jack Sparrow is about to be executed by some Caribbean despot when he's rescued by his old crew and a callow young man called Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites). He wants Jack to help him break a curse that has separated him from his parents - played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the original film. Which is all very well, but matters more pressing present when Jack discovers he's being hunted by a zombie Spanish naval captain. Salazar (Javier Bardem) haunts the high seas in a hull-eating craft, and blames Sparrow for having scuttled his ship and doomed the Spaniard and his crew to a purgatorial existence.
The plots of these films have always been nonsensical, but this one seems daft above and beyond the call of duty. There are some impressive CGI set pieces, such as a dramatic parting of the waves late on, and Javier Bardem does his best to deliver a performance from beneath thickly caked piles of fright make-up. But Salazar's Revenge is a wearisome affair overall, and Depp's Sparrow act has moved beyond parody into something rather shrill, and tinny.
Produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a breathtaking animated feature that starts out as a fairly straightforward Robinson Crusoe adventure before becoming something much more mysterious. In a magnificent opening sequence, a lone man is tossed about like a doll in a sea storm before washing up on a lonely beach.
The island he explores is small and uninhabited, and he rages Lear-like against the unfairness of his lot before help arrives from an unexpected source. A green agenda is at work: the man gets nowhere when he fights nature, everywhere when he embraces it. There are few words, but The Red Turtle doesn't need them: nature is the star of this film.
Veteran Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki: simultaneously whimsical and serious, his stories tackle grim social problems with humour and compassion. The Other Side of Hope, tells two stories that gradually elide: the first concerns Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian stowaway who emerges, wraith-like, from a pile of coal on the Helsinki docks and begins the painful asylum vetting process. In the other story, a businessman called Waldemar Wigstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) walks out on his wife and decides to open a restaurant.
How these two men's fates collide I will leave to your imagination, but The Other Side of Hope is a film full of playful asides and moving moments, outbursts of music, joy and despair. It's odd, and will stay with you.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, however, will be forgotten quickly and forever. Up until now I've enjoyed these whimsical family films based on the best-selling children's books by Jeff Kinney: a good ensemble cast spun out Kinney's jokes and extended pratfalls with skill, and a good time was had by all. But child actors grow up, and this film has entailed a complete change of cast. Big mistake, as it turns out, because what the original actors executed with ease, this lot make look clumsy, and joyless.