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Milking It

Allegiant and The Bronze




DIVERGENT: ALLEGIANT. The horse is long dead, but let's to it. These dystopian future scenarios, wherein mostly attractive young people are compelled to fight and kill one another, occasionally becoming heroes in the process, felt tired from the jump. Now, umpteen variations on the theme later, it has become painfully evident that there is nothing of interest left in the tank, creatively or artistically. Not to mention my longstanding, too-often-elaborated-on frustration that Hollywood refuses to look for inspiration beyond bestseller lists and box office successes of decades past. Now that I've mentioned it: Do we really need eight movies straight from the pages of middling young adult fiction? Of course we don't. Our desires are of little import.

I'm referring, ham-handedly, to the obvious parallels between this, the Divergent series, and the equally lamentable Hunger Games tent-pole. The fans and the purists will surely cry foul, elucidating the critical differences between them. But squint your eyes and it's tough to tell them apart. The latter, of course, has the advantage of Jennifer Lawrence, a bona fide movie star with the acting chops and screen presence to almost elevate the material. Divergent has at its center Shailene Woodley, a talented, likeable young actor, but one whose most pronounced attribute is the manifestation of vulnerability — a weird fit for an action hero, and one that's more pronounced and puzzling with each installment.

Allegiant is the third installment in Divergent series. In a ruined future Chicago, society has been divided according to the attributes of its citizens. Tris Prior (Woodley) learns that she is classified Divergent, that she transcends class divisions. She teams up with some blandly attractive people and spends two movies smashing the system. This brings us to the beginning of Allegiant wherein, system smashed, Tris and her cohort feel compelled to find out what's left of the world outside the city walls. Turns out there isn't much left, and it's populated by high-minded kidnappers-cum-eugenicists led by an ambitious corporate shill named David (Jeff Daniels); conflict ensues.

To be honest, there is so little substance to the narrative here that it becomes difficult to even recall the skeleton of the plot. This may be due in part to the division of one novel into two feature length movies — a well-tested formula, guaranteed to result in failure — but there may not have been a whole lot there in the first place. This presents a curious and unfortunate conflict. The Divergent movies are thoughtfully directed, intermittently beautiful in their art direction and production design, and boast some impressive talent among the cast (Miles Teller does solid work, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer appear in supporting roles), but they are straight-up boring. Watching this installment, I struggled to piece together the incidents of the previous two. And I'd seen them both in the theater. In fairness, I am certainly not the target audience, but demographics cannot explain away the absence of narrative inspiration and compelling characters. PG13. 120m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

THE BRONZE. A hard-R comedy about a nasty Ohioan gymnast coasting on the glory of a third place finish over a decade ago? Sounds promising enough, especially with Gary Cole and Thomas Middleditch in the mix. Middleditch, a gifted improviser and surprisingly capable actor (he anchors the HBO series Silicon Valley), was a particular draw for me. But The Bronze never strikes a balance between coarseness and kindness (not for lack of trying), and ends up mostly tiresome and mirthless.

Melissa Rauch (who co-wrote the script with her husband, Winston Beigel) stars as Hope Annabelle Greggory, reigning celebrity gymnast of Amherst, Ohio, thanks to a miraculous podium finish that marked the end of her athletic career. Hope does everything she can to parlay her one-time success into a lifestyle, which boils down to free milkshakes at the diner and free weed from a smitten mall doofus. Hope is also a deeply unpleasant person: foul-mouthed, disrespectful, grossly sexual and a petty thief. So when, in the wake of her former coach's suicide, she is approached to train rising local talent Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), Hope accepts, intending to sabotage Maggie's career and cash in at the same time. In the process, she'll string along sweet-natured assistant coach Ben (Middleditch), spar with former flame/rival coach Lance (Sebastian Stan) and treat her long suffering father (Cole) like a doormat. She might learn something about love and friendship along the way (spoiler alert: she does). No spoiler: It's not enough to save the movie from its own low-brow misanthropy.

Again, I was completely on board with this premise. But about halfway through, I realized that there weren't going to be any more jokes. Rauch et al seem to confident the premise will be enough, that the shock of Hope swearing at her dad and banging every loser in town will generate sufficient momentum to carry a feature. Then, realizing that we can only stomach an unredeemable protagonist for so long, they shoehorned in some hokey redemption and crossed their fingers. As much as I wish it had worked, if only for the sake of comedy, it did not. PG13. 120m. BROADWAY.

John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.


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