Here begins the section describing the rationale (rationalization?) behind skipping Finding Dory. The exigencies of a weekend entertaining family-in-law, which included the oyster festival, a Crabs game and the consumption of multiple meals together per day, coupled with one's own filial piety, create a weekend all but devoid of viable movie-going hours. Still, it seems everybody found Dory just fine on their own, as the box office receipts indicate. This, of course, bolsters my theory that nobody will base their attendance at a children's movie on any given review of said children's movie (except in the unlikely event that one competing release just edges out the other in terms of "wink wink, earmuffs, kids, ha ha ha" jokes targeting the parents). The families will attend, knowing full well what to expect, and a mildly pleasant time will be had by most.
There is, of course, another demographic: those drawn to an animated undersea adventure by its psychedelic possibilities. They, too, will have already made their decisions, and will be too busy procuring supplies, timing peaks and planning exit strategies that get them safely out of the theater under the comforting cover of darkness. Point being, anybody who might consider seeing Finding Dory has long since made up his/her mind. With that said, I hope it was an entertaining, not too irritating experience for the families. And I hope to the same degree that nobody in the other camp had too prolonged a cartoon shark-induced panic attack.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE. I did steal two hours to see Central Intelligence, a mismatched-buddy action comedy from the 1980s and 1990s mold, and the only other movie that opened locally. Flashing back to 1996 and the last school assembly of their senior year, we are introduced to hyper-achiever Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) and overweight outcast Robbie Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson, or at least parts of his face digitally pasted on to someone else). While Calvin addresses the entire school with a rousing speech about the future being theirs, etc., a group of bullies forces Robbie from the showers onto the gym floor, to the uproarious laughter of almost everyone in attendance. Calvin shows kindness to Robbie, but the damage is done: Robbie disappears from school, the humiliation left to ring in his subconscious down the decades.
And down the decades we go, meeting Calvin again after 20 years of unseized opportunities. He has become a mid-level functionary in an accounting firm, consistently passed over for promotions, his talents largely unrecognized. He manages to maintain his relationship with high school sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), though her continually blossoming career as an attorney is making him bitter. With their high school reunion — which Calvin refuses to attend due to self-pity — fast approaching, Calvin accepts a Facebook invitation from a mysterious stranger named Bob Stone. As an excuse not to attend the couples counselling session Maggie has scheduled for them, he also agrees to meet Bob for drinks that evening. At the bar he encounters Bob, née Robbie, who, to paraphrase, has spent the last 20 years working out six hours a day, every day. (Johnson plays this part as a sort of Jeff Spicoli-informed über-dork, albeit a hulking, sculpted one. It's an interesting choice but it mostly works for him). Calvin is quickly won over by Bob's nostalgic hero-worship of him, and then intrigued when the big man quickly handles a four-on-one barroom misunderstanding gone bad. With all of that as brief reintroduction, Bob then plunges Calvin into a morass of espionage and double-crosses and satellite codes, tied up in a heartwarming bow made of anti-bullying and reaffirmed self-worth.
The plot here is mostly noise and MacGuffin, a mechanism from moving our protagonists from setup to setup. The style of the piece is equally workmanlike, which is allowable because the stars are so compelling and likeable, but also disappointing. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) understands that comedy requires a light touch and plenty of breathing room, but he seems to have forgotten that many of the movies that inspired this one also have touches of grit, art and individuality. The reason to watch Central Intelligence, though, is for Johnson and Hart. While their chemistry would be better suited to an R-rated version of something like this, it's still undeniably entertaining in its sweetened condensed milk version.
Whether or not it would affect anybody's opinion, I think it is worth mentioning that these two may well be the hardest working guys in show biz. IMDb indicates that Johnson currently has 10 movie projects in various stages of development, an ongoing television show (Showtime's Ballers), plus wrestling appearances and his annual schedule of three to four starring roles. Hart's calendar is only slightly less full and they've both been plugging away at it for more than 20 years. And they somehow still manage to make their performances in a so-so movie funny and apparently effortless; that's pretty impressive. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
FREE STATE OF JONES. Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali star in a Civil War action drama about white farmers and slaves forming an armed rebellion against the Rebels. Don't wear your Skynyrd T-shirt with the Confederate flag. R. 139m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE. This is what happens when we don't build a wall, folks. Another alien invasion brings back most of the old crew (Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, and hey, Vivica Fox) and some young'uns (Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher) to defend the earth, if not its architecture. PG13. 120m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
NEON DEMON. Eerie-chic drama that makes Alexander McQueen look like Laura Ashley. An aspiring model (Elle Fanning) with whom a group of scary fashionistas become morbidly obsessed. Prepare to feel simultaneously frightened and fat. R. 117m. BROADWAY.
THE SHALLOWS. Blake Lively stars in a woman vs. shark drama about a lone surfer trying to get to shore while circled by her toothy costar. PG13. 87m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE CONJURING 2. Director James Wan returns to craft an excellent horror sequel powered by atmospheric dread, compelling characters and fine acting. Starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators hopping the pond for a haunting in London. R. 133m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
FINDING DORY. Ellen DeGeneres voices the friendly fish with the fried short-term memory (anybody relate?) from Finding Nemo. This time she sets out with her aquatic buddies on a search for the rest of her long lost blue tang clan. With Albert Brooks and Ed O'Neill. PG. 97m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
ME BEFORE YOU. Carpe diem love story about a young woman in a rut who becomes a caregiver/life coach to a suicidal quadriplegic man who's mourning the loss of his adventurous former life. Starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. PG. 110m. BROADWAY.
NOW YOU SEE ME 2. But maybe you don't have to. This sequel about do-gooder magicians can't pull the same rabbit out of its hat as the original, despite a charming ensemble cast and fancy illusions. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Daniel Radcliffe. PG13. 115m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Megan Fox, Will Arnett and Tyler Perry struggle to keep their dignity in the live-action version of the franchise that launched a thousand lunch boxes. PG-13. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
WARCRAFT. Can the sound of orcs roaring in the big-screen incarnation of the massive multiplayer online role-playing game draw devotees from their computers? Or will they heat up another Hot Pocket and stream it? PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
X-MEN APOCALYPSE. Team Xavier battles the OG mutant (Oscar Isaacs) during the Cold War in spectacular sequences that entertain but break little ground. With Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. PG-13. 144m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill