My parents will be in town this weekend, and I’ll have a chance to return some favors. For most of my adolescence, my dad took me to movies. We’d be there nearly every Saturday during the summers (he wasn’t going to pay full price and deal with the crowds on a Friday night), seeing some great movies and some terrible movies. Once my folks moved up to North Carolina, my dad’s chief complaint was not having anyone to go see movies with. Well, this time around, I’ll be taking my parents to a movie, although they don’t know it yet and will probably vociferously insist on paying. But it’s the least I can do for all those Saturday matinees. And the good news is, there’s some decent stuff to choose from this week.
When I first heard about Vampire Academy, I couldn’t even muster so much as a shrug. I figured it was yet another adaptation of some generic young adult book series that was desperately reaching for some of that Harry Potter/Twilight money, and didn’t give it a second thought. Then I saw a commercial for it and was surprised at the rather comic tone the whole thing seemed to be taken. When I found it was made by the director of Mean Girls and the writer of Heathers, it suddenly made sense. Now, I don’t know if that’s enough to get me to see it in the theater — the dearth of pre-release reviews usually indicates the studio fears bad word of mouth killing opening weekend — but it may have nudged it from “totally off my radar” to “I’ll get it from Redbox.” Damning with faint praise, yes, but I’m neither a teen nor a vampire, so pulling me even that much is saying something.
The Monuments Men has been on the opposite trajectory, unfortunately. When I first heard about it, I saw that cast and saw George Clooney directing and got all kinds of ridiculously excited about it. But when it’s release got pushed back from prime awards territory in December until February, that was a big warning sign; this had prestige project written all over it, and while the move was ostensibly because post-production was taking longer than expected, abandoning Oscar season is a pretty huge move. Add to that the fact the lengthy post-production was supposedly due to the film struggling to find a balance between drama and comedy and you’ve got more bells going off. And now reviews are using words like “misfire” and “disappointment.” I’ll still see it — I’ve enjoyed Clooney’s other directorial efforts and that cast is stellar — but expectations are ramped way down for this one.
Completing this trilogy of altered perceptions, The LEGO Movie looked to be nothing more than a quick cash-in on the toy line’s popular video game series. Oh, it had some good voices on board like Chris Pratt and Will Arnett and Morgan Freeman, but all-star voice casts like that usually conjure up thoughts of mediocre Dreamworks films hoping to cash in on name recognition rather than anything actually good. But a string of really funny trailers started piquing my curiosity, and now the reviews have come along and are very nearly uniformly rapturous, with raves coming from some usually hard to please critics. Color me shocked. I’ve played a couple of the LEGO video games and enjoyed their sense of humor, and if that gets carried over to feature-length scale, this thing could be huge. There’s really nothing else filling the family niche right now — everybody’s seen Frozen twice already — and LEGO is a hugely popular property. This should laugh all the way to the bank constructed of various sized and colored plastic bricks.
So now here I am trying to figure out a way of talking my parents into seeing The LEGO Movie while they’re here so I don’t miss out on it. The Monuments Men might be an easier sell, but you never know; my parents loved Oz the Great and Powerful while I could barely sit through it. Maybe I can get them to watch some bricks for ninety minutes as payback.