Unaccompanied Minors (2006, Directed by Paul Feig) English 4

Starring Dyllan Christopher, Tyler James Williams, Gia Mantegna, Quinn Shephard, Wilmer Valderrama, Lewis Black, Rob Cordry, David Koechner, Brett Kelly, Jessica Walter, B.J Novak, Mindy Kaling, Teri Garr, Rob Riggle

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(4-Bad Film)

Unfunny. Spiritless. Aggravating.

A group of kids-Spencer, Grace, Charles, Donna, and “Beef”-are cooped up in D.C’s international airport on Christmas Eve thanks to a snowstorm. Grouchy Head of Passenger Relations, Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), seems determined that they have no fun during their stay, so the children respond by running wild and “outsmarting” him at every turn. Maybe the filmmakers thought they had a bit of the Home Alone formula in hand. Neglected, resourceful child (in this case, children) versus dimwitted adults. The problem is, in Unaccompanied Minors, the children’s cleverness isn’t all that clever, the adults, though militant, aren’t necessarily even wrong, and the children are basically brats for most of the film. Unaccompanied Minors is never funny and often annoying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(839)

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019, Directed by John Schultz) English 5

Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Tahirah Sharif, Theo Devaney, Crystal Yu

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(5-Okay Film)

Retread. Predictable. Corny.

There’s no reason, as far as I can tell, that Netflix shouldn’t just keep rolling out these ultra-cheesy, predictable Christmas Prince movies every year. The Royal Baby, the third film in this watershed trilogy, brings back Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) as they prepare for the birth of their first child and also to sign a treaty that would continue the alliance between their made-up country, Aldovia, and some other made-up country, Penglia. When someone steals the treaty before it’s signed, the king and queen go into detective mode. Enjoyable, treacly to the extreme, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is satisfying viewing for those who like laughable, corny entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(836)

Shrek the Halls (2007, Directed by Gary Trousdale) English 6

Voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Conrad Vernon, Gary Trousdale

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(6-Good Film)

Fun. Unspectacular. Satisfying.

How Gary Trousdale went from directing two of the best-animated films of all-time (Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to directing this, I’ll never know, but it’s a decent Christmas special without being essential. Shrek prepares for his first Christmas spent with friends and family but when the day comes, he finds it doesn’t go as planned. There’s not a lot of meaningful action here, but the characters are still classic despite being worn out by their studio, and the story is amusing with a number of good jokes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(835)

Holiday Rush (2019, Directed by Leslie Small) English 5

Starring Romany Malco, Sonequa Martin-Green, Darlene Love, Amarr M. Wooten, Tamala Jones

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(5-Okay Film)

Bland. Treacly. Likable.

Successful, affluent radio DJ and widower, Rashon Williams (Romany Malco), goes to work one day to find that #1) the station’s been taken over by a larger company and #2) he’s fired. Left to manage with less while dealing with his four spoiled children, Rashon hurries to come up with a long term solution with his partner, Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green), who he may be falling in love with. There’s very little meaningful tension in this movie, which has been true of all the Netflix Christmas films. Things work out and they work out well in Holiday Netflix land. My bigger concern was that the leads already love each other as soon as the film opens so there’s not much draw there, and most of the “obstacles” that exist in Holiday Rush involve rich kids not getting a horse for Christmas. Not very compelling, but the film succeeds in the same way that all of these feather-weight Netflix Christmas movies do: by being likable rather than being interesting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(821)

Minions (2015, Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda) English 5

Voices of Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Jon Hamm, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Coogan

(5-Okay Film)

Zany. Uninspired. Empty.

In the grand tradition of spinoff movies- recall Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)-this film following those inscrutable henchmen from the Despicable Me franchise is a mere shell of its source material. The minions, lost in the ’60s, with their gradually aggravating private language, search for the perfect evil villain to call master. The film then becomes a series of zany and over the top action scenes, to mildly satisfying results. The minions are enjoyable sidekicks to Gru and his cute daughters who provide the heart of the Despicable Me movies. Separated from them, however, the minions are mostly annoying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(818)

Little Giants (1994, Directed by Duwayne Dunham) English 5

Starring Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron, Devon Sawa, Brian Haley, Susanna Thompson

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(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Amusing. Slight.

The younger, Danny O’Shea (Moranis), has always been in the shadow of his Heisman trophy-winning brother, Kevin (O’Neil). When Kevin starts up a local Peewee football team but cuts Danny’s daughter simply because she’s a girl, Danny decides to start his own team. Since each town can only have one, the two brothers will face off to determine which team stays. I do try not to grade on the curve. At the same time, you can’t watch something like Little Giants with the same criteria used for The Godfather. The fact is Little Giants was made to please children first and foremost and is pretty successful on that front. Beyond that, it’s a fast-paced, goofy, creative effort with a solid premise and a handful of strong characters. Even its sillier moments (the annex of Puerto Rico and numerous gags) are pretty memorable, as are the nicknames “Icebox” and “Spike.” Fun for a kid, reasonably amusing for an adult.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(817)

Peter Pan (1953, Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske) English 6

Voices of Bobby Driscoll, Hans Conreid, Kathryn Beaumont, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel

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(6-Good Film)

Inventive. Spirited. Winsome.

A flying boy, with the help of his loyal friend and fairy, Tinker Bell, takes a trio of couped-up children to the magical, adventure-filled world of Neverland, where nobody ages. Peter Pan is an extraordinary story (by J.M Barrie) that has never translated into an extraordinary film. As nostalgic as Spielberg’s Hook is or as wonderfully animated as this, Disney’s 1953 version is, they lack the depth and the magic of Barrie’s original. Disney instead goes for pure adventure and succeeds on its terms. The animation is impressive, exciting, what-have-you. The designs of each character, especially Pan and Tinker Bell, are iconic. The story, however, loses something with very little time given to character development. It’s more about personalities than characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(810)