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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reveiws of Pete’s Dragon & Florence Foster Jenkins

Dearest Blog, yesterday I decided to leave Sausage Party to the grownups (my blog partner Daniel!) while I headed off to Marquee Cinemas for the inoffensive pairing of Pete's Dragon and Florence Foster Jenkins. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. First up: Disney's remake of Pete's Dragon. 
An orphaned boy survives in the wild with help from his best friend...who happens to be a dragon. Dear Reader(s), I have not seen the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon. I like to think that leaves me free of nostalgia that might unfairly bias my opinion of this remake, but, sadly, I am still underwhelmed. My first issue is that the dragon looks awful, resembling a jungle cat with wings more than anything else. 
The movie attempts to imbue him with pet-like mannerisms, but doesn't come close to the excellence of How to Train Your Dragon in that regard. Both television and film have set a pretty high barre for dragons these days, and a picture with a titular dragon cannot afford to fail on that front. Filmmakers have loaded the movie with an environmentally-conscious message, cookie-cutter good and bad guys, and moody pseudo-folk tunes, but none of that is any help to this dull rehash of a tired tale that's been told a thousand times before, with only the details varying. 
There's an unintentionally hilarious moment where two adults, first faced with the dragon, hide behind a child (really??) and, despite having nothing else to date the movie outside a few older-looking vehicles, everyone in Pete's Dragon still uses a land line. 
I found that even more unbelievable than dragons! Having said all that, even the worst movie has its positives, and Pete's Dragon boasts some gorgeous scenery and dizzying aerial shots. 
It's also worth noting that "Forest Ranger" Bryce Dallas Howard has learnt her lesson from Jurassic World and is at least wearing sensible shoes to run around the wilderness this time. Pete's Dragon runs 102 minutes and is rated PG for "action, peril, and brief language." Pete's Dragon is a weak effort from Disney that has very little to recommend it. Maybe take the kids to see Secret Life of Pets again instead. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Pete's Dragon gets three. Fangirl points: Robert Redford. Karl Urban. 
On the same screen. I nearly swooned myself to death! Next on the agenda: Florence Foster Jenkins, a.k.a. This Year's Meryl Streep Oscar Nomination. 
The true story of a a wealthy heiress who, encouraged by her husband, pursues a singing career despite a notable lack of talent. 
There's no hiding the fact that Florence Foster Jenkins' primary function is the annual throwing of Meryl Streep's hat into the Awards Season Sweepstakes. She is her usual magnificent self here, expertly playing both the comedy and the tragedy of Jenkins. Jenkins was a terrible singer who believed (or was led to believe) she was actually good, and Streep tackles her performances with the earnestness of a woman who not only believes in herself, but is making a genuine effort to learn and improve. 
On the surface, there are sadder aspects of her story (a chronic illness and an unfaithful husband, for starters), but to me none of it seems any more tragic than being the butt of a joke of which everyone but her is aware. 
It makes the character sympathetic, bordering on pathetic, and makes the movie almost too uncomfortable to watch at times, though its saving grace is it's never mean spirited. Hugh Grant is charming as Jenkins' enabling husband, and Simon Helberg is delightful as her young accompanist. His reactions to her caterwauling are some of the movie's funniest moments. 
Like Eddie the Eagle before it, Florence Foster Jenkins presents viewers with some awkward questions: To what point can devotion and enthusiasm substitute for talent and skill? Is it better or more kind to destroy a loved one's dream than to let him make a fool of himself? If a good movie is one that leaves you thinking about the points it raises, then Florence Foster Jenkins certainly fits the bill. 
Outside of Streep's extraordinary work, the film probably isn't special enough to create much of a stir come awards time, but if you love music more than anything else (as I do, and as Jenkins did), you're going to feel this one in your very soul. Florence Foster Jenkins clocks in at 110 minutes and is rated PG13 for "brief suggestive material." Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful, if sometimes awkward, story that's bolstered by strong performances and likeable characters. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Florence Foster Jenkins gets seven. 
Until next time...

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