Fans of the real-deal Chucky movies, with their cheerfully low-rent effects and bawdy, impish humor, may well regard this slick new offering as a desecration masquerading as an upgrade. Which is not to say that this Child’s Play is entirely without its brutish, haphazard pleasures.
The screenwriter, Nicole Taylor, and the director, Tom Harper, compose their story in clean, stirring melodic lines that they return to again and again, treating Rose-Lynn’s many setbacks — as well as her small, crucial steps toward growth and self-discovery — like subtle variations on a refrain.
One could imagine a context in which some of this belabored mayhem might be funny, maybe a dinner-theater stage with lots of booze and a strong audience-participation element. Seen from the vantage of your living room, however, the spectacle of Aniston and Sandler bumbling their way through one strained, busy set-piece after another becomes a deflating, even depressing experience.
Amid all the clunky lines, the derivative plot turns and the surprisingly indifferent production values, you can sense this movie striving for something more sensitive and intimate than the usual blockbuster blowout.
Spencer succeeds much more than the movie itself does; even when the writing and the filmmaking fail her, which is annoyingly often, she’s awfully good at using her beatific smile and tough-talking charm to elicit your nervous chuckles.
No one really needs this mostly middling, fitfully funny and never unpleasant movie. And the movie itself seems cheerfully aware of that fact as it deftly lifts lines, beats, characters and songs from its 1992 predecessor, every so often punching up the comedy, wrinkling the plot and injecting a dash of politically corrective subtext.
The final act of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is funny, scary, troubling and exhilarating by turns; the meandering structure clicks into place as it becomes clear where Tarantino has been taking this story and, given his track record, perhaps could only have taken this story.
The experience of watching Ask Dr. Ruth is a bit like that of meeting someone unaccountably delightful and almost being knocked backward by the gale-force strength of her personality, and then wanting to go out and buy one of her books so as to actually learn something about her ideas.
It isn’t good, exactly — as boozy friend-reunion comedies go, it’s no “Girls Trip” or “The World’s End” — but it has its ticklish grace notes, plus some first-rate second and third bananas, despite a script that seems to be working both too hard and not hard enough.
What Tolkien offers instead is a picturesque, amber-soaked balm for armchair Anglophiles: the manners and mores, the crisp witticisms and stirring, stiff-upper-lip sentiments. These pleasures aren’t negligible. But neither are they a substitute for a genuinely cinematic window into a genius’ mind.
At times it might remind you of a slightly edgier version of the genteel White House romances that flourished in the mid-’90s, like Dave and The American President. Long Shot may nod overtly to a world under threat by terrorism, corruption and climate change, but it also yearns for a gentler, less polarized moment in our political discourse.
If the idea was to tell the story from Liz’s perspective, the movie botches that perspective badly: Abandoning any sense of narrative rigor, it can’t keep hunky, charming Ted from becoming the protagonist of his own hideous story.
The inside jokes and fan-service digressions are blatant and relentless, but also pretty effective. The conflicting narrative priorities that often bedevil an epic series finale — how to tell a story that builds with inexorable momentum while also staging the mother of all cast reunions? — are cleverly and resourcefully reconciled.