Once again, the director draws upon the sketch-comedy gifts he honed on “Key & Peele” to achieve an artful, ruthless balance of horror and hilarity. Us is a tour de force of comic tension and visceral release, a movie that weaponizes our chuckles against us and reminds us that laughing, screaming and thinking are not mutually exclusive pleasures.
The Image Book is an 85-minute cinematic brainstorm, a swirling, dazzling, maddening frenzy of disconnected sights and sounds that have been compiled and arranged according to a rhythmic and rhetorical logic that only its maker can fully divine.
The puns and one-liners are jauntily amusing, the gags clever and well-timed. The tone is a familiar, infectious blend of sincerity and snark — or, if you will, earnestness and cynicism, which might as well be Emmet’s and Wyldstyle’s respective nicknames.
It’s understandable that Hardwicke didn’t want to mimic her predecessor’s moves. But in chop-chop-chopping the action into standard Hollywood fragments, she has drained the material of its tension, its meaning and its purpose, to say nothing of its beauty.
The occasional creakiness of the narrative machinery is largely dispelled by Cornish’s flair for brisk, energetic action and his ability to keep the journey flowing from one mini-adventure to the next.
While Glass is an intermittent showcase for his undeniable filmmaking gifts — his meticulous attention to detail, his shivery command of technique — the movie winds up feeling less like a progression than a dead end.
The Upside was probably never going to be a good movie, but it needn’t have been such an unfortunate, spectacularly ill-timed one, the victim of circumstances it ultimately has neither the wit nor the imagination to transcend.
It would be silly to expect this movie to achieve the cinematic equivalent of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s brilliance, but you can’t help wishing it had more to offer than righteous speeches and stirring glances, that it put a few more ideas in your head to go with that lump in your throat.
Bier plunges herself into mainstream horror filmmaking with a gusto that doesn’t always offset her lack of precision. For visceral intensity, she never tops the early scenes of mayhem and mass panic; slow-building, artfully modulated tension in close quarters seems beyond the movie’s interest or purview.
As it is, so much obvious care has been taken to reproduce and update the charms of the Robert Stevenson-directed original — to deliver an old-fashioned yet newfangled burst of family-friendly uplift — that Mary Poppins Returns winds up feeling both hyperactive and paralyzed. It sits there flailing on the screen, bright, gaudy and mirthless, tossing off strained bits of comic business and all but strangling itself with its own good cheer.