Whannell is so invested in unloading juicy surprises that this initially realistic story becomes increasingly preposterous, but Moss keeps the film anchored in plausibility; although sometimes just barely.
Burdened with a drab quest narrative and populated by sweet but unmemorable characters, the studio’s 22nd feature still delivers glorious animation and the occasional tear-jerking sequence. But whether it’s the pedestrian design of this mythical realm or the simplistic story of squabbling brothers in search of their long-lost father, Onward never feels like much of an advancement.
The movie is delightfully odd but not consistently inspired, often straining to rewrite the rules of superhero cinema, a mixture of good and bad ideas all mashed together. Where other comic-book movies lumber along with self-importance, this film is a breezy, amoral lark, which proves somewhat refreshing. But that’s not enough to allow Birds’ hit-or-miss pleasure to soar.
Wendy casts a powerful spell — the movie has the potency of a dusty folktale brought to vivid life — but it can be frustrating that Zeitlin doesn’t have much interesting to say beyond his stylistic flourishes and evocative atmosphere.
Taking the reins from Michael Bay, directing duo Adil & Bilall supply loads of energised style, but without the panache or shamelessness of their predecessor. As for stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, they don’t seem rejuvenated by this reunion, mostly re-creating the forced back-and-forth quipping that wasn’t even fresh back when they were younger men.
Underwater is hampered by some of the genre’s silliest conventions — questionable character motivations, delusions of grandeur — but the movie nonetheless succeeds by capitalising on an elemental terror: underwater, it’s very hard to see the dangers right in front of you.
Unlike The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, which were energised by the prospect of returning to Lucas’ galaxy, Rise feels obligatory and uninspired. Rey may learn who she really is, but this unengaging franchise finale remains disappointingly nondescript.
The Next Level lacks the gleeful inventiveness of Jungle, in which three well-known stars slyly subverted their personas while embodying the insecurities and naivety of their teenage players. Absent that, it mostly feels gimmicky; the cast straining to recapture the hilarious rapport that once seemed so effortless.
Despite an overly polished and broad approach, the film is ultimately a persuasive portrait, guided by strong performances from Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman as anchors who decide they can stay silent no longer.