The generous read on Luca is that it has the sweet simplicity of a fairy tale, something that tired kids and the exhausted parents reading to them could follow even while on the verge of slumber. Less euphemistically, this is an exceptionally mild addition to the Pixar canon, pleasant but nearly as shallow as a bathtub.
There could be something to say here about how comically low society’s expectations for fathers remain. The movie also briefly, incisively captures the new-parent contradiction of desperately needing help while wanting to be left alone, free of unsolicited input. But director and co-writer Paul Weitz (About A Boy) keeps making odd choices for what, in a single father’s life, requires comic or dramatic emphasis.
What Infinite fatally lacks is personality. It’s all sci-fi table setting all the time, racing through introductions and plot points at a mercenary pace, its wheel manned by a star whose default mode for this kind of movie is hunky frowning.
What the set pieces have in common with everything else in this dunderheaded, insultingly mechanical franchise hopeful is the overwhelming feeling that everyone involved said “good enough” at every turn. It’s savvy only in the way it lowers the standards for this kind of thing, assuring that any future sequels that give half an ass instead of barely a quarter of one will prompt more enthusiasm, or at least relief.
The Misfits has moments of silliness that bear glancing resemblance to the kind of enjoyable starry, big-studio shlock Renny Harlin used to make, in between the parts that resemble the lower-rent genre efforts he churns out now.
The problem here isn’t the dramatic liberties, though. It’s that they’re much less, well, dramatic than the real events the film leaves curiously off screen: the sensational trial of one Arne Johnson, who made history (and headlines) by insisting in court that he was under demonic influence when he stabbed his landlord to death.
Across the extended, handsomely shot sit-down interviews (with Ma’s daughter and the three other writers), what emerges is a fragmentary oral history of Chinese rural life across several transformative decades of the 20th century: family stories, tragedies, remembered slogans, the particulars of trying to grow crops in alkaline soil or coming of age as the son of a declared “counterrevolutionary.”
A love of pure aesthetics will help anyone looking to appreciate the movie, whose sets and costumes are as indulgent as its soundtrack. As an opportunity for Emma Stone to purr and vamp in elaborate gowns, Cruella is plenty enjoyable. But the “too much is just enough” attitude that makes it visually pleasurable also makes it a slog in the storytelling department.