MOVIE BUFF-ET: Allied lacks essential suspense; Moana sure to please kids of all ages

Paramount Pictures

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Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard directed by Robert Zemekis in a film set in World War II, what’s not to like?

Their collective credentials are nearly impeccable, but their latest effort, Allied, is lacking. The film’s performances are fine. Pitt is solid as a stoic Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan who falls in love with a French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) in Casablanca while the two are on a mission to assassinate the German ambassador.

The mission is a success and Beausejour follows Vatan to London, where they marry and have a child. Everything seems to be working out well until Beausejour is suspected of being a double agent. That bit of information isn’t a spoiler. It was shown in the film’s trailer, and becomes the most recent case where a trailer gives the viewer too much information and undercuts the suspense in what is supposed to be a thriller.

Sometimes less is more. A trailer should whet the appetite not give the bulk of the film away before a viewer has even bought a ticket.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed the movie more if the suspicion of Cotillard’s character had been kept a secret; perhaps not. However, the end result was a lackluster experience at the theater.

(R) 2 hr. 4 min.
Grade: C


Walt Disney

Disney’s latest animated musical feature tells the tale of how the young princess Moana teams with a demi-god Maui to fight an angry god Te Ka in order to return a pounamu stone to the life-giving goddess Te Fiti, who is helpless without it.

Sound a bit confusing?

It’s not as the story plays out in lush animation directed by John Musker and Ron Clements and enlivened by the music of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and star of the Broadway smash Hamilton.

Auli’I Cravalho’s sweet yet strong voice characterization makes for a strong Disney heroine who follows her heart despite the objections of her father. The casting of Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson as the voice of shape shifting demigod Maui informed the character greatly as Johnson’s unmistakable charisma flows through the character. It was an inspired bit of casting, and Johnson’s singing voice is just strong enough to keep the character safely afloat.

Moana might not live up to the best of Disney’s 55 other animated movies, but it is an entertaining diversion that should make kids of all ages happy.

(PG) 1 hr. 53 min.
Grade: B

Classics Corner

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn might not be the best-known film to feature the classic Irving Berlin-tune “White Christmas,” but it is the best, and the one that first introduced the song that has charmed millions.

I know making such a bold claim is tantamount to picking a fight with those who prefer 1954’s White Christmas, a semi-remake of 1942’s Holiday Inn, but a friendly verbal brawl over a movie never really hurt anybody.

As wonderful of a performer as Danny Kaye is in White Christmas, I’ll take Fred Astaire’s elegant moves and acerbic wit as Ted Hanover any day.

Astaire’s smart-alecky performance rubs Bing Crosby’s character Jim Hardy the wrong in all the right ways in the film that features them as frenemies, vying for the affection of Marjorie Reynolds’s Linda Mason.

The conceit of the movie is that Hardy opts out of show to run a country inn that puts on a different musical review for each holiday. That structure allows Crosby and his pals to croon a dozen Berlin songs and Astaire to show off his fancy footwork in several numbers. Astaire’s Fourth of July-themed tap dance is an inspired showstopper. It’s only topped by Crosby’s singing of “White Christmas,” one of the best-selling songs of the 20th century.

“White Christmas” won an Academy Award for Best Song in 1943, and its resonance with troops serving on foreign soil in World War II made it a beloved standard of its ever since.

The chemistry between Crosby and Astaire lifts the simple plot, and Reynolds charm is undeniable.

With the advent of color television in the 1960s, the remake became more popular with programmers. There is also a blackface scene in Holiday Inn where Crosby sings the song “Abraham” to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday that harkens back to the minstrel shows of the early 20th century. While it is of its day, many find the scene offensive for good reason.

The final scene where Crosby’s Hardy and Reynolds’ Mason reunite is so warm it could melt even the Grinch’s stone-cold heart.