MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Wonder,’ The Star,’ and ’Justice League’ add a youthful flavor to cinemas


It’s a decidedly juvenile weekend for new releases at local theaters with the live-action carton Justice League, the computer-animated cartoon “The Star,” and the afternoon special “Wonder” all making their bows.

Sound cynical?

Not really. I still love cartoons of all sorts, and touchingly sweet melodramas are O.K., too, from time to time, especially one featuring Julia Roberts like “Wonder.”

New In Local Theaters

  • Justice League (PG-13) 1 hr. 59 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Twilight Cinema, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Star (PG) 1 hr. 26 min.
    (AMC Fiestas Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • Wonder (PG) 1 hr. 53 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer

Roberts may not exude the wattage that she once did from that famous smile, but she and Owen Wilson should make for a pleasing couple who are attempting to ease their son Auggie’s way into a new school, knowing that the transition will be difficult because he suffers from facial deformities. Besides the likability of Roberts and Wilson, Auggie is played by Jacob Tremblay, who gained notoriety for his standout performance in “Room.” That trio of performers could make the film the surprise of the weekend.

“The Star” is a comedic retelling of the Nativity of Jesus from the animals’ point of view. Not the most original idea. There are a number of Christmas specials with the same plot, some of which continue to air and entertain annually during the holiday season.

That said, I love animation and funny animals, so it’s hard to passover — pun intended — a movie about the birth of Christ this time a year.

The movie features the voice talents of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfry, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Delilah, and Mariah Carey, who performs the movie’s lead song.

However, the 1,000-pound gorilla in theaters this weekend is “Justice League,” featuring DC Comics’ Super Friends, who unite to defend the Earth from the conquering otherworldly god known as Steppenwolf.

Critics are saying the movie is light on story, but heavy on characterization, chemistry and action. After perusing a half dozen reviews, I found that each of the actors playing League members Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Batman (Ben Affleck), Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) received a least one shout-out for their performance.

As an old guy who has waited for a Justice League movie since the early 1970s, it’s not a matter of will I see the movie this weekend, but rather how many times.

Vegas set the over-under at 2.5.

Daddy’s Home 2

Paramount Pictures

In many ways “Daddy’s Home 2” is a remake of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The plot points aren’t all the same, but more than a few of the film’s gags are riffs on the venerable Chevy Chase cinematic chestnut.

For me, that worked, mostly.

I had fun watching it, and left the theater with a smile thanks to a sappy but fun sing-along bit at the film’s climax, designed to charm anyone who grew up in the 1980s.

The movie pairs Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg once again as the respective stepfather and father of of two children. Adding John Lithgow and Mel Gibson as their diametrically opposed dads only made the conflict between the two that much more humorous. Throw in John Cena and you have a comedy battle royal.

Well, sort of.

The movie did tickle my funny bone, but it also was so familiar that I’m not sure if my laughs were from conditioning or if the movie truly made me chuckle. It was probably a little bit of both.

The setup is very close to that of “Bad Moms Christmas.” In fact, “Bumbling Dads Christmas” would have worked just as well for the title. Overall I liked this film better than the randy “Bad Moms” sequel. Daddy’s Home 2 is safer for family consumption with its PG-13 rating. “Bad Moms Christmas” absolutely earns its “R” rating.

I wouldn’t suggest packing up the family to see “Daddy’s Home 2” in the theater. There are better movies to see.

However, I have a feeling “Daddy’s Home 2” will become a yuletide favorite once it hits the digital and cable platforms because of the slap-schtick antics and the undeniable charisma of the stars.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 31 min.
Grade: C

Classic Corner

Plymouth Adventure
Thanksgiving is almost here?

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Labor Day and the Fourth of July, but we’re now we’re on the down-hill slide to New Year’s.

As you can tell I love holidays and with that holiday-themed movies. Thanksgiving gets somewhat of a short shrift cinematically when compared to Halloween and Christmas, but there are a few.

“Plains, Trains, and Automobiles” is my go-to Thanksgiving film. Pairing John Candy and Steve Martin was genius by director John Hughes. The movie plays like On the Road with the Odd Couple. It’s a terrific comedy with all the heart that Hughes generally infused into his movies.

However if you are looking for more traditional fare, Turner Classic Movies airs “Plymouth Adventure” at 1 p.m. Sunday. The 1952 technicolor drama features and all-star cast and tells the fictionalized tale of the voyage of the Mayflower and the Plymouth Colony. It’s based on Ernest Gebler’s 1950 novel of the same name.

Spencer Tracy as Capt. Christopher Jones and Gene Tierney as Dorthy Bradford get top billing, but the film is an ensemble epic also featuring Van Johnson as John Alden, whom legends says is the first British colonist to step foot on Plymouth Rock Dawn Adams plays his love interest Priscilla Mullins. Noel Drayton as Miles Standish is the third leg of that love triangle, while Leo Geen plays William Bradford who must fend off Capt. Jones’ pursuit of Dorthy.
As the movie tells it, there must have been a lot of pent-up desire on the Mayflower.

The film doesn’t stand strong against historical rigor, but if you enjoy old movies, the film has its charms, including comic relief from Lloyd Bridges as Coppin, the Mayflower’s first mate.

Watching the movie will whet your appetite for turkey and all the trimmings and a long weekend of football. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or not.