MOVIE BUFF-ET: Awkward pacing hinders ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker / Lucasfilm

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” reminds me a lot of a bag of trick-or-treat candy the day after Halloween. It’s just too much of a good thing.

I mean how many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can you eat before feeling sick?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Halloween, and I really like Star Wars, but after watching the concluding film of the third trilogy, I’m glad we’re going to get a little break from what’s been dubbed “The Skywalker Saga,” which began 42 years ago with George Lucas’ original movie.

How Do You Rate Star Wars?

Here’s my ranking for the individual movies in the Star Wars franchise:

1. The Empire Strikes Back
2. Star Wars
3. Return of the Jedi
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
5. The Last Jedi
6. Rouge One
7. The Phantom Menace
8. The Force Awakens
9. Revenge of the Sith
10. The Rise of Skywalker
11. Attack of the Clones

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot original about the latest chapter. The movie plays like an echo of the original trilogy with a few surprises, but walking away, I felt like I had seen this movie before and executed in a more clear manner.

Director J.J. Abrams and his co-screenwriter Chris Terrio were so intent on tying up loose ends here, course-correcting certain things there, and then harkening back to the first three films in the franchise that they forgot to meld all of it together into a well-paced whole. The two-and-a-half hour movie contains enough under-cooked concepts and plot devices to fill an eight-hour mini series.

The film’s so busy that even though much of the material is entertaining, it becomes overwhelming and then a little bit tedious. The movie seemed to be less a labor of love for Abrams than just a labor.

I will freely admit that my view on the movie might be tainted from just watching too much Star Wars and other fantasy and sci-fi films over the course of a lifetime. However, the magic definitely wasn’t there for me with this film, but then again the best Star Wars movie is probably the one you saw when you were 10 or 12 years old. Everything is more magical and new and fun at that age than when you’re older.

As for the plot, there are so many reveals and minor surprises in the film that it’s hard to provide a decent synopsis without giving some of the intended fun away.

Basically, the movie continues the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and how they fit into the grand scheme of the Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) whom trailers and commercials revealed was the evil hand manipulating our two Force-powered leads.

Both actors are very good in their parts. Their performances are probably the strongest aspect of the film other than John Williams’ wonderful score and the work of all the special-effect artists and creators who truly did masterful work.

Oscar Isaac as Poe and John Boyega as Finn are likable, too, but their roles are pushed to the side by the main thrust of the film with Rey and Kylo Ren.

Old friends like Chewbacca, C-3PO, BB-8, R2-D2, and even Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) get bits of business to perform, and previously shot footage of the late Carrie Fisher as Leia is used throughout the film to decent effect. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has a small but pivotal part to play in the film, and there are other surprises I won’t give away.

Ultimately there were aspects of the movie I enjoyed, but as a whole the sloppy pacing and choppy editing hurt the impact of the film.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 22 min.
Grade: C+

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker(PG-13) 2 hr. 22 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight
  • Cats(PG) 1 hr. 49 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight
  • Bombshell(R) 1 hr. 49 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne

Classic Corner – “Going My Way” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s”

Bing Crosby in Going My Way / Paramount Pictures

Turner Classic Movies continues to celebrate the season this Sunday with Christmas-themed fare. At 11 .m. (CT), TCM airs its 2011 documentary “TCM Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas,” which features actors and directors examining the impact of Christmas-flavored films. It’s a very good retrospective if you’ve never seen it.

In the afternoon, TCM gets biblical with showings of both epic film versions of the life of Christ from the 1960s with 1961’s “King of Kings,” starring Jeff Hunter at 12:15 p.m., and 1965’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” starring Max von Sydow at 3:15 p.m. Both are dramatized and not exactly faithful to Scriptures.

I wouldn’t call either great movies, but if you are a film buff, they are worth sitting through at least once, but probably not back-to-back.

Two films definitely worth watching take center stage Sunday night with 1944’s “Going My Way” and its 1945 sequel “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

Both star Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O’Malley, a hip priest who serves as a fixer of sorts for parishes that are struggling.

Both films are touching and enjoyable, but “Going My Way” is the standout. It was the top-grossing movie of 1944, and it won seven of the 10 Academy Awards it was nominated for including Best Picture and Best Director for producer-director Leo McCarey, and Best actor for Crosby and Best Song for his version of “Swinging on a Star.”

Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for an Oscar, but didn’t win, losing out to Charles Coburn for “The More the Merrier,” but I’d argue Fitzgerald’s Father Fitzgibbon is one of the all-time great supporting characters on film.

Fitzgibbon is an elderly priest, whom Crosby’s O’Malley is there to gently replace as manager, although Fitzgibbon is to remain as pastor. To spare Fitzgibbon’s feelings, O’Malley acts like he is the elder priest’s assistant. Confusion ensues and drama transpires, and Crosby sings five songs including the title song, the break-out hit “Swing on a Star,” and the lovely Irish lullaby “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral.”

I won’t give away the ending, but if you don’t get at least a little bit teary, you haven’t got a heart.

Crosby’s Father O’Malley was back in theaters a year later with McCarey directing once again in “The Bells of St. Mary’s. This time O’Malley’s chore is to determine whether a run-down inner-city Catholic school should be resuscitated, or if the children should be sent for schooling elsewhere.

O’Malley finds a friendly rival of sorts in Ingrid Bergman, who plays the strong-willed but loving Sister Mary Benedict. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit as did audiences who made it the top-grossing film of 1945, but critics deemed the movie to be too formulaic to garner the reception of “Going My Way.”

As stated earlier, I like the original better, too, but that’s quibbling. “The Bells of St. Mary’s” is a fine movie on its own merits.