Facing the Fear

I’ll bet you didn’t know yet another version of The Nutty Professor was made. Well I’m probably one of very few reviewers whose actually heard of the movie. A 2008 direct-to-video computer animated movie about the grandson of Professor Julius Kelp. From all the way back in the 1963 original. No connection to Eddie Murphy. The Nutty Professor (2008) takes Harold Kelp to a futuristic academy attended by robots, aliens, and his grandfather. From there they just redo the serum plot with Harold taking it (only with more extreme sports). Professor Kelp is also somehow able to become Buddy Love at will. The only part that’s different is something involving a fear monster. Unlike Jimmy Neutron, this computer animated boy genius is neither funny nor interesting. The animation is very poorly rendered and I have serious doubts that its target demographic has ever seen the 60’s classic. I know Drake Bell is willing to do just about anything nowadays, but I have no idea why Jerry Lewis said yes to this. Even if his voice is just as goofy as ever. The Nutty Professor (2008) serves a clear reminder to just watch the original.

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Harold Kelp speaks with his Grandfather

A Very Gassy Family

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is just an excuse to show off Eddie Murphy’s ability to play several characters at once. As well as the still impressive makeup used to bring the Klumps to life. Which is why the large and in charge family is given way more attention. Even when it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Since learning to accept his weight, Professor Klump is finally ready to marry Denise. Despite her importance Jada Pinkett was too busy getting Smithed to return. So instead Janet Jackson plays his love interest/fiancé. Among many other plot points, Sherman invents a youth serum, he has Buddy Love extracted from his body, he gets progressively dumber, Buddy takes on the traits of a dog, Papa Klump can’t satisfy his wife so he takes the serum, and Granny comes onto Buddy. While the first movie had its fair share of gross out moments, The Klumps is far too reliant on them. The most disgusting has to be the one involving the Dean and a giant hamster. Not to mention all the recycled jokes like Sherman’s nightmare or farting at dinner. Although Murphy’s inevitable decline started to show, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is nevertheless funny enough as a feature length version of the family dinner scene.

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The Klumps prepare to eat

Preceded by: The Nutty Professor (1996)

Christmas on the Island

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure is how you spoil a good thing. Cousin Eddie was always a good source of comedy in the Vacation series. From his humble introduction to his scene stealing return, Randy Quaid made him the annoying relative we all love to hate. Now it’s just hate when he gets his own spin-off TV movie that has no reason to exist. It’s also some sort of sequel due to the success of Christmas Vacation. Christmas Vacation 2 takes the Johnson’s out of the RV and into suburbia. With yet another revolving door of kids. Cousin Eddie is apparently dumber than a monkey, so he’s given a free tropical vacation. He brings wife Catherine, the kids I mentioned, an Uncle, and Audrey Griswold. Dana Barron finally gets a chance to return after the recast rule was established. Good for her since she was kind of given the short end of the stick. If only it was in a better movie. The Johnson’s, along with a hot tour guide, get shipwreck on an island near Christmastime. What follows is one unfunny gag after another. Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure should have remained on the island.

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Cousin Eddie and his family get stranded on an island

Spin-off of: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

A Night to Remember

High School Musical 3: Senior Year was simply too big to contain on the small screen. After the even bigger success of High School Musical 2, it was clear to Disney that the final installment deserved a theatrical release. Which meant bad news for parents. Since they now had to take their kids to see the movie. My parents were lucking, because not even its big screen status was enough to break me. They take full advantage of the higher budget by immediately showing the sweat on Zac Efron during the big game. High School Musical 3: Senior Year is as the title suggests, about the last chance East High students have before graduation. Before going to college and possibly parting ways. Troy and Gabriella are closer than ever before, but that big decision gets in the way. It also gets in the way of Troy and Chad’s friendship. They also have prom to think about, but the real focus is on a school musical within a musical of the same name. Sharpay and Ryan are no longer antagonistic because they’re all in this together after all. It’s just those real world adult decisions that make up the conflict. Although it’s still squeaky clean enough to maintain a G rating. Not even a scandal involving Vanessa Hudgens was enough to distract from it. Everything comes full circle at the end during graduation. When the entire cast sings about the joys of being in a high school musical. High School Musical 3: Senior Year makes me wish my school experience was this much fun. “What team?! Wildcats!”

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“I wish my life could be a high school musical!”

Preceded by: High School Musical 2

What Time is it, Summer Time

High School Musical 2 dominated the summer. After the massive hit that was High School Musical, a sequel needed to be made immediately. I of course remember when High School Musical 2 came out as well. Still, I stayed away from the hype. Which was arguably even bigger than the first. In fact, the Disney Channel Original Movie’s premiere had the highest viewership of anything on TV at the time. Despite its title, High School Musical 2 doesn’t spend much time at high school. Instead school is out for the summer. Set to the beat of the even more infectious song “What time is it?” A song that was so big it reached Billboard success. It’s easily there best song and they put it at the very beginning. Even though they aren’t in school, the entire East High class works things out at Sharpay and Ryan’s country club. Sharpay’s intentions are somewhat more devious this time around. She only wants two things, all things fabulous and for Troy to sing with her instead of Gabriella. Her plan backfires since nothing could ever pull Troy and Gabriella apart. Except maybe the possibility of being accepted to play basketball at a prestigious college. That’s really the only obstacle in the sequel. While a club talent show is the big climax. Zac Efron actually sings this time and Vanessa Hudgens is much more comfortable in her role. More screen time given to characters like Chad or Ryan is also welcome. High School Musical 2 is just as carefree and energetic as summer should be. “What team?! Wildcats!”

High School Musical 2

“We’ve got to work this out!”

Preceded by: High School Musical & Followed by: High School Musical 3: Senior Year

We’re All in this Together

High School Musical is the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever made. As it was the first one that spoke to an entire generation. That’s no small feat for a made-for-TV movie. Regretfully, I wasn’t part of the High School Musical trend initially. I was 10 at the time and I remember the movie being a big deal. I just didn’t watch enough Disney Channel to have caught on to it. So I instead waited for the hype to die down before checking out the trilogy. High School Musical is all about the status quo and whether or not someone can break free and have other interests. Not exactly deep, but then again this is a very kid friendly teen movie. All his life Troy Bolton has been the basketball guy. It’s not until a chance encounter with Gabriella Montez that his musical talent shines through. She’s always been a brainy bookworm, but they both realize this is the start of something new. They both end up attending East High School where they must decide between who they’re expected to be and what they choose to be. All the while developing a cute relationship. Which is difficult when their friends (Chad and Taylor) and family try to keep them apart. Really the only antagonists are Sharpay Evans and her brother Ryan. Who simply want to keep their positions in the school musical. High School Musical is full of infectious songs that all became big hits. My favorite will always be the upbeat final song “We’re all in this together.” The TV movie was also responsible for launching the careers of several stars. Ashley Tisdale was already a Disney star, but Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens both got their start here. High School Musical was indeed a cultural phenomenon that will never be duplicated. “What team?! Wildcats!”

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“We’re all in this together!”

Followed by: High School Musical 2

Get a Load of Chucky

Seed of Chucky uses its already campier tone and takes it way too far. Unlike all other installments, Seed of Chucky is actually directed by its creator, Don Mancini. Which doesn’t seem to be saying much. At the end of Bride of Chucky, Chucky stabbed Tiffany and Chucky was shot. The only piece of them to survive was their surprise offspring. Which turns out to be a gender confused pacifist with the voice of Billy Boyd named Glen (or Glenda?). As if that wasn’t a dumb decision enough, Seed of Chucky suddenly takes place in the “real world.” With movie prop versions of Chucky and Tiffany being brought to life. Their plan this time around is to kidnap actress Jennifer Tilly, impregnate her so that Tiffany and Glen have bodies to possess, meanwhile Chucky plans to possess rapper Redman. I wish I was making this up, but that’s seriously what happens. Despite being killers they also vow to stop killing. Well Tiffany does at least since she’s the somewhat softer one. All the while Chucky kills celebrities like Britney Spears. Chucky used to be a doll of menace. Funny, but still ruthless. Seed of Chucky is easily the most embarrassing chapter in the Child’s Play series.

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Chucky and Tiffany have a word with Glen

Preceded by: Bride of Chucky & Followed by: Curse of Chucky

I Have a Very Particular Set of Skills

Taken has taken Liam Neeson’s career to new heights. Happy father’s day everyone! Today I thought I’d talk about one of the most badass fathers in recent memory. Taken was something I simply couldn’t ignore. Since it spawn a hundred memes and ushered in a new wave of Liam Neeson action roles. Despite his age, Neeson was perfectly capable of handling a role this physically demanding. Taken begins with father Bryan Mills getting his daughter Kim a birthday present. Bryan is divorced and retired from the CIA. All he has is his daughter and friends who were also in the CIA. While on a trip to Paris, Kim and her friend are taken as Bryan speaks with his daughter on the phone. This is obviously the most memorable scene in the movie. As the tension builds and Bryan’s experience shines through. He doesn’t know who they are or what they want. He can’t afford a ransom, but tells them that he has a very particular set of skill. And that if they don’t let her go, he will kill them. His very intimidating threat ends with a voice simply saying “Good luck.” I actually learned the entire monologue long before I even saw the movie. Bryan will stop at nothing to rescue Kim from a despicable gang of sex traffickers. Even resorting to torture. The action is fast paced with just the right amount of urgency to support its set up. Taken goes to show that a father’s love knows no bounds.

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Bryan Mills makes a threatening call

Followed by: Taken 2

Talking in Tokyo

Lost in Translation is the story of strangers in a strange land. After proving to be not much of an actress, Sofia Coppola tried her hand at directing. First with The Virgin Suicides and second with the much more critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Like I said in my Godfather Part III review, her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. She even ended up winning an Oscar for Best original Screenplay. Making them the only father-daughter duo to win the same award. Sofia Coppola based the movie on her own experiences in Japan. The idea of two people talking in Tokyo for an hour may not sound all that interesting, but it’s actually quite engaging. Since Coppola cast unconventional actors as the leads. Scarlett Johansson who only did supporting parts at the time and Bill Murray who is mostly known for comedy. Lost in Translation opens with a shot of Johansson’s butt (I’m still not sure why). Then it follows aging actor Bob Harris who is filming Japanese Whiskey commercials in Tokyo. Where he has trouble communicating. Eventually he has a chance encounter with Charlotte. The young wife of a celebrity photographer. You would think two people with such an age difference would have nothing to talk about, but they’re more alike than you think. They explore the bright streets of Tokyo together and just find comfort in one another. The movie is only R because of an out of nowhere strip club scene. Lost in Translation famously ends with the two parting ways, but not before Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. Something that will forever remain a mystery. Lost in Translation is the best kind of midlife crisis.

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Bob and Charlotte hang out

Dancing Queen

Mamma Mia! is all about ABBA. A swedish musical group popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Save for there two biggest hits, I never considered myself an expert of ABBA songs. So I never really considered seeing Mamma Mia! At least not until I listened to more of their music. All I knew about the movie was that it was considered a guilty pleasure. Mamma Mia! is based on a jukebox musical of the same name. It takes place on a Greek island during a wedding. Amanda Seyfried plays the bride to be Sophie. She has a dream that her father will be able to walk her down the aisle. Her only dilemma is not knowing who that is. So she decides to invite every potential father to the wedding in the hopes that she figures it out. Since her mother Donna was with three separate men at the same time. All played by familiar actors. Pierce Brosnan as Sam, Colin Firth as Harry, and Stellan Skarsgård as Bill. She tries, but I think it’s safe to say this is one performance Meryl Streep ain’t winning awards for. Her singing voice isn’t exactly suited for pop. Speaking of singing voices, Pierce Brosnan should stick to acting. Mamma Mia! mostly suffers from common rom-com clichés. There’s also a problem with the placement of songs in the story. Since ABBA songs are pre-existing, they have to fit them in whether they make sense or not. Not that it isn’t a lot of fun seeing elaborate dance numbers for songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia.” Mamma Mia! is beautiful to look at and can be very enjoyable if you’re willing to accept its silly plot.

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Sophie and her family

Followed by: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again