Franchise’s Fourth Episode Features New Cast Up to Old Tricks
According to Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” And Diary Of AWimpy Kid: The Long Haul provides cinematic support for that pessimistic principle. For, this kitchen sink comedy relies on the domino effect to exacerbate the ever-mounting misfortunes visited upon the beleaguered Heffley family over the course of one disastrous, summer road trip.
The film is the fourth in the series based on Jeff Kinney’s illustrated children’s novels. It was directed by David Bowers who also made Wimpy Kid2 and 3.
It’s understandable that the youngsters from the original might have aged out of their roles, though it’s a bit of a surprise that the movie features an entirely new cast, starting with Jason Drucker as the title character, Wimpy Greg Heffley. Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott play his parents, Susan and Frank, while Charlie Wright and Dylan Walters assume the roles of his older and younger brothers, Rodrick and Manny, respectively.
The premise of Wimpy Kid 4 revolves around a cross-country family outing to attend grandma’s 90th birthday party. The catch is that Susan envisions the drive as an opportunity to share quality time, so she collects everybody’s cell phone devices before departing.
This frustrates her fidgety brood who prove clueless without electronic devices. So Rodrick calls her “the worst mom ever” and sticks a “kidnapped” sign in the rear window which leads to their being pulled over by the police.
Subsequent eventful stops range from an overnight stay in a motel with rats in the pool to a visit to a country fair where Manny wins a live piglet as a prize. The humor flowing from the escalating insanity is mostly of the bodily function variety: with farts, feces, burps and barfing being real crowd-pleasers.
Every skit is designed to keep the target audience of tykes and tots in stitches, with only occasional asides for adults, such as the inspired homage to Psycho‘s legendary shower scene.
Altogether, a delightfully-mindless diversion for the pre-teen demographic!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 91 minutes
Abacus: Small Enough To Jail
PBS / Kartemquin Films
Justice Denied Documentary Chronicles Racist Targeting Of Chinese-American Bank
Asian-Americans are often referred to as the “model minority” because of their success in the U.S. despite the existence of discrimination which has crippled other ethnic groups. However, the label has also led many a racist to misread Asian modesty as an invitation to treat them like doormats.
Consider the serious rudeness done to Dr. David Dao, the Vietnamese-American physician who was beaten to a pulp by the police and dragged off an airplane for refusing to surrender a seat that he’d paid for to a United Airlines employee flying for free. Lost in the sauce was the fact he and his family were very likely selected because of the color of their skin. After all, the airline employee probably specifically targeted the Dao family never expecting members of the model minority to put up much of a fuss about getting bumped.
Abacus: Small Enough To Jail is a jaw-dropping documentary which chronicles an equally-outrageous example of bigotry, this time against the Sungs, a clan of Chinese-American immigrants. Inspired by the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, family Patriarch Thomas Sung founded Abacus Federal Savings Bank in 1984 in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown.
He was motivated help his community after repeatedly witnessing how other lending institutions were willing take Chinese people’s deposits, but were very hesitant to let them borrow any money. Abacus flourished over the years, and his daughters, Jill and Heather, joined the family business as executives after becoming lawyers.
The world came crashing down around them all when the bank and 19 of its employees were charged with conspiracy, larceny and fraud in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. What’s stunning is that Abacus was the only financial institution the government ever held responsible criminally for the collapse of the mortgage market. Furthermore, the case was based entirely on evidence which Abacus itself had turned over to federal regulators upon unearthing felonious behavior on the part of a loan officer it fired on the spot.
Was the ensuing prosecution malicious or warranted? Judge for yourself. But don’t be surprised if this chilling exposé leaves you convinced the Sungs were innocent victims of a thoroughly corrupt legal system doling out “justice” in color-coded fashion, even when it comes to white-collar crime.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles
Running time: 88 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 2, 2017
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (PG for pervasive, mildly rude humor) Ed Helms supplies the voice of the title character in this screen version of the animated TV series about a couple of fourth grade pranksters (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) who hypnotize their principal into believing he’s the tighty-whities wearing hero of the comic book they’ve created. With Jordan Peele, Nick Kroll and Sugar Lyn Beard.
Wonder Woman (PG-13 for action, violence and suggestive content) Latest incarnation of the DC Comics superheroine, set during World War I, finds the Amazon warrior princess (Gal Gadot) rescuing a downed American pilot (Chris Pine) and accompanying him to London where she joins the fight on the side of the Allies. Cast include Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewlis.
3 Idiotas (PG-13 for crude humor and brief profanity) Mexican remake of 3 Idiots, the Bollywood comedy about a couple of college buddies (Christian Vazquez and German Valdez) who belatedly decide to mount a search for a missing classmate (Alfonso Dosal) five years after he disappeared without a trace on their graduation day. Cast includes Martha Higareda, Vadhir Derbez and Sebastian Zurita. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Aaron’s Blood (Unrated) Tale of demonic possession about a single dad’s (James Martinez) desperate attempt to reverse his hemophiliac son’s (Trevor Stovall) gradual transformation into a vampire in the wake of a blood transfusion. With Michael Peach, Michael Chieffo and Farah White.
All About The Money (Unrated) Action comedy about two guys (Eddie Griffin and Casper Von Dien) tricked into vacationing in Colombia by a broke buddy (Blake Freeman) who wants their help apprehending a drug kingpin (Jose Yenque) with a $25 million bounty on his head. Cast includes Lin Shaye, Danny Trejo and Jonathan Slavin.
Band Aid (Unrated) Marital crisis comedy about a couple that can’t stop fighting (Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally) who try to save their relationship by starting a rock band and turning their arguments into songs. Featuring Fred Armisen, Colin Hanks, Jamie Chung and Brooklyn Decker.
Churchill (PG for mature themes, brief battle scene images, pervasive smoking and some mild epithets) Brian Cox plays the legendary British prime minister in this World War II adventure recounting the 96 hours leading up to the D-Day assault on Normandy. With John Slattery as General Dwight Eisenhower, James Purefoy as King George VI and Julian Wadham as General Bernard Montgomery.
Dean (PG-13 for profanity and some suggestive material) Demetri Martin wrote, directed and stars in this romantic dramedy as a commercial artist grieving the loss of his mom who falls in love with a woman (Gillian Jacobs) he meets when he travels from Brooklyn to L.A. to negotiate a contract with an advertising agency. With Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen and Asif Ali.
Finding Kim (Unrated) Gender identity documentary chronicling 50-year-old Kim Byford’s struggle with self-image and self-acceptance in the wake of sexual reassignment surgery transitioning her from a woman to a man.
Handsome Devil (Unrated) Homoerotic, coming-of-age drama about the close bond unexpectedly forged between a bullied loner (Fionn O’Shea) and a popular jock (Nicholas Galitzine) after they’re forced to share a dorm room at boarding school. Featuring Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford and Jay Duffy.
Opening Night (Unrated) Musical comedy revolving around a failed actor-turned-production manager’s (Topher Grace) desperate attempt to save his new show by whipping his eccentric cast and crew into shape. Supporting cast includes Anne Heche, Taye Diggs and Rob Riggle.
Radio Dreams (Unrated) A day-in-the-life comedy, set in San Francisco, about a Farsi-language radio station manager’s (Mohsen Namjoo) attempt to stage a live broadcast pairing Metallica and Abdul Dreams, Afghanistan’s very first rock band. With Lars Ulrich, Raby Adib, Siddique Ahmed and Sulyman Qardash as themselves. (In English, Persian, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Dari with subtitles)
The Recall (R for violence, profanity and some nudity) Sci-fi thriller about five friends whose vacation at a cabin in the woods is ruined by an invasion of aliens bent on abducting humans. Co-starring Wesley Snipes, Jedidiah Goodacre and Laura Bilgeri.
Vincent N Roxxy (R for nudity, graphic sexuality, gruesome violence, brief drug use and pervasive profanity) Emile Hirsch and Zoe Kravitz portray the title characters in this crime thriller about a mysterious drifter and a rebellious punk rocker who fall in love on the run after he saves her from a vicious killer (Kid Cudi). With Zoey Deutch, Emory Cohen and Beau Knapp.