Clear the mechanism.
Note: Disney is releasing both Soul and Godmothered on top of each other, so I’m covering them both together with an assist from my eight-year old son. But first…
When I play baseball, there are times when I am in such a great groove pitching that everything seems to slow down, background noise and visuals disappear, and playing the game becomes easy. In For Love of the Game, pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) calls it clearing the mechanism. Others describe it as being “in the zone.” While I never consciously cleared the mechanism, the depiction is very close to what I have experienced. Most recently, it happened a couple years ago when I pitched a two-hit, ten-strikeout, zero-walk shutout. After the game, a friend on the other team said “if that one play at first base had been called correctly, we might have scored on you,” to which I replied apologetically “you weren’t going to score tonight.” The memory of that game was evoked while watching Pixar’s newest film Soul, when Soul describes and displays its version of clearing the mechanism.
(I know what you are thinking – “aren’t you too old to play baseball?” or more likely “psshhhhh.” Well, I’m still several years younger than Jamie Moyer was when he finally retired. Also, psshhhhh.)
Soul is not a baseball movie. It’s not even a sports movie. But its depiction of the mechanism made this movie relatable to me in a way I never expected. The film is about the afterlife, and the mechanism (or being in the zone) while doing something you love is portrayed as a higher plane of existence that overlaps the afterlife. It made me smile in a way that this entire wretched year almost made me forget was possible. Of course, because this is the year 2020, Godmothered took a giant crap all over that smile. But, I am getting ahead of myself. First, let’s see what my son thought of Soul.
What is the movie Soul about?
It’s about a guy who is about to have a big concert thing and he…I can’t remember how he got to the soul place, but he kept trying to jump in the big hole that leads to Earth.
So many questions about what you just said. Let’s start with what is the soul place?
It’s where a bunch of people have to earn their spark as little tiny glowy people. Once they get their spark, they get their Earth badge, and they jump into the hole to Earth and become a person.
Do you know what a soul is?
Yeah. A soul is like a glowy thing that looks like a person that is inside of you, that looks like a replica of you. It’s in this weird place in space where there are a million souls that have to earn their spark. And there a bunch of hosts – one is named Terry and three are named Jerry – and there is a stage room where people get called up and they go to the Earth hole-thing.
Wait, hold on. I have more questions. If the soul is inside of you, how is it also in a weird place? And, what is the weird place?
Well, first of all, the soul isn’t in that weird place all the time. When you are a human, your soul is in your body and when your soul is out of you, it’s in that weird place? Second of all, I don’t know what that weird place is called.
Neither do I. So, when the soul is not inside of a human, is the human dead?
Well, it’s not necessarily dead, it’s just unconscious.
Sounds like it is dead to me.
No, he wasn’t dead when Terry took his soul out of his body. When Terry took that concert guy’s soul out, he laid in that place, but when he woke up, he was in that same exact place at the same exact age. That’s why I think he was just unconscious.
Ok. What was the concert guy’s name?
I forgot *rubbing his temples*. I know they said it in the movie.
I can’t remember it either. Funny that you remember Terry, but not the main character.
*Laughing in agreement*
Looking it up – it is Joe Gardner.
Oh yeah *giggling*
So, how does Joe become unconscious, making his soul leave his body.
Because Terry snuck into the world and found Joe…
No, no, no. The first time Joe goes unconscious.
Oh, I don’t know. I have no idea about the first time, but I’m going to tell you it was not Terry.
I remember – Joe fell down a manhole into the sewer.
Oooohhhh yeah. That sewer is where the soul place is. Now I remember.
Are you saying the weird place is a sewer?
Yes. Because it is a sewer.
What was the first thing that was happening when you see Joe’s soul for the first time?
He was in this long place and there was like one little bridge and on the other side was a really bright light and that really bright light was death.
I think they called it the Great Beyond.
Well they did, but, still, once you touch that you’re dead.
You don’t think you’re already dead when you are on that bridge?
No. Because if he is running around he still has a soul.
This is my favorite discussion about the afterlife, ever. Do you think this is what happens you die?
What happens when you die?
When the movie shows Joe falling to his death in the sewer, his soul is going toward the bright light, which many people believe is heaven. Do you think this movie is a good idea about what happens after you die?
Yes. When you die.
Is this what you think happens in real life?
No, not in real life. Get it? Not in real life? Bu-dun-ch. That was a good one.
Moving on. Why didn’t Joe go into the bright light?
Because he didn’t want to die because he loves to play and music and had a concert in front him. If he died before that, he couldn’t do the concert.
Why did he want to do the concert so bad?
Because he loves, loves music!
That seems like a really good reason to want to keep living. So, in the weird, sewer place, there are also souls who haven’t been born yet?
No. Wait? What? I don’t get it.
The millions of little tiny glowy souls you mentioned before sound like people who haven’t been born yet and that’s why they have to earn their Earth patch.
No. That’s not what I’m saying.
Then, who are they?
They are souls that were born a millisecond ago.
Right. New souls. So new people.
So, my question is, if the weird place is where new souls are, how can Joe also be there?
Because he fell through the sewer that leads to that weird place.
Interesting. Did you like the movie?
What was your favorite part besides the end of the movie?
I liked when Joe was a cat.
I’m not even going to ask about that. How about a rating for this movie? Do you think people should ask for any money back?
If it costs twenty dollars, I say it is worth twenty dollars because it has a great story that makes sense and it’s good.
INTERMISSION – Let’s go out to the movies. Let’s go out to the…oh yeah. Covid. Sorry.
Now, let’s switched to Godmothered.
Uh oh. I haven’t even asked a question yet. Was it a bad movie?
Yes. Don’t watch it people. Don’t watch it. We didn’t even finish the movie.
You didn’t even finish the movie? What was so bad about it?
First thing is it didn’t have a villain. Second thing is it doesn’t have a problem. And, it feels like they are copying another movie, but with different characters.
What movie do you think they are copying?
How was it like Elf?
There’s one person that comes from a different part of the universe and they come to the normal cities and they act like crazy people; like psychos.
Who came to the normal city?
Well, I don’t remember her name, but she is a, she is trying to be trained to be a godmother. She found an assignment and if she doesn’t have assignments, then she can’t be trained to be a godmother.
Do you mean like a regular godmother or a fairy godmother?
A fairy godmother.
That sounds like a story to me. A fairy godmother trainee has to complete an assignment to become a full fairy godmother. What is her assignment?
Her assignment is to help a little girl who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, but the assignment she found was from when the girl was ten years old.
So the little girl isn’t ten years old anymore?
Yes. When she goes through the portal to Earth, that girl is like a newsperson who works at 8-news, like the number eight news.
You said the movie doesn’t have a problem. Why is that important?
Because that is what makes it a good story. If there isn’t a problem, how could there be a happily ever after?
That’s a really good point. Do they ever explain what it means to get a happily ever after?
It means to be happy for the rest of your life.
And the news lady isn’t happy?
Well, first of all, she doesn’t believe in happily ever after. Or Christmas. I think. Wait, is that right? I don’t remember if she believes in Christmas. But she will never be happy because she is stressed all day.
What does the fairy godmother trainee think the news lady needs for her happily ever after?
Well, just to be happy, but because she’s a poor little girl when she’s ten years, but now she’s a full grown adult.
I’m confused. What is the news lady stressed about?
Well, I’m not sure if she’s stressed, but I know she isn’t happy.
I’m starting to understand why you say this movie doesn’t have a problem. Why did you decide not to finish it?
Because, while I was watching it, I’m like what am I watching? There is no problem or no villain, so this isn’t a very good story. Or movie. Bum-bum-bum.
Fair enough. So, rating?
If it was twenty dollars, you should ask for eleven dollars back.
Really? Only eleven dollars for a movie that was so bad you didn’t even want to finish it?
Well, sixteen back because I already told you.
And that is the culmination of a Disney double-header. On a final note, my son undersold the awfulness of Godmothered. Last year, my wife got in a weird mood where she would flip to the Hallmark channel and have those really cheesy Christmas movies they make on in the background. Godmothered is one of those movies, but if Disney crapped it out at ten times the cost. And, boy do I ever feel sorry for Isla Fisher headlining this film. If she needs money this bad, I will gladly donate to her GoFundMe page. I know 2020 has been the shittiest year of most of our lifetimes and new movies are very few and far between, but Godmothered is steaming garbage. It’s a damned good thing Soul was excellent, helping me to clear the mechanism.
Rating: Between the two movies, we break even.
By: Kevin Jordan
I ignored the red flags.
I wish someone had punched me in the face when I decided to watch this movie. Even before I said it out loud, just thinking that thought should have caused someone to run through my door and cold-cock me. I knew – KNEW – Fist Fight was going to be a terrible movie after watching the trailer, but I convinced myself that at least Charlie Day would be funny, so I’d give it a shot. Sometimes my brain is a real jerk.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how the movie release game is played, here are a couple of red flags you should look for before committing your money and time to watching a movie. As I write this, it’s 9:48pm on Tuesday, 2/14, and there are zero reviews of this film posted to Rotten Tomatoes. Unless the movie is called Star Wars, the only time there are review embargoes this close to wide release is when the studio knows its movie is shit. That’s red flag number one and the last time I saw this kind of embargo was for Independence Day: Resurgence. Yeah.
Red flag number two is when even the wiki page for the film doesn’t have a plot summary or even a plot section. I have never seen this for any movie until now, though to be fair, that one sentence premise is the entire plot of this movie. That’s also the point – the first seventy-five minutes of this ninety-one minute film are foreplay, followed by two minutes of banging it out, followed by eight minutes of cuddling. Wait, hold on…I’m not being fair. The first seventy-five minutes are the kind of foreplay where the other person is either asleep or hypnotized by the shape of the ceiling texture, followed by two minutes of banging it out, followed by eight minutes of wondering how your genitals already feel like a crab-infested lagoon. You’re welcome for that image.
Red flag number three is Ice Cube in a comedy. The man has one character mode called “Fuck you.” This works in very specific movies and none of those movies are comedies. Against my better judgement, I watched Ride Along and regretted every moment of it, so this really should have been the flag that saved an hour and a half of my life. Like I said, sometimes my brain is a real jerk.
I honestly can’t remember if I laughed during the movie, but I seem to recall finding the horse running through the hallways of a high school amusing. But that’s definitely the only time I laughed, if at all. Not even Charlie Day could save this chili-fart of a film, as a trio of writers and one director delivered what can only be described as what a dog is thinking right before it starts licking its own crotch. And that’s closer to literal than you think, as this film featured a multitude of bad dick jokes that even a first-grader would frown at.
The look you get when you realize you’ve been had.
Obviously, the lack of comedy is the biggest reason why this movie sucked, but the second biggest reason was that it was impossible to suspend my disbelief, even for as shallow a movie as this. The setup in this film is that it’s the last day of school at Roosevelt High School and the entire senior class is committing as many senior pranks as they can. Paint bombs, vandalism, assault, toilet-papering, horse-theft and more with nary a cop or campus security to be seen. Meanwhile, the principal (Dean Norris) is firing more than thirty teachers because this isn’t a real high school. When some kids mess with Mr. Strickland (Cube), Strickland smashes a bunch of electronics and hacks a desk to pieces with an axe (with a kid barely escaping) in full view of a class full of students and Mr. Campbell (Day). Rather than have him arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, the principal merely fires Strickland after Campbell corroborates the kid’s story. Strickland tells Campbell they’re going to fight after school and Campbell spends the next sixty minutes trying to get out of the fight. At one point, he even calls 9-1-1 to report the threat and the responders laugh at him. Har-har-har – bite me.
If at all.
Perhaps the dumbest thing that happens is the sanctimonious shit coming out of Strickland’s mouth through much of the film. Displaying a level of Trumpian hypocrisy, Strickland lectures Campbell that telling the principal about the axe incident comes with consequences and that Campbell should take responsibility for his actions. Nevermind that this prick is shirking the responsibility of having just attacked a student with an axe because someone “told on him.” Couple that with the insane level of pranks that would definitely get every student expelled and we have a movie that comes off like what Betsy DeVos and other school voucher proponents must imagine public schools are like as they buy off another congressman.
As I hinted at earlier, there are about two minutes of fight scene that would have been far more worth waiting around for if the rest of the movie hadn’t sucked balls. Tracy Morgan and Jillian Bell round out the supporting cast and both are competing with each other to see who can be the least funny. The answer is neither are the least funny because Dean Norris and Ice Cube are in this movie. And, if your brain is as big a jerk as mine and prevents your legs from walking your body out of the theater before the end of the film, be prepared to watch Campbell and his elementary-school daughter close out the film with a dance number featuring Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You” which is basically the song version of every Ice Cube character. Man I hate my brain for this film.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back and punch the movie poster on your way out of the theater.
By: Kevin Jordan
It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.
This week, I had to choose between two movies – The Night Before and Creed. On one hand, The Night Before looked like it could be really funny and I’m always looking for a good laugh, but Seth Rogen and friends have been responsible for some really unfunny movies. On the other hand, Creed looked like the latest desperate attempt by Sylvester Stallone to stay relevant, but almost assuredly promised to be a terrible film that would be fun to destroy in a review. I mean, how could it not be terrible; have you seen the premise and previews? Rocky trains Apollo Creed’s son and suffers some sort of near death/death ala Mickey from Rocky III? Seriously? I know Michael B. Jordan needs a win after the embarrassment of Fantastic Four, but I’m pretty sure Creed won’t be that win. Anyway, despite the ease at which a review of Creed would write itself, I decided not to punish myself by sitting through it and chose to risk punishing myself by sitting through The Night Before.
Before I get to the rest of the review, I want to point out that The Night Before is the second Christmas movie I’ve seen in as many weeks (Love the Coopers). For everyone out there who believes in the mythical war on Christmas; that Starbucks hates Christmas because they decided to serve coffee in cups not featuring a Christmas tree (yet the cup is red with a green Starbucks logo; you know – Christmas colors), you can shut up now. Not only does every store have all of their Christmas merchandise out; not only is the shopping mall near my house already decorated to the hilt in Christmas gear, but we’ve now had two Christmas movies released well before Thanksgiving. If there’s a war on Christmas, the anti-Christmas team is getting crushed.
(Very mild SPOILERS ahead.)
Anyway, The Night Before is about three friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie), trying to find the ultimate, but well-hidden, Christmas party known as the Nutcracker Ball. They’ve been at it for ten years and the only thing they know is what the invitation looks like. At this point in their lives, Chris is now a famous football player, Isaac is about to be a father, and both of them are ready to end the hunt because they are grown-ups now. Conversely, Ethan is single and works as a waiter for a catering service, and doesn’t want to let go of their annual tradition (and all of the things they repeat during the tradition) because it’s all he has (his parents died just before the Christmas Eve that led to said tradition). Predictably, all of these issues will be addressed (Chris is on steroids and Isaac is terrified of fatherhood) and all three guys will have to deal with these issues by the end of the film. I know this doesn’t sound funny yet, but all of that stuff is really just the dressing. The turkey is the series of events that occur during their final attempt to find the mythical party.
Actually, finding the party turns out to be the easy part of the night. While Ethan is at work, he stumbles upon three invitations to the party while checking coats. He steals the invitations and bolts to find Chris and Isaac so he can share the good news. After calling the number on the invitation, they learn that they have several hours to kill before the location will be revealed, so the party turns out to be the big gift-wrapped MacGuffin of the film. The hard part of the night is actually making it long enough to even go to the party, as a combination of drinking, drugs, and squabbles threaten to derail the quest. Yes, this is a quest movie and Ethan must complete the quest. But, what quest isn’t complete without trials and tribulations?
Knowing that this is their last time doing this tradition, Isaac’s wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) gives Isaac a box filled with “every kind of drug in the world.” As you probably already know (based on the previews), this leads to Isaac being high off his ass (to put it mildly) for the entire film, which is the biggest hurdle for Ethan. It also leads to nearly all of the best jokes in the film because no one does high off his ass better than Rogen. Then, there’s Chris’s side quest to obtain some weed for his quarterback (Chris is desperate for his teammates to like him). This quest includes an old teacher (and marijuana dealer) of theirs – Mr. Green (Michael Shannon) – and a slutty, anti-Christmas thief named Rebecca Grinch (Ilana Glazer). Yes, her name is Grinch and no, it was not funny (or clever). Finally, there’s Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, Diana (Lizzy Caplan). For reasons not even remotely explained, she and her friend (Mindy Kaling) were legitimately invited to the party, so you can bet your ass that the party is going to be trumped by whatever happens between the two of them.
At this point, I need to give credit to the writers (Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Jonathan Levine, Ariel Shaffir) because I went into this film with zero expectations of any kind of plot more than “hijinks galore.” Getting a film with a decently organized plot on top of a cornucopia of comedy was definitely worth the earlier start to Christmas (and that’s why I spent so many words talking about it). Goldberg in particular has been responsible for some awful movies, so getting something that didn’t feel like it was written with paste and glitter deserves attention.
Most importantly though, the comedy was well worth the decision to see this film. Every now and then, you hear or see something that makes you laugh so hard that you cry and can’t breathe. This happened to me during the church scene in this movie, which is also shown in the previews (so I can say it here without feeling bad). Watching Rogen hiss at a baby, then ask his wife who the guy on the cross is by emulating Christ’s position, then try not to puke at the thought of crucifixion, then hear his wife say “don’t you dare throw up. You swallow it like a girl would,” nearly broke me and most of the audience as well. If this is what Christmas coming extra early brings, I’m all for it.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and get over the Starbucks thing. It’s a cup.