Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: June 17, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in green and black spandex and parades around town telling people that he is a superhero who can create anything out of sheer will. Of course, it seems that the only thing he’s able to create is an ever-growing arrest report. Later, Kevin takes a trip to his local zoo where he sneaks into the penguin habitat in order to forge a bond with these flightless birds. Unfortunately, the penguins don’t take too well to him and peck him to near death, leaving Kevin to skulk away to the local movie theater in order to catch a double feature of Green Lantern and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined in the Magical Studio in the Sky by film critic, podcaster and author of “101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men” and “Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas,” Alonso Duralde.

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard and Blake Lively

Directed by: Martin Campbell

What it’s about: Hal Jordan is a maverick fighter pilot who isn’t afraid of anything. When an intergalactic warrior crash-lands on Earth, Hal is chosen by the alien’s amazing power ring to succeed him in the Green Lantern Corps, an interplanetary peacekeeping force. However, the embodiment of fear which killed this original Green Lantern is now on its way to Earth, and Hal is the only person who can fight it.

What I liked: I read the Green Lantern comic books when I was a kid in the late 70s and early 80s. Once Hal Jordan left Earth in the hands of Guy Gardner and John Stewart, I lost interest and quit reading them, so my memories of this hero were from decades ago. Green Lantern was my favorite hero growing up, even more than Batman and Superman, and I’ve been waiting 30 years to see a film like this.

For me, it was something special which brought me back to my childhood to see the members of the Green Lantern Corps using their power rings to create objects out of nothing. The scenes on the Guardians’ home world of Oa were amazing to watch. Were the Lanterns’ suits a bit cartoony? Sure, but I was okay with them, and they looked better than green and black spandex.

Green Lantern is not The Dark Knight, and not every superhero movie needs to be, regardless of what the Nolan fanboys say. Some films – like Fantastic Four, Thor and the Iron Man movies – can be just fun. This film is aimed at a younger audience than the typical fanboy crowd, and I felt it did a decent job playing to both audiences.

The effects are cool, and the action was fun. Director Martin Campbell could have milked a little bit more from some key power-ring battles, but on the whole, I was satisfied. Green Lantern fulfilled my inner-child who had been waiting for years to see a film like this which played to the old school comic books that cost less than 50 cents a pop.

What I didn’t: I’ll admit that there are plenty of problems with this film. Ryan Reynolds hams up Hal Jordan a bit too much, and Blake Lively phones in her performance. Sure, she looks quite attractive with her auburn hair color, but no one ever accused her of being a great actor.

There’s some clunky pacing, and a lot of information is thrown at the audience. Such is the case with an origin story, which I’m not usually a huge fan of, but like Thor, a secondary character like Green Lantern needs it.

If you’re still fuming about the silliness of Fantastic Four and are ready to throw on the hate, you’ll find yourself complaining. But that’s your problem.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who can accept a fluffy and fun superhero movie.

Grade: B+

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for mild rude humor and some language

Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Andrew Stewart-Jones and Curtis Shumaker

Directed by: Mark Waters

What it’s about: Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) is a fast-talking real estate salesman in New York City who has a great career but an estranged relationship with his wife and kids. When his world-traveler father passes away, Tom gets sent a half dozen live penguins in the mail. These birds make their home in his Manhattan penthouse, and their lively interaction with Tom’s kids makes him rediscover his family.

What I liked: The first half of this film wasn’t so bad. It’s your typical kids movie with cute animals. The penguins – which are a mix of CGI, animatronics and real birds – are lively and cute. They also poop and fart a lot, which tends to be a bit hit with the kiddies.

Carrey goes back to his earlier form of broad slapstick comedy, though it’s not as manic or wild as his characters in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or Dumb and Dumber, and this is a good thing for people who get annoyed with his shtick.

What I didn’t: I’ve never read the original book on which this film is based, but I did read the Wikipedia entry. (That counts, doesn’t it?) There’s an awful lot of liberties taken with this story, so fans of the original book should be warned. With so many liberties, the film doesn’t quite know where it’s going. We have a whole bundle of plot point sticks wrapped up in the middle, and none of them really resolve satisfactorily in the end.

There’s some extremely bizarre story elements that never quite got baked properly in the script. When you have to rely on the dastardly neighbor trying to bust Tom Popper for illegal pets or the dastardly zoo employee trying to take the penguins away, you have a level of silliness that never quite works.

Ultimately, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a victim of its own cuteness, which it relies on to a fault. The actors aren’t into the game, with the exception of Carrey who has been enthralled with this project for years. But it’s four years after the penguin bubble burst following successful films like The March of the Penguins, Happy Feet and Surf’s Up, and it plays out more like Marmaduke with wings.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who still think pooping and farting penguins are total cinematic genius.

Grade: C-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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