And now, the story of a wealthy queen who frost everything. And her one sister who had no choice but to save them all from weather. It's Frozen.
(Warning: Frozen spoilers to follow)
We expect every contemporary animated movie to sport a layer of comedy just for the adults in the audience. While the kids are mesmerized by the magic and kept giddy over the screwball sight gags, the parents, older siblings, and babysitters are kept from dozing off by double entendres, relationship humor, and — most of all — sly pop culture references. The Shrek films upped the ante on this trade, and many a big screen cartoon has followed suit since. But Frozen gives us something unprecedented: numerous direct references to Arrested Development.
Admittedly, they're subtle. So subtle that I wondered, leaving the theater after my dazzling experience with Frozen (these instances aside, I absolutely loved it, as did our reviewer Hans Morgenstern), if I was just reading too deeply into a few innocent gags. But right behind me out of the auditorium were two men about my age dicussing the very topic that was haunting me. "Did you notice all the Arrested Development jokes?" one said to the other. That's proof enough for me. So here they are.
The Chicken DanceEarly on in the story, the Scandinavian town of Arendelle is invited inside the new queen Elsa's (Idina Menzel) palace walls to attend her coronation party. This is when we meet Alan Tudyk's obnoxious autocrat, the Duke of Weselton — the character responsible for a good supply of Frozen's villainy as well as the first and third Arrested Development references. The Duke insists upon a dance with Elsa's sister, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell, the hero of the piece), bouncing around her in an animalistic fashion... one of which he is well aware. The Duke boasts openly about his feral rhythm, likening his movements (with pride) to the graceful chicken. But as he delivers this line, the Duke takes a posture that doesn't quite resemble that of any ordinary chicken... with his fingers fanned out atop his head and his legs jutting to either side, the Duke's chicken is almost identical to that dreamt up by one Lindsay Fünke in her rendition of the Bluth family Chicken Dance.
Finish Each Other's...Okay, maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe the animators were simply opting for the funniest way in which the squirmy Duke might contort his body. That's what I figured... until just a few minutes later, when Anna and her newfound love Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) break into their romantic duet, singing enthusiastically about just how compatible they are. The true measure of compatibility is exhibited in this couplet:
Hans: It's like we finish each other's...Anna: Sandwiches!
Okay, wait a minute, now that's a joke torn directly from an episode of Arrested Development. When Michael Bluth rattles on about the inspired connection he has found in a woman he believes to be his estranged sister, reveling in this fact that he and this relative stranger Nellie "finish each other's...", Michael's non-estranged sister chimes in with the conclusive "sandwiches?"
Buster's MantraCould it be that a pattern is amounting, or is this just wishful thinking? Maybe I didn't catch the Duke's chicken dance quite right, allowing my AD fandom to inform how I interpreted his quick movements. And sure, that sandwich gag might have originated on Arrested, but I seem to recall its subsequent adoption by other comedic entities (Community, for one, subbing out "sandwiches" in favor of "pie"). I was teetering on the edge of believing that Frozen could, in fact, be fostering a running gag for Arrested Development devotees. At this point in the film, all I needed was one minor gust of wind to force me over. And then it came.
"She's a mooonsteeer!" Yes. Once recognizing the powers of creating snow that lived within Elsa, the nefarious Duke belted this condemnation in a tone a little too reminiscent of one self-loathing, hook-handed Buster Bluth. And it was so. It couldn't all have been an accident.
The last AD nod I noticed was, admittedly, the flimsiest. Fleeing the wrath of the frightened and enraged townspeople, Elsa sprints away over a liquid lake that freezes upon her contact with it. If it weren't for the three preceding gags, I wouldn't have entertained the thought that this might be a reference to Rita Leeds' (Charlize Theron) illusionary stroll across the surface of a swimming pool and her cinematic brainchild The Ocean Walker (itself all a reference to the '79 film Being There).
I'll give you that this one is quite a stretch... but the other three? All in such rapid succession? You're gonna tell me that those aren't Arrested Development references?
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Veteran British actor Richard Thorp has died at the age of 81. The star, who appeared in classic World War II movie The Dam Busters and hit U.K. TV series Emmerdale, passed away on Wednesday (22May13) in Leeds, England.
He began his acting career in 1949 and got his big break as Squadron Leader Henry Maudslay in 1955's The Dam Busters before going on to enjoy a long-running TV career, starring in British shows including All Aboard, Emergency Ward 10, Crossroads, To The Manor Born, and Strangers.
But he was best known in the U.K. for his role as Alan Turner in Emmerdale, a part he played from 1982 until his death.
Emmerdale producer Kate Oates says, "Richard's death is a sad loss to Emmerdale, of which he was at the heart for so many wonderful years. Richard had a brilliant sense of humour and he will be missed by every single member of our production whose lives he touched."