Season two, episode nine of The Mindy Project picked up where last week's left off. "Mindy Lahiri is a Racist" was directed by The Office creator Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling's former boss, who expertly executed this complicated episode. The story starts with Morgan (played by Ike Barinholtz, who also co-wrote the episode) making amends for all the sexting from Mindy's phone last week. This acknowledges that Mindy's relationship with Clint the lawyer (Glenn Howerton, from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) may be explored later, while allowing a completely different and unexpected plot to emerge. Schulman and Associates receives a positive internet review, but unfortunately it's on a White Power mommy blog.
Morgan is trying to clear the air, party boy Dr. Peter Prentice (Adam Pally) wants to get taken seriously, and everyone else is making a case that they aren't racist. The blog comes up innocently, sneaking up beneath jokes about Danny's feminine reading glasses. This made the reveal more surprising and funny, while subversively introducing the sensitive subject of race. It also shifts the narrative away from Mindy's romantic misadventures. Meanwhile Peter is asking Mindy to take him seriously, as she responds "I don't have time for your Borat impression."
Arriving at the issue of racism in a way that is so absurd allows The Mindy Project to address something delicate, and not deviate from the show's silly brand of chaos. This particular episode is packed with celebrity guest stars like Jenna Elfman. As a publicist, Elfman offers a lot as a straight-man and a sex partner for Danny. The racist mom blog even sparks a protest, led by a reappearance from the Duplass Brothers as the midwives who are the practice's competitors. When Mindy and Tamara are called on to make a statement, Mindy criticizes Tamara's boyfriend Ray-Ron (Josh Peck), causing a rift between the two.
Tamara joins forces with the midwives, but because Mindy is condescending, not racist. This calls back to the issue with Peter not being taken seriously. Danny then attempts to "change the conversation" only to mention his four black friends. Peter is set up to be the savior when Congressional candidate Tracy Whitfield, played by Larenz Tate, arrives. Peter claims to know the African-American politician, but after approaching he immediately retreats confusing him with another black guy. "Ok. That was very racist," Mindy concludes.
Mindy takes to addressing the crowd in one final attempt to defend the practice, calling on Peter's previously proposed mobile health clinic for women in need. This offers an olive branch to Whitfield while making Peter the expected hero in an unexpected way. In this effective episode, Mindy did what she does best: addressed a character flaw (she's condescending) while solving a broader problem. This allowed for both Peter and Tamara to show more depth and shot down criticism that Mindy only dates white guys. After all, she did go to second base with "Korean Justin."
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.