First I must apologize to the makers of Toy's House. I am sorry. I am very, very sorry and I will never do it again. I fell asleep during the movie. Like a 10-year-old on New Year's Eve I was filled with excitement but my eyes just got too heavy and sleep overwhelmed me, shuttling me off into an unwanted unconscious for about 15 minutes somewhere in the middle.
That is not a reflexion on the movie. This is a result of being at Sundance, where the movie premiered, for almost a week and, well, living like a teenage boy. It's all staying up late, procrastinating your homework, watching way too many nerdy (but awesome movies), talking to your friends instead of working, eating mostly things that come in bags, and riding in buses. Lots and lots of buses. That's why I was so tired by the time I got to Toy's House, the third movie of my day.
My lifestyle was quite fitting though because the movie is about what happens when teenage boys try to live like adults (instead of the reverse, which is, at least until the festival is over, my life). Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is sick of living by the rules of his gruff and comically sadistic father (Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman whose mustache appears to be growing and his devoured the lower half of his face) and his best friend Patrick (The Big C ginge Gabriel Basso) is sick of his comically overbearing mother (Offerman's IRL wife Megan Mullally) so the two of them decide to move into a house they build in the woods. Along for the ride is Biaggio (Moises Arias) and Kelly (Erin Moriarty), the girl Joe and Patrick fight over.
Considering this is a Sundance coming of age story about three boys who move into the woods, you think there will be lots of slow shots of nature and brooding about what it's like to become a man. And there is that. But what makes this movie brilliant is the zippy one-liners, the genius comic timing, and the inventive situations that these quirky but endearing characters find themselves in. It's like one of those smart stories about rites of passage, but with amazing jokes. Imagine if Porky's if it bothered to read the articles in Playboy and you'd have this movie. Especially when things go awry with the house and the allegiances of friends and family are tested.
The MVP is Offerman, who plays a similar but more verbose version of his Parks character and whose every line of dialogue is a stinging zinger. It's enough to drive his son out of the house, but makes the rest of the audience howl. Mullally is also great, playing a version of everyone's mom who leaves embarrassing notes in your lunch and won't leave you alone about taking your shoes off at the front door. Arias is a revelation, playing a honor-bound oddball to great effect (if only he were tall enough to be cast as something other than a teen).
The young cast is also stellar, but the real credit belongs to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta. They have made the rarest of things, a teen comedy that is a sweet as it is amusing, as true as it is charming, and as beautiful as it is funny. I promise when it makes its way into theaters (and it just scored a distribution deal) I'll be back to see the whole thing in its entirety and live like a teenage boy once more.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Toy's House Productions]
Shia LaBeouf's Indie Career at Sundance Is Off to an Awful Start
The First Movie Based on a David Sedaris Story Shows Words Should Stay on the Page
The Amazing Sundance Movie That Disney Will Never Let You See
You Might Also Like:
100 Hottest Women of the Century: Do You Agree?
9 Most Insane Celebrity Baby Bumps
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; the Sci-Fi Channel has decided to renew the smash series, “Invisible Man,” for a second season of 22 episodes.
The Sci-Fi Network will also be airing another all-original series--the underwater epic, “The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne.” Set in the 19th century, the action series, which will start in January, will feature the globe-spanning adventures of Verne.
“Verne,” which will be shot in Montreal, will star Chris Demetral as Verne and will feature such high-profile guest stars as David Warner, John Rhys-Davies, Michael Moriarty and Patrick Duffy.