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Films I Neglected To Review: Pass
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Damsel," "Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story"and "Uncle Drew."

As the revisionist Western comedy ''Damsel'' opens, the sweet-natured Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) arrives in town, miniature pony in tow, to find a pastor to accompany him on a trip to reunite with his sweetheart Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) and marry them. He recruits Henry (David Zellner, who co-directed with brother Nathan) for the job, not realizing that he is merely wearing the clothes abandoned by the former pastor before he unexpectedly fled. Then again, Samuel hasn't exactly been on the up-and-up either as he eventually reveals to Henry that his love was actually kidnapped by the nefarious Anton Cornell (Gabe Casdorph) and that they are more precisely on a rescue mission, though he will be called upon for the inevitable matrimonial duties once she has been saved. As it turns out, there is still more to the story than meets the eye when Samuel and Penelope are finally brought together again and the entire narrative switches gears in theoretically unexpected ways. The film starts off strongly--some of the early scenes have a nice oddball sense of humor and there is a great bit by Robert Forster as the actual pastor--but once it gets to the mid-film reveal of its big twist, it pretty much runs out of gas as its big notion--that the romantic ideal that we perpetuate about the Old West has always been a self-aggrandizing myth based in part in its refusal to give women any sort of agency about themselves--turns out to be not exactly the most revelatory concept ever committed to film and its increasingly self-conscious attempts to show how aware it is grow kind of irritating after a while, especially once you realize that it has just as little interest in Penelope as a person as Samuel does. Like the Zellner's previous effort, ''Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,'' the quirk and whimsy on display is a little too much for its own good at times and at nearly two hours, it wears out its welcome long before it finally ends. That said, it isn't entirely terrible per se and it has enough things going for it--specifically the performances from Pattinson and Wasikowska--to make you want to stick it out for a while in the hopes that it might eventually pull itself together. Sadly, it doesn't and as it finally peters out for good, you'll realize that, as with most situations in life, wherever Robert Forster goes, you are almost certainly better off following along with him.

The latest in a seemingly endless string of documentaries dealing with the fashion industry, ''Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story'' recounts the life and work of the first makeup artist to achieve the same level of fame as the photographers and models that he worked with over the years. Using Aucoin's own home videos and meticulously kept journals as well as interviews with friends and colleagues, we follow him from a bullied, gay kid growing up in Louisiana to dominating the fashion world with the exquisite makeup jobs that he performed on the top names in fashion and entertainment, including Cindy, Christy, Naomi, Kate, Liza, Whitney and Barbra (if you need the last names, this may not be the movie for you) to the downhill spiral fueled by changing fashion trends and a growing dependency on painkillers. The trouble with the film is that while director Tiffany Bartok is clearly sold on Aucoin's genius, she doesn't do a particularly good job of presenting or explaining what made his work so unique to those who are not already fully versed in his resume. The film follows the typical parameters of this sort of documentary without offering anything new and the various talking heads recruited to speak about him generally do so only in the blandest and most general of terms. (Only singer Tori Amos hints at the darkness that both drove him to success and led to his downfall.) Those with a keen interest in fashion may find ''Larger Than Life'' worthwhile, if only for the vintage behind-the-scenes moments showing Aucoin at work, but most everyone else will likely find it to be in desperate need of a creative touch-up.

Inspired by a viral marketing campaign for Pepsi Max, ''Uncle Drew'' tells the story of a shlubby playground basketball coach (Lil Bel Howery) who loses his entire team to a longtime rival (Nick Kroll) just before the annual Rucker Classic, a legendary neighborhood basketball tournament that he has just used his life savings to enter. At wits end, he comes across a former Rucker Tournament legend known as Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) who, despite his advanced years, still has the moves and skills to shut down showboating kids a fraction of his age on the court, and get him to help win the tournament. This requires them to recruit the equally aged members of Drew's old team--Chris Webber is a preacher on the run from his wife (Lisa Leslie), Reggie Miller is a shooter who is now essentially blind, Nate Robinson is a guy who has been confined to a wheelchair for years and Shaquille O'Neal is a martial arts instructor with a mustache that defies description and a serious grudge against Drew--but as the trip to the tournament goes on, the tensions that caused them to split up decades before begin to bubble up again. Is there any chance that they will finally manage to put things together in time for the big game? Is there any chance that the coach will wind up in the game himself and get a chance to exorcise his own personal demons? Is there a chance that the whole game will come down to whether or not the coach is able to make one final shot or not? Is there a chance that you really need me to help you answer any of these questions?

As bizarre premises for basketball-related movies, ''Uncle Drew'' is right up there with the immortal ''The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh'' and the sheer strangeness of the entire enterprise is enough to fuel it for a little bit. The trouble is, this is a film that is based entirely on the somewhat dubious premise that movie audiences are eager to watch basketball stars showing off their balling and acting skills while encased under layers of makeup that seems ready to fall off at any given moment. This is a concept that I suppose could be amusing for the length of a commercial but does not stretch naturally enough to make for a feature length story. Inexplicably, the actual basketball scenes--the very reason for the film’s existence--are too often pushed to the side to let the stars demonstrate their comedic and dramatic chops at great length. Alas, those skills are about as convincing as the makeup--let us just say O'Neal has evidently not spent the years since ''Kazaam'' developing his thespic talents--and this, along with a screenplay that moves in fits and starts as it throws one unconvincing complication after another into the mix, results in a film that drags more often than it soars and seems more interesting in the product placement (with Pepsi and Nike getting more screen time than most of the actors) than anything else. That said, the sheer oddity of the whole enterprise allows it to go down a bit smoother than one might rightly expect from a film with origins as dubious as this one. However, don't be surprised if you are left in the end with nothing beyond the inexplicable yearning for a Pepsi and some overpriced sneakers.

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originally posted: 06/29/18 12:02:35
last updated: 06/29/18 23:53:53
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