THE QUEEN’S CORGI

Cert PG 85mins Stars 2

This bare bones animated adventure is a cheap-looking knock-off of the first The Secret Life of Pets caper, and a mongrel mix of slapstick, satire, romance and sports film wrapped in British union flag.

Jack Whitehouse voices a smug, snobby, entitled and unfunny Corgi called Rex, which means it’s an easy payday for the posh comic.

A present from Prince Philip to the Queen, Rex falls from his status as royal favourite, and ends up first in the dog house and then out on the street, from which he tries to  return home.

Meanwhile in Buckingham Palace there’s a character called Charlie who’s in dogged pursuit of the position of top dog, and long-suffering Footmen are peed on by pampered pedigree pets, so at least some of the political jokes have a little bite, unlike the toothless nips at Donald Trump.

It’s busy and simple enough to just about pass muster for the most undemanding of little kids.

 

PITCH PERFECT

Stars 3

It’s time to sing song merrily on high with this gleefully uptempo tale set in the world of competitive a cappella, which rattles through its routine sports underdog plot with witty banter, great singing and plenty of verve and energy.

The always engaging Anna Kendrick stars as Beca Mitchell, who joins a University singing group called the Barden Bellas, where she finds herself out of tune with Anna Camp’s band leader, who’s obsessed with her troupe becoming the first all-female national champions.

Struggling against each other and the opposition, the Bellas must also cope with romance, fistfights, arrests, and repeated projectile vomiting.

Sadly after a lot of good work, the movie fails to take a cue from its own characters and plays the finale absolutely safe, leaving the audience entertained but not surprised.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Rating U Stars 1

Laughter fails to light the way in this gentle generational culture clash comedy, a pedestrian piece of parental prejudice which involves illicit cake eating, toilet emergencies and abortive playdates but no surprises and little of interest.

The film shuffles along saddling itself with a message of family tolerance so sickly sentimental it would shame a Disney TV movie from the 1970’s.

Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott are an over-protective couple who reluctantly attempt to leave their children in the care of grandparents, played by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.

Eternal showbiz troupers that they are, the pair give everything in a desperate attempt to entertain but for all their prickly charm and practiced comic timing, they can’t raise a spark from the dated and toothless script.

The talented cast deserve a great deal better and so do the audience.

GAMBIT (2012)

Stars 1

An all-star cast gamble with a poor Coen brothers script and come off second best in this remake of Michael Caine’s swinging sixties caper.

Colin Firth plays a much abused gopher for Alan Rickman’s ludicrously rich businessman, and so invents a scheme to relieve his boss of ‘zillions’, and employs Cameron Diaz’s cowgirl, to help.

There are double crosses and twists but hampered by the dreadful script, the normally reliable cast struggle to generate enough zip. Diaz grins manically, Rickman sneers and Firth bumbles about to no good effect.

Crucially none of the characters are sympathetic or deliciously nasty enough to care what happens to them. And with everyone’s acting antennae is jammed at ‘wacky’, every joke and comic situation is drained of humour.

I suspect the Coen’s didn’t make this movie themselves because they knew their material was substandard, ensuring this disappointing waste of everyone’s time and talent. Especially mine.

MADAGASCAR 3 – EUROPE’S MOST WANTED

Cert PG Stars 4

Putting the mad firmly into Madagascar, this animated threequel is a day-glo riot of cartoon fun and the film equivalent of a bucketful of sugary pick’n’mix

Alex the lion returns to lead Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo out of Africa and across Europe on board a struggling animal circus.

And the wisecracking penguins return to comment on the action while throwing chaos into the mix in their well-intentioned and self-interested manner.

They are all chased on a train ride of manic adventure by the malevolent police officer Captain DuBois, a puddle-licking and poison-shooting insect who wants to kill Alex and mount his head on a plaque on her office wall.

Jokes, songs, action, romance and buckets of slapstick are all wrapped up in a rainbow of good-humoured anarchy.

This is a film that is absolutely determined to entertain with boundless energy and a irresistible creative zeal. When a pink bear in a multi-coloured afro super-biking around Rome while romancing a ring-tailed lemur, you know it’s time to abandon your marbles and gleefully embrace the insanity.

And don’t worry if a given joke doesn’t amuse, there’ll be another along in a second. And probably a song as well.

The animation is in turns dynamic, vivid and beautiful. Rome is ravishingly rendered; London comes a close second with a dazzling circus performance that gives the recent Olympic opening ceremony a run for its money.

Madagascar is feel good family fun that will leave you feeling exhilarated and craving more. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen the first two movies, just go and enjoy this one.

SHAZAM!

Cert 12A Stars 4

Magic and monsters cause mayhem in this terrific crowd pleasing superhero romp which doubles as a body swap comedy

This confident seventh instalment in the increasingly lighthearted, bright and colourful, DC Extended Universe, takes place in same world as the recent billion dollar success, Aquaman, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the king of Atlantis to turn up.

Billy is a teenage orphan who while searching for his mother, finds himself endowed with extraordinary powers and unlooked for responsibility.

Following an encounter with a wizard, whenever Billy says the magic word, ‘Shazam’, he’s magically transformed into an adult superhero, with strength, speed and the ability to shoot electric bolts from his fingertips.

Asher Angel is fresh faced and likeable as 14 year old Billy, with an exuberantly gleeful and goofy Zachary Levi, as his super-powered alter ego.

The script owes a lot to Tom Hanks’ 1988 comedy, Big, and pays homage to it during a fight in a department store, while the films energy has the wide-eyed excitable tone of 1980’s kid caper, The Goonies.

As Billy learns to control his powers, the warm family dynamic of his diverse foster family provides an strong emotional grounding. It’s here we meet Faithe Herman, as Billy’s new sister, a delightful pocket-sized scene stealer who’ll win your heart with her charm and humour.

Packed with jokes, this is funnier than Deadpool and has more laughs than Kick Ass, plus it’s also much kinder and far more appropriate for a family audience.

Brit actor Mark Strong played the bad guy in Kick Ass, and appears here as a super-villain who’s hunting Shazam to steal his powers, and is involved in all the flashy CGI action such as magic realms, scary demons, and mid-air fights.

Yet Shazam!’s greatest strength is knowing superheroes were created as a wish fulfilment fantasy for lonely adolescents, and is all the more enjoyable for putting them centre stage.

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

Cert PG 114mins Stars 4

Unleash your inner dancing queen and boogie in the glorious sunshine glow of whats’ going to be the smash hit of the summer.

This unashamedly feel good sequel to 2008’s poptastic box office chart buster is another sequinned celebration of sisterly love and the unbreakable bonds of motherhood.

Once again the irresistible platinum-plated pop tunes of ABBA set the tone for this flamboyant escapist fantasy, which sees the original cast reunite in a split storyline which flicks between events now and from twenty five years ago. 

In the present Amanda Seyfried is organising her Greek island hotel’s grand opening night and frets about her relationship with Dominic Cooper, while a deliciously lusty Christine Baranski and a lovelorn Julie Walters banter for space alongisde Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard.

There’s a conspicuous deficit of Meryl Streep as Seyfried’s vivacious screen mother, Donna. However the younger version of the character is played in the earlier timeline by Lily James, and the former Downton star treats us to a barnstorming turn worthy of Streep herself.

Bristling with defiance, optimism and enthusiasm, we see how Donna meets a trio of buff and eager suitors who become responsible for the confusion surrounding her daughters parentage.

All this turning back time sets up a show-stopping singing turn by the ever fabulous Cher. It’s one of many preposterous and crowd-pleasing scenes, my favourite of which is set at sea and best described as Dunkirk with a disco beat.

This brazen and cheerfully loopy sense of fun mingles with heartfelt multi-generational bonding and the pains of summer loving.

Among the barely choreographed mass dance-alongs and ill advised attempts at singing lurks a finger so firmly on the pulse of its intended audience it was rewarded at the packed-out world premiere with an all singing and dancing ovation. 

And if you’re a fan of the first film then you’ll love this second outing just as much as they clearly did.