Dog’s Movie House: “Emoji” lifeless, “Atomic Blonde” awesome showcase for Charlize Theron!

 

Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog!

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton in “Atomic Blonde”

 

 

 

This week we’ve got two theatrical releases from opposite sides of the quality spectrum.  On one side we’ve got “The Emoji Movie” which, besides being an enormous mistake from a conceptual perspective, is in the early running for worst film of the year.  You folks know me as a fellow normally gives most movies something of a pass, but as a public service announcement I’m telling all of you to avoid this animated film like a cinematic plague.  On the other end of things, “Atomic Blonde” gives Charlize Theron a chance to flex her action heroine muscles and boy does she do an incredible job.  It helps that she’s directed by action impresario David Leitch (“John Wick”).

 

 

 

 

Let’s get “The Emoji Movie” out of the way first, shall we?  Whoever decided to greenlight this film should be polishing his/her resume right about now.  This movie feels like a corporate construct from start to finish, complete with product placement in the forms of apps like Spotify, Facebook, and Candy Crush.  I can see the studio moneymen rubbing their hands together in stereotypical glee as they show reams and reams of data about how this “Emoji Stuff” relates to those “dumb-ass kids out there.”  That a movie like this kills me a little on the inside.  (I wish I could say I was kidding.)

 

 

 

 

The story takes place inside the smart phone of a first year high school student named Alex (Jake T. Austin)  The place in the smart phone where all the emojis live is called Textopolis (cribbed from better movies like “Zootopia” and “Inside Out”).  Our main character is an emoji named Gene (T.J. Miller).  He’s supposed to be a “meh” (don’t ask) like his parents Mary (Jennifer Coolidge) and Mel (a perfectly cast Steven Wright) but on his first day of work he freaks out and discovers he can do multiple expressions, which is apparently a big no-no in Textopolis.  His mistake marks him for deletion for the head of the emojis, a fairly frightening grinning emoji named Smiler (Maya Rudolph).  With the help of an emoji named Hi-5 (James Cordon), Gene escapes and enlists the help of a rogue emoji named Jailbreak (Anna Faris) who can hack them out of the cell phone and into the Cloud where the will be out of danger.  Along the way they learn life lessons about being yourself, being true to your friends, and yada, yada yada.

 

 

 

Despite the impressive voice cast, which includes the venerable Patrick Stewart as the Poop emoji, “The Emoji Movie” is a lifeless exercise that fails to generate one legitimate laugh.  This may do well with those young whippersnappers who live on their smart phones, but most of the jokes fell flat to this old codger.  The real troubling thing about this film is that, in the right hands, “The Emoji Movie” could have been something special.  You take a corporate property or piece of pop culture a craft something that, if not precisely artistic, is at least entertaining.  Think “Pirates Of The Caribbean” as an example.  Instead, director Tony Leondis (who co-wrote the script) seems intent on creating the most annoying characters ever.  Miller is okay as Gene, but Cordon as Hi-5 may be the most irritating animated character ever put to film.  I’ve never wanted to punch a character through the movie screen so badly in my life (and this is coming from a guy who likes Cordon).  He’s almost matched by Rudolph’s Smiler, who’s one-note expression is indicative of a one-note character.  (Again, the fault for this lies in the script, not the talented Rudolph).  Faris brings a little flair to the role of Jailbreak, but she has the princess arc that goes absolutely nowhere.

 

 

So let’s count it off, shall we?  Bad characters, clichéd story, and average animation adds up to “The Emoji Movie” being an insufferably boring exercise in movie going.  Avoid this one at all costs. 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!

 

Much more entertaining is “Atomic Blonde” a thrilling actioner starring Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an elite MI6 agent sent to Berlin at the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Her mission is to retrieve a list of all of Britain’s undercover spies before they fall into enemy hands.  She’s also after a double agent named “Satchel” who’s responsible for the deaths of several of her fellow agents.  Complicating the issue is that she’s made the moment she hits Berlin, forcing her to fight her way through waves of adversaries in hopes of merely surviving the mission, let alone completing it.  Not helping matters is possible ally and Berlin contact David Percival (James McAvoy) an agent who is not all that he seems.

The twisting, turning script by Kurt Johnstad (from the graphic novel series “The Coldest City”) is a little convoluted at times, but manages to do a credible job of moving the story along.  The fact that the narrative is told in a series of flashbacks may make the plot a little difficult to understand at times, but as the movie moves along, it becomes easier to follow.  The story primarily serves as a framework for director David Leitch to stage some truly staggering set pieces that combine the brutality of gritty fight choreography with the smooth flowing camerawork that marked Leitch’s efforts in “John Wick.”   There’s a car chase scene in the latter half of the film that you’d swear was done in a single take (it wasn’t, but it sure as hell looks good.).

Leitch has found a knack for finding actors who want to immerse themselves in stunt work.  In “Wick” it was Keanu Reeves.  In “Atomic Blonde” Leitch as a willing punching bag in Charlize Theron, whose Lorraine not only doles out the beatings but receives her share as well.  Like I said earlier, the fight choreography is gritty and brutal and Theron is more than up to the task, giving Lorraine a air of toughness the few female actors can pull off.  Theron looks and feels like she can hang with the brawny thugs trying to kick her ass.  It’s a marvelous physical performance that make me want to see more of Lorraine Broughton.

As for the rest of the performances, a fine cast delivers the goods to keep the story moving.  There’s not a lot of character development as everything serves the propulsive story, but Leitch gets fine supporting work from such fine character actors as John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Eddie Marsan.  Sofia Boutella pops in as a provocative French agent who gets under, ahem, Lorraine’s skin.   But the most props have to go to McAvoy as Percival.  The “Split” actor seems to be having the time of his life as a British agent who’s gone a little too native for Lorraine’s taste.  The scenes between McAvoy and Theron are among the best in the movie.  Also, for fans of the upcoming movie adaptation of “IT” look for Bill Skarsgard, Pennywise himself, in a supporting role as Merkel, one of Lorraine’s allies in Berlin.

 

Overall, “Atomic Blonde” is a wonderful R-Rated action movie with a great Cold War atmosphere, sterling set pieces and a terrific lead performance by Charlize Theron.  Hopefully this film is successful enough to make more like them.  See this on the big screen: you won’t be disappointed!  4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  So Sayeth The Kendog!

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