Good Kids

For F*** Magazine

GOOD KIDS

Director : Chris McCoy
Cast : Nicholas Braun, Zoey Deutch, Israel Broussard, Mateo Arias, Demian Bichir, David Coussins, Virginia Gardner, Tasie Lawrence, Ashley Judd
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 86 mins
Opens : 6 October 2016
Rating : M18 (Sexual Scenes)

good-kids-posterWe’ve all seen that triangle diagram: the three corners are labelled ‘good grades’, ‘social life’ and ‘enough sleep’, and the centre of the triangle bears the imperative ‘choose two’. This comedy revolves around a group of friends who have devoted their whole lives to being well-behaved, academically successful students. It’s the summer before they each leave for prestigious colleges, and Andy (Braun), Nora (Deutch), Spice (Broussard) and The Lion (Arias) make a pact to enjoy all they’ve been missing out on. Andy begins having sex with Gabby (Judd) and the other wealthy married woman who patronises the country club where he is a tennis coach; Nora starts a relationship with Erland (Coussins), her colleague at an aquarium lab; The Lion partakes in a variety of drugs; and Spice goes off in search of ‘sexual release’. In the meantime, Andy continues communicating with a girl from India he’s met online who may or may not actually exist, while he attempts to come to terms with the feelings he’s had for Nora all this while.

Good Kids is written and directed by Chris McCoy, who makes his feature-film debut here. The screenplay landed on the 2011 Black List of most-liked scripts making the rounds in Hollywood. Sure, there have been plenty of Black List scripts that were turned into bad movies, but this case seems particularly puzzling, because there’s nothing special about Good Kids at all. It seems to be the product of typing the command ‘write teen sex comedy’ into some automated screenwriting program. The jokes are tired and mostly unfunny and the characters are all very recognisable archetypes and largely difficult to sympathise with. Beyond that, the underlying attitudes are retrograde, with the veneer of raunchiness serving to obfuscate its lack of originality.

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Braun’s lankiness is often remarked upon, and his gangly proportions do lend themselves to an awkward nerd character. Alas, he’s trying way too hard to come off as awkward, with the results bordering on obnoxious. The character’s sudden success with the ladies and the large amounts of sex he winds up having smack of cheap wish-fulfilment, and when it comes down to it, Andy isn’t even all that endearing. Arias is the generic stoner while Broussard doesn’t get all that much to do, getting the least screen time of the four main characters. It’s kind of weird to see Oscar nominee Demian Bichir in an over-the-top appearance as Andy’s boss Yaco, while Judd seems to be having a degree of fun in full vampy cougar mode.

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Deutch is the best thing about Good Kids by a mile. She has emerged as an elegant presence with fine comic sensibilities and a keen wit. She also seems intent on making a name for herself despite having somewhat famous parents to fall back on, appearing in no less than seven films being released in 2016. Her radiance is an appealing complement to the film’s sun-kissed, idyllic coastal Massachusetts setting.

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Good Kids is produced by Paul and Chris Weitz of American Pie fame, and it does come off like the reheated leftovers of that and any number of teen sex comedy flicks. Unlike American Pie, Good Kids won’t spawn any catchphrases or enter the pop culture lexicon. There’s plenty to say about millennials experiencing pre-college anxiety and getting caught in between the paper chase and revelling in youthful indiscretions, none of which Good Kids mines. The locale in which the story is set means it’s often quite pretty to look at, but the predictable plot trajectory and uninspired humour make it a bit of a chore to sit through, even given its lean 86-minute runtime.

Summary: Drugs? Check. Booze? Check. Sex? Check. Originality, humour or warmth? Look elsewhere.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

Dolphin Tale 2

For F*** Magazine

DOLPHIN TALE 2

Director : Charles Martin Smith
Cast : Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman
Genre: Family/Comedy/Drama
Opens : 2 October 2014
Rating : PG 
Run time: 107 mins
The true story of Winter, the rescued dolphin with the prosthetic tail, was dramatized in 2011’s Dolphin Tale, this sequel following up on Winter and some of her new companions at Florida’s Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Dr. Clay Haskett (Connick Jr.), his daughter Hazel (Zuehlsdorff) and teams of volunteers cope with the crowds of visitors who flock to the aquarium to see the now-famous Winter. Sawyer (Gamble), with whom Winter shares the closest bond, notices that Winter has become erratic and aggressive. Panama, the dolphin who lives alongside Winter, dies of old age. U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation states that a dolphin in captivity must be accompanied by another of the same sex and cannot live in isolation. The companionship of rescued dolphins Mandy and Hope might be just what Winter needs. While Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Freeman) works on a new prosthetic tail for Winter, Sawyer and his mother Lorraine (Judd) must decide if he will accept a prestigious scholarship, which means spending three whole months away from Winter.

            A good live-action family film seems to be an increasingly rarer beast at movie theatres these days. It’s difficult to strike a balance in order to create a film that appeals to kids but also won’t elicit protests from adults. 2011’s Dolphin Tale was mostly successful in this endeavour, an involving “a Boy and his X” tale that wasn’t overly schmaltzy. It doesn’t seem like the natural candidate for a sequel, but it turns out that Winter’s story didn’t end there. Thankfully, all the principal cast members and director Charles Martin Smith have returned, ensuring that Dolphin Tale 2 shares many of the attributes that made the first film palatable. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that just as it was for the first go-round, the human characters share few similarities with their real-life counterparts and “Sawyer Nelson” was created from whole cloth for the purpose of a “Boy and his X” narrative.

            This isn’t one of those children’s movies where everyone gets along and everything is hunky-dory. There is a good deal of drama and conflict in the plot, partially owing to the main kid characters coming into adolescence. Hazel is at loggerheads with her dad and Sawyer is conflicted as to whether or not he should take an extended period of time away from Winter to go on a university research trip. Dr. Haskett has to fend off the threat of Winter being taken away from Clearwater Marine Aquarium by the USDA and has to explain to the board of directors why Winter can’t make public appearances. While it’s good that character development is made central to the story and that the film doesn’t resort to a cartoony villain, the film is undeniably at its best when we spend time with the dolphins and not with the human characters alone. At times, it can feel like Winter, Mandy and Hope are not receiving sufficient screen time even when the focus is always ostensibly on the dolphins.

            The returning cast helps maintain a sense of continuity and allow viewers to get back into Winter’s story with ease. “You kids take us by surprise, you grow up so stinking fast!” Judd’s character says at one point. She’s right – both Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff have grown into fine young adults, capably handling the dramatic moments and the interaction with the animals just as they did as younger children. There must’ve been the temptation to shoehorn some kind of romance in but thankfully, Smith resists doing so. Both Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman’s roles are smaller than in the last film, but their kind, authoritative presence is still welcome. “Soul Surfer” and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton cameos as herself. Winter and Hope the dolphins, who play themselves, deserve credit as well.

The KNB Effects Group, headed by Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, returns to furnish the animatronic animal effects and the results are largely seamless. That’s right, the guys responsible for the dolphin, pelican and turtle puppets in these two movies also help create the zombies for The Walking Dead. The underwater photography is also as beautiful as in the first one. In spite of some stilted dialogue and overly-engineered plot mechanics, Dolphin Tale 2 emerges as an above-average piece of family entertainment and to its credit, does not feel like a cash-grab sequel, as it well could have. Older audience members might roll their eyes at the continuing antics of Rufus the Pelican, but the goings-on at Clearwater Marine Aquarium are depicted in a fairly engaging manner.

Summary: Just like its predecessor, Dolphin Tale 2 is a decent family film with an educational quotient but just as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has expanded and gotten busier, this film loses some of the intimacy and warmth of the first.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong