Friday, June 13, 2014


Opening this weekend:

Obvious ChildIt might be called the anti-Juno. It’s another romcom where the cute quirky young woman finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy, but this time she unhesitatingly decides she wants an abortion, and is upset that she has to wait two weeks, for medical reasons, to get it—on Valentine’s Day, no less.

Said young woman is Donna, played by Jenny Slate, a tiny Saturday Night Live veteran with a pretty, anxiously optimistic face. Donna is a small-potatoes stand-up comic who, sad and very drunk, has an unprotected one-night stand with a nice goyish type (Jake Lacy) and soon realizes she’s in a jam. When they meet again sober, they find they like each other, and would maybe like to be parents someday, but Donna is sure she’s not ready yet.

With reproductive rights under legislative attack in many parts of the country it’s probably well to put a human face on this predicament, and Slate’s sweet face is a good choice. She carries the movie nicely—a friend of mine predicts that this is her star turn before a long career of playing wisecracking roommates and cubicle neighbors—and she gets capable support from the small cast, which includes Richard Kind and Polly Draper as her parents and Gaby Hoffmann as her wisecracking roommate.

Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, the movie is slight, watchable and somehow not quite satisfying. But it’s honest and believable.

How To Train Your Dragon 2This sequel to the 2010 animated charmer, adapted from the books by Cressida Cowell, continues the adventure of young human hero Hiccup and his dragon Toothless, who taught the Viking culture of Berk to be dragon trainers instead of dragon-slayers. Now the dragon-loving colony is threatened by a growling warlord who enslaves dragons through his mastery of a gargantuan “Alpha” monster who compels obedience in others of its species.

The appeal of this movie—and it’s extremely appealing—lies in the characterizations, both of the humans and of the dragons, who have endearingly canine personalities. The story takes a sad turn about two-thirds in, but while it’s upsetting, the loss makes sense in the context of a robust adventure story.

HTTYD2 is likely to hold up as one of the best animated films of the year. As far as I’m concerned, in its sunnier way, it’s as visually and thematically extravagant a fantasy as Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

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