This weekend has something for everyone: a sci-fi flick, a drama, and an animated film. What’s more, all of them seem to have something to offer.
The Boss Baby
Seven-year-old Tim has a pretty good life. Pretty good, that is, until his parents come home with a baby. And not just any baby. This baby wears a suit, carries a briefcase, has an oddly adult and masculine voice, and is dead-set on stopping the evil plans of Puppy Co.’s CEO.
The latest from Dreamworks Animation, The Boss Baby draws from Alec Baldwin’s comedic strength in an effort to continue the comical sense that made Kung-Fu Panda great. According to early reviews, they’re only partially successful. The film is occasionally funny, but is tonally split between its efforts to compete with Pixar’s heartstring-tugging and the comical sense that is all Dreamworks’ own. As a family feature it’s probably safe enough, save for a few forays into toilet humor, but don’t expect it to be one of the few classics that the studio has churned out in times past.
Ghost in the Shell
Based on the 1995 anime film, Ghost in the Shell is the story of a cyborg police operative named Major, and her discovery of the dystopian future in which she is working. In many ways, the plot uses science fiction tropes to create a sort of reverse Robocop, where instead of a cyborg losing his humanity, she is a cyborg finding it. In that way, it dialogues with interesting ideas, at least on a thematic level.
The original film, however, had some pretty strong content concerns. It was rated R, largely for explicit female nudity, which was on the screen quite often. For that reason, I was concerned that this version, in live action and starring Scarlett Johansson, would follow the same line. Thankfully, that does not appear to be the case. The rating has been scaled back to PG-13, meaning that the content will at least be more mild. There may still be some concerns (there’s a hint at a same-sex moment in the trailer), so I would recommend screening it for teens. But at the very least, I’m hopeful that this will be a thought-provoking science fiction film, coming at an appropriate time in the era of exploding technology.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Based on the non-fiction book of the Sam name, The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story of Antonina Żabińska, and her husband Jan, who, after having their zoo in Warsaw shut down by the Nazi occupation, used it to shelter Jews. And not just a few, but 300 Jews. With a story like that, the script almost writes itself.
There’s so much going for this. Jessica Chastain has plenty enough acting chops to carry the film, not to mention Daniel Bruhl in a supporting role. The creative team is not high-profile (most noteworthy is director Niko Caro, who also helmed McFarland USA in 2015), but the talent involved gives me high hopes for the story.
Recommendation: The Zookeeper’s Wife. Between the talent, the life-valuing story, and the general timelessness of the World War II era, it’s hard to pass this one up.