MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT REVIEW

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There’s a little bit of magic in the cast BUT apart from that the moonlight just revealed all the flaws with this dated affair, old sport.

Not my best summary.

Despite the age gap, Colin Firth and Emma Stone have good chemistry and make this easy going and predictable 20s flick more than watchable.

So what is it about? An illusionist (Firth) is brought in to help unmask a possible swindle with a young “spiritualist” (Stone). To make matters worse, he might be falling for her.

I will admit that I’m not the biggest Woody Allen fan. I really feel that his work is overrated.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some of his films. I actually didn’t mind Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona. But did Woody Allen use my love for ScarJo against me?

Colin Firth was superb as the deluded egotist and illusionist Stanley.

His quick quips and sarcastic commentary certainly made him a monster cut from the same cloth as Blue Jasmine (Another Allen flick I enjoyed).

Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji capture the look and feel of the 20s perfectly. Magic In the Moonlight is rich with that nostalgia for the classics.

It’s good to see Simon McBurney getting more screen time. I’ve been a fan of him for some time. His performance as the Arch Deacon in Rev being a particular highlight.

He sweeps into the scene with his sly grin and slithery charm in the form of an old university colleague, Howard Burkan.

Setting Stanley on his journey with a wager. A wager to try and expose Sophie the spiritualist as a fraud.

It’s all rather tame, easy going and delivers the odd chuckle as Stanley goes out of his way to upset the fools that celebrate this so-called spiritualist.

Hamish Linklater played the love struck and incredibly gullible Brice Catledge brilliantly.

Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist/Flubber) was a little flat. She has proven in the past that she can play a strong supporting role and play it well but her mother figure was highly unmemorable.

Eileen Atkins (Doc Martin) was very good as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa. Providing a little more depth and understanding to her heavily armoured nephew.

BUT it’s all so predictable which makes it all a little drab.

The beautiful sunshine and the picturesque French coastline is still a sight to behold. Instantly making me want to go on holiday and distracting me from scribbling on my critical clipboard.

Firth delivers enough charisma to carry the film. Until he meets Sophie.

The spiritual sessions are entertaining enough as you sit there with Stanley trying to work out if it is a con or real.

The effects aren’t that bad either but this is essentially a theatrical piece.

The whole philosophical debates about the afterlife was interesting enough for twenty minutes and made for some fiery exchanges between the two leads.

BUT after a while, that’s all they do. Talk and bicker about life, death, love and beliefs.

I can see what Allen was trying to do but it just got a little irritating, long winded and a bit pretentious for me.

At first glance, I thought that only a friendship was going to blossom between the pair because of the steep age gap.

I don’t think it helped that Stone’s outfits made her look a little too young. I’m not sure whether that was Allen’s intention.

The change in tone as their relationship transforms to possibly something more came off a little uneven.

Stone and Firth did enough to make it believable. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t necessary and it made the final outcome so predictable and cheesy.

Stone is in very high demand and for the majority of her performance, I could see why. There were moments where her little spiritual tricks went on a bit and she did begin to get on my nerves.

She can’t dance. Well, jive anyway. Her improvised moves in a jazz club had me cringing.

The ending was very much like the classics. And that was the problem. The dated and corny moments we laugh at now with the oldies only added to their charm.

However, when you try and rekindle that in a modern reworking, it just doesn’t come off quite as well as you hope.

The final moments were very hammy. That charm coming off a little tacky. I tutted and shook my head. A guilty smile sneaking across my face for the attempt.

An easy going, charming little time filler with two stellar performances. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

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NATIVITY 3: DUDE, WHERE’S MY DONKEY?

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Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

Dude, Where’s My Donkey?

No, not the long awaited sequel to Dude, Where’s My Car? (Well, I liked it). I would have preferred watching an attempt at that than endure this festive fiasco again.

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Now, I hadn’t seen the previous sequels before (and after this, I won’t be) but I thought a third installment? It must be doing something right. I can safely say that this should nail that lid to the coffin.

So what’s it all about? The pupils of St Bernadette’s and the madcap Mr Poppy (Marc Wooton) are back! When their new teacher Mr Shepherd (Martin Clunes) loses his memory as well as Archie the Donkey, it’s up to them to save the day and reunite him with his fiancée Sophie (Catherine Tate) in New York.

I’m a huge fan of Martin Clunes and knew he would be up for a laugh. He applies his Doc Martin spiel with aplomb and carries the film as much as possible. He managed to make certain gags that stunk (as bad as the donkey droppings that the numerous cast members stepped on repetitively) work.

The clothes they make him wear. He looks like a real life Christmas Where’s Wally? His singing. Yeah, he sings. My lord! The man could rival Pierce Brosnan from Mamma Mia!

Catherine Tate was incredibly flat and irritating. She seemed to be doing a really bad panto impression of her Impressions show?! Terrible. I thought having the comedienne would add something to this travesty but oh no!

Celia Imrie was delightful as the stand-in headteacher Mrs Keane or Mrs Mean. Yeah, that bad. Imrie works well with the children and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her.

Clearly her predecessor didn’t fancy another round. A cheeky nod to Martin Freeman and David Tennant with snow globes was a nice touch. Why on Earth did they do the other films? The money must have been good.

The Ofsted inspection subplot was completely unnecessary and didn’t go anywhere. Just an excuse for more naff tomfoolery with endless farting donkey gags and the droppings. Once was enough.

Mr Poppy, well . . . where do I begin? Marc Wooton certainly doesn’t care and fair play to the chap. BUT for the one good silly one liner he does deliver, there are a thousand million (in Poppy terms) incredibly annoying and terribly unfunny ones.

The teacher’s assistant with special . . . powers. I was exhausted with him after five minutes. It was like having a kid just watching him run and flail about. I wouldn’t trust him with my kids.

The little ‘uns might find him funny but the parents certainly won’t.

Now the kids who should be the main focus of the film seemed to be pushed to the background. Dragged along for the ride to burst out into a song or dance when the lazy and placid story line is running out of gas.

I expected more of an Outnumbered approach with the kids improvising. Nope. There was one scene that showed promise when the kids try to explain the Nativity to an amnesiac Clunes. A little girl’s answer about an angel was adorable; “An angel is someone who is half bird and half lady. AND she wears a really big white wedding dress”. More of that would have been welcome.

Now the flash mob sequences in which the children are allowed to shine are actually quite good. You can allow for some of the little tykes being out of step. The costumes and props were quite good.

What infuriated me was the fact they are forced to mime to their own singing . . . and badly. Just let them sing live!

Did I mention an amnesiac Clunes? I must have forgot to mention that (What?). He receives amnesia after being kicked in the head by a donkey. Hilarious, I hear you say? No, I didn’t think so.

The plot is terrible. I tried to switch off my critic voice in a film that’s supposed to be about Christmas and fun BUT stealing kids out of school and being looked after by a complete halfwit?

I mean, the amnesia ploy was all a bad excuse for the cast to have a Christmas tour around London and New York. The only part Debbie Isitt captured brilliantly and managed to make me a feel a little Christmas-sy and not just queasy.

Clunes had amnesia. He still had a wallet. You didn’t have to do a ridiculous flash mob dance to distract our apparently oblivious and incompetent border patrol officers so the kids could steal flight tickets and passports.

The lazy explanation from the psychologist was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Let’s flood his head with warm memories? There’s no physical injury. No physical injury bar the whopping donkey footprint on his forehead? Perr-leassse.

It seemed to me that we were watching established British TV comedy personalities trying to act like big kids in a poor panto. Why? You had the children right there. I have seen more originality and humour in my little brother’s school plays and they didn’t cost me a tenner. Not good enough.

The film is on far too long. 90 minutes was a push but 110? Behave. The length should have been swapped with its superior Christmas-sy competitor, Get Santa.

Adam Garcia played the panto villain well but his dancing was terrible. What was his profession again? A renowned dancer? Not from this. Ralf Little was brilliant as his dimwitted sidekick in a somewhat small cameo. Why didn’t he have a bigger role? He was funnier than half the cast in the 30 seconds he featured?

Jason Watkins (Trollied) was terrible. Normally a funny guy in his own right. Dull as dishwasher and irritating as hell.

Lauren Hobbs was adorable and did well as Clune’s daughter. She was probably the only memorable child in it. And that’s not the kids’ fault. I mean even the songs were highly unmemorable. And to make it worse, the kids have to sing them again AND again. It was like watching a really bad school panto!

I really laid into this one, didn’t I? I apologise but just because it’s Christmas; it doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged to 5 tops. Otherwise, go see Penguins of Madagascar, Paddington, anything BUT this.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

Sorry but 1/5

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?