Flashback Friday: Inside Out and Dope

Coming June 19- INSIDE OUT and DOPE

Weird week next week. The two big releases, DOPE and INSIDE OUT, are both films that have trailers that have largely received dismissive to negative reactions. On the other hand, the buzz on both is good. INSIDE OUT in particular seems to have an incredible head of critical steam coming into its release. So we have two movies who’s marketing has generally been poor but who’s word of mouth is quite strong. You don’t usually see that.

 (photo from tumblr.com)

(photo from tumblr.com)

The Wood (as prep for DOPE)

A coming of age story wrapped up by a “two guys convince the third that he has to go through with his wedding” framing device, this was the writer-director of DOPE—Rick Famuyiwa’s—inaugural filmmaking effort.

The film is a rather sweet effort in which two (mostly) of the three older versions of the friends flashback to their early high school days while attempting to track down their wayward suddenly commit phobic friend a few hours before his wedding. The framing sequence only half works. The three leads –Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, and Richard T. Jones—have solid chemistry by the movie can’t seem to find a rhythm for them. It loads up on plot contrivances rather than trust in that chemistry to keep things moving.

The flashbacks, however, do have that confidence. The plot movements feel organic and the young leads possess a similar chemistry. While compared to American Pie—the movies share a release year—by the likes of Roger Ebert, it is really more like a STAND BY ME built around the 1980’s black middle class experience. Bittersweet, gauzy, and perhaps a big overly nostalgic, it nonetheless capture the feel of those memories of good friendships formed when friendship becomes the most important thing in your life.

 (image from redqueencoder.com)

(image from redqueencoder.com)

Up (as prep for INSIDE OUT)

Peter Docter’s last turn as a writer/director for Pixar is, of course, best known for its wordless, beautiful, and ultimately devastating story of two childhood sweethearts’ relationship from first meeting to the wife’s passing. It is a reputation entirely deserved.

The rest of the movie tends to be a little less simply effective. It never caught touches the emotions in the same way.

That said, it is still a strong part of the Pixar catalogue. Often funny, it is perfectly voice cast—Ed Asner being the highest of highlights—and moves along at an assured clip. The lead’s story of, ultimately, accepting that things must change, no matter how badly he hopes that freezing them in place will keep him tethered to his wife’s memory, occasionally connects with the gut.

What I really appreciate and what is really mentioned about Up, is the quality of the villain. Charles Muntz is a former explorer made famous and then taken apart by television. Obsessed with finding the species of bird that led to his downfall, Muntz can be a truly spooky villain. Having Christopher Lee to provide the voice undoubtedly help increase the effect as well.

In the end, it is a film that just cannot live up to the promise of that opening segment that nonetheless entertains. Its reputation is probably a bit inflated by that opening, but…have you seen it? Can you blame anyone for being taken in by it?