Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Patty Jenkins (PG-13)
A warrior princess joins the Great War.
Our current decade’s first bigbudget movie about a female superhero “isn’t just a triumph for women,” said Rafer Guzman in Newsday. “It’s a triumph, period.” Emerging star Gal Gadot gives audiences a Wonder Woman who’s not just sexy but “dignified and fearless,” and the movie she’s carrying proves to be rousing female-focused entertainment. Gadot’s Amazon warrior princess has never seen a man before when a U.S. pilot crashlands near her island home, delivering the news that World War I is underway. Our heroine chooses to join the U.S. cause, and at that moment Wonder Woman “rather beautifully manages to become multiple movies,” mixing romance, fish-out-of-water comedy, and screen-filling comic-book action. A lot of bleak superhero movies have darkened our recent summers, said Kelly Lawler in USA Today. This one “makes you feel good while you watch it,” mostly thanks to the “fantastic” chemistry between Gadot and co-star Chris Pine. Wonder Woman doesn’t reinvent the superhero genre, said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. It’s simply “a much better than usual” riff on the form, even given its formulaic climactic battle. I walked away from this superhero movie “feeling ready for a sequel,” and that’s “the first time in a long time.”
Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
Directed by Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger (Not rated)
A world-class ballerina confronts the end.
The power of this portrait of a dance legend “can sneak up on you,” said Brian Seibert in The New York Times. As the film opens, Wendy Whelan is 46 and battling an injury that could end her remarkable 30-year career with the New York City Ballet. The down-to-earth Kentucky native isn’t joking when she says, “If I don’t dance, I’d rather die.” Still, she knows an end is nearing and lets the cameras chronicle how she confronts a stark reality. By the final scenes, Whelan seems like an extremely talented friend. “More remarkable, though, is how the film, without falsification, turns an extreme form of midlife crisis into a heartening tale.” Following surgery and a trying period of rehab and training, said Kenji Fujishima in PasteMagazine.com, Whelan delivers a final City Ballet performance, and “we find ourselves catching our breath during her every movement, genuinely afraid for her well-being.” She never does retire, instead making a transition to contemporary dance, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. In this moving documentary, “the loveliest touch” might be the images that run with the end credits, because they show Whelan still dancing at 49.
Directed by Seth Gordon (R)
A spoof of the kitsch-TV classic
“It’s official,” said Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve now entered the critical, Code Red phase of Hollywood’s remake epidemic.” Though it was perhaps inevitable someone would eventually make a feature-length satire based on the hit 1990s TV series about scantily clad lifeguards fighting crime, the result didn’t have to be so lazy and unfunny that it qualifies as “the rare movie that even the thousandwatt charisma of Dwayne Johnson can’t save.” Johnson fills David Hasselhoff’s old role, here leading a Florida lifeguard team that learns that a local developer, played by Priyanka Chopra, is smuggling in drugs. “But, wait, you didn’t come for the plot,” said Megan Garber in TheAtlantic.com. You came for the glistening, suntanned bodies and for the jokes, and there are, “it must be said, a lot of good jokes.” Johnson, Zac Efron, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, and the rest of the cast “seem to be having the time of their lives,” and the audience’s enjoyment is diminished mostly by lingering sexism and the movie’s determination to secure an R rating by loading up on puerile penis jokes. “So which is it—winkingly sly, or flat-out silly?” asked Tom Russo in The Boston Globe. This Baywatch “never can decide.”