Beatriz At Dinner
(M). 83 minutes. Opens in selected cinemas on September 21.
Though not as substantial as it would like to think it is, Beatriz At Dinner still manages to maintain interest, even when the script by Mike White falls into simplistic speechifying.
The story centres on Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a well-respected health practitioner (from a poor, Mexican background) who works at a Santa Monica cancer centre, treating patients who are mostly on death’s door, riddled with illness both physically and psychologically.
Beatriz believes in spiritual connection, and seems to be able to feel the pain of those she is trying to help.
After finishing one such shift at the centre, Beatriz heads out to an expansive, gate-enclosed house at Newport Beach, as she has an appointment with Kathy (Connie Britton), a wealthy socialite who hires her on a regular basis as a masseuse.
Kathy is organising an important dinner that evening, as her husband Grant (David Warshofsky) will be hosting a group of important work colleagues, the biggest of which is Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a self-made millionaire who has the money and the power to have everyone around him on their knees.
When Beatriz’s car breaks down, Kathy asks her to stay and join them for dinner, but this cordial invitation will lead to a night of confrontation between the humble immigrant and the ruthless businessman who will do anything to make a dollar.
Beatriz At Dinner wears its heart on its sleeve, with plenty of relevant topics brought to the surface, but none of these issues are explored in a truly challenging manner.
The recently released The Dinner was sharper in its view of people and social class, and its characters were far more intriguing.
Unfortunately all the rich folk fall into easy stereotypes, while even Beatriz herself never fully convinces as a real human being. What helps keep the film afloat are the performances of Hayek and Lithgow.
Following her tiresome, ear-splitting turn in the horrendous The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Hayek (Frida, Desperado) is effectively subdued here, which makes her sudden outbursts all the more impactful. Lithgow (Blow Out, Raising Cain, The World According To Garp) effortlessly plays the Trump-like Doug with a combination of false charm and blunt arrogance, bringing flavour to what is an underwritten role.
Beatriz At Dinner is hardly earth-shattering cinema, but there are enough positive ingredients to make this breezy, easily digestible viewing.
RATING – ***
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
(2D and 3D) (PG). 89 minutes. Opens in cinemas on September 21.
Despite a title that threatens a barrage of crude, low-brow humour, what we get instead is a surprisingly buoyant and cheerful animated film that should please movie goers of all ages.
The story follows primary school students George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), who have been best friends for a long time, and always gather at their elaborate treehouse to create new comics for their favourite superhero character, Captain Underpants.
Mischievous by nature, the two are a thorn in the side of Principal Krupp (Ed Helms), who is forever trying to catch the duo committing one of their disruptive pranks. When Krupp is finally able to separate the two, George, using a plastic ring he found in a cereal box, amazingly succeeds in hypnotising their hated Principal, and takes it one step further by turning Krupp into their beloved superhero.
Matters become complicated when mad scientist Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) arrives at the school.
Based on the beloved children’s books by Dav Pilkey, screenwriter Nicholas Stoller (who penned The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted) keeps things charmingly innocent, and refreshingly stays clear of potty comedy most of the time (a whoopee cushion recital is thankfully as bad as it gets), and the film is all the better for it.
Hart (who was painfully shrill as the voice of Snowball in The Secret Life Of Pets) and Middleditch make a good team, and is well supported by Helms, who is very funny as the Krupp/Captain combo. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie feels like a little league version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and while nowhere near as good as that 80’s teen classic, it does offer bright, good-natured entertainment that will put a smile on the faces of the entire family.
RATING – ***
– Aaron Rourke