Senior Year and the new Kids in the Hall pass, but Operation Mincemeat is served cold
Each Friday, our critics provide a few quick-hit reviews of the titles that have them giddy and groaning — or, to put it another way, the Musts & Misses of the week.
The Kids in the Hall
Available now (Amazon Prime Video)
Oh man, the rush of nostalgia endorphins that flooded through my brain upon hearing that five-note bass riff that kicks off Amazon Prime's revival of The Kids in the Hall. The critically revered Canadian sketch comedy series, which ran from 1988-1995, is back with the same cast, the same indelible theme song — and the same commitment to absolute absurdity.
After a betoweled Paul Bellini digs his KITH cohorts up from their abandoned grave, the troupe — Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson — get right to it with an extended bit about their polarizing 1996 box-office bomb, Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. ("It was a co-pro between the Canadian government and the Devil.") By the 7-minute mark, McDonald and Foley are full-frontal naked and hopping up and down in a sketch about a bank robbery. You missed 'em, didn't you?
Hardcore fans will be pleased to see a raft of their favorite recurring characters: Kathie (McCulloch) and Cathy (Thompson) are still working 9-to-5 at A.T. & Love; Buddy Cole (Thompson) is still sporting fabulous scarves and tending bar; and Mr. Tyzik (McKinney), bless his heart, will still threaten to crush your head if you cross him. True to the nature of sketch comedy, each episode has hit and miss moments — but when they work, the humor is silly and savage. Highlights include a pair of serial-killer cats, and a darkly funny vignette about a DJ who maintains his "Motormouth in the Morning" on-air persona despite living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Drive-by appearances from celebs including Pete Davidson and Catherine O'Hara don't add much. We're just here for the Kids, who are a little older but as wonderfully weird as ever. Grade: B+ —Kristen Baldwin
Available now (Netflix)
Death, taxes, and decorous British period dramas: there are some things, at least, we still know for sure. Mincemeat is directed by John Madden, who helmed Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Here, he has a true story to tell, about a covert mission in WWII whose aim was to misdirect the Nazis from a planned Sicilian invasion to the shores of Greece instead. And he has many familiar faces to tell it: Colin Firth is the dutiful officer in charge; Succession's Matthew Mcfadyen his persnickety colleague, and Kelly MacDonald the secretary far too smart for her clerical duties. Their plan, improbably, is to send a corpse with "secret" papers adrift off the coast, and let German intelligence presume the rest.
Like the anonymous body they eventually find to do the job, the result is both functional and a little gassy — not quite sure where to land between sentiment and broad farce, even as its actors do their valiant best with the well-trod material. A melodramatic voiceover by a soldier-bystander played by Johnny Flynn (as the future real-life Bond scribe Ian Fleming) doesn't help; nor does the script's tendency to continuously underline and overexplain itself for the cheap seats in the back. A better, subtler movie lurks somewhere in Mincemeat; for dads and history buffs, the pleasant hash it presents instead is passable enough. Grade: C+ — Leah Greenblatt
Available now (Netflix)
Like Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson tends to star in movies built almost entirely around the sheer Tasmanian-devil dynamism of her comic persona, leaving the pesky details of character and plot consistency to fall where they may. Senior Year, ostensibly, is about a high school cheer captain named Stephanie (played in flashbacks by Mare of Easttown's inordinately charming Angourie Rice), who takes a fateful plunge in a basket toss and ends up in a 20-year coma.
Forget about medical science and the general mechanics of muscle atrophy, though; when she wakes up two decades later, all Stephanie wants to do is get back to school like Rodney Dangerfield. If she can rejoin the squad, become prom queen, and prove she still rules "the populars," justice for those two lost decades will be served. The extremely game presence of actors like Zoë Chao, Veep's Sam Richardson, and This Is Us's Justin Hartley (as the dimpled bohunk she left behind) help anchor the chaotic wisp of a plot that follows, as does Wilson's barrelling, blithely crass energy ("What the slut?" is her favored all-purpose expression of disbelief). Director Alex Hardcastle (The Office, Grace & Frankie) pumps the brakes one too many times to make way for a teachable moment. But Senior is honestly exactly the kind of movie you probably come to Netflix for, far more than any Power of the Dog prestige: Fun, nonsensical, and meant to be consumed with neither guilt nor pants. Grade: B — LG
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