Houston Coley’s review published on Letterboxd:
Just saw the movie. I’m stuck between a 3/5 or a 3.5/5, not that it really matters in the end, but here are my hurried thoughts.
THINGS I LIKED:
- The CGI environment and characters seem jarring at first, but once you settle into them, they work really well. The whole digital world truly does start to feel real by the end, with characters who are very tangible - and that’s film wizardry at work.
- Olivia Cooke is a wonderful, charismatic goddess, and she elevates every project she’s in by 500%. Please be in more things, my love.
- Some of these action sequences are great, man. The car chase at the beginning is awesome, and without spoiling anything, I’m sure that “Haunted House” sequence in the middle is going to be a fan-favorite for years to come.
- A few of the references are a little much, but on the whole they were less obnoxious than I expected. I actually enjoyed quite a few toward the end. Some were genuinely clever and unexpected.
- The film is mostly pretty predictable, but there were definitely a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Both incidentally involve character identity reveals.
- In general I just really enjoyed the happy-go-lucky adventurous tone of the whole thing. From the music, to the fast pacing, to the shallow-but-likeable characters, to Spielberg’s classic “just out of reach” action setpieces...it’s a fun ride.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:
- Tye Sheridan’s character is extremely underwritten and underperformed, and the actor in general lacks the charisma or drive required to be a lead.
- The film spends much of the first half-hour on exposition, but toward the end you still find yourself questioning the rules of the world despite what it spent so much time drilling into your head.
- We’re supposed to buy into this sort-of “ragtag team of heroes” premise, but the 5 clan-members absolutely do not click with each-other. The chemistry is just way off - and the fact that there are two people dressed as Samurais/Ninjas doesn’t help to fight confusion.
- Some of the performances are very stilted. Ben Mendelsohn doing an American accent (I guess that’s what that was) is just plain weird. The protagonist’s aunt and uncle are bizarre and awful. His best friend works in premise, but just seems a little “off” in execution.
- Silvestri’s score is fine, but feels more phoned-in than genuinely inspired. None of the themes feel like they are their own. It’s mostly a cheap imitation of 80s sentimentality to stand-in for real emotional potency.
- As you’d expect, lots of the plot-threads are tied up a little too neatly and wrapped up with a bow on top by the end. The protagonist never really has to “sacrifice” anything. He’s rewarded for knowing the most about pop culture and obsessively researching his hero.
OVERALL: I enjoyed it. The writing leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a fun ride, and not nearly as obnoxious as it could have been if helmed by a different director. Definitely something I’d like to go back and rewatch someday to see if it improves, and a fluffy blockbuster to watch with friends sometime over the summer.