The Star

As of writing this introduction to The Star, there is only one mainstream / mainstream movie I have yet to see for the year, and at this point I can say that 2017 just overall sucked.

So many sequels of films that didn’t need them, offering nothing new. We have stories that are based on books and don’t rise up to their level. We have original works that don’t focus on the smaller elements. We have two fucking LEGO movies.

And then we have The Star. The cherry on top of the year. I haven’t released all the reviews I just mentioned, because at least one or two films were actually good, but I will let them happen eventually through the rest of this month and January. But it should be obvious I was not looking forward to The Star in any level.

Donkey
No film has starred a donkey successfully since Shrek.

The film starts off at “9 months B.C” because they need to make it obvious. This angel talks to Mary (Gina Rodriguez) that God is about to give her that baby, and she is like yes!

Now, months later we can focus on the real hero, Bo (Steven Yeun)! Bo is a donkey, a mill donkey, who spends most of his day walking in a circle, moving the mill. Hard labor. He has big dreams though. He wants to get out of the mill and carry around important people, like royalty, like the horses. Oh yeah, that would be the life. Eventually he does get to break out and finds himself in the barn of Mary and Joseph (Zachary Levi). You see, they just got married, and Joseph is of course worried about her baby bump. But she says it is from God, and he prayed so it must be okay.

What is not okay is some animals have spread the story of the angel and the future king, which has gotten to the ears of the current King. The new King doesn’t like that and sends people out to look for and kill this dude. Also, they are having a Census, so everyone has to travel to Bethlehem, or else! I don’t know what the or else is, but no matter the condition they must go.

So Mary and Joseph are traveling when she is about to pop, with a Donkey and a bird (Keegan-Michael Key) and a lamb (Aidy Bryant), and along the way they get into many shenanigans.

Either way, this story is pretty common, so you know where we are going with it and the whole thing is basically spoiled.

There are so many goddamn people who they grabbed to get presumably tiny quick paychecks. Because the more famous people you cram into a film, the more people will come to see it. Just ask Movie 43. We have as animals or the occasional other human: Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenoweth, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Delilah (from the Radio), Joel McCrary, Phil Morris, and Joel Fuck The Poor Osteen.

Camel
Winfrey, Jordan, and Perry are camels. Seems…racist.

Just like I have mentioned in previous films about mythology, I don’t care if they change aspects from the original stories, because who cares, they are made up stories as well. I didn’t care with The Rock’s Hercules, I didn’t care with Percy Jackson, and I don’t care with the Star.

But if I was Christian, I would be insulted by this film. To take one of the hallmarks of your religion and turn it into a big awkward joke. To have Mary and Joseph worry so much about the donkey and bird hanging out with them, making light of some king dude, and basically implying everything worked out well due to some animals.

Shit, the manger scene before it was set up had the horses basically making meta jokes about how convient it was for there to be this space, this manger, and a big awkward shining light on it that had been bugging them for weeks.

However even worse, I am going to quote the end of the film. This is Oprah as a camel, talking about the ending (spoilers?). Seriously, real words here, it took me awhile to get it all down: “You know, I think people are gonna remember this night. What happened here around this manger will be celebrated for thousands of years. Families will come together and exchange presents and sing carols, all to remember the grace of this moment that we are witnessing right now.”

That isn’t even funny at this point, as they basically stare at the camera to update us on what sometimes happens around Christmas.

The plot is full of mostly filler material, a lot of non exciting chase scenes, a very gullible husband, a very confident wife, and a shit ton of actors earning some money. But hey, at least the colors of Mary/Joseph were attempted to be correct.

0 out of 4.

The Big Sick

Earlier this summer, if you have friends in the 20’s, you probably know of someone who was talking about The Big Sick. They would have recommended that you see it RIGHT AWAY in theaters, because hey, it is an indie movie and they need to make their money back to produce more good films!

I know I was hounded, but that is because people know I watch movies and made sure I went out and saw this one.

And then I decided to wait a few months before dropping this review, just to see how many more times would people tell me to watch and review The Big Sick. The total count was 7, quite a large number, larger than any other film that has ever been requested. You know, because most of the times I just go and review the movie and not wait on it.

I just think it is interesting that basically everyone who saw it, made sure other people would go and see it too. It is like it was a guerrilla marketing ad campaign or something.

Store
“Oh you are buying pasta? Will you eat it after you go see The Big Sick?”

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, yes playing himself), is a stand up comic living in the Windy City and generally he is poor and happy. His best friends are all stand up comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant), and he lives with another one (Kurt Braunohler), but he isn’t as funny. Kumail is also an Uber driver! Good times for mad cash.

At some point after a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the bar. He tries to flirt with her, it goes okay, and they have a one night fling. But it is nothing serious. Won’t continue. Until it does! It keeps happening, despite her busy graduate school schedule, they just cannot stop doing the sexy and the dating.

Kumail has commitment issues though. You see, his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) are traditional, and want to set him up with a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. He doesn’t want it, but he plays along, because he loves his family, and if he dates a white woman he will be ostracized. So he is afraid of getting too close to Emily. So he doesn’t want to even meet her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) when they are in town!

This leads to issues. This leads to fights! But most importantly is the title of this movie. The Big Sick. Because throughout all of this, Emily gets sick. Really sick. A sickness that no one understands and is life threatening. The type of thing that can really bring people closer together. Well, not the sick person, but everyone around the sick person.

Also starring Adeel Akhtar!

Table
If I had to have celebrities play my parents, this would be an ideal pairing.

This is a very personal story for Nanjiani, which shows. He clearly has passion in this movie and he wants people to know about the struggles that his wife went through and what began their relationship. After all, the best comedians drawn upon their own lives to help relate their work to other people, building a connection and having a good old laugh about it all. Even though it can be scary, even though it can be intense.

Romano and Hunter were FANTASTIC as the parents of Emily. They, too, felt wonderfully real and open about everything. I imagined them as a real couple quite easily, wearing the fear of concern on their face, while dealing with the awkward situation of a pseudo-boyfriend. It was great acting from those three.

What I really didn’t connect with at all was Kazan as Emily. After the fact, I realized that I recognized Kazan from other films (like the wonderful Ruby Sparks!) but forgot about them all in this movie. I just naturally assumed that maybe she wasn’t an actress and was also playing herself, as the love interest of Nanjiani. That makes sense. If he casts himself, he would cast the other main character of the story.

But it wasn’t. And the only reason I assumed this is because I did not think she did a great job in the first half of the film at all. It seemed like someone uncomfortable with acting. It is hard to explain, but she just didn’t work for me at all.

The movie is charming, it feels realistic, and it is overall wonderful. But at times it really did just feel like a regular RomCom and not something that elevated the genre. It was definitely a good entry in the genre, just not one I loved a lot. Although the 9/11 joke had me rolling, which is why I was sad to see it as part of the main advertising after the fact.

3 out of 4.