Unfrosted

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some suggestive references and language.
Stars Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, Peter Dinklage, Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond.

Jerry Seinfeld fingered political correctness as the blame for the current deluge of comedians edging away from satirical edginess. When it came time for the corporate spokesperson for American comedy to do something to brighten the landscape by staging a mordant blitzkrieg of his own, he played patty cake when a melee was in order. I must confess to having never seen an episode of “Seinfeld.” It has nothing to do with the show or its star — Jerry Seinfeld’s appearances on Carson and Letterman were tight, easily relatable, and frequently hilarious sets of observational stand-up. The arrival of VCRs on the scene soon enabled anyone with a video store membership and/or cable box to become their own programmers, forever relegating network television to the dustbin of antiquity. When a comedian directs, I’m there. Unfrosted is his first shot behind-the-camera on a feature-length narrative. As a director, Jerry Seinfeld is an exceptional stand-up.

To say the film is loosely based on the war between American cereal conglomerates (and Michigan neighbors) Post (Amy Schumer) and Kellogg’s (Jim Gaffigan) to come up with a fruit-filled, toaster-ready breakfast cake is putting it mildly. Anyone familiar with the TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas can close their eyes and hear the voice of the cartoon’s star, Thurl Ravenscroft, playing in their head. He also provided the voice for venerable cartoon cereal big-cat, Tony the Tiger. Ravenscroft no sooner conceived of Tony’s “They’re Gr-r-reat!” catchphrase than he did cream depilatory. The slogan had been in place before Thurl’s trilled “r’s’” thrilled their way through a 50-year run as Kellogg’s sepulchral-throated breakfast food mascot. A Life Magazine ad features none other than Groucho Marx being upstaged by the Sugar Frosted Flakes pitchman’s tagline, “You bet your life they’re Gr-r-reat!” All of this took place almost a decade before the narrative kicks off in 1963. 

But wait. There’s more! The attention to period detail is abysmal. The Oscar Mayer hot dogs packaging on display bore little resemblance to their 1963 predecessors. Ditto the whoopie cushions — What? No “Poo! Poo!” — that appear to have been plucked off a Party City pegboard by a plucky production assistant. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Wooly Bully” are both featured prominently on the soundtrack even though neither song existed in 1963. A reference to Ravenscroft’s (Hugh Grant) “Burger King crown” is a cute but factually bankrupt notion, seeing how the first BK franchise didn’t open until 1963. If one is paying more attention to anachronisms, whizzing past like a picket fence in a hurtling roadster, than they are storytelling, the filmmakers aren’t doing their job.

Seinfeld told Entertainment Weekly his aim was to make the anti-Barbie. The Mattel-a-thon was the biggest moneymaker in Warner Bros. history while the box office cereal killer Seinfeld envisioned never materialized. (In that sense, he met his goal.) Rather than setting his sights high on the smash hit of all time, Seinfeld would have been better served by taking a nod from John Lee Hancock’s Ray Kroc biopic The Founder, a film so meticulously plotted and researched, one could learn how to build a fast food empire strictly by paying attention.

The list of cameo appearances — Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond — read like SNL opening credits. Also joining the fun with very little to do are Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, and Peter Dinklage. A Godfather-esque meeting of the five cereal families — Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker, Ralston Purina and General Mills — that must have sounded so funny on paper, never stood a chance under Seinfeld’s freshman lens. In the least, Barbie had a consistent visual style, limited though it might be, and a corporate history to fall back on. Unfrosted’s eagerness to play fast and loose with the truth is the film’s biggest drawback. I spent the better portion of three hours reading up on Kellogg’s and 90% of what passed my eyes bore greater comedic interest than any of the word association nostalgia soup Seinfeld and his trio of writers serve up. Seinfeld even has the gall to rip off Albert Brooks’ oracular lip-moving ventriloquist routine right down to naming the dummy Danny.

Perhaps the subject would have been best suited to animation. The only reason Battle Creek Michigan sticks out in my brain is through the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that date back as far as my memory. Kellogg’s sponsored cartoon superstars Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Snagglepuss, while Post represented Ruff and Ready, the Flintstones (Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Dino) and the Rubbles (Betty, Barney and Bamm-Bamm). Imagine a “Roger Rabbit” frame up between the two factions of H/B heavyweights that results in an animation studio civil war. Anything would have been funnier than the cow farts and a stock Nazi buffoon that’s enough to place even the most woke audience in a somnambulistic coma.

 

Drama ‘The Humans’ Due on DVD and Blu-ray April 19 From Lionsgate

Based upon his 2015 Tony Award-winning play of the same name, writer-director Stephen Karam’s debut drama The Humans arrives on April 19 from Lionsgate on DVD and Blu-ray (plus digital).

The story follows Erik Blake, who has gathered three generations of his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the group’s deepest fears are laid bare. The Humans explores the hidden dread of a family and the love that binds them together.

The cast includes Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins (2017, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, The Shape of Water), Tony Award winner Jayne Houdyshell (“Only Murders in the Building”), Primetime Emmy nominee Amy Schumer (2019, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Inside Amy Schumer), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart, “American Crime Story: Impeachment”), Academy Award nominee Steven Yeun (2020, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Minari), and June Squibb (2013, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Nebraska).

Bonus features include audio commentary with writer-director Karam, “Our Ruffled Spirits: Making The Humans” and outtakes.

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HBO Max Orders Amy Schumer Doc

WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD service HBO Max has ordered the documentary Expecting Amy (working title) from Emmy Award winner Amy Schumer.

The service is set to launch in the spring of 2020.

The documentary takes viewers behind-the-scenes as Schumer goes through an extraordinarily difficult pregnancy while touring to prepare for a stand-up special. From hospitalizations to going out in front of a crowd of thousands, to quiet moments at home with her family, Schumer shares it all. Beginning the day she found out she was pregnant, through the birth of her child, she showcases her journey on the road, revealing just how challenging it can be working night after night. Expecting Amy offers a hilarious and raw 360 degree look at this new stage of her life with her family and colleagues along for the ride to support her.

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“Amy Schumer is an inspiration and this project is such an honest look at her experience being on the road while preparing for her special,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max, in a statement. “Her willingness to showcase her immense vulnerability, during the most challenging time in her life, is both empowering and hilarious.”

“Women are warriors, every one of us. And I hope sharing my story brings more awareness to the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth,” said Schumer in a statement.

The project is produced by Schumer.

‘Overboard’ Remake Tops Redbox Kiosk, On Demand Charts

Lionsgate’s Overboard, a remake of the 1987 MGM romantic comedy, debuted at No. 1 on both Redbox charts the week ended Aug. 6.

The film, which earned just over $50 million in U.S. theaters, took over the top spot on both Redbox’s kiosk rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital purchases (EST) and rentals (TVOD).

Overboard stars Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria, John Hannah, and Swoosie Kurtz. The plot is the same as the original, but the roles are reversed: in the 2018 remake, a struggling single mom convinces a rich player with amnesia that they are married.

Rampage, the science-fiction monster movie based on the video game series of the same name, held onto the No. 2 spot on both charts. The Warner Bros. release stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Ready Player One, the latest sci-fi film from Steven Spielberg, took the No. 3 spot on both Redbox charts after bowing at No. 1 the prior week.

Still holding strong is Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, from Universal Pictures, which remains at No. 4 on both the kiosk disc rental chart and the transactional video chart.

Rounding out the top five on the kiosk chart was 20th Century Fox’s Super Troopers 2, which had debuted the prior week at No. 3.

On the Redbox On Demand digital chart, the No. 5 spot went to Universal Pictures’ Blockers.

On the kiosk chart, two other new releases bowed in the top 10. Universal Pictures’ Tully, starring Charlize Theron as a mother of three who strikes up a friendship with her nanny (Mackenzie Davis), debuted at No. 9. Lionsgate’s Dark Crimes, with Jim Carrey as a detective who detects similarities between a cold case murder and a popular novel, debuted at No. 10.

Also new on the digital chart is The Miracle Season, from 20h Century Fox, debuting at No. 10. The movie I based on the true story of the Iowa City West High School volleyball team after the sudden death of the team’s leader.

 

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending August 6

  1. Overboard (2018) (new)
  2. Rampage
  3. Ready Player One
  4. I Feel Pretty
  5. Super Troopers 2
  6. A Quiet Place
  7. Blockers
  8. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare
  9. Tully (new)
  10. Dark Crimes (new)

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending August 6

  1. Overboard (2018) (new)
  2. Rampage
  3. Ready Player One
  4. I Feel Pretty
  5. Blockers
  6. Supertroopers 2
  7. A Quiet Place
  8. Tully
  9. Tomb Raider (2018)
  10. The Miracle Season (new)

 

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