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.

 

‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ Coming to Digital Aug. 13, Disc Aug. 27 From Universal

The family film The Secret Life of Pets 2 will debut on digital Aug. 13 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Aug. 27 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From the studio Illumination (Despicable Me, Minions, Sing), the animated sequel features the pets and their growing families in a new chapter that explores the deep bond between them and the humans that love them. Again, the film answers the question: What are your pets really doing when you’re not at home? Terrier Max (voice of Patton Oswalt) is coping with major life changes after Katie’s marriage and the arrival of a toddler, Liam. Meanwhile, Gidget (Jenny Slate) tries to rescue Max’s favorite toy from a cat-packed apartment with a little help from her feline friend Chloe (Lake Bell), who has discovered the joys of catnip. And Snowball (Kevin Hart) believes, despite the other pets’ teasing, that he’s a superhero after his owner starts dressing him in superhero pajamas. But when Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), a fearless Shih Tzu, shows up to ask for Snowball’s help on a dangerous mission, he has to summon the courage to become the hero he’s been pretending to be.

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Other voice talent includes Eric Stonestreet, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan and Harrison Ford in his first ever role in an animated film as new farm dog, Rooster.

Bonus features on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digital include two mini-movies — Super Gidget, featuring the film’s Pomeranian Gidget and her best friend Max, and Minion Scouts, starring the Minions. Also included are deleted scenes, making-of featurettes and drawing tutorials. An interactive Captain Snowball motion comic allowing viewers to direct the bunny hero on his next move is exclusive to the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray versions.

Hulu to Premiere New Kids’ Animated Series ‘The Bravest Knight’ June 21

Hulu June 21 will premiere the first five episodes of a 13-episode order of the new Hulu Original animated kids’ series “The Bravest Knight.”

Based on children’s book by Daniel Errico, The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, the story chronicles a young pumpkin farmer’s adventure as he attempts to become the bravest knight who ever lived. The new series features a household with two dads (Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew), making it one of the first children’s television series with an openly gay main character, according to a Hulu press release.

Hulu “continues to be a supporter of LGBTQ content and creators,” according to the release.

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Sir Cedric, now grown and married to the prince of his dreams, shares the story with his adopted 10-year-old daughter Nia of how he transformed from farmer to knight. Nia, who is training to become a knight herself, learns important values such as honor, justice and compassion.

The cast includes T.R. Knight as Sir Cedric, Bobby Moynihan as young Cedric’s troll sidekick Grunt and Storm Reid as Nia. The show also features the voice talents of RuPaul, Christine Baranski, Wanda Sykes, Wilson Cruz, Teri Polo, Steven Weber, Donna Murphy, AJ McLean, Dot-Marie Jones, Maz Jobrani, Chance Hurstfield and others.