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.

 

Redbox Entertainment Acquires Nick Cannon Film ‘She Ball’

Redbox Entertainment has acquired the North American distribution rights to She Ball, a feature written, produced and directed by Nick Cannon, who also stars.

The film will be released simultaneously in theaters and will be widely available on demand including via Redbox on Aug. 6.

She Ball follows the love of basketball through the struggles of Avery Watts (Cannon), who enlists the help of a women’s streetball league to help him save the embattled Inglewood Community Center he manages, all while trying to raise his 7-year-old daughter.

The film also stars Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams, Chris Brown, Cedric the Entertainer, DC Young Fly, Evan Ross, Faizon Love and Rebecca De Mornay. The movie also features athletes from the WNBA, Ball Up, and the Basketball Beauties League, including Melody Rae, and Jaliyah Manuel. K.D. Aubert, Luenell and Marla Gibbs also star in the film.

“Nick Cannon, one of the most prolific Black voices in our industry, has created a feature that truly captures the spirit of our unique times with She Ball,” Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, said in a statement. “She Ball tackles the critical issues of race and justice facing our nation today in an enlightening and entertaining way.”

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“Seeing this project come to life with my incredibly talented and committed team has been nothing but rewarding, powerful and, most importantly — fun!” Cannon said in a statement. “I believe this film conveys a strong message about the importance of aligning with today’s racial and social justice movements and fight for equality; while also taking us through a resonant example of someone in the community trying to make ends meet. I’m excited to partner with Galen and Redbox on this project to ensure the film reaches a wide audience who will hopefully enjoy taking the journey with Avery!”

She Ball is produced by Cannon, Williams, Brown, Roger Ubina, Demetrius Spencer and Benjamin Sumpter. Executive producers are Michael Goldman and Robert H. Keetch.

She Ball is the latest in a string of acquisitions from Redbox that includes The Last Son (starring Sam Worthington), Capone (starring Tom Hardy), Shadow in the Cloud (starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Nick Robinson), SAS: Red Notice (with Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose) and American Traitor: The True Story of Axis Sally (with Al Pacino and Meadow Williams). It also comes on the heels of Redbox’s venture with “John Wick” producer Basil Iwanyk to form Asbury Park Pictures, which is programming a slate of high-concept action and thriller films over the next few years.

The film is part of the “Redbox Original” slate of theatrical movies aimed at Redbox’s 40 million U.S. customers.

Redbox has engaged Vertical Entertainment as its distribution partner for the feature.

The deal was negotiated by Marc Danon, head of original content for Redbox Entertainment.

RLJE Releasing ‘The Opening Act’ on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 15

RLJE Films, a division of AMC Networks, will release the comedy The Opening Act on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 15.

Written and directed by stand-up comedian Steve Byrne, and produced by Vince and Peter Billingsley, The Opening Act stars Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”) as Will Chu, who is stuck in a thankless job while trying to pursue his true passion in life, becoming a stand-up comedian. When he gets the opportunity he’s been waiting for, the emcee slot on the road opening for his hero Billy G. (Cedric the Entertainer), the realities of life on the stage come crashing in, from hecklers to drunk groupies to hard-to-impress morning radio DJs.

The cast also includes Alex Moffat (“Saturday Night Live”), Neal Brennan (Get Him to the Greek), Debby Ryan (“Insatiable”), Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Bill Burr (The King of Staten Island), Jermaine Fowler (“Superior Donuts”), Russell Peters (Supercon), Whitney Cummings (“Whitney”), Tom Segura (Instant Family), and Iliza Shlesinger (Spenser Confidential).

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Blu-ray and DVD extras include a making-of featurette; a “Getting Started in Comedy” featurette; and extended stand-up scenes with Yang, Cedric and Cummings.

The film is available now through VOD and digital sellthrough.