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.

 

Wonka

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/27/24;
Warner;
Musical;
Box Office $214.55 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some violence, mild language and thematic elements.

Stars Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant.

Director Paul King’s prequel to Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a delightful exploration of the early days of famed candyman Willy Wonka.

With its catchy musical numbers and colorful production design, Wonka ties in excellently with the famed 1971 adaptation of the book, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The story finds young Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) arriving in Europe with big dreams to open a candy shop filled with chocolates made from his late mother’s recipe. He quickly encounters two obstacles. First, he squanders all his money within moments of entering the big city, and is duped into spending the night at an unscrupulous boarding house that charges him so many hidden fees he’s consigned to years of labor in the laundry room to work it off. Then, when he and some newfound friends manage to sneak away to sell chocolate as a means of paying off their debts, they are confronted by the corrupt Chocolate Cartel, an alliance of the town’s three top candy makers who send the ever-fattening police chief (Keegan-Michael Key) to shut Wonka down.

Wonka also finds an unwitting ally in a sneaky Oompa-Loompa (Hugh Grant) who has been sent to recover valuable cocoa beans Wonka stole from Loompaland, and will not stop shadowing Wonka until he can steal enough chocolates back to satisfy the debt.

The film plays heavily on nostalgia for the 1971 movie, both in its visual references and in reusing such notable music cues as the Oompa-Loompa song and “Pure Imagination.” Wonka for the most part isn’t aiming to be much more than a cheesy, well-meaning romp, and its earnestness can’t help but put a smile on your face.

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The Blu-ray includes the usual batch of behind-the-scenes extras. The 12-and-a-half-minute “Unwrapping Wonka: Paul King’s Vision” covers the making of the film in general; The six-minute “The Whimsical Music of Wonka” deals with creating the film’s songs and score; “Welcome to Wonka Land” is an 11-minute look at creating the film’s sets; and the seven-minute “Hats Off to Wonka” focuses on the costumes.

HBO’s ‘The Undoing’ Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD March 23

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the six-episode limited series The Undoing on Blu-ray Disc and DVD March 23, 2021. It is available now through digital retailers.

The Undoing stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as a married couple whose lives are upended by a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Undoing was written and produced by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier. The cast also includes Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Noma Dumezweni, Sofie Gråbøl, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Donald Sutherland.

Extras include the featurettes “Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant Introduce The Undoing,” “Creating The Undoing” and “The Undoing Revelations.”

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Shout! Factory Releasing ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Feb. 12

Shout! Factory will release Four Weddings and a Funeral: 25th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray Feb. 12 through its Shout Select premium imprint.

A new 4K scan and a new interview with the Director of Photography are among the many special features on the release.

The 1994 romantic comedy, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, focuses on the relationahip between Charlie (Hugh Grant), a charming bachelor and frequent best man at the string of weddings he attends with his friends, and Carrie (Andie MacDowell), an enchanting American who catches his eye just as she is about to marry the wrong man.

The cast also includes Kristin Scott Thomas and Rowan Atkinson.

The Blu-ray includes new 4K scan of the film from the original camera negative, and the “The Wedding Photographer,” a new interview with director of photography Michael Coulter.

Additional extras include an audio commentary with director Mike Newell, producer Duncan Kenworthy and writer/co-executive producer Richard Curtis; “The Wedding Planners” documentary; “Four Weddings and a Funeral … In the Making” featurette; “Two Actors and a Director” featurette; deleted scenes; promotional spots; and the theatrical trailer.