The Review: Some actors seem to be able to inhabit a wild variety of characters, looking outwardly the same each time but able to change voice, behavioural characteristics and appearance to disappear seamlessly into a role. And then there’s Michael Cera.
Practically a poster boy for mumbling, awkward teens, Cera has the schtick honed to a tee, but in every major movie he’s been in, it’s been the same every time. So there’s no real surprises here when his character is the same kind of frustrated loser that he’s portrayed in everything from Superbad onwards.
So it’s fun to see him cut loose here with a second character, Francois, who gives him a chance to stretch a little. It’s basically the same character with the morals stripped away, and it allows him to have some fun, both with and in the role.
The story is a sort of Junior Fight Club with more flirting than fighting, but it doesn’t always follow the predictable path, and there are a few excellent set pieces. Justin Long sets up a couple of those, and gets to have most fun with his support role. There are some slightly out of place animated interludes that don’t gel as well as they might have, but overall this is a fun ride, worth taking either side of your personality to.
Why see it at the cinema: There are some laugh out loud funny set pieces, so see them in a crowd – you’ll enjoy them more.
The Score: 7/10
The Review: Sometimes on paper, a director and an adaptation seem a natural fit. Here’s a novel, with fantasy elements but grounded in reality, requiring both a deft touch with actors and material, and also the ability to marshal special effects effectively and blend them into the story. Peter Jackson, anyone? Surely the man who gave us the Lord of the Rings movies and Heavenly Creatures can pull this off?
Sadly, no. There are some incredibly effective passages here, in particular the scenes just before and after the murder, and also scenes heavily spoiled in the trailer where Susie’s sister goes looking for evidence, and Jackson ramps up the tension like a master.
In addition, the acting is first rate all round – some have more to do than others, but those with the big scenes deliver every time. Stanley Tucci is the obvious standout, but Rachel Weisz and Saoirse Ronan also get moments to shine.
But the whole overall is less than the sum of its parts. For the large part, it feels like Suzie has the occasional nightmare while waiting at an amazing amusement part before going on holiday, rather than being stuck in a purgatorial dilemma. Pacing in the middle act also suffers badly, and by the end you’re left feeling largely unsatisfied. A shame.
Why see it at the cinema: The afterlife sequences are undeniably visually impressive, and the tense chase scenes will benefit from the collective experience.
The Score: 6/10