The Pink Panther Snipes Again

Bad Movie Reviews with a Touch of Snark


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Southside With You, or: No One Compares 2 U

What do I do when I’m despairing of the world we live in and desperately missing the dignity, reason, and humanity of the Obamas?  Watch clips of that time President Obama was on Between Two Ferns?  Or the Carpool Karaoke segment featuring Michelle?  How about masochistically torturing myself with images of them in happier times (portrayed by actors who really look nothing like them)?  Why; what do you do?

The Film:

Southside With You

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Michelle Robinson lives at home with her parents despite her position at a top corporate law firm in Chicago.  Even though Michelle has some serious pampering going on, she’s definitely not going on a date with Barack—it would be inappropriate since Michelle is his advisor, he’s only working at the firm for the summer, and she would get so much shit from the higher ups if she dated the first young black guy who walks into the firm.

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And, you know, of course he has a Panama hat.

Barack, meanwhile, is just smoking, reading, and talking on the phone because of course he is.  The two will be attending a community even in the Gardens, a housing project in Chicago.  Sounds like there’s no way to interpret that as a date…right?

While Barack is easy-going and laid-back, Michelle is hyper-aware of the hard work, self-discipline, and commitment to following the rules she must continually embody to succeed in the swarm of middle-aged white men that is the law firm.  Barack shows up late to pick her up and drives a car with a hole rusted through in the bottom (which is true).

Michelle has worked hard for her education and position at the law firm, though she seems unsatisfied with the tedious work and condescension from the higher ups (as indicated previously, middle-aged white men).  Barack is extremely perceptive and asks if the firm is really what she’s frustrated with, and she insists yes—yes, it is.

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“Maybe what I really hate is men telling me what I’m frustrated about.”

At this point, Barack springs art exhibit and lunch on Michelle, admitting they have time to kill before the community event.  The exhibit highlights black artists, including Ernie Barnes, the artist whose work was made famous by Good Times (no joke).  He also recites Gwendolyn Brooks poetry to her, which may or may not have happened IRL, but either way is fucking unfair and has the immediate effect of melting everyone within a 50 foot radius.

After the exhibit, the two bond over sandwiches and learn shocking revelations–specifically that Michelle doesn’t like pie, though she does like chocolate ice cream.  Barack damn near breaks my heart when he reveals he hates ice cream after spending a summer working at Baskin Robbins (which I understand on a rational level but still devastates me personally).  We get a bit of a peek into their very different childhoods and learn that Michelle’s dad has MS (which I didn’t know before watching this).

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I just realized the Obamas can never appreciate the thing of beauty that is pie with ice cream.

At long last, it’s time for the community event, which conveniently gives Barack the opportunity to showcase his inspirational speechmaking skills and for the church ladies to bust out their stories about the lives he’s turned around and what a cool dude he is in general.  Rather unrealistically, he gives a speech without once saying “let me be clear,” “here’s the deal,” or “it will not be easy.”

Michelle sees right through this ploy, but is still rather impressed.  We all are, girl.  They have a meaningful discussion about their fatigue with doing what’s convenient over what’s right with genuine conviction–something I really fucking miss seeing in the US President.

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Admit it–the only thing you’re imagining him saying in this scene is “Let me be clear.”

The evening wraps up with a showing of Do the Right Thing, unfortunately interrupted when they run into a top partner at the law firm, who is a condescending smarmy bastard.  Michelle reflects once again on the way their relationship will be perceived and how it could destroy the career she has worked hard to build.  Does this mean there will never be a second date???

…I mean, there are really no spoilers here, so suffice it to say that chocolate ice cream can solve pretty much everything and I believe it may be our last decent shot at world peace.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure it’s possible to be objective with this review.  I teared up several times at places that were never intended to be sad because I fucking miss the Obamas and their strength and intelligence and compassion.  I love and miss them, but I just want them to be happy.  They’ve always deserved better.

Though it takes place nearly 20 years ago, the commentary feels very contemporary.  Michelle describes the challenges she’s faced as a black woman that are still very much in place today.  At one point, Barack and Michelle walk through a tunnel memorializing the many black Chicagoans who died violently–a tunnel that would surely have exponentially greater names today.

There are some self-satisfied moments that get a bit unbearable at times (like when Michelle comments on what a great speechmaker Barack is, wink wink nudge nudge).  And admittedly, the actors really don’t look anything like Barack and Michelle except for the hair styles, but the acting is convincing enough that you can pretend after a while.  I really appreciated the glimpse into Michelle’s character that we’ve never gotten, especially as her role as First Lady was the one the world saw her inhabit.  Let’s not forget that prior to the Presidency, Michelle was bringing in a much bigger salary than Barack and being an all-around badass.

Did this one inspire Christa or would she shun it like the Obamas shun pie and ice cream?  Find out here!


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Hello I Must Be Going, or: Lynskey on the Rocks

Though I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Melanie Lynskey May, I’m not sad that our desperate search for readily available ML films (with a heavy dose of artistic license) is over temporarily.  Here’s hoping we see her in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore 2 or at least a few more original films acquired by Netflix.

The Film:

Hello I Must Be Going

Where to Watch:

Amazon Prime + Sundance

The Uncondensed Version:

This time around, ML is a majorly depressed young woman who hasn’t quite hit rock bottom but is just about there (seems a bit familiar for her, eh, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore?).  Her marriage over, her career non-existent, and having given up on everything else, Amy moves back in with parents in her mid-thirties.  It’s not a bad setup, except she can’t bring herself to change out of an old, dirty t-shirt or even leave the house, much to the dismay of her parents.  She spends a lot of her time looking at pictures sadly and crying to Marx Brothers movies, though her mother is constantly making well-meaning suggestions to improve herself and life.

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Current mood.

When Amy’s father has clients to impress, she’s forced to get her act together (at least a little bit).  Her parents’ whirlwind tour across the globe depends on these clients, as well as her father’s retirement.  No pressure, though.

For the fancy dinner party to impress fancy lawyer types, Amy manages to scrounge up a nice dress and sit through several courses without sobbing openly.  After revealing she was a literature and photography student who never finished her Master’s thesis, she gets shit from some of the dinner guests.  The only person more uncomfortable through these proceedings is Jeremy, stepson of the man everyone is out to impress.  Jeremy lets his mother believe he’s gay and loves acting because it makes her feel better and in control.

After Amy has had enough of this bullshit dinner party, she shares a romantic moment with Jeremy even though he’s a tender 19 years old.  He’s very perceptive and emotionally mature for a 19-year-old to an almost unbelievable degree, but IDGAF.  I WANT TO BELIEVE.

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Their relationship moves quickly both physically and emotionally, with Amy sharing painful details about her husband’s affair and the divorce (which blindsided her), and Jeremy revealing his fears about being honest about what he wants with his parents.

Even though they are both adults, Amy is embarrassed about their age difference and fears an open relationship could cost her father his clients and retirement.  They keep the relationship secret…until Jeremy’s mother walks in on them planning a fantasy trip to Canada and skinny dipping.  Fortunately, delusions are a powerful thing and, convinced her son is gay, Jeremy’s mother completely denies the possibility of any romantic involvement between the two.

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It was all fun and games until…GHOST SHARK.

The encounter is enough to leave Amy rattled, though, and she decides to end her non-relationship with Jeremy.  She agrees to go on a date her sister-in-law has set up, but quickly realizes she isn’t remotely interested in pursuing things further.  Though Amy misses Jeremy, she tries to find him and once again remembers their age difference.  After a ladies’ night out drinking, she literally does hit rock bottom and gets into a screaming fight with her mother.

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Did I mention Blythe Danner plays ML’s mother in this?  Because she does and she’s fantastic.

Realizing her mother is in many ways just as lost and disappointed as Amy, there seems to be a breakthrough.  But will it make a difference in her relationship with her family, her non-boyfriend, and most importantly, herself?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

It starts out as a bit of a slow burner, but becomes a thoughtful reflection on family relationships, perception of others, and self-love.  Though Amy feels like a fuck-up who has quit everything she’s ever tried, she begins to put things in perspective by listening to the fears and disappointments of others.  She learns to accept responsibility for her life while moving on from blaming herself for all of her mistakes.  It’s great to see her grow as a character, know herself better, and love who she is.  Amy and Jeremy begin to grow up together and have a very sweet, believable connection.

ML is great in this, as is Blythe Danner, and pretty much everyone else.  I think ML has the most to work with, as she’s a multi-dimensional, relateable, and flawed character.  Her struggle to rise above all the bullshit, feel normal, and rediscover purpose in her life is so real.

Would Christa dive in the pool with this one or hit rock bottom (literally and figuratively)?  Find out here!


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Rainbow Time, or: Pervs of All Abilities

Melanie Lynskey Month continues—long may she reign!

The Film:

Rainbow Time

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Shonzi is a young man who loves making films, staging doll and puppet shows, adopting a Fonzie persona, and annoying his brother.  He also happens to be developmentally disabled, living with his father, and spending too much time thinking about his brother Todd’s girlfriend (played by Queen Melanie).

 

With ML all set to meet the family, Todd is a nervous wreck who feels she is not adequately prepared to deal with some of Shonzi’s lewd tendencies.  Having little interaction with women, Shonzi frequently objectifies them and fails to recognize when he says something inappropriate.

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Yeah, this is 1 of about 3 seconds of this scene that could be considered G-rated.

 

ML and Todd initially have fun working on Shonzi’s movie, but he takes things too far when he films the two in a private moment.  While ML is upset, Todd is actually kind of into it–at least the idea of making a sex tape.  ML is pretty quick to shut this down.

 

As it turns out, the relationship between ML and Todd has its share of problems.  ML is still in the process of going through a divorce, and started dating Todd before her marriage was over.  She is still keeping their relationship a secret to a large degree, causing tension between them.

 

Things get even more complicated when Todd’s dad has a heart attack, prompting Shonzi to move in with the couple.  As ML gets a better picture of Shonzi’s attitudes towards women, she decides to spend time with him making a film so he can get to know at least one woman better.

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Join us–we have t-shirts.

 

Inspired by a viral clip, ML and Shonzi approach the subject of cat calling, interviewing several women about their experiences and reactions in a segment they call Rainbow Time.  Just when ML seems to be making a breakthrough, the two interview Justine, a developmentally disabled woman whom Shonzi dismisses and calls ugly.

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You know it’s serious when a woman stops in the middle of eating Chinese food.

 

Shonzi continues to spy on ML and Todd until finally ML has had enough.  She decides to take a break from Todd as she’s never really had time to herself.  Frustrated with his brother, Todd pawns Shonzi off on another family member.  When a confrontation goes horribly awry, the police are involved, and no one believes Shonzi’s side of the story.  Will the family be able to bounce back after this episode?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Is it horrible that I felt the message of this film was that disabled people are just like everyone else—they can be huge pervs too.  I appreciate that the intention was to humanize Shonzi rather than make him a simple, naïve child-like figure who occasionally spouts out sage advice, as Hollywood is wont to do.  But the film took things a bit too far in the other direction IMHO, and he just ended up seeming creepy, gross, and not particularly likeable.

More than this, though, the film isn’t particularly memorable, and it gets boring in places because there’s no real opportunity to emotionally connect to the characters.

The highlights are the films Todd and Shonzi make together, and it seems like the actors are genuinely having fun at those times.  The segment ML and Shonzi do together as Rainbow Time is nice too, and I expected it to recur in the film (and was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t).  Maybe that’s just the influence of Welcome to Me?

Our girl ML shines as usual, and Timm Sharp has a nice grungy Jason Schwartzmann vibe going on.

Would Christa spend quality time with this one or run in the opposite direction?  Find out here!


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Backtrack, or: I Do Nazi the Point of This Movie

So maybe you’ve thought off-hand that you must have done something terrible in a past life to deserve a series of lamentable circumstances in the present.  Like…the global political climate, for example.  Perhaps as you’ve considered this possibility, you’ve used a series of clichéd expressions and non-sequiturs to frame what is already something of a cliché.  That’s this film in a nutshell…with Nazis.  And, coincidentally, we must have all offended the forces of the universe to deserve this movie.

The Film:

Backtrack:  Nazi Regression

Where to Watch:

Amazon Prime (US)

The Premise:

What’s more fun than a walking holiday with your partner and two of your closest friends?  Exploring a possible Nazi past life through hypnotism while your girlfriend hooks up with your friend’s boyfriend and a deranged kidnapper stalks you.

The Uncondensed Version:

Claudia has an incredibly vague and convenient talent for looking into the past and future.  While on a walking holiday with her friends seems to be the perfect opportunity to test out her abilities.  Specifically, to explore the secret Nazi life of friend Ralph.  Learning about his past life is…important?  For some reason?  As it turns out, Ralph had a Nazi family in his past life, and something bad seems to have happened to them.

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A fun hobby to try explaining during interviews.

Meanwhile, Andrea and Lucas (who looks 12), the respective partners of Ralph and Claudia are fine with this turn of events as they’re off having sex constantly and/or complaining about all the walking…ON A WALKING HOLIDAY.  Too tired to deal with this shit, Andrea and Lucas go off to find the local pub.  Once there, they are greeted by an incredibly creepy bartender.  I kind of expected him to get along well with Lucas because they are both so fucking sleazy.

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Is he reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally old enough to be in a bar, though?  Is he REALLY?

Later, as Andrea and Lucas have yet another weirdly shot sex scene, a mysterious figure who we’ve heard talking to himself throughout the entire movie approaches their tent.  He hits Lucas and ties up both parties.  Whoa.  Is that where this film is heading, i.e. torture porn territory?  Apparently so.  There are some absolutely disgusting scenes that feel endless where this guy burns his victims with a lot of camera close-ups.  I hope you realize I don’t say that lightly given the massive number of B horror movies featured in this blog collab.

After being asked once, Andrea immediately reveals where the other two have gone.  Look, I’m not saying I’d do any better if a creepy kidnapper started asking me questions, but come on.

Btw, did I mention all of this is happening in broad daylight?  And he moves his victims in the back of a tractor wagon?  Super inconspicuous.

Conveniently, when Claudia and Ralph return to the campsite, Claudia senses that Andrea and Lucas were abducted after the odd camera angles of their sex scene.  The answer to all of their questions is supposedly to do another Nazi past life regression.  This is interrupted by the most unintentionally hilarious attempted abduction scene in film, in which the creepy shadowy dude tries to basically tow their tent with his tractor.  Unsurprisingly, they can get out of that one pretty easily.

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IDK if I should really be laughing so hard about kidnapping.

However, when he does catch up with Claudia and Ralph, he is intent on exacting revenge for some unknown offense.  You’ll have to watch to see what happens, why, and if you even fucking care by the time any of this happens.  But honestly, if you ask nicely, I’ll probably just tell you how it ends.

Top 5 Lines of Dialogue:

5. “It’s better to know than not know.”

4. Andrea: A man hit you, tied us up, and brought us here.

Lucas (outraged): WHY?!

3. Julian Glover (dramatically, to a grave): You shall be avenged!

2. “If you untie us now and let us go, we’ll be on our way and the whole thing won’t be mentioned.”

1. “I’ve lived before…even if I was a Nazi.”

The Rating:

1/5 Angry PPHs

So bad, guys.  So, so bad.

I tried to think of small things about this film that could be changed to improve it, and I drew a blank.  On the bright side, the scenery is pretty?   Fucking hell, though, those burn scenes are vile.  And though as viewers we are obviously supposed to hate the cheaters and like the other two characters, they are all sooooooooooooooooooo bland.  Sub-par, even for a Nazi B movie.

Would Christa go along with this one or roll on out of the tent ASAP?  Find out here!


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The Veil, or: Don’t Drink the…Poison Cubes?

After a brief hiatus, the blog collab is back with a vengeance.  Specifically, the kind of vengeance only provided by horror (very loosely) based on the Jonestown mass murder/suicide.  I’m probably being surveilled now based on my recent search history as I fact checked this film.  Word of caution:  if you are into the historical angle of this film, maybe just watch a documentary?  The one from 2006 that aired on PBS is really interesting.

The Film:

The Veil

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

So Heaven’s Veil is the Jonestown of this film, and like its real-life inspiration, was the site of a religious cult’s mass murder/suicide.  This film seeks a supernatural explanation of the events of Jonestown and asks the (highly original) question—What if a fringe religious group really did find the secret to resurrection and eternal life promised in Christianity?

As our film opens, we discover there was one survivor, Sarah Hope, who was found creepily sitting amongst the dead and insisting “he” will bring them back.  Shudder.  With no idea of her biological parents or birth name, all members of known immediate and extended family dead, and being raised in foster care, it’s safe to say Sarah had a pretty shitty childhood.

25 years after the fact, Sarah receives an offer from Jessica Alba, aka Maggie, amateur filmmaker with a secret haunted past that we discover after about 10 minutes.  As it turns out, Maggie’s family was destroyed by the events at Heaven’s Veil after her father, the lead FBI investigator, killed himself several months later (though there are some really BS-y moments wherein she conflates the experience of her father’s suicide with Sarah’s experience as the sole survivor of the mass murder/suicide of her community).

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Scooby and the gang.

Maggie has somehow uncovered a major detail that no one has noticed before:  there were reels of films made and stored somewhere in the Heaven’s Veil commune, and if she and her crew can finally locate these films, she will finally learn the truth.  Or you could just watch the Jonestown documentary, honestly.  It really is done extremely well.

Things begin to go badly right away, as one of the crew goes missing with the van only to turn up dead.

Via flashbacks, we learn that Jim Jacobs seemed to have an ability to heal and even separate his spirit and go body hopping.  By injecting himself with highly toxic venom and delaying use of the antidote for as long as possible, he’s brought closer to death, thus enhancing his powers.  B/c…you know.  Obviously it does.

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Aviators are next to godliness.

While two of the other crew members go for help, the rest of the team searches for the films.  Unluckily enough, Sarah stumbles upon a body inside the super secret house only she can find.  As we learn later, this is the body of a close follower of JJ, a nurse who helped with his venom experiments, and none other than Sarah’s biological mother.  I wonder who the baby daddy is, you may be thinking to yourself.  If you’ve never seen a movie before.   Believe that you know the answer to this because you do.

While the crew finds and watches the film reels, more and more of the team members are picked off yet eerily return.

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Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy!

As JJ explains to his followers, death is the only way to be reborn…which they will all accomplish and then release all other humans from life.  It turns out leading the FBI raid on the complex was a dick move on the part of Maggie’s dad, who prevented all of these people from receiving the antidote and being resurrected.  I guess?

So this explains why the Heaven’s Veilers decided to kill themselves, though it still leaves many opportunities for questions, confusion, and considerable general gaps in logic.

Armed with the truth at last, does it even fucking matter when the crew is stuck in horror cliché hell?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Almost went with 3/5 b/c Jim Jacobs is so much fun to watch, but the rest of the film is almost deliberately forgettable.  Thomas Jane is believable as the charismatic yet psychotic Jim Jacobs, and seems to truly relish playing the role.

One major sticking point for me towards the end:  I was really annoyed with Maggie’s repeated apologies on behalf of her father.  1.  She was in no way responsible for his actions.  2.  He didn’t force anyone to drink the Kool Aid, as it were (in this case they are poison cubes [sadly not Rubik’s cubes of doom a la Hellraiser]).  3.  The goal of the mass murder/suicide was to return and KILL EVERYONE with their rebirth superpowers.  There’s literally no reason to apologize here.

The twist of Sarah not being quite as innocent as we’re led to believe is nicely done, but every other moment feels straight out of the horror handbook.  With the added insult of an interesting premise that had a lot of potential, this is an extra disappointing feature.  Once again, the lesson we can learn here is to always lower your expectations.

Would Christa follow this one to the commune or give it her share of poison cube?  Find out here!


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Feminist February: The Love Witch

Horror is this blog collab’s bread and butter, but as Christa and I have lamented, horror can be a terribly misogynistic genre.  How refreshing, then, to watch a female-centric horror about witches that has a lot to say about women and power just in time for the 2nd week of our 2nd Feminist February.  Complete with a lovely ’60s aesthetic, medieval pageantry, and harp accompaniment!

The Film:

The Love Witch

The Premise:

A young witch uses magic and sex appeal to find love and happiness in 1960s California.

The Uncondensed Version:

Elaine is a young woman on the way to start over in small-town California after husband Jerry’s mysterious death.  After his death, Elaine was reborn as a witch in a strange occult ritual (at least that’s what I gather).  Now that she has the power of love and sex magic at her disposal, she’s determined to find a man who won’t disappoint her like Jerry.

Once she settles into the new place, she befriends a neighbor, Trish, who takes her to a Victorian tea room.  It’s really bizarre and comes complete with a woman constantly playing the harp, and everything decorated with delicate cream and pastel pinks.  I’ve just really never been a pastel pink kind of girl.

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Clearly I just haven’t found the right pastel pink floppy hat.

Elaine tells Trish of her sordid past, which has taught her to give men everything they want in order for women to get what they want in turn.  Magic is simply a way to use your will to get what you want, and Elaine seems to have special magic staring powers to influence men.  As Trish (fairly) puts it, it sounds like Elaine has been brainwashed by the patriarchy.

Shortly after, Elaine uses her magic stare to invite herself back to a university professor’s cottage in the woods.  That, and a love potion laced with hallucinogenic herbs.  After sleeping with Elaine, the prof (Wayne) becomes incredibly emotional and obsessed with her, claiming he’s unable to live without her.  As it turns out, not an exaggeration—he dies very soon after, leaving Elaine with a body to bury and evidence to burn.

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It either needs more salt or more hallucinogenic herbs…

Rumors start flying around town around witch murders, casting doubt on the entire witch community.  It should be added that witchcraft is treated as just another religion in this film, with practices that look strange to the outside observer but no less valid than mainstream religions.  This begins to shift as the bodies pile up (spoiler?).

Determined to bounce back, Elaine sets her sights on Trish’s husband when he’s conveniently left alone for the weekend.  Let’s just say this doesn’t end well at all for him.

Meanwhile, the police are investigating Wayne’s suspicious disappearance and all signs point towards Elaine.  Luckily, Elaine still has that magic eye trick up her sleeve, and manages to get a horseback riding date (not a euphemism) with a detective (Griff) instead of a murder charge.  While out together, the pair encounter a group of witches having some sort of medieval pageant, including fake sword fights and songs about unicorns and goblets of joy.  Pretty cringe-y, TBH.  There, Elaine and Griff are bound together in a fake marriage ceremony, finally fulfilling Elaine’s happily ever after fantasy.  At least for the moment…  Believe me when I say the ending gets appropriately dark and gory.

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I personally prefer to see more unicorns in weddings.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The aesthetic is beautiful, and of course I’m all about feminism in films.  One of the biggest challenges in dissecting this one, however, is that none of the characters are particularly likeable.  It’s never overly clear to me whether Elaine believes her own nonsense re: men or, like magic, she’s using these lies to get what she wants.  She’s not as straightforwardly feminist as I expected, caught between wanting to assert her independence and hoping to live out her princess fantasies.  I was really hoping she would have a better relationship with Trish because I’m all about that female solidarity.

Compounding the problem of unlikeable characters is that of one-dimensional acting, which I think is supposed to be part of the tribute to ‘60s films…but sometimes I can’t actually tell either way.

The dialogue gets a bit preachy at times, hitting you over the head with its meaning.  Elaine gets some classic lines (“According to experts, men are fragile and can be crushed if you assert yourself”) along with some truly horrible lines (“I’m the love witch; I’m your ultimate fantasy”).

However, it’s nice to see a film address the complexity of feminist issues surrounding female sexuality in a world where “virgin slut” is an actual insult that can be hurled at women with no one blinking an eye.   I admit I’m still puzzling about this movie, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Would my blog wife marry this one in a fake a ceremony with this one while surrounded by witches or slip it one too many hallucinogenic herbs?  Find out here!


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Excuse My French, or: Children Don’t Make Sense

This week’s film takes us to Egypt, and that universally terrifying place:  a boys’ middle school.  The horror!

The Film:  Excuse My French

Where to Watch:  Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

As our film opens, Hany is the only child in a wealthy Egyptian family.  He attends private school, where he excels academically and is quite popular.  Hany’s family is Christian, and he enjoys attending church.  He is something of an Anglophile, supporting Manchester United and imagining himself the Egyptian Harry Potter.  All seems to be well in Hany’s life until his father suddenly dies, leaving Hany and his cellist mother with very little income.

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Can we get an Egyptian version of Harry Potter, though?  I think it would be pretty stellar.

Since the family can no longer afford Hany’s expensive private school, he will attend the local public school for boys, whose students are almost all Muslim.  His mother gives him 2 instructions:  1.  Don’t make friends, and 2.  Don’t talk about religion.

Hany is off to an unfortunate start, sticking out like a sore thumb when he corrects the English teacher’s grammar and points out “Hasta la vista, baby,” is not English, nor is it a line from a classic novel.

The structure of this film is a bit loose, but revolves mostly around Hany’s efforts to fit in with the other students while hiding his identity as a religious minority.  He manages to make a friend in Mo’men, though he makes a decided enemy in the form of Aly, bully and overall unpleasant character.  He is thrilled when his crush, science teacher Nelly, encourages him to develop and present a scientific project to the school.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, not a single student is impressed by such nerdy feats of engineering.

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[Insert requisite scene introducing the shocking nightmare that is public school]

Hany is able to fly under the radar for a long time despite skipping out on afternoon prayer and hearing from Mo’men that he can tell a Christian from a mile away.  Of course it’s not until Hany gains power and popularity that things start to unravel.  Hany is named class president despite never running for the position–this school does not do elections the same way my school did.

To fit in better, Hany begins participating in prayer at school, and even enters a religious chanting competition.

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I’d also like to see an Egyptian version of Boy Meets World b/c the actor playing Hany looks so much like young Ben Savage.

The situation begins to deteriorate when Hany overhears some older boys planning to follow and grope Nelly.  Typical boy, Hany advises her to dress more modestly rather than reporting the boys to the principal (RAGE).  After the incident, the boys are expelled, but the trouble is only beginning.  Kids are getting beaten up left and right, and I lost track a bit of who and why.

Shortly after, Hany’s identity as a Christian is revealed, he begins taking judo, and he deliberately antagonizes Aly.  Why and what does he hope to accomplish?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really looked forward to seeing a perspective on being a religious minority that is the majority for the US, but I felt a lot of the emphasis was on the behavior of the boys as little creeps rather than as Muslims/Christians.

Also not quite as uplifting as expected?  This isn’t really a heartwarming story of acceptance and religious tolerance–Hany’s classmates never try to be particularly welcoming to him.  However, Hany is a little asshole for so much of the movie, and deliberately bringing in sandwiches to eat during Ramadan is a pretty fucked up thing to do.  I hoped there would be quite  lot of time dedicated to Hany’s relationship with his mother as well.  Though they get along well, there seems to be a lack of emotional depth in their relationship.

Overall, I think watching this film proves irrefutably that I don’t understand children.

Would Christa share a Riesen with this one or abandon it after discovering its true nature?  Find out here!