This week’s film is brought to you by false eyelashes, skin-tight sequined dresses, and enough concealer to recolor the walls of a small apartment. Drag queens, ok? It’s about drag queens–and one rather renowned in particular.
I mean, technically there’s a plot, but mostly this is a vehicle for Bianca Del Rio to throw shade at homophobes.
Richard is a long-suffering science teacher who genuinely cares about learning–if only his students felt the same way. Meanwhile, his interest in stand-up comedy seems to be horribly misguided as he persistently gets a cringeworthy number of laughs.
Feeling completely disheartened, Richard finally gets some good news in the form of a call from the head of a teaching ambassador program (played by a fantastically sinister Alan Cumming). The catch? The position is in Milford, a small Texas town into football, nepotism, and traditional gender roles.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Richard is a bit of a fish out of water as a gay man whose masculinity doesn’t jive with the gun-toting football fanatics. Richard fails to make it through the first day of class when his students blow up the chemistry lab. While the principal may have overlooked this incident, when he discovers Richard’s sexuality, it’s all over.
In an attempt to drink away his sorrows, Richard ends up at a bar only to discover he now lives in a dry county. However, he does manage to befriend a trans woman named Karma, who invites him to a drag show that evening. After Richard has one too many drinks, he performs in drag and finds inspiration to return to Milford…as Bianca. Not only could Bianca win $25,000 if she wins Teacher of the Year, but perhaps more importantly could whip the smart but unmotivated students into shape and seek revenge on those responsible for ending Richard’s career (including Rachel Dratch?!).
With no small amount of scathing sarcasm, Bianca gets to work. She shames the students into being nicer to the closeted gay kid while also giving him some fighting tips. When the students fail to complete their chemistry reading, they’re in for a nasty surprise that would definitely get a teacher fired IRL. Bianca also gives hilariously harsh nicknames to all of the students, including labeling one of the cheerleaders “Bathmat.”
Meanwhile, the school’s football coach Chuck takes a shine to Bianca. When she discovers Chuck is Karma’s estranged brother, Bianca can’t resist doing some meddling…which has some unexpected consequences. After learning of Bianca’s scheming, Karma is furious and insists she leave.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, Bianca is nominated for Teacher of the Year. When her drag queen besties arrive in town from New York, a rival teacher makes one last bid to earn the title for her daughter, and rumors of Lady Gaga’s appearance at the ceremony abound, shenanigans ensue. Of course, it’s all going down at the Teacher of the Year Awards.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is a sweet and irresistibly bubbly film that still manages to touch on real issues LGBT people contend with. At times, the lightness of the film does undermine the message somewhat–the ending is all a bit after-school special. While I wasn’t going in expecting Dallas Buyers Club, there were still times when I wanted the film to embrace its serious themes more fully.
Also minor bone to pick: some of Bianca’s insults come from a fat-shaming/body-shaming place that I just can’t get behind. It seemed to send a message that it’s ok to body shame people who are fat or have had plastic surgery as long as they’re assholes. I did find most of Bianca’s sassy quips delightful, but IDK if I can really get behind fat-shaming anyone.
There are some excellent cameos to be seen, and even if the cast may not be getting any Oscars, they are charming and charismatic enough to make up for it. Overall, the message is positive and does shine a light on some of the BS laws making it even more difficult for people to identify as LGBT at work, school, and in their private lives.
We couldn’t wrap up the current theme properly without at least one heartwarming film about Christmas, even though we’ve overshot by a week. If this film teaches us anything, though, it’s that Christmas is every day because it’s always in your heart, family is a blessing, season of giving, etc.
A young woman set to inherit her father’s company must return to his hometown to learn a lesson about family, love, and (surprise, surprise) Christmas.
Set to inherit her father’s company after his retirement, Ellen seems to have it all. However, after one party stunt too many, she has earned a reputation as the “party heiress,” embarrassing her father and the company alike. Finally fed up with Ellen’s behavior, her father devises a plan to remind her of the good timey old-fashioned family values of the company. (On a side note: everyone keeps referring to the company as a gift company, whatever the fuck that means.)
Ellen must complete the annual delivery of Christmas letters to her uncle in Snow Falls, the small town where her father grew up. To make matters more challenging, Ellen is allowed to spend only $100 while there, and no one can know her true identity as heiress to a company worth millions.
For the first time in her life, Ellen must ride the bus and navigate a town with minimal cell phone reception. Disaster strikes almost immediately when the almost unbelievably clumsy Ellen loses her suitcase to a taxi cab accident.
The taxi driver, Jake, tries to make amends by giving Ellen a lift to the inn, though they’ve really started things off on the wrong foot. You can have 3 guesses on who Ellen’s main love interest is here.
Conveniently, Jake also works at the local inn and helps Ellen get a room there. Less than conveniently, her uncle Zeke is nowhere to be found. It looks like Ellen will be spending more time than anticipated in the small town of Snow Falls, though she can’t afford to pay for another night at the inn. Taking pity on her, Jake allows her to stay as long as she fills in for the maid. Given her previously established clumsiness, this does not end well.
Since Ellen claims to be a baker upon arrival in Snow Falls, she heads next door to the diner instead. She’ll help Jake’s aunt (Andie MacDowell???) with the holiday baking, but it becomes apparent pretty quickly that she has no idea what she’s doing. Putting 2 and 2 together, Aunt Debbie recognizes Ellen as Jim Langford’s daughter but agrees to keep her identity secret. She also reveals Jake’s tragic backstory as a small town boy living in a lonely world. Oh, wait–that’s almost a Journey song. Apparently Jake lived in NYC with a stock broker fiancée who left him for a millionaire. Since then, he’s avoided city slickers and romantic interests of any kind.
Unless he meets a nice lady who helps the homeless, volunteers to share her room with a family during a power outage, and bakes cookies in exchange for donations to a charity auction? Mayhap?
Just as Jake gets close to Ellen–even showing her the ice sculptures he designed (not a euphemism)–her fiancé Gray arrives in town. Will Gray’s arrival erase everything Ellen has learned from the charming small-town folks or will she hold onto the true spirit of Christmas? Just like Hamlet, we’re asking the important questions here.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Predictable, cheesy, and incredibly dependent on stereotypes, this is still reasonably entertaining. As far as wholesome, Hallmark-style movies about what Christmas really means, you could do worse. The characters are fine if rather bland. Ellen is actually fairly likeable as a protagonist even though I don’t 100% understand how her behavior at parties is considered so scandalous or why her father is so upset. The first thing we see her do is a series of vaults at a charity fundraiser, which I feel is not enough to merit her picture appearing in tabloids all the damn time. Part of me is also disappointed that she didn’t have to do vaults at the end of the movie to save Christmas.
On an unrelated note, I tried really hard to get beyond Jake having the hairstyle and wardrobe of Donald Trump Jr.’s “just a regular guy who’s into flannel” photo shoot in the woods, but mostly failed. (You can Google it–no one in that family is ever having their picture featured here.) He’s likeable enough as a love interest if annoyingly perfect. I mean, minus the DJT Jr. vibes.
Was my blog wife feeling the small town charm or would she take the money and run? Find out in her review here!
Posting ahem, Sunday night. It’s Sunday night somewhere, right??? No? Not even in Hawaii? Damn.
Best friends on a Mediterranean holiday end up fighting for their lives when a…KILLER MERMAID attacks.
The Uncondensed Version:
Killer Mermaid starts strong with a Moby Dick quote. Please, GOD, let this be the world’s most pretentious mermaid horror flick. There are also some incredibly dramatic shots of a shipwreck accompanied by music that almost sounds like some strange hybrid of the themes from X-Files and Jaws. This exists solely to create a mysterious atmosphere and contrast directly with the montage of a, ahem, “cute” couple enjoying their beach vacation. I already want them to die. This feeling intensifies because the accompanying music sounds like a Shakira rip-off and features lyrics such as “The sea is attractive like you in the sun.” Seriously.
So this couple is STILL enjoying the sun, being young, etc, and then not even 5 minutes in we see boobs. Like not even partially covered by strategically placed hair/arms, but straight up naked boobs. I wasn’t expecting that.
Our sickeningly smiley/happy half-naked couple is making out at night right by the sea which, as we are about to learn, is the worst idea.
Dude: Do you hear that?
Lady: Hear what?
Dude: Uh, that killer mermaid about to murder us?
Lady: Nope. Feel free to keep looking at my boobs, everyone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, something emerges from the water and drags the dude into the sea. Yeah, it’s the mermaid. Meanwhile, someone approaches and kills the girl with a grappling hook, I think. This movie made me realize I have little to no experience with hook terminology, but I’m going with grappling hook. I really feel a harpoon or perhaps even an anchor would have been more appropriate, but I suppose when I make a mermaid horror movie, I can call the shots.
Now that we have a dramatic set up, we meet our protagonists, the Serious One with a 1940s Haircut and the Hot One Who Cannot Keep Her Shirt on. I had to Google their names because I could not for the life of me remember they are Kelly and Lucy, respectively. They arrive at whatever the hell Mediterranean country this is supposed to be to meet up with Lucy’s ex, Alex. You know, the one she’s completely over and not even remotely interested in. At all.
When he meets up with these two ladies, he brings his fiancée. Kelly is doing fine until she starts having flashbacks of her brother drowning at the age of 10. Ever since, she has been terrified of swimming. Then this crusty old man in a rowboat glares mysteriously at everyone, further pooping the party, as it were.
Still, it’s difficult to stop Americans from partying. When they arrive at Alex’s apartment, Lucy is suddenly wearing a plaid shirt and American flag booty shorts, aka PARTY ATTIRE. Alex’s fiancée kind of freaks out a little (a lot) because she’s jealous, and they all dance (WHAT).
The fiancée gets too drunk and pukes, Kelly goes for a walk, and Lucy makes out with Alex. Meanwhile, the grappling hook murderer strikes again.
The next day, our cozy little party goes to visit an abandoned army base; there’s also an abandoned prison they’d like to see later. Stellar ideas, all.
The crusty rowboat captain is watching as everyone goes for a swim except Kelly. Something suddenly grabs Yasmin as she’s swimming, but it turns out to be this weird guy named Bob. Naturally, Lucy invites him to join the group for dinner.
The only thing anyone wants to talk about is the island, Mamula, which was apparently like Alcatraz. (DON’T GO TO THE FUCKING ISLAND. JESUS CHRIST.) The crusty captain appears there (of course) and warns them not to go to Mamula because it’s drenched in blood and was apparently used by the Nazis in WWII (please, please be a Nazi mermaid). At this point, it occurred to me that this movie is basically an episode of Scooby-Doo but with boobs. So yeah…obviously they go to the island anyway, and it’s super gorgeous, killer mermaids aside.
They realize they’re not alone when they witness this dude pouring a bucket of blood into a well. He disappears, and upon further investigation, Kelly sees a mermaid at the bottom of the well. However, the man returns with a rifle and starts firing at the group. When they try to leave the island, they realize the gunman has shot their boat. Shortly thereafter, we are shocked, SHOCKED, to learn this guy is the grappling hook murderer.
I don’t really know how to summarize this part without stating the obvious, so I’m going to state the obvious. Everyone tries to run from the grappling hook murderer. Everyone except for Alex, who starts hearing the mermaid’s song and becomes obsessed with finding her. Incidentally, the mermaid’s song sounds a lot like whale song, so it should go without saying that it’s really sexy.
The group is eventually reunited except for Alex, who’s still freaking out over the mermaid. As everyone files out of the grappling hook killer’s quarters, said grappling hook killer returns and kills Alex’s fiancée, Yasmin. It takes everyone a significant amount of time to realize she’s gone, which is quite depressing, actually.
Bob almost gets hypnotized by the mermaid, but Kelly punches him to snap him out of it. Finally, the group comes face-to-face with the mermaid, as well as the grappling hook killer, which leads to an intense action-packed fight scene. Or, more accurately, a fight scene with a moderate amount of punching. The mermaid transforms into piranha face and drowns Lucy while Bob manages to subdue the grappling hook murderer. Oh, also, Alex is dead. (Does anyone really care?)
And then there were two. The crusty captain appears out of nowhere, and the three escape in his rowboat. I think this is actually fairly close to the actual plot of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The only thing we’re missing are cat werewolves and zombies. Apparently the mermaid killed all of the captain’s men when they were working on a top-secret underground tunnel connect the island to the mainland. Except for the captain, obviously, and the first mate(lieutenant? I don’t remember what this guy’s rank was), aka the grappling hook killer. Only men can hear the siren song, which is pretty disappointing, honestly. I would really like a lesbian mermaid sequel to this (admittedly, I say that about every movie since Codependent Lesbian Space Alien).
So finally the mermaid catches up, which Kelly helpfully points out by repeatedly yelling “There she is!” and “Watch out!” In another action-packed sequence, the captain harpoons the mermaid, then the mermaid drowns Bob and goes after the crusty captain. Kelly leaps into the water and harpoons the mermaid. But it’s STILL not over because, even after being harpooned twice, the mermaid jumps out of the water to attack Kelly. Luckily, the crusty captain is prepared with a net, which abruptly stops the mermaid (?).
Pretty sure the captain quotes from Moby Dick and then stabs the mermaid. The grappling hook killer shows up to mourn the mermaid’s death. Then the captain just kind of goes off on this dramatic monologue. Some have escaped from the mermaid song, but from their silence, never. (What?) The mermaid’s sisters are coming for vengeance. You shouldn’t fear death because living as a hypnotized mermaid slave is worse than death. “Maybe we’ll die, but we’ll kill those monsters one by one…starting with YOU.” [Kills grappling hook murderer]
I enjoyed this movie, admittedly often more in a laughing at you rather than with you kind of way. As long as I remembered that this is essentially a Scooby-Doo special, everything was ok. There was a group of young people who totally failed to heed the warnings of a random creep. As in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, the group rather stupidly interrupted a kind of blood sacrifice on an island from which they could not escape. And there were even zombies! Excuse me while I go re-watch allllllll of the 1990s Scooby-Doo movies.
Biggest takeaway here, loath as I am to admit it: sometimes you should listen to that crusty old guy who refuses to stop giving you nonsensical advice that seemingly doesn’t apply to your situation at all. You heard me—sometimes the Baby Boomers are right.