How do you take a concept such as a group of kids being trapped in A Spirit Of Halloween story and some of the decorations come to life and attack them so dull? Well apparently this movie has the answer to that, outside of a fun appearance from Christopher Lloyd and Rachel Leigh Cook there truly is nothing here that’s very memorable. They really do the bare minimum with the concept, sure there’s a few decorations that come to life but the main issue here is the writing and characters. The writing is just flat out unremarkable, there’s absolutely no substance to anything being shown on screen. The most the movie does with it’s writing is try to give a very surface level explanation of why everything is coming to life, the characters are incredibly one dimensional and are pretty much your typical kid friend group in these types of movies. Only where as other characters of those types are actually fun (such as the ones in the Goosebumps movies) these ones have absolutely nothing to them outside of their one character trait. The movie is clearly made for younger audiences in mind which is perfectly fine, however when it comes to gateway horror movies there is so much lacking here, it’s really a collection of kid horror movie cliches presented as an interesting idea. Overall Spirit Of Halloween: The Movie has a few moments of fun and decent performances from Cook and Lloyd but is overall very forgettable plus it wastes such an interesting concept that could have been a movie worth coming back to.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is available on all VOD platforms.
Hocus Pocus 2 finally releases after several years of the being on those “sequels that should have been a thing by now but haven’t” lists, there’s honestly not a whole lot to comment on here as Hocus Pocus 2 is about the same as the original. Which might be good for people who absolutely adored the first movie, I was never a huge Hocus Pocus fan it’s a fun little movie but that’s all it really was for me. Hocus Pocus 2 falls in the same line, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are still quite fantastic as the Sanderson sisters and are clearly having a blast, the entertaining atmosphere is still quite great and keeps a lot of the atmosphere from the first one, the flaws mostly come from the characters and the jokes really not being as strong, I get they wanted to put in the whole modern setting idea in the movie and at times it works. But other times it really mirrors what a lot of other movies do with this exact plot line, so it definitely leads to a lot of “seen that and it’s been done better before” type of moments. The overall message is charming enough and there’s some cute moments towards the end that did put a smile on my face, there’s definitely some level of charm that went into this movie that can be appreciated. It just falls a little short of being a little too identical to the first movie.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Ivy + Bean since it is basically a 56 minute kids movie that really doesn’t do anything new. However that doesn’t make it bad at, Madison Skye Validum and Keslee Blalock are both fantastic here and have a wonderful chemistry, they really do capture two kids starting a friendship. The movie itself has a nostalgic feel to it, the type where you made friends with other kids around the neighborhood and the movie does such a good job of showing that. Some of the jokes actually land quite well to the point where I found myself actually chuckling at times, the movie doesn’t overstay it’s welcome either. It establishes what it wants to do early on and does that quite well, as I said before Ivy + Bean is not going to break any new ground and it is very formulaic. But if you have 56 minutes to spare and are looking for a very easy watch this is most certainly not a bad option.
Ivy + Bean is available on Netflix.
Ivy + Bean: The Ghost That Had To Go is the second of the Ivy + Bean movie and is probably the best one, I say probably because all three movies are about the same (although I do think the third movie is the weakest). It might be because this one is a kid horror movie a subgenre (if you want to call it that) that I’m glad exists. Once again Madison Skye Validum and Keslee Blalock are fantastic here, the chemistry is still very strong and they are both genuinely hilarious. The kid horror elements are actually quite great here, I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t completely work and would stick out like a sore thumb. But luckily the elements are worked into the story and actually blend in quite well with the cutesy atmosphere the movie started with, Jane Lynch is one of my favorite parts about this movie by far. I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but Jane Lynch is such a fun actress even when the script she is given isn’t always great, she finds a way to make it entertaining and here is no exception. The script while once again isn’t going to break any new ground but is still genuinely fun and Jane Lynch’s parts are truly great, this movie definitely has the spirit of a Halloween special I would have saw back when I was a kid. It’s a genuinely fun little movie that like the previous movie is a quick and easy watch.
Ivy + Bean: The Ghost That Had To Go is available on Netflix.
Ivy + Bean: Doomed To Dance is the third Ivy + Bean movie and as I said in the previous review I do think this one is the weakest. Madison Skye Validum and Keslee Blalock are fantastic yet again and like in the other movies have great chemistry, by this point you are already sold that they have a very grounded friendship. There’s some decent jokes here and the movie does get quite creative as well with certain scenes, this one falls a little short mainly due to the pacing being very uneven and it’s more less the same thing as the other two movies except with a dance theme to it. The pacing is very weird here the beginning and ending are smooth sailing but the middle moves way too slowly, while I get what they were going for with the dance theme as it is a very common plot that a lot of kids media uses. It’s very flat here and doesn’t do anything very interesting that invests the viewer at all, with the other two movies yes you can argue that those plots are also used quite a lot in kids media. But at least the other two movies made themselves interesting and genuinely fun, Doomed To Dance just sort of exists because they needed a third movie and only releasing two movies would look and feel incomplete. Having that said Doomed To Dance is very harmless to kids, it’s just not something I would call good.
Ivy + Bean: Doomed To Dance is available on Netflix.
Family Camp is one of those movies where it released and nobody talked about it at all, it’s like it didn’t exist and I can easily see why. I’ll give it this…it’s not the God’s Not Dead type of Christian movie, but that’s honestly not saying much when you look at the quality of the movie. The best thing about this mess is Leigh-Allyn Baker who gives a fine enough performance but isn’t enough to make the viewer look past everything else, the writing is truly awful there isn’t one moment here that feels sincere or meaningful. A lot of it is if you took every bad cliche from the early 2000s family movie era, mixed it all together and this is what you would get. One of the worst things a movie can be is annoying and that’s what this movie is like, the writing mixed with the characters is grating and gets you in the “can this movie please be over” type of mood.
Better Nate Than Ever is another case of a Disney Channel original movie disguised as a Disney+ Original. While it’s definitely not bad and overall pretty harmless, the plot is just way too generic and plays out exactly how you think it’s going to. The cast is at least decent giving some pretty entertaining performances as well as Rueby Wood’s singing which is honestly not bad, but do not go in expecting a musical. There’s only about 4 songs all of which are pretty solid in their own right, it’s just calling this a musical is a bit of a stretch. The main criticism comes down to the plot being really nothing special as well as some of the jokes, there’s a few jokes that might get a chuckle out of you. However there’s a ton of jokes that really make you question “who thought this was a good idea?” As far as the plot it’s very basic family movie stuff that feels a bit too familiar. Better Nate Than Ever is definitely better than expected but it’s not something I would recommend watching.
So I didn’t realize this until just writing this review but The Wolf And The Lion is directed by Gilles de Maistre who also directed Mia And The White Lion which quite honestly explains so much. While this movie is a tad bit better than Mia And The White Lion, that is really not saying much at all. The worst part about this movie is that it has a ton of plot holes which is something you would not expect from a movie like this, combine that with the pacing plus a lot of terrible dialogue and you get yourself a very messy movie. The best parts of the movie are the Lion and the Wolf, the other characters are just not interesting or have anything going for them. The last half of the movie is especially confused about what it wants to say and what it wants to be, the movie compares forced circus performance with scientific research. There’s family drama in it that ultimately doesn’t lead up to anything interesting, then the movie eventually ends. Overall The Wolf And The Lion is terrible it’s fine if you want to see cute animals but then again you are better off looking at cute animal videos rather than sit through this.
The Wolf And The Lions is available on all VOD Platforms.
The Tiger Rising is based on a 116 page book by Kate DiCamillo (same author who wrote Because Of Winn-Dixie) it shows and not in a good way. The movie tries to stretch as much as possible before falling apart, there’s some touching moments that are sweet. But the acting and writing are just not strong enough to make you feel for any of the characters, there could have been a very clever metaphor here about the Tiger being locked in the cage for Rob (played by Christian Convery) being locked inside his house. However the narration flat out tells the audience and it’s executed in a way where there was a lot more to be desired, the moral of the movie does not match what the rest of it was trying to say, the ending turns the movie into something completely different and not in a good way. It does a very poor job of trying make the plot something other than coming off as melodrama, it’s a shame because there could have been some deep diving into some of the characters and how the tiger connects to it all. The Tiger Rising is something kids will most certainly not sit through and it’s too surface level for adults. Give this one a skip.
The Tiger Rising is available on all VOD Platforms.
8-Bit Christmas definitely surprised me, although there really isn’t a whole to discuss here since the movie pretty much is A Christmas Story but with Nintendo. The movie still manages to be a whole lot of fun and actually hits pretty hard at the end as well, the performances are what you expect however Steve Zahn gives such a fun performance that it was worth bringing up (think of his performance in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid it’s pretty much the same here!) the movie also has some surprisingly decent jokes. Sure not all of them hit but there was definitely effort to make this movie actually pretty funny, which I can’t say the same for a lot of Christmas family comedies. Then there’s the heart of the film which I genuinely thought was very touching, it doesn’t come off as very tacky or forced it actually feels genuine. Which is what separates it from a lot of the clutter, also the style of the film was surprisingly pretty decent. It doesn’t have that cheap feeling a lot of these Christmas family comedies have, overall 8-Bit Christmas is familiar but still a very fun time to watch!
8-Bit Christmas is available on HBO Max!
Black Friday desperately wants to be Krampus (2015) but fails to recognize what made Krampus actually pretty solid. For starters while the movie has a very fun premise it’s executed in such a lazy way that it’s almost surprising. Bruce Campbell and Michael Jai White are the best parts about this movie and easily give some good laughs, what mostly hurts this movie is the terrible writing, the characters feeling almost identical to each other and the humor almost never working. The humor has it’s moments towards the beginning but quickly wears off as it goes on, it’s another one of those horror comedies that tries to do way too much at a time. The characters really don’t bring anything interesting to the table as most of them are cliched characters with little to no personality, with that said there are fun moments to be had with Black Friday but it’s an overall a misfire that really shouldn’t had been.
I really have to give Home Sweet Home Alone some credit, it somehow managed to have some of the worst writing I’ve seen all year, so what’s this movie’s deal? Well apparently it’s a sequel/sort of soft remake (I say soft remake because there is one character from the past that does make a cameo appearance) outside of Home Alone and parts of Home Alone 2 I never cared for the series at all. But this was just a pathetic attempt to cash in on a popular name, a lot of the jokes already feel dated as a good handful of them are memes. I’ve said this before in the past but putting memes in your movie is something you should absolutely not do, not only does it make the movie in question feel outdated but it shows a lack of creativity. The acting here was horrendous, there wasn’t one performance where I feel there was any attempt of trying to be good, especially when combined with the writing that I’m shocked someone looked over and said “this is acceptable send it out!” Overall I just don’t have any more words to say, Home Sweet Home Alone is as bad as you think it’s going to be, it’s another prime example of a very pointless sequel/remake of a series that should be left alone at this point.
Not a whole lot to say but Clifford The Big Red Dog honestly surprised me, from the trailers this looked like another terrible movie where they take a classic cartoon character and turn them into CG. However unlike a lot of the other movies this one manages to be surprisingly entertaining at times. There are a handful of moments where the writing feels like it’s still living in the early 2000s, however there are some genuine charming moments between Darby Camp, Jack Whitehall and Clifford. The acting is actually not too bad, Darby Camp does a pretty decent job with what she’s given. I feel like this movie is a rare instance with a lot of these family movies where the side characters are actually funny, I actually wanted to see more of them so at least the movie has that going for it. Overall Clifford The Big Red Dog is a very traditional family movie, it ends exactly how you think it’s going to but is a ton of fun for kids!
Clifford The Big Red Dog is now available on Paramount+