Quick Reviews: 'Klaus', 'Gemini Man' | Christmas Comedy, Jason Schwartzman, Will Smith, Ang Lee
Klaus might’ve turned out to be the best Christmas movie of the decade. Filled with a gorgeous aesthetic of the northern hemisphere and a touch of nostalgic feel in the animation, it’s a heartfelt take on a Santa Claus’ origin story. With all that being said, the best part of it all might be that it doesn’t rely solely on Christmas time, it has a rewatchability factor in it for any season.
There’s a lot of things working for Klaus. The biggest thing perhaps is the story as conducted by director and co-writer Sergio Pablos, which was a genuine surprise with its slight left turns when compared to other movies about Santa. They made the plot refreshing and also a moment in the last third of the film hit much harder because of them. The voice acting is some of the best when it comes to recent animated films—headlined by Jason Schwartzman (as postman Jesper), J. K. Simmons (as toymaker Klaus) and Rashida Jones (as Alva, a teacher and Jesper's love interest)—and their characters are introduced to a viewer with ease while also making you care about them. One nice touch also is leaving out the translations for the Sámi language, highlighting the emotions that come through without them.
Klaus is one of the rare films where there’s no real downsides to it but also doesn’t quite have the it factor. There are some minor pacing issues in the middle third that rush the plot forward a bit too much but it doesn’t worsen the movie much. When it comes to animated features though, this competes for the best of the year.
Smileys: Story, voice acting, characterisation, tone
Frowneys: Some issues with pacing
A must-add for your Christmas movie rotation.
Gemini Man was a rather mellow and unsatisfying journey. Director Ang Lee’s latest shows up with a familiar premise of a hitman facing their biggest challenge yet but despite taking advantage of modern technology, it doesn’t bring much to the table. It could be described as a rollercoaster ride that speeds up steadily but there’s not much thrill along the way.
The de-aging technology admittedly comes off very well. It’s less distracting here than last seen on 'The Irishman' for example, though it’s also helpful that with Will Smith, his character Henry is only 25-or-so years younger. Speaking of Smith, he does a good enough job as the lead even when working with subpar material. Benedict Wong is the real delight in this one whenever he’s on the screen and there is a certain motorbike sequence that uses POV effectively to bring some excitement to the film.
What makes Gemini Man not very thrilling is its story. From the beginning it seems like we’re building up to something but turns out that there’s really no payoff in the end. The material given to the actors is very surface-level and it’s hard to feel any kind of interest in Mary Elizabeth Winstead or Clive Owen’s performances. Shot in 120 frames per second with ambitious vision from Lee, the film is a real eyesore visually and the action as well as fight scenes look silly—there's no better word for it, really. To call this disappointing would be overselling it since it feels like that this is as good as it could’ve ever gotten.
Smileys: VFX, Benedict Wong
Frowneys: Story, Clive Owen, cinematography
This sniper is really just shooting blanks here.