[REVIEW] ‘Black Widow’ or Nice to See Natasha Kick-Butt Again

There are many factors which go into making the Marvel Cinematic Universe as successful as it is. The detailed planning, consistent execution and overall inspiring experiences make for films that even at their worst are competent blockbusters people enjoy. However, the most important key to their success is their remarkable knack for casting and ability to build affection for their characters. We are forgiving of the flaws of a film because we love the characters and are attached to their stories within the MCU.

Such is the case with Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow. We are attached to her character and Scarlett Johansson in the role that even in an imperfect film we are happy to be spending time with our old friend. This is especially true in this case because of losing her in Avengers: Endgame so sadly.

It is also our affection for Black Widow that made us all want her to have her own movie much sooner. While comforting to see her again on the screen, it can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity that she couldn’t have been a more celebrated part of the Infinity War narrative and not just a supporting player. In some ways the new Black Widow movie feels a little like an apology for all the fans who wish Marvel had the guts to release a Black Widow film way back in phase 1 as opposed to now in phase 4. Also the fact that both female superhero films in the MCU have been prequels feels more than a little safe and strange. Be braver Marvel!!

That said, what did I think of the film we got? Overall I enjoyed it. I certainly thought it was much better than I expected it to be and I had a good time with it.

If you recall in Avengers Age of Ultron we get a little peak into Natasha’s past with the ‘Red Room’ where she was trained to be the super spy we all know her to be. This new movie, Black Widow, elaborates on that vision and takes us back to the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

Natasha is on the run and trying to find out more information about the organization behind the ‘Red Room’ that is trying to stop her from being an avenger. This includes reconnecting with her ‘family’ played by Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and Florence Pugh.

The best part about Black Widow is the interactions between the family and particularly the dynamic between Natasha and Pugh’s Yelena. They have great chemistry and feel like actual sisters. Weisz is underused as Melina but Harbour is also charming as Alexei or Red Guardian.

Because we like all of these characters it’s fun to see them fighting off bad guys while exchanging witty banter. That dynamic is what makes the MCU terrific. The action was also all enjoyable without being too memorable. It did the job. The villains are serviceable for this story even if I will not remember them by the time the next Marvel movie comes along. The MCU isn’t about villains. It’s about heroes, and I like these heroes.

I do think Black Widow pushes its luck at 134 minutes and there are times it drags. The action isn’t memorable enough to sustain the runtime and because we know what happens with Natasha the stakes are never very present.

Recently on twitter I said

What I mean by that is Wonder Woman 84 (which I gave a marginal recommendation) was narratively messy but it really tried hard to talk about big themes and take its characters on a big story. Black Widow doesn’t do any of that. It is way cleaner and succeeds in making a fun, competent action movie. Like I said, it’s a better movie than Wonder Woman 84 but it doesn’t try as hard either. So it comes down to what you want out of a film. Do you want a satisfying but perhaps forgettable blockbuster or do you want something that swings and a lot of the times misses? I can see arguments for both.

I went to see Black Widow with my niece and we had a great time together. It earns its PG-13 rating but if you do take your teens and pre-teens they will have a great time. It will be interesting to see how they use Yelena in the future (stay for post-credit scene). I look forward to seeing more of Pugh.

While not perfect and a bit too late, Black Widow combines kick-butt action with the best family in the MCU to make for a fun ride!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘The Boss Baby: Family Business’ or What Did I Just Watch?

Believe it or not there was a time when DreamWorks Animation was a prestige studio making gorgeous masterpieces like The Prince of Egypt and How to Train Your Dragon.

And now we have this…

How far DreamWorks has sunk. I didn’t understand the appeal of the first The Boss Baby film but now a sequel so obviously devoid of ideas it makes me both irritated and upset.

But hold on. Let me calm down so we can talk about the positives of The Boss Baby: Family Business…there are a few. First, I wish the movie had abandoned the baby nonsense and been about young Tabitha trying to fit in at the gifted and talented school. Those scenes were good and her character was compelling. I especially liked a musical dance sequence to Cat Stevens ‘If You Want to Sing Out’. It is unquestionably the highlight of the film.

The animation is also well done with some nice uses of 2D in dream sequences and the score by Hans Zimmer works well for the story.

And then there is all the baby nonsense with Ted (Alec Baldwin) and Tim (James Marsden replacing Tobey Maguire) all grown up getting turned back into babies to help the new boss Baby Tina (Amy Sedaris) defeat Jeff Goldblum baby from taking over the world.

To say I dislike this baby world and story would be an understatement. Evidently it appeals to others but not me. I hate the design of the characters especially the adults with the bulbous heads and giant eyes. I hate the story with the brothers fighting and then being turned back into babies. Groan.

Most of all I hate the humor. It’s for the most part crass, unappealing and lazy. For example, there’s a scene in this movie that has the 2 adult babies fighting and pulling each other’s nipples while ‘Time Warp’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show accompanies them. You know for kids…

And there are so many jokes only adults will understand like references to Shawshank Redemption and other R rated films into the script. I can laugh at puerile humor when done well but this was so bland and didn’t get a chuckle out of me. If you liked the first one maybe you’ll enjoy this more than I did. I really can’t say but it is at best lukewarm versions of old jokes.

Watching The Boss Baby: Family Business was one of those moments where I think to myself ‘what am I doing with my life watching this?”. There is so much quality entertainment right now for kids that don’t waste your time with this terrible film (except for Tabitha. That was good)

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Boss Baby: Family Business will be available in theaters and on Peacock July 2nd