Movie Reviews: The Big Sick; 47 Metres Down; Captain Underpants

The Big Sick ****

47 Metres Down ***

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie ****

 

Multi-cultural confusion provides much of the comedy in The Big Sick (15A), in which aspiring stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) falls for Emily (Zoe Kazan). What starts out as a light-hearted rom-com, however, suddenly veers into tragedy when Emily is struck down with a mysterious illness. Based on real-life events, with Kumail Nanjiani in charming form playing himself, The Big Sick is a delightfully unorthodox love story.

Emily falls ill at a time when both she and Kumail are shying away from commitment, with Kumail’s parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff), immigrants from the old country, demanding that Kumail marry a girl of Pakistani heritage; meanwhile, Kumail finds himself persona non grata with Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) when he tries to visit the comatose Emily in the hospital.

Written by Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, and directed by Michael Showalter, the story rarely puts a foot wrong, seamlessly blending the awkward mix of comedy and heartbreak and deftly juggling a number of themes. Indeed, the movie’s only fault is inescapable given its adherence to the true story that inspired it: Zoe Kazan is so dazzlingly radiant as the acerbic Emily that when her character lapses into a coma, the entire movie seems to dim in her absence, even if Emily’s hospitalisation allows for the belated arrival of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, with the latter in particularly good form as a hapless father. All told, however, The Big Sick is a very funny rom-com and a gripping emotional drama, and something of a refreshing change in the midst of a blockbuster-dominated summer.

47 Metres Down (15A) offers a brilliantly chilling set-up, as sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) step into a shark cage whilst on holidays in Mexico, only for the cage to malfunction, plummet into the depths, and leave Kate and Lisa marooned on the ocean floor in the company of a ravenous 30-foot shark.

Written by Ernest Riera and Johannes Roberts, with Roberts directing, 47 Metres Down is a stripped-back thriller that brings to mind last year’s The Shallows, although here the action takes place in the shark’s domain, with the sisters’ air supply running out fast. It’s an existential horror, then, and one given a nightmarish quality due to the darkness of the underwater setting and Kate and Lisa’s sluggish, slow-mo attempts to extricate themselves from their cage and re-establish contact with the boat they hope has not abandoned them.

A terrific premise, then, but one which grows increasingly implausible with every attempt Lisa and Kate make to escape; meanwhile, the fact that the sisters are virtually indistinguishable behind their scuba masks means that the story struggles to maintain its emotional grip. Indeed, you may well find yourself admiring the technical excellence of the underwater filming at the expense of caring for the characters, and perhaps even wondering, as the Kate and Lisa’s schemes to escape grow ever more improbable, if the Fonz might not wander by in search of a shark to jump. Initially terrifying, 47 Metres Down doesn’t fully deliver on its promise as a high concept thriller, although anyone who gets their vicarious kicks from claustrophobia, aquaphobia or galeophobia (anyone else think it’s odd we need a word for ‘fear of sharks’?) will certainly get their money’s worth.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (G) centres on middle-school pranksters George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), who combine a talent for making comic books with an healthy disrespect for authority. When they accidentally hypnotise their bullying headmaster, Mr Krupp (Ed Helms), into believing he is the superhero Captain Underpants, the boys believe they have the world at their feet — until arch-villain Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) arrives on the scene with his evil plot to eradicate laughter forever. Adapted by Nicholas Stoller from Dav Pilkey’s best-selling kids’ books, and directed by Dreamworks veteran David Soren, Captain Underpants (his ‘costume’ is based on the fact that all superheroes fly around in their underwear) offers inventive animation, superbly controlled chaos, a terrific appreciation for comic timing, and a quality of absurdist humour that can trace its ancestry back to Monty Python and The Goons.

Gleefully irreverent, relentlessly subversive, the movie champions the creatively anarchic spirit represented by George and Harold, who refuse to be cowed by their headmaster’s ham-fisted attempts to limit their imaginations, and laugh in the face of Professor Poopypants’ bid to make laughter extinct.



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