Friday, January 18, 2013

Mama Movie Review

Jessica Chastain in Andrés Muschietti's Mama

From our friends at DC Film Review

Don’t Just Say It: Mama Knocks You Out

Being a movie critic has its obvious perks; but every now and then, we’re left with difficult decisions. Lest you think it’s deciding between a small and medium popcorn, we sometimes have to pick one movie to review over another (After all, there are only so many days in a week.) This week’s conundrum was Broken City vs. Guillermo del Toro’s Mama. Normally, I’d be all over anything with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, but del Toro’s name carries a lot of weight in my book... plus Mama has the red-hot Jessica Chastain in its corner, and a really cool trailer. Toss in the fact that part of the film was shot in the nation’s capital and my choice was pretty simple.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Guillermo del Toro presents Mama, a supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their mother was murdered. When they are rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night. The day their father killed their mother, sisters Victoria and Lilly vanished near their suburban neighborhood. For five long years, their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain), have been madly searching for them. But when, incredibly, the kids are found alive in a decrepit cabin, the couple wonders if the girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home.

Director: Andrés Muschietti (He directed the 3-minute short Mamá, on which the film is based. Del Toro serves as executive producer only.

What’s Best: In order for me to take a horror film seriously (yet alone, enjoy it) it has to be old school... preferably light on gore, and heavy on suspense. Mama is that and then some. The film’s premise is original and its actors more than convincing... especially Oscar nominee Chastain, who once again transforms herself into someone totally unrecognizable. Meryl Streep may be the best actress in the biz, but Chastain is certainly becoming its greatest chameleon.

Chills abound (some obvious, some not so much) and there’s just enough levity to some of them (a tug of war between one of the kids and Mama, leaps to mind) to keep things enjoyable. Speaking of the kids, kudos to Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse for playing sisters Victoria and Lilly with unabashed panache. Whether they’re jumping about like gremlins, sleeping under the bed or offering good advice (‘Don’t go in the closet’) these kids make the movie.

What’s Not: Right up to the end, I was ready to anoint Mama as the best scary film in quite some time; but it falls prey to the dreaded “I can’t think of a good ending” curse. Muschietti takes his foot off the gas, and ends his movie with a whimper. No longer scary, Mama becomes a CGI-infused bore in the final 5-10 minutes... Not enough to ruin it, but enough to send me home quasi-disappointed.

Best Line: Annabel has plenty of spunky responses to life’s ups and downs, ‘Thank you God... Sweet! Guess who’s not pregnant?’ but nothing compares to her reply to an overbearing aunt’s ‘How are they?’ ‘Outdoorsy.”

Overall: Chastain can add inked rocker to her already impressive resume of characters. Each time I see her, she’s different.... but no less brilliant than her last turn. Mama compares favorably with 2009’s Orphan, with one notable exception... Mama. I’d prefer to leave her sight unseen; but today’s audiences expect some type of CGI magic, don’t they? Popping in and out of the wall can’t compare with a then 3 year-old Victoria observing, ‘Daddy, there’s a woman outside. She’s not touching the floor.’ Let your imagination run wild: It always serves you best.

Grade: B