Bil’s rating (out of 5): 0
USA, 2020. Golden Girl, Get Lifted Film Company, Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Screenplay by David E. Talbert. Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin. Produced by Kristin Burr, Mike Jackson, John Legend, David McIlvain, Lyn Sisson-Talbert, David E. Talbert. Music by John Debney, Michael Diskint. Production Design by Gavin Bocquet. Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by Joe Galdo, Virginia Katz, Michael Tronick.
In this incomprehensible mess of a Christmas movie, a regal Phylicia Rashad sits with her grandchildren and narrates a story about a long-ago inventor whose best work was stolen by one of the workers in his shop, including a tiny robotic gigolo action figure (voiced by Ricky Martin) that becomes the thief’s demonic advisor. Decades later the old inventor (played by Forest Whitaker) is alone in a dilapidated building that he mostly operates as a barely-thriving pawn shop, while the traitor (Keegan-Michael Key) has turned his stolen designs into a magnificent toymaking empire. Things change when Whitaker’s estranged daughter (the lovely Anika Noni Rose) sends her young daughter Journey (Madalen Mills) to visit and get to know her grandfather, and the spirited young woman turns out to be just as intelligent and creative as the old man and a whole lot bolder. Teaming up with Edison (Kieron L. Dyer), a young aspiring inventor who is always visiting the shop, she goes on a quest to put things right, while Whitaker fends off the affections of a very amorous postal worker who can’t take no for an answer. The cast periodically breaks out into song throughout this offensively overlong production, the musical numbers seeming very desperate to recapture the popularity of The Greatest Showman, while the film’s rich and colourful look, sort of a Steampunk Emerald City, seems to set a Hallmark movie in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, but the richer that the surface aspects of this film look, the more it is obvious that the substance is lacking. There is no strong sense of who these characters are and nothing that happens is dramatically satisfying or even engaging, what is actually happening before your eyes makes very little sense for two hours and isn’t helped by the desperately strained efforts to make the kids as cute as possible at every turn (and we all know that when kids try too hard to be cute, that’s when they need to be sent to an orphanage). Perhaps the very young will be delighted by it, but I can’t even see kids watching this godawful mess without wondering what they’re rooting for and where the payoff is.