Friday, June 17, 2022

'Cha Cha' really dances; 'Lightyear' nicely animates; gentle 'Leo' surprises

"Cha Cha Real Smooth" offers a title that comes from a gifted party-starter at bat and bar mitzvahs, of all things, but entertains with its sensitivity, warmth and a cast that never quits. Oh, yeah, it's often true-to-life funny, too.

Writer and director Cooper Raiff, 25, plays the recent college grad, always looking for a real job, with a chutzpah that likely accounts for his own precocious filmmaking skills. His non-Jewish Andrew can talk dirty in front of a rabbi, hit on a single mom (the terrific and lovely Dakota Johnson), protect her autistic daughter (legitimate scene-stealer Vanessa Burghardt) from bullies, and easily love and or hate his sweet young brother (Evan Assante), who's smitten with a classmate that only rarely converses with him.

Despite one overly precious kitchen scene he shares with a bipolar mom (the otherwise fine Leslie Mann), Raiff charges full speed into a dramedy that should make him a recognizable name for years to come. Already his "Cha Cha" has twirling onto the short list of best movies in 2022.

("Cha Cha Real Smooth" is playing in a few select theaters, including the Cedar Lee in northeast Ohio, and streaming on Apple+.)  

Rated "R" by MPAA: language and some sexual content; 1:47; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

"Lightyear," only in theaters, starts before the "Buzz" in the immensely popular "Toy Story" movies took off in 1995. In fact, an opening burst of script tells us this is the movie which human kid Andy saw, then caused him to buy the "Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger" action figure that came to life with Woody and the rest of the "Toy" gang way back at the end of the last century.

But, man, that's a full 27 years ago, and a nice message movie that attempts to make Andy's hero then into a team player and not show off the self-centered traits he has displayed in the franchise that created him causes a disconnect in time travel. Or somethin'.

Regardless, even without any real breath-taking adventure here, the as-usual, sparkling Pixar animation and a remarkable robotic cat named Sox become the key reasons to see it today. Believe me when I say it surely won't take nearly three decades to create a "Sox" film.

Rated "PG" by MPAA: for action/peril; 1:45; $ $ $ out of $5

"Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" features a pair of truly grand performances in a two-hander of four acts (and sorry if we're talking both theatrical and sexual connotations here).

That's because the ever-superb Emma Thompson, as a sixtysomething widow who never has been fulfilled during lovemaking, hires the 40-years-younger title character to turn the, uh, trick. Certainly charming and handsome leading man Daryl McCormack looks and acts more than capably enough to do it, and the script from first-time screenwriter Katy Brand sizzles with wit and an uncommonly consistent sense of where can we possibly go next?

Then, just when you think that director Sophie Hyde and her nifty adult production might be running off the tracks, a curve from a third character helps set the stage for a final, incredibly unexpected money shot that might knock more than your socks off.

What definitely can be expected now, though, are significant mainstream (acting) offers for McCormack and more water-cooler talk about the brave Ms. Thompson than she's ever heard before in a distinguished, 35-year career.

("Good Luck to You, Leo Grand" is streaming exclusively now on Hulu.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: sexual content, graphic nudity and some language; 1:47; $ $ $ $ out of $5

No comments: