‘Insidious 2’ Just Doesn’t Deliver; ‘The Family’ Has Hits But Also Misses

insidiousMOVIE REVIEW – ‘INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2’

Movie Info

The famed horror team of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell reunite with the original cast of Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye and Ty Simpkins in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, a terrifying sequel to the acclaimed horror film, which follows the haunted Lambert family as they seek to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.

PG-13, 1 hr. 45 min.

Mystery & Suspense, Horror

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

In case you hadn’t noticed, James Wan has become Hollywood’s latest It Boy director.

Reviewed by Chris Nashawaty
@ChrisNashawaty .
PAPER, SNOW, A GHOST! Insidious: Chapter 2 fails to deliver on the promise of the first film More reviews about this film Powered by MRQE.com

In case you hadn’t noticed, James Wan has become Hollywood’s latest It Boy director. After launching his career with the cleverly gory first installment in the Saw franchise in 2004, he’s continued to crank out effectively lean low-budget chillers like 2007’s Death Sentence, 2011’s Insidious, and this summer’s white-knuckle sensation, The Conjuring. Not surprisingly, the studio suits took notice: Next up, the 36-year-old’s hot hand will be grabbing the wheel on The Fast and the Furious 7, in which Vin Diesel no doubt will be forced to slice Paul Walker’s Achilles’ tendon before he can step on the gas pedal.
Before Wan could segue over to grease-monkeyland, though, he apparently had one more obligation to scratch off his to-do list: the shambling, so-so possession sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2. Picking up where the first movie left off, Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell’s follow-up reunites us with the unlucky Lambert clan. Mom and dad (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) have rescued their son from a demonic netherworld thanks to Lin Shaye’s smilingly spooky medium, Elise. The voyage back from the beyond cost Elise her life and also seems to have let another evil genie out of the bottle. Could that be why Wilson’s Josh is acting so strangely? It turns out that he has a haunted past of his own. So his mother (Barbara Hershey) calls in Elise’s old ghost-busting partner (Steve Coulter), who uses a set of what looks like old Boggle dice to communicate with the spirit world in an attempt to get to the bottom of why this family is such a juicy target for unhappy souls on the other side. A pair of nerdy paranormalists straight out of a lesser Scooby-Doo episode lend a hand.
The problem is, Wan is reaching into the same old grab bag of shock scares, creaky-door sound effects, and ominous baby monitor voices he used in the far better original Insidious. He’s recycling the same old tired tropes with diminishing returns. Here, the messy story and cartoony performances seem to be the result of the film’s overriding commercial imperative to wring more bucks out of a franchise that should have begun and ended with the first film. Its lack of both originality and any real memorable moments feels shameless and lazy. Adding insult, the movie ends on a cliffhanger, guaranteeing that Insidious: Chapter 3 will soon be coming to a theater near you. They should quit while they still have some audience goodwill left. C-

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the familyMOVIE REVIEW – ‘THE FAMILY’

Movie Info

In the off-beat action comedy “The Family,” a mafia boss and his family are relocated to a sleepy town in France under the witness protection program after snitching on the mob. Despite the best efforts of Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) to keep them in line, Fred Manzoni (Robert DeNiro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their children Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) can’t help but revert to old habits and blow their cover by handling their problems the “family” way, enabling their former mafia cronies to track them down. Chaos ensues as old scores are settled in the unlikeliest of settings in this darkly funny film by Luc Besson (Taken, Transporter).

R, 1 hr. 52 min.

Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Comedy

Reviewed by Mark Olsen
www.latimes.com
Movie review: ‘The Family’s’ mob story has hits and misses
Luc Besson’s messy fish-out-of-water film starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer has fun moments but doesn’t add up to much.

French filmmaker Luc Besson has long been among the world’s finest purveyors of classy trash, making movies that are a combination of glossy style and gritty action. From his own films as director such as “La Femme Nikita” and “The Professional” to more recent efforts on which he served as producer and screenwriter like “Transporter” and “Taken,” Besson has a knack for entertainment that is somehow smart and dumb, flashy and yet wise. His latest, “The Family,” with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, walks the same line.

“The Family” finds Besson in director, producer and co-screenwriter mode, adapting Tonino Benacquista’s novel “Malavita” into a messy brew that is a bit too slack to get all the way to actually being good. “The Family” might be the movie equivalent of backyard sangria, a bunch of stuff thrown together into something unsubtle but that nevertheless has a kick all its own.

The film stars De Niro as a New York mob boss turned FBI informant who has been placed in hiding in France with his wife (Pfeiffer) and children (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) to keep him safe from those who would still want him dead. De Niro has already traded so often on the intensity of his “Godfather” and “Goodfellas” screen presence that it’s hard to remember when he was playing such a part in a straight, non-referential way. Likewise, Pfeiffer’s presence brings to mind her roles from “Married to the Mob” and “Scarface.”

The film is rooted in the comedy of manners of a family of swaggering old-school mob types fumbling their way through life in a provincial French country town. (That so many of the townsfolk speak English is likely a matter of simple practicality.) Their pursuers close in even as they settle into their new lives. De Niro’s character passes himself off as a writer to explain why he hangs around the house all day and is invited to speak at the local film society. Instead of the print of “Some Came Running” with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, they are mis-shipped a copy of, well, something else.

The film then pushes into an atmosphere of self-awareness and referentiality that threatens to topple into clever cuteness in the same way as Julia Roberts being mistaken for Julia Roberts in “Ocean’s Twelve.” Besson shrewdly manages to use the teetering uncertainty of the moment to toss the film into an even higher gear of out-of-control mayhem as hit men arrive to attack De Niro and Co. The neighbors, the dog — no one is safe.

The thing that saves the movie time and again is Besson’s uncanny ability to shift tone, sometimes even within a single sequence, from light comedy to serious action, to genuine emotion and even romance.

A running gag on the varied meanings and usage of the f-bomb is hit on just enough. And while De Niro and Pfeiffer make their way through the story’s paces well enough, it’s actually “Glee’s” Agron who makes a surprising impression, sliding from the innocent ingénue to manipulative murderess with ease.

Throughout, Besson serves up red meat action with the sweet feel of a confectionary, making his fun, forgettable “The Family” both better than might be expected and still not much of anything at all.

mark.olsen@latimes.com

 

 

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