DALLAS — Families and movie-lovers have plenty to choose from at the theater this holiday weekend.
House of Gucci
In one scene, Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, makes the sign of the cross by saying "Father, Son and House of Gucci." I'm afraid this film needs a special blessing.
Gaga's Patrizia does accounting for her father's trucking business in Italy. She meets Maurizio Gucci at a party. We all know his family business is leather goods... the finest! Patrizia conjures up all her feminine wiles, and before you know it, they're walking down the aisle! But that's not enough for the social climber.
Soon she pushes her charmless husband into claiming a bigger part of the family business. She butters up his Uncle Aldo, played by Al Pacino. He sure doesn't want the business to go to his son, played by Jared Leto. If Maurizio is charmless, Leto's Paolo is clueless! The scheme is not going well. Soon the tax collector threatens Patrizia's wealth, and she hires a hitman to get rid of her husband.
There's enough glamour and drama for a movie here, no doubt, but "House of Gucci" comes up short, despite its long running time.
It's Ridley Scott's second film of the season ("The Last Duel"), and it just lacks punch. I've never seen Adam Driver with less charisma. Leto overacts. Gaga is the best thing, including her fashion. She stayed in character throughout filming, but some say her Italian accent sounds more like Russian. (I'm no linguist, so I couldn't say.) I can say it's all over-the-top and frankly underwhelming.
(MGM. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs. 37 mins. In Theaters Only.)
If Gucci is a fashion house, "Encanto" is a magical one. It's the latest from Walt Disney animation, the 60th, can you believe it! Tragedy befell a Colombian grandma 'Abuela,' when she was a young mother. But she was granted a miracle: that magical house tucked away in the mountains.
Along with that came magical powers for her children and their descendants. There's a strong granddaughter who can lift several donkeys (comes in handy) and one who embodies perfection (she looks like Kim Kardashian). You get the picture. Everyone's blessed except for the lead character, Mirabel. The house begins to crack, family powers are fading, and Mirabel sets out to figure what's happening before it's too late.
Some of the messaging may be too dark or too deep for the youngest kiddos, but this is a colorfully beautiful movie. Disney animators continue to refine their work. You can even see freckles and fingernails! Lin-Manuel Miranda is everywhere these days, isn't he? (Director of Tick, Tick...Boom!) Well, guess who wrote the songs for "Encanto!" Though you don't exactly walk out singing them, they're a clever, sturdy mix of folk, hip-hop and ballad. "Encanto," as a whole, may enchant you!
(Walt Disney Animation. Rated PG. Running Time 1 hr. 39 mins. In Theaters Only.)
Brace yourself. I've found a movie where Joaquin Phoenix actually cracks a smile! "C'mon C'mon" is based on writer/director Mike Mills' family. Phoenix plays Johnny, a journalist on public radio. He travels around the country interviewing kids about their worries and hopes for the future.
His sister needs to go out of town to help her husband seek treatment for bipolarity, so Johnny ends up babysitting his precocious nephew, played by Woody Norman. They end up forging a relationship Johnny never wanted and never saw coming but ends up welcoming. In fact, when they end up traveling out of town together for Johnny's work, he becomes downright protective when the kid strays.
Phoenix ad-libbed a lot of his interviews with the kids. They're so open and honest, they become a highlight of the movie. Mills shot in black and white, lending to the journalistic feel of the film. He previously created another charmer, 2010's "Beginners," which earned an Oscar for the late Christopher Plummer as an elderly man who comes out as gay late in life.
Mills clearly has a way of collaborating to get very authentic performances. Maybe it's because Phoenix is a new father, too, but it's certainly his most relaxed, dare I say, endearing work.
(A-24. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 40 mins. In Theaters Only.)
Remember back in the '80s when a Nintendo gaming system was the coolest thing around and the only gift you wanted under the tree? That's the premise of "8-Bit Christmas."
Neil Patrick Harris stars as a dad recounting to his daughter how he and his buddies went to great lengths to try to get their hands on one as kids. Only the richest kid in town owned one, and he invites only the luckiest to play with him. Of course, the boy's dad, played by Steve Zahn, refuses to allow one in the house.
When a gaming system is the grand prize of scouts' wreath-selling campaign, boy do they sell those wreaths! When that fails, they pull a stealth mission on a field trip to buy one. It doesn't work out, and soon the tech toys are banned in their hometown. What's a kid to do!
"8-Bit Christmas" is from the studio that made "Elf," but it wants to be more like "Christmas Story," tapping into nostalgia and featuring a rag-tag group of kids. It won't become a classic, but it is entertaining, especially if you were a boy at that time. And the ending featuring a twist involving the dad will leave a lump in your throat bigger than a Christmas cookie the mom will never let you eat.
(HBO Max. Rated PG. Running Time 1 hr. 37 mins. Streaming.)