Out on Saturday 26 December
Ron Howard takes Chris Hemsworth for some plain whaling. Charlie Brown and the gang are back in 3D form. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of In The Heart Of The Sea, Daddy's Home and Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
Herman Melville's American-lit epic Moby Dick has been adapted for the screen a gazillion times (approximately), so kudos to Ron Howard for taking a slightly different approach, even if it never quite matches the resonance of Ahab's epic quest. Melville's text is still front and centre though: Ben Whishaw plays the fledgling author in a frame story, set in Nantucket, 1850. He's getting the inspiration for his most famous story from Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), the last living survivor of whaling vessel the Essex, destroyed at sea some 30 years earlier. The bulk of In The Heart Of The Sea's action takes place while the much younger Thomas (played in flashback by future Spider-Man Tom Holland) is a young cabin boy on the Essex, where tensions are flaring between the captain and the first mate. Howard's Rush star Chris Hemsworth is first mate Owen Chase, a working-class grafter who has the skills and experience to be captain, but the role is instead given to the less-experienced George Pollard Jr (Benjamin Walker), on account of his family connections. Stormy waters are ahead, with the men bickering through rough seas, but they have bigger fish (well, mammals) to fry when a giant white whale decides to send their ship to Davy Jones' Locker. Perfectly solid from start to finish, ITHOTS lacks the thrills that made Rush such a, yes, rush. It often holds you at arm's length, from the overly glossy cinematography that lends an artificial sheen it's hard to ever forget you're mostly watching made-up actors on a set to the not-strictly-essential frame story that occasionally interrupts the action. The best sequences reside in the mid-section: as the seamen hunt whales for their oil, Howard enlivens the pursuit with some unique camera angles. Performances, meanwhile, are decent across the board, with Holland reaffirming his screen presence after The Impossible. Hemsworth marshals the kind of authority you can imagine rallying behind in testing times, but the key rivalry has none of the depth of Rush's competitive protagonists. As such it's hard to really care about the characters, even as their situation grows ever more dire. Occasionally you'll catch the scent of a bigger idea (man versus nature, the morals of hunting, the cost of oil), but it quickly evaporates. Given the weighty themes of Moby Dick, In The Heart Of The Sea doesn't have a lot going on behind the outward action. The composite parts are in fine working order; it's the sum that's slightly lacking. THE VERDICT: At its best when chasing whales, Ron Howard's seafaring adventure is perfectly serviceable, but never next-level thrilling. For a story inspired by Moby Dick, it should be searching for something bigger. Director: Ron Howard Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Riley, Michelle Fairley Theatrical release: 26 December 2015 Matt Maytum
Will Ferrells First live-action family-friendly comedy since 2009s Land Of The Lost falls between two stools: arguably too saucy for kids, definitely too lame for adults. Ferrell plays Brad, a big softy who is stepdad to his wife Sarahs (Linda Cardellini) two kids. But when biological pop Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) arrives on the scene, fully intending to win his ex back, Brads manhood is more than challenged. As set-ups go, there is potential. Wahlberg is the cool father on the motorbike who can handle a toolbox and a skateboard like Jesse James and Mick Jagger had a baby, as Sarah puts it. Ferrell is all about caring, sharing and conflict resolution (he even works at a smooth-jazz radio station, run by Thomas Haden churchs goateed goof). Needless to say, the kids are delighted to see their real dad back on the beat and before you know it, hes staying in the family home. Theres the added complication that, due to an unfortunate dental accident, Brad cant get Sarah pregnant. This leads to one of the more amusing sequences, a visit to a fertility doc (Bobby Cannavale) arranged by Dusty, but such moments of inspiration are rare. Instead, we get a proliferation of poorly executed slapstick stunts Brad crashing Dustys bike; Brad hitting power cables after a skateboarding accident that fail to amuse. Wahlbergs role largely amounts to getting his pecs out or showing off his physical prowess (true, his one-handed chin-ups are impressive), while Ferrell, though more teary-eyed than usual, still gives a 100-decibel performance. Sadly, the best you can say is that its no worse than director/co-writer Sean Anders other comic misfires, Sex Drive, Thats My Boy and Horrible Bosses 2. THE VERDICT: Mildly amusing at best, this is largely a moribund comedy that struggles for big laughs. If you only see one Ferrell/Wahlberg team-up, make it The Other Guys. Director: Sean Anders Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church Theatrical release: 26 December 2015 James Mottram
SNOOPY AND CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE
Its not often you get the chance to start over with a clean slate! declares Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) in this computer-animated upgrade of Charles M. Schulzs beloved Peanuts comic strip. But its an opportunity that Ice Age creator Blue Sky largely spurns, deciding instead to celebrate the pared-down simplicity of its 65-year-old source material. OK, so the animators go to town on the aerial fantasy sequences in which Snoopys flying kennel does battle with the Red Barons biplane. And yes, Horton Hears A Who! director Steve Martino tinkers with the original by providing Charlies canine compadre with a poodle love interest (voiced non-verbally by Kristin Chenoweth) and by finally putting a face on the Little Red-Haired Girl whom Charlie is never courageous enough to talk to. But for the most part, Martino is content to serve up a Best Of compilation, recreating all the moments and characters you remember in gussied-up form. Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty theyre all here in an episodic narrative strung together by Charlies doomed romance. Fans of Schulzs single-panel masterpieces will expect nothing less. Yet while the fidelity is appealing, theres little here that takes the property forward. The fact that Schulzs son and grandson had a hand in the screenplay is an indicator of how closely they guard the family jewels. Had they taken a step back and let Blue Sky work its own brand of magic, the result might have been truly special, instead of just pleasurably nostalgic THE VERDICT: Lucys football remains unkicked in a charming pic that gives you everything you expect in glossy new packaging. Director: Steve Martino Starring: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Alex Garfin, Bill Melendez Previews: 5 December 2015 Theatrical release: 21 December 2015 Neil Smith