Josh Gad

REVIEW: Little Monsters (2019)

When washed-up musician Dave (Alexander England) volunteers to accompany his nephew Felix’s (Diesel La Torraca) kindergarten class on a school trip, he doesn’t expect to have to team up with the teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) and kids TV presenter Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad) to protect the children from zombies.

Going into this film all I knew of it was that Lupita Nyong’o goes up against zombies, so the fact this film starts with a couple continuously arguing in public whether it’s in a supermarket or at a restaurant with friends did make me wonder how it got to the hook I knew of. One half of that arguing couple is Dave and while the third act does try and redeem him and make him a less selfish character it’s almost too late as he’s such an insufferable, self-obsessed guy for the majority of the film that it’s difficult to actually care about him. His relationship with his nephew does work (even though he’s definitely not a responsible adult or decent role model a lot of the time) though that’s mostly down to how sweet the young actor playing Felix is.

In fact, all the young actors are great and it’s the juxtaposition of their cuteness and innocence with the bloody zombies that makes Little Monsters work. Once the story brings Dave and Miss Caroline together, and in fact gives her a more prominent role, the film works a lot better for me. Nyong’o is fantastic as the teacher who will do anything in her power to protect her children and to make sure they aren’t scared.

Little Monsters is a horror comedy and while personally the comedy side of things wasn’t particularly laugh out loud funny, the way Miss Caroline protects the children by pretending everything is a game is sweet and amusing. Her interactions with Teddy McGiggle are a highlight as you get to see the soft, kind teacher become no nonsense and firm in a whole different way. In fact, having Gad playing against type works pretty well here as this is a children’s TV presenter who does not like children and does not do well in a crisis.

If you’re looking for a more light-hearted horror film then Little Monsters might work for you. The zombies look suitably bloody and gruesome and but having the focus being on a kindergarten class almost adds an air of safety to proceedings – because would they really allow zombies to maul some adorable little kids? 3/5.

REVIEW: Artemis Fowl (2020)

When his father (Colin Farrell) is kidnapped, child prodigy Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must find a missing magical artefact and battle against powerful fairies in order to rescue him.

I shall preface this by saying the Artemis Fowl series was one of my favourites as a child. I read them from roughly the ages of 9 – 14 and though it’s been a good while since I’ve read the source material there are some things that have stuck with me for all these years. In the books, Artemis Fowl is an antihero, with the emphasis on the anti. He is a criminal mastermind and his parents are not a major part of the story at all, in fact he gets involved with the world of magical creatures because he kidnaps one and wants money and secrets. The film version may use a few elements of the plot of the book (and brings in a villain from later books) the end product is mostly unrecognisable.

Part of this may be down to Artemis Fowl going through what is commonly known as production hell. There’s been a variety of directors and producers attached to the film over the years, and it has had multiple release dates before being dumped on Disney+. Also, there’s the antihero part. Artemis is not a nice boy, he is super smart and looks down on everyone, and is not above threats of (and carrying out) torture to get what he wants. This is the kind of lead character that doesn’t really suit the family-friendly Disney image. Though that was part of the reason the books stood out in the boom of young boy heroes like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Alex Rider.

The film begins with Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), a giant dwarf, being arrested and as he’s interrogated, he begins to narrate the story of Artemis Fowl and what transpired at Fowl Manor. This as a narrative device is weird to begin with. Sometimes the dialogue is as if Mulch is talking to an unseen integrator while at other times it’s as if he’s talking directly to the audience. I guess this choice was made as a way to give information about this magical world to the audience, but it ends up being jarring and the film would’ve worked just as well as a straightforward narrative.

This is Ferdia Shaw’s first role so we’ll have to see over the course of his career if he improves, but in Artemis Fowl his line delivery is often flat and he doesn’t do a good job at show much emotion on his face. Lara McDonnell, who plays kidnapped LEPRecon Officer Holly Short, isn’t given much to do – in fact in one of the big action sequences in Fowl Manor she gets stuck in a chandelier for the majority of the ensuing battle. That being said, I feel the cast did the best with what they were given. It’s not their fault they had a bland script with little character development, and the end product was often shoddily edited making their characters look disconnected from one another. Watching the trailers again after seeing the film is interesting as there’s so many shots shown that aren’t in the film and hint at whole scenes and plotlines having been cut.

Artemis Fowl has a trim runtime of 90 minutes but amazingly it feels longer. The action scenes aren’t exciting, the intrigue isn’t there, and the characters aren’t particularly memorable. Though Judi Dench growling out “Top of the morning” was the one and only time that I laughed. While Judi Dench may have been an odd choice for Commander Root (the character being a male fairy in the books for one thing) her growling, no nonsense attitude was one of the only enjoyable things to watch.

Artemis Fowl is an incredibly disappointing adaptation and is also a disappointing film. It tries to cram in a lot of lore and it repeatedly tells you things about the world and its characters rather than show you, or indeed having the things it tells you actually being relevant – for instance the film begins with Mulch waxing lyrically about how smart Artemis Fowl is, when a lot of what he does comes from what he’s just heard his father talk about rather than researching himself. Artemis Fowl ends up just being a dull, lifeless film with generic and unexciting action sequences, and is unlikely to be remembered fondly by anyone – both people new to this world and fans of the book. 1/5.