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‘Glass Onion’: A layered mystery

As the sun starts setting later and the wind gets colder, we all need a sunny, summer escape. “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” centers on private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig; “Casino Royale,” “No Time to Die”), returning from the film “Knives Out.” Blanc finds himself on a private island getaway with a billionaire and his influential, famous friends. The only issue? Benoit was never meant to show up. When people start turning up dead, the investigation begins.

I’m not going to touch upon the plot much, because I feel that the best way to go into this movie is blind, without knowing much at all about what will happen. I will talk about “Knives Out,” though. “Glass Onion” is a sequel to the 2019 mystery-comedy “Knives Out,” with writer/director Rian Johnson returning. While the last film was a traditional theatrical film release, “Glass Onion” is a bit more complicated. After the success of “Knives Out,” the rights for two sequels were quickly bought by Netflix. Netflix had a company first with “Glass Onion,” as they teamed with movie theater chains Regal, AMC and Cinemark to distribute the movie for one week only, a month before the movie’s release on Netflix. I was fortunate enough to see this “sneak preview,” but I cannot wait for the wide release in December to watch the film again.

The film is driven by a smart, witty script bolstered by a great cast that deliver the comedy and tension in equal measures, with standouts being Craig’s Benoit Blanc, the detective investigating the mystery played by Janelle Monáe (“Hidden Figures”) as Cassandra Brand, a scorned former business partner of the getaway’s benefactor, and Kate Hudson’s (“Almost Famous”) Birdie Jay, a former supermodel and current businesswoman who drives some of the film’s best comedic moments. This is just scratching the surface of the cast, with Edward Norton (“Fight Club”), Kathryn Hahn (“Parks and Recreation”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”) and Dave Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) rounding out the cast. With ensemble films, sometimes characters fall by the wayside. “Glass Onion” doesn’t have this problem, as every actor brings something to the table and makes the film stronger as a whole. 

The movie is hilarious, but that doesn’t mean it’s a parody of the murder-mystery genre. The movie brings a story filled with twists and shocking reveals that gives the film more complexity than one may initially think. “Knives Out” established traditions that carry over into “Glass Onion,” and I’m sure they will appear in the third film as well: a large, comedic ensemble cast; someone involved in the murder that he ropes into being his assistant; and lastly, a great soundtrack. The music in the first film drew from rock bands ranging from The Rolling Stones, Gordon Lightfoot and Roxy Music. “Glass Onion” has two prominent musicians utilized throughout the film: the music of David Bowie and the Beatles, with the film even deriving its title from the Beatles’ song of the same name. The movie features other musicians though, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Bee Gees both having songs in the film.

“Knives Out” is one of my favorite movies, and “Glass Onion” did not disappoint as a sequel. But that’s the thing. It has the same director, a returning star and character and a new murder. But is it really a sequel? The events of “Knives Out” are never acknowledged, with only a passing reference to one of the film’s elements. You don’t have to watch “Knives Out” to appreciate “Glass Onion.” If you’re a fan of the first film, I’m sure you’ll love “Glass Onion.” If you haven’t seen it? I’m still confident you’ll have a blast.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” comes out on Netflix Dec. 23, 2022.

Title: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton

Genre: Mystery, Comedy

If you like: “Knives Out,” “Only Murders in the Building,” “See How They Run”

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Contact Andy Ottone at aottone@nd.edu.

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‘Know that you are never alone’: Community, family mourns loss of ND sophomore

James “Jake” Blaauboer passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 11. Blaauboer was a sophomore at Notre Dame, veteran of the U.S. Army and avid runner, but most importantly, he was a brother, a son and a friend.

Born in December 1995, Blaauboer grew up in upstate New York in a small town called Clifton Park. He lived with his loving parents, Mary and James “Jim” Blaauboer, and younger sister Molly Blaauboer. 

Molly Blaauboer, only 20 months younger than Blaauboer, said she was always the “proud younger sister,” following behind Jake throughout their schooling. 

“Molly is very outgoing and social, and Jake was very reserved and would keenly observe,” their mother, Mary Blaauboer, explained. 

Jake and Molly Blaauboer grew up together in Clifton Park, New York with their parents, Mary and Jim Blaauboer. / Courtesy of Molly Blaauboer.

Right out of high school, Blaauboer enlisted in the U.S. Army, and then spent the next few years of his life in active and reserve duty, during most of which he was stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. 

After his service, Blaauboer started community college and applied to a myriad of other universities and colleges — one of which was the University of Notre Dame. Although his parents said they had no personal connection to Notre Dame, the family grew up watching Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish win football games. 

Blaauboer first transferred into the University in the fall of 2019, where he was a sophomore English major in St. Edward’s Hall. 

His family explained that although Blaauboer loved to read and write, he didn’t know what he wanted to accomplish with an English degree— which was why he took a leave of absence from the University in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

When he left Notre Dame, Blaauboer went directly into technical school where he learned to be a welder. Working with his hands was something that Blaauboer began during his time as the Army when he was randomly selected to be a mechanic, Molly Blaauboer said.  

“We’re getting outreach now about how great he was at being a mechanic and what a great soldier he was, which we totally believe, but it’s interesting to see the ripple,” she noted. 

After he finished technical school, the family said Blaauboer moved to Maine to work as a welder, far away from his hometown in New York. 

While the family was in Maine celebrating Easter 2022, Molly Blaauboer mentioned that Blaauboer announced his intention to return to Notre Dame unexpectedly. 

“This is completely out of the blue,” she said. “[He said,] ‘I have something to tell you guys … I’ve applied to be unparoled from Notre Dame.’”

Jake Blaauboer was only 20 months older than Molly, who said her teachers always liked to have another Blaauboer in their classrooms. / Courtesy of Molly Blaauboer.

Molly Blaauboer noted that this wasn’t unlike Blaauboer and that he often changed his mind about what he wanted to accomplish with his life. 

“I would joke about how I wonder what he wants to do this week,” she laughed. 

Mary Blaauboer explained that Blaauboer wasn’t happy as a welder because he needed something more intellectually stimulating. The family said he loved to debate politics, philosophy and history with anyone who would listen. 

“He’s an intellectual person, you know, he was a deep thinker. He was a reader,” Mary said. 

Blaauboer had to go through an entire re-entry process, Molly said, and finally found out he was retuning in July. So, in August 2022, now 26 year old Blaauboer moved to Notre Dame for the second time but as a history major instead. 

Because adjusting to college life can be hard — especially the second time — Notre Dame’s care and wellness consultants in the Center for Student Support and Care put together a support group filled with re-admitted students, including Blaauboer and fellow sophomore Ua Tom.  

Tom, a theology major and native of the Bronx in New York City, said he was originally a Gateway student, but he took time off from the University because he didn’t want his first semester at Notre Dame to be controlled by the COVID-19 pandemic. While away, Tom returned to NYC and was a teacher in Chinatown. 

“All of us re-admits, we have our mental health issues, for sure, every single one of us. But that’s also what got us close,” Tom noted. 

The support group, colloquially named “we back” by the members, met every Wednesday at 4 p.m., according to Tom. 

“Self-deprecation was the highest form of humor that we have for ourselves in that group. We dropped out but we’re back,” he joked. 

Tom explained that Blaauboer stood out as a natural mentor and leader of the group.

“When Jake spoke, people listened, he was just so earnest and genuine. Jake always checked up on me and was a wonderful influence on myself and the rest of the readmitted students,” Tom said. “He happily and naturally took on the role of an older brother and mentor, and whenever I saw him it would totally make my day. It was clear from the moment that I met him that he had a big heart. His positivity and compassion was contagious.”

Tom said he would never forget one moment when Blaauboer helped Tom during a difficult period of time.

“I’ll never forget when I was really having a tough time [at the beginning of the semester] when I was in the thick of [transitioning] and really struggling to focus on class,” he explained. “Jake gave me a hug. He told me he was there for me, and I wasn’t alone.”

Although he had only known Blaauboer for a short time, Tom noted how much of an impact Blaauboer had on him, saying that he wished they had spent more time together. 

“He really was a light of a human being. He was such an easily likable guy who was really gentle and kind,” he said. “In some ways, he knew us better than we knew ourselves.”

Apart from classes and the support group, Blaauboer was also active in the Notre Dame Running Club. Race coordinator for the club and Stanford Hall junior Jonathan Karr said Blaauboer was an active member of the group and often volunteered to drive the team to and from meets. 

“He was very supportive of the entire team. He took pictures when we ran, he wanted us to succeed, and he cheered for all the runners,” Karr said. 

Karr emphasized how deeply grateful he was for Blaauboer’s positive influence on the team and for him personally. 

“I was a very close friend with Jake, and he really helped the team,” Karr noted. “He really, really embodied what it means to be a Fighting Irish.”

The family also emphasized how important running, particularly the routine of the sport, was to Blaauboer.

“He was strict with himself,” Mary Blaauboer said. “Routine and ritual were important to him in every aspect. So, there was a routine for food and exercise and friendships and then the school and work and everything. For him, overlapping those things was uncomfortable.”

They said he also loved comedy and was a huge fan of movies. Overall, the Blaauboers said the outpouring of love they have received from family, friends, teammates and anyone who knew Blaauboer has meant a lot to them. 

“That’s an amazing blessing and comfort — to know that he’s remembered and prayed for,” Mary Blaauboer said.

The family said Jake Blaauboer loved movies, comedy and running. He would also debate politics or philosophy with anyone who would listen. / Courtesy of Molly Blaauboer.

Tom emphasized that anyone, who knew Blaauboer personally or not, can honor his memory by living fully and not being afraid to reach out to others.

“Live with the same spirit that he did,” Tom said. “Reach out and ask someone how they are doing, like he did for us.”

Fr. Pete McCormick, the inaugural assistant vice president for campus ministry, echoed Tom’s sentiment during Notre Dame’s mass of remembrance on Nov. 16.

“Sometimes words fail and can’t always communicate the depths of sorrow,” he said. “Be unafraid to reach out to a member of hall staff, the University Counseling Center (UCC) or campus ministry. Know that you are never alone.”

Contact Bella Laufenberg at ilaufenb@nd.edu.

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‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’: The quintessential biopic

Before I watched “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” I knew very little about “Weird Al” Yankovic. What I knew was that he wrote song parodies and that he played the accordion. That’s it. However, the movie is so full of extremely specific aspects of his life that I have no reason to doubt Weird Al. I’m taking everything the movie told me as truth. After all, who would lie in a biopic? 

Hoping my sarcasm transcended the page, the film revels in making up the most ridiculous lies they can about Yankovic’s life. The film presents dramatic origins for many of his songs, with the most outrageous being “Another One Rides the Bus,” “I Love Rocky Road,” “My Bologna,” “Eat It” and “Amish Paradise.” One of my favorite parts of the movie is how it presents certain songs, particularly “Eat It” and “Amish Paradise,” as written by Yankovic but stolen by other artists. Additionally, the film claims that he dated Madonna, was the world’s deadliest assassin and frequently assaulted music executives in states of rage. 

Now, the fictionalized history of his life isn’t just for comedic effect, but rather a natural extension of Yankovic’s style: taking what other artists have done and adding his own spin on it. The movie hits all the classic biopic notes, with clear inspiration from “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman,” which highlight: natural talent at a young age, unsupportive parents, artists meeting their collaborators, immediately becoming a jerk after success, experimenting with drugs, alcoholic rage, performing themselves to death, the lowest point in their career before they reach a new high and, finally, everyone forgiving the artist no matter how badly they treated others throughout the film.

While most biopics present their comeback after their “lowest low” as pivotal career moments, such as Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” or Queen’s performance at Live Aid, it was Yankovic’s performance of “Amish Paradise” at the 1985 Grammy Awards that sparked his comeback. Again, the only real information I have on his career is this movie, and I feel I know less after watching it than I did before, but I am confident “Gangsta’s Paradise” was a 1995 release. While historical inaccuracies are just a fact of the biopic genre, I’m confident this movie is more fictional than truthful. 

Nevertheless, the film’s writing is fantastic, with a lot of scenes that feel dead-serious until you get to a ridiculous line that reminds you what movie you’re watching. In the film’s world, polka is the height of debauchery. Only a biopic about Weird Al would have the lines, “I don’t know if it’s from God or the Devil, but the world needs to hear this” and “Pablo Escobar sends his regards.” While the writing is great on its own, it is carried by amazing performers that treat their roles with the utmost seriousness, heightening the absurdity of it all. Daniel Radcliffe portrays Al Yankovic, and he brings his all to the role. Evan Rachel Wood’s portrayal of the movie’s antagonist, Madonna, is unpredictable, always keeps the audience on their toes and has an insane character twist in the film’s third act. 

This movie is bizarre, but that just furthered my enjoyment. The performances being so earnest, as if it were a real biopic despite the ridiculous plot lines, on top of the self-awareness that writing parody music is a bizarre career path to gain fame from, makes the movie so much more enjoyable than the simple joke of “a dramatic biopic of Weird Al.” It takes that idea and elevates it into a film that is not only entertaining, but a poignant reflection on the musician biopic genre as a whole, making us ask ourselves, “When does exaggeration go too far?” The answer turns out to be insisting that Michael Jackson ripped off “Weird Al.”

Title: “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”

Director: Eric Appel

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson

If you liked: “This is Spinal Tap,” “Rocketman”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

Contact Andy Ottone at aottone@nd.edu.

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‘And a Movie’: The story of ‘Community’

“Six seasons and a movie.” For one fandom, this was more than a quote. It was a goal — an aspiration for the show that they loved. This is the story of the show “Community” and how its fans were just so dedicated to harassing NBC employees that the show managed to get saved from cancellation. 

“Community” debuted its first season on NBC in 2009 as part of their “Must See TV” comedy line. It centered on an oddball group of students at a community college, including a disbarred lawyer, former football star, a recovering addict and others. The show ran with the network for five years, receiving critical acclaim and a strong following, though actual viewing numbers remained lower than other comedies. Cancellation was always a risk, and the show danced dangerously close to the line. After NBC canceled the show after its fifth year, the show was picked up for its sixth, and final, season by Yahoo! Screen. 

During the show’s third season, NBC made an announcement that it was being removed from the mid-season lineup. Fans heard this news, and made the decision to protest outside of NBC’s New York headquarters. Their protests involved numerous references to the show, including (but not limited to): fake goatees, dressing as Christmas trees and chanting lines from the series. Fortunately for fans, the show was not canceled … yet. While season 3 would continue, season 4 was not announced, and the writers knew this. That is why the season 3 finale ended with a white screen with one phrase on it: “#sixseasonsandamovie,” a phrase adopted by fans in support of the show. The origins of the line are quite mundane: a character, known for their obsession with movies and television, made the statement about NBC’s (critically panned) drama “The Cape.” Despite the simplicity of the joke, fans latched onto the phrase.

While the show didn’t end with season 3, it was not without loss. Showrunner and writer Dan Harmon left season 4 due to creative differences with NBC. This season, featuring mostly new writers, is not fondly remembered by fans due to the perception that the characters changed for the worse. When Harmon returned for season 5, the show addressed these complaints, describing a year-long gas leak influencing the students. Season 5 was praised as a return to form, even with the departure of actor Chevy Chase after a verbal altercation on set. This was not the only departure the show faced this season, as fan-favorite Donald Glover left to further his career outside of the show, pursuing music under his alias Childish Gambino. As previously mentioned, season 6 was streamed on Yahoo! Screen, with the intention of it being the last season, honoring fan requests. This was in 2015. For seven years, fans had no information regarding the possibility of a film, just teases and mentions in interviews.  

On the morning of Sept. 30, 2022, NBC’s streaming service Peacock tweeted out an image simply saying “…and a movie.” The movie was officially announced, completing the prophecy born out of a throw-away line that fans just became overly attached to. While most of the cast has been announced to return, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown have not. However, in a charity reunion livestream, both actors said they would be open to a return for a hypothetical film. The movie has only been ordered, so there is plenty of time for them to announce involvement before production begins. 

The “Community” movie is the product of fan demand and cult following, similar to other projects such as the Snyder Cut of the “Justice League” movie, or fan support of a Ryan Reynold’s “Deadpool” film after test footage leaked online. The show, inadvertently at first, promised fans six seasons and a movie. Now, they’re ready to deliver.

Contact Andy at aottone@nd.edu.

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FTT’s “Pippin” does remarkably well

“Pippin” revolutionized Broadway at the time of its debut in 1972. With a daring structure and an innovation of metalanguage, the musical won five Tony Awards for telling the tale of Prince Pippin, the heir to the throne of King Charlemagne, which follows a troubled existential journey in search of the meaning of life. Told by a theatrical troupe, the saga is led by a Leading Player and the music of Stephen Schwartz, author of “Godspell” (1971), “Wicked” (2003) and winner of Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe awards. 

A narrative ensemble invites the audience to immerse themselves in the magic of theater and accompany the vicissitudes of Pippin’s turbulent life. In a journey of self discovery, he faces battles, experiences power, simplicity and love.

It is a musical with a lot more substance and layers than one might originally assume. “Pippin” is a cynical comedy that features an absolutely modern protagonist, full of doubts and questions and with an existential void that can never be fulfilled. So much so, it has been dubbed the “Hamlet” of musicals. He rejects old cliches and breaks with some traditions of the genre. As if that were not enough, it takes up the idea of ​​the “theater of life within the theater of stage” and invites a theatrical group and the figure of the Leading Player to tell the story.

When I first saw this musical in high school, I must admit I did not love it as equally, as I had grown rapidly passionate about other musicals I encountered. The meta aspect of “Pippin” was its most creative and interesting development, and the ending related a sincere and profound moral. However, if I would have only reviewed my experience of the musical then, I would rate “Pippin” a moderate  3 out of 5 shamrocks. There were moments when I felt the story was dragging, and the writers inserted reflective songs without much narrative development to compensate. The jokes grew overused and crude, distracting from the uneventful plot.

I am glad, however, that Notre Dame students managed to make my second experience of the show considerably more enjoyable. Directed by senior Nick Buranicz, the department of Film, Television and Theatre developed a youthful and animating production. Although I had originally taken a more moderate liking of the play, Notre Dame’s “Pippin” earned 5 out of 5 shamrocks.

The actors were comical and idiosyncratic without being overbearing — except, of course, for the one character who is meant to be domineering, the brilliant and hilarious Charlemagne (Timothy Merkle). Pippin himself (Carlos Macias) perfectly captured the bright-eyed naivety of the character. His sweet and mellow rendition of “Corner of the Sky” was moving and ideal. Both the Leading Player (Evelyn Berry) and Fastrada (Olivia Seymour) superbly capture their characters’ scheming wiliness and oustanding charm. Grandma Berthe (Gavriella Aviva Lund) was especially vibrant as she led the audience through the chorus of “No Time at All,” and Catherine (Kate Turner) taught the audience the value of simple pleasures with her agreeable disposition. That is to say nothing of the fantastic vocals and each actor’s ingenious doubling as a member of the ensemble.

The scenes balanced the humor and philosophical weight of the show. Despite its great comedic moments, this version of “Pippin” seemed less rough and more principled. The cast of “Pippin” gave the ending its proper meaning, which is, of course, memorable for its rejection of the desire for extraordinary pyrotechnics in life and the exaltation of the menial and familiar. 

Choreography was marvelously executed, with much color and vivacity. Further, the set was also innovative, using gymnastics mats to construct each fluid scene. The rapidness and large-scale transitions with these mats were nothing short of impressive. Finally, the costumes were well-suited, given the unique and lively nature of the show.

Contact Marcelle at mcouto@nd.edu

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‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’: Party ’til we drop

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re tagging along with someone and their friend group, but everything suddenly becomes really awkward?

Well, add some murder mystery into the mix and you’ve got “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” This horror-comedy film centers on a group of friends and their romantic partners getting ready to party hard while they wait out a passing storm, but things suddenly go awry.

Even before the bodies start to drop, the tension establishes itself quickly. First, we get the impression that our main characters Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) weren’t necessarily invited through whispers and uncomfortable glances from other characters. The camera work also contributes to a growing sense of discomfort. Even in simple dialogue scenes, the camera rarely stays still. In a weird way, this added anticipation for me; whenever the camera remained still, I knew the other shoe was about to drop.

Back to the story: Party host David (Pete Davidson) gets heated at a children’s party game and storms off. The other shoe I mentioned earlier? It just dropped and so did the first victim. 

Here, the movie shows off its greatest strength: paranoia. The convenient plot device of the storm creates no way to see clearly, no way to escape and no way to call for help — throwing the cast and audience into a panic. With nowhere to go and nothing to lose, the cast attempts to deduce who the killer is, repeating the events that led to David’s departure. With this, the movie starts a vicious cycle that carries the rest of the film’s events: “We have to find the killer” to “We found the killer” to “The killer is dead” to “But what if they weren’t the killer?” This question is ever-present and feeds into the paranoia of the film. As the audience, the only character we rule out as the killer is Bee. Everyone else, even her girlfriend Sophie, is fair game. 

Every performance made for a memorable and distinct character and gave the movie’s death toll an emotional weight. Bakalova was a clear stand-out, embodying both the loneliness felt by being an outsider in the friend group and the growing distrust Bee felt towards everyone as the night progressed. 

I feel that some horror comedies lose the “comedy” after a while, but this movie kept the jokes coming through most of the movie, whether it be during a confrontation (Rachel Sennott’s portrayal of Alice is particularly notable) or through more physical gags like using a dead person’s face to unlock their phone. 

My only major gripe in the film was that some scenes had interchangeable dialogue. Some lines only serve as exposition; any character could be delivering them and not much would be lost. This, however, is made up for with the performances from the stars, imbuing the characters with a personality that the dialogue lacks.

The killer reveal puts the movie in a whole new light and elevates its recurring themes in a clever way that changes the entire film upon rewatching. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a fun horror comedy that completely reinvents itself in its last minutes. 

If you take anything away from this movie, just be glad most parties don’t end up this way.

Title: “Bodies Bodies Bodies”

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson

Director: Halina Reijn

If you like: “Scream,” “Jennifer’s Body”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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‘Guess why I smile a lot. Uh, cause it’s worth it.’

Propelled seemingly by some mechanism inside its rubber body, a tennis ball rolls, turns and erratically bounces down the stairs, eventually coming to rest near the couch. 

The ball is a little tattered, as if it has been rolled down these stairs many times before and the viewer is simply looking in on a daily habit, a moment of ordinary life. 

But then, a disembodied voice calls out over the silence and jars us to a different place entirely. The voice belongs to Dean Fleischer-Camp, director both actual and fictional, and the ball to Marcello “Marcel,” an animate shell that wears, yes, tiny tan and pink sneakers.

Fleischer-Camp’s unorthodox stop motion mockumentary, released this year by independent film juggernaut A24, is a favorite of audiences and critics alike for its wholesome simplicity and unique take on life, community and the meaning of family. 

The first thing that struck me about “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” was its ability to subvert the ordinary and familiar into a world equally imposing and magical. Fleischer-Camp’s perspective offers the human world: Airbnbs, YouTube, even a glimpse of Los Angeles’s Elysian Park. But telling the story only through a 5’10 lens would ignore the other world entirely, the universe existing only between sock drawer and apricot tree, colander and hot dog bun. Through the eyes of little Marcel, a slice of bread becomes a place to sleep, a stand mixer part of an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine and a shaggy dog a dangerous predator indeed. This construction builds Marcel’s more real-life issues — namely his lost family and aging grandmother — into monoliths of themselves, large for a human but insurmountable for an animate shell clad in tiny pink sneakers. 

I did feel some dissonance around halfway through “Marcel.” After all, it is a film about a shell with one googly eye and a high-pitched voice (done by the illustrious Jenny Slate, by the way). Marcel’s YouTube fame is punctuated by slightly obnoxious current trends — TikTok dances and the like — and around the point during which he scrolls through comment sections, I began to wonder what the creators of the movie were thinking, spending years and dollars on a film that seemed largely pointless. I shuffled that thought away and re-immersed myself in the film, searching for some point of relevance that would make the watch worthwhile.

Not long later, I found it. Marcel’s grandmother Connie, voiced by another icon, Isabella Rosselini, reads Philip Larkin’s poem “The Trees” in the background of Marcel’s interview with 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl: “The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said;/ The recent buds relax and spread,/ Their greenness is a kind of grief./ Is it that they are born again…/ Yet still the unresting castles thresh/ In fullgrown thickness every May./ Last year is dead, they seem to say,/ Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”

All of a sudden, I understood. It was all relevant: sock drawer, apricot tree, colander, hot dog bun, bread slice, stand mixer, shaggy dog and tiny tan and pink sneakers. See, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, in the same vein as “Paddington 2from 2017 and even St. Exupéry’s novella “The Little Prince,” is a study in how we can wrestle with grown-up concepts in a landscape of childlike wonder and beauty. What’s compelling about “Marcel” is how it is both silly and incredible. A film about an animate shell becomes a testament to the act of storytelling itself, drawing us into this delightful little world and then flinging us back out again like tattered tennis balls on suburban staircases, ready, like Marcel himself, to begin afresh, afresh, afresh. 

Title: “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rosselini

Director(s): Dean Fleischer-Camp

If you like: “Paddington 2,” “Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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The nuances of ‘Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers’

Before reviewing Disney’s “Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers,” let’s take a look at one specific scene. At one point the titular duo gets cornered during an attempted locker room heist by a DJ, who also happens to be a snake. To distract from their theft, Chip and Dale freestyle rap about how they do not eat whales, what part of the whale they would hypothetically eat and how hard it is to break the pattern of rhyming “Dale” with “whale.” After laughing for five minutes straight, I asked myself, “how did the movie even get to this point?” 

Allow me to catch you up… In this reboot of Disney’s classic cartoon, Chip and Dale (voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, respectively) are not the rescue rangers we know and love, but actors who portray them on the screen. Decades after splitting up, due to creative differences, the two chipmunks investigate the disappearance of their friend and co-star. Over the course of their investigation, the rodents meet a colorful cast of characters ranging from a live-action police officer and super fan named Ellie Steckler (KiKi Layne) as well as a muppet gangster (Keegan Michael-Key), a clay-mation police captain (J.K. Simmons) and multiple characters voiced by Seth Rogen. I would be remiss to mention the cast and not the various cartoons making guest appearances within the movie; characters ranging as far as My Little Pony to South Park pop-in throughout the film.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and found it hilarious. The film’s stars deliver incredible voice performances, but it was the writing that made their interactions shine. The screenwriting was the best part of the film. The writers never allowed any stand-alone pop-culture references to be used as a joke, instead, they added subtle (or not so subtle) jokes towards whatever they were referencing. Despite this, some references still felt a little nuanced for a casual audience, especially for children. While children may enjoy the silly chipmunk antics, the commentary on the inherent creepiness of realistic animation might be lost on them. 

However, half-way through the movie, I was rolling with the punches. I had grown used to the references; until the aforementioned rap scene. This is the moment when I accepted the movie for what it was: a goofy movie justifying its existence with its self-awareness. 

Multiple times through the movie, characters lament that nobody wants a Chip n’ Dale reboot, a sentiment the writers knew while creating the movie. For all intents and purposes, this is not a “Rescue Rangers” movie, but one that calls itself “Rescue Rangers” and delivers a great film about fame and the monotony of life. Months after release, I don’t remember the film for its plot, but more so for how fun of a movie it was, with the plot serving more as a conveyor belt that brings the audience from joke to joke. I enjoyed the movie greatly, but I still believe it had a required level of knowledge required to fully experience it, which I feel holds it back from its full potential.

Title: Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers

Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett

Director: Akiva Schaefer

If You Like: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5