In this edition of the New Release Breakdown, I take a deep-dive into the Foo Fighters horror/comedy, Studio 666, Tyler Perry’s latest Madea effort, A Madea Homecoming, and the pet buddy comedy Dog.
Let’s get rolling!
Studio 666 Synopsis: Members of the rock band Foo Fighters move into an eerie mansion to record their 10th album. Once in the house, singer Dave Grohl finds himself grappling with supernatural forces that threaten both the completion of the album and the band members’ lives.
I am not sure if anyone had a horror/comedy from the Foo Fighters on their 2022 movie bingo card, but the eclectic rock group is presenting their talent to the big screen with Studio 666. Crafted in the vein of gore-ridden B-movie throwbacks like Braindead, Studio 666 represents a playful embrace of the macabre that’s rarely seen in mainstream films today.
To my surprise, Studio 666 elicits crowdpleasing charms in drove. Much of the joy comes from watching the close-knit band play off each other as fictionalized versions of themselves. The band – featuring David Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Rami Jaffee, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear – conjure easy-going comedic chemistry that keeps the generic plotting afloat.
Studio 666 also represents a sincere adoration for its genre inspirations. Director and longtime Camera Operator BJ McDonell embraces cheesy practical effects at every turn without becoming too self-aware of his low-rent techniques. Each kill is hilariously gruesome and over-the-top, displaying genuine creativity and visceral shock at every turn.
Still, the film is admittedly uneven. Screenwriters Rebecca Hughes and Jeff Buhler needlessly drag out the promising concept across a 106-minute runtime. When the comedic barbs aren’t hitting in between kills, Studio 666 feels like it’s in a state of dead air. I also wish McDonell tried more to spice up the film’s standard, digitized look. Outside of the gory kills, the film’s artless appearance is more akin to a straight-to-streaming effort.
It’s admittedly a mixed bag, but Studio 666 delivers the good where it counts most. Grohl and company craft an infectious romp that thankfully never takes itself too seriously.
Studio 666 is now playing in theaters.
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming Synopsis: Madea is back, and she’s not putting up with any nonsense as family drama erupts at her great-grandson’s college graduation celebration.
Like with any iconic cinematic staple, it was only a matter of time before writer, director, and star Tyler Perry revived Madea for the silver screen. Perry’s latest endeavor, A Madea Homecoming, finds the divisive auteur letting loose amidst the less-rigid confines of streaming platforms.
I never quite understood the massive vitriol surrounding the Madea franchise. While Perry certainly overstretched Madea with one too many spin-offs, the core of the material represents a humorous battle between opposing generational sentiments. Homecoming operates at its best when exploring that concept with an infusion of new zeitgeist ideas, including exploring the perspective of an LGTBQ youth and a police officer receiving grief from her family in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests. Perry’s film still features the same brand of crass comedy and pratfalls, but it’s clear the auteur is becoming more sensible with age.
Homecoming reenergizes elements of the Madea brand, yet Perry continues to struggle in certain aspects. His screenplays never balance their playful comedic tone with infusions of saccharine melodrama, with Perry often speechifying intimate moments in an awkward flurry of wooden exchanges. The comedic barbs also remain uneven in execution. For every bitting line, Perry includes several gags that fall flat on their face, including a piece of ill-conceived revisionist history here that rivals the stupidity of the Transformers fighting the Nazis (you’ll have to see it to believe it).
For better and for worse, Homecoming is more of the same from Perry and company. I don’t think this effort packs enough laughs to sustain its runtime, but it’s agreeable enough to make a decent streaming diversion for fans of the Madea franchise.
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming is now playing on Netflix.
Dog Synopsis: With a dog named Lulu by his side, Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) races down the Pacific Coast to make it to a soldier’s funeral on time. Along the way, Briggs and Lulu drive each other completely crazy, break a handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards to have a fighting chance of finding happiness.
The misadventures of a man and his loyal pet often present ample opportunity for humor and genuine tugs at the heartstrings. While the pet subgenre relegates to thankless TV and streaming offerings nowadays, Channing Tatum and co-writer/director Reid Carolin reinvigorate the old-school formula with Dog.
Unsurprisingly, Tatum’s smooth charisma carries the road trip narrative throughout. As a bubbly yet volatile former Marine reckoning with his lingering traumas, the actor skillfully conveys the deeply-seated pains existing under the guise of his personable persona. Dog finds its groove when embracing its subject’s vulnerabilities, with the story’s ruminations on soldiers, both man and pet, effectively toiling in the aftermath of trauma.
Carolin and co-writer Brett Rodriguez showcase a thoughtful throughline, but Dog feels too scattershot to say much of note. The screenplay opts for a well-trudged journey down road trip comedy cliches, a decision that strips the material of its humanistic qualities. As a buddy comedy, Dog exists in an odd tonal quagmire. Some pratfalls play up to the slapstick comedy while others make bizarre attempts at crasser interactions.
Dog just never quite finds its bark. As an admitted dog lover, I am bummed that the film only occasionally taps into the simple joys of its premise.
Dog is now playing in theaters.
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