‘Dump month’ is back: Throwaway films to waste your time
January has historically been known as a “dump month” in the film industry, where movies that will likely have lesser box office or critical success than other works slated for the year are “dumped” into theaters. However, with the rise of streaming and the fall of movie theater culture, many argue that dump month is no more. To determine whether this month in the film industry is as consistently disappointing as ever, I reviewed four movies released in January.
“A Man Called Otto”
“A Man Called Otto”’ is an American remake of a Swedish film of a Swedish book titled “A Man Called Ove” (I don’t know why they changed his name either) that tells the story of an unlikely friendship between grumpy old man Otto and his new neighbors. Despite a few cringe-worthy scenes about “kids these days” and heavily relying on performances from Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño, the movie is so sweet. Once you understand what is happening, you can see the plot coming from a mile away, but the story itself is still heartwarming. Considering general box office success and a positive reception from the public, I would say that this one is not a dump.
“Plane” is the story of a pilot who partners with a prisoner to save his passengers after crash-landing on a small island of the Philippines. By the 20-minute mark, it is incredibly easy to predict nearly every plot point, but unlike “A Man Called Otto,” they don’t deliver these points well at all. There are definitely attempts — some more successful than others — to be inventive with camera work and shocking moments, but none of this was enough to keep it from being, frankly, boring. Efforts are made to use score to create suspense, but you can’t create something that is simply not there. This makes the movie overall mind-numbing, in addition to every character being one-dimensional and story arcs being incredibly forced. I will give this one points for being the only film I reviewed that wasn’t a remake or retelling, but considering how derivative and forgettable it was, it had to have been a dump.
“Women Talking,” based on the 2018 novel by the same name, depicts a meeting of women within a small Mennonite community deciding how to respond to a series of attacks on the female members of the colony. The vast majority of this movie focuses only on this meeting, with dialogues, monologues, and flashbacks driving the story forward. The film uses so few tools to keep the audience engaged but is overall very successful, crafting an incredibly poignant story. However, this also results in some of its downfalls. The dialogue often sounds so unrealistic that it is difficult to conceptualize any real person genuinely stringing those words together on the spot. It also seems to struggle with tone during some events and scenes that are jarringly different from what was occurring just moments before. Even so, the film was clearly very meticulously crafted and well-received by audiences. This, in addition to the amount of time it spent on the festival circuits, makes this film decidedly not a dump.
January was the month of remakes. “House Party” is a reboot of the 1990 original, which tells the story of two club promoters who decide to throw one last party at LeBron James’ house (who produced this movie). I absolutely did not want to watch this one because I could not imagine it being anything worthwhile. However, this movie has many strong comedic hits and amazing chemistry between nearly every combination of characters. It was riddled with cameos that were handled very well, a difficult task to achieve, with little feeling overly forced. The film leans into absurdism — maybe a bit too much at points — and by the end I wasn’t sure if it was real or a shared hallucination between me and LeBron James. “House Party” brought back much of what made ‘90s comedy so charming, even ending with a blooper reel. However, it was received with overall mixed to negative reviews with many perceiving it as an unnecessary, worse version of the original. This movie was likely a dump, but I think people should watch it anyway.
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