“Need for Speed” (Action/Crime: 2 hours, 10 minutes)
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, and Rami Malek
Director: Scott Waugh
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, violence, nudity, sequences of reckless street racing and moments of peril)
Movie Review: Think of this film as a pure popcorn flick. It is pure entertainment for those liking fast cars, flighty women, masculine men doing crazy stunts and car crashes. For others wanting a more convincing, sophisticated story, “Need for Speed” fails.
Toby Marshall (Paul) is a street racer. His life changes after he faces imprisonment on multiple accounts, including theft and murder. Pro-driver Dino Brewster (Cooper) framed Marshall after a mutually lucrative association. Determined to have his revenge, Marshall travels across the United States with a companion he considers annoying, Julia Maddon (Poots). Marshall plans to compete in an underground racing tournament in California. A safe arrival at the tournament will not be easy for Marshall and Maddon. Brewster has promised a nice reward to any mercenary who can stop Marshall from reaching the tournament. Even more, law-enforcement officials are pursuing Marshall for a parole violation.
“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977), “The Cannonball Run” (1981) and “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) are all enjoyable films, but they are not intellectual material. In other words, they are not taxing on the brain. They are pure entertainment, bad stories and all. They worked for their time.
“Need for Speed” is a mixture of these films, and it has a shabby story, too. Yet it is nowhere near as enjoyable as those aforementioned films. Movie audiences are becoming smarter. Producers can only hide a dilapidated story with a certain amount of entertainment for a specified time.
Here, the story is iffy from the beginning. It never establishes its characters. The leads, Paul (“Breaking Bad”), Cooper and Poots, are flat personas. Writers crafted their characters with a poignant flatness. Paul may be a talented actor on television, his performance here is too horizontal. He is unexciting as a lead. He and Cooper are miscast and needed to switch roles. They are both uninteresting as is. They have no established histories worthy enough to make them interesting.
Poots is there, but she is a waste and often inconsistent. She is brilliant and collectively cool at moments and goofy and childishly annoying at others. Her character is uneven.
Other characters also need work. Scott Mescudi plays as comical relief. He plays this movie’s stereotypical black male. He is funny, loud mouthed and overly cool. He makes the film silly at parts.
While his character is pointlessly childish during some scenes, Rami Malek manages to score points. His role’s actions appear convincing, unlike his co-stars.
Again, poor writing plagues this film. It suffers because the focus is fast cars in action. That part is energetic. Meanwhile, the plot is stupid, making the rest brainless. Still, the action is plentiful enough that it is easy to sit through and easier to forget.
Grade: C (Plenty of speed running on cheap fuel.)
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (Animation/Adventure: 1 hour, 33 minutes)
Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, and Ariel Winter
Director: Rob Minkoff
Rated: PG (Violence and brief crude humor)