Quick Takes: Fast Food Nation, Spy Kids, Cannibal!: The Musical

Fast Food Nation (2006)

Starring Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ashley Johnson, Bobby Cannavale, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano, Luis Guzmán, Avril Lavigne
Directed by Richard Linklater

Visually appealing, Fast Food Nation does its best to adapt a non-fiction bestseller to a fictional film. It doesn’t necessarily work, as character dialogue is filled with lines from the book or scenes are specifically built around a piece of factual information instead of a traditional narrative conflict. It’s a very strange and unique film in this way, and one that ends up being pretty boring for someone like me that has read both Fast Food Nation and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It served more to remind me of key moments in both, instead of actively engaging me.

Spy Kids (2001)

Starring Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Teri Hatcher, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Robert Patrick
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Initially I saw Spy Kids close to its original DVD release and thought it wasn’t that great. A few months ago I watched Rodriguez’s most recent kid’s movie, Shorts, and loved it to pieces, making me re-evaluate his offerings for younger viewers. Upon a re-watch, Spy Kids is excellent over-the-top fun, packing in more gadgets and spy intrigue than the last few Bond films combined. The first half is nearly perfect, but it all sort of unravels as it goes. Despite this adult problem I had, the film succeeds in funneling espionage action into a fun romp of a kid’s film. Recommended, especially if you have kids.

Cannibal!: The Musical (1993)

Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Toddy Walters, Jason McHugh, John Hegel, Ian Hardin, Stan Brakhage, Robert Muratore, Edward Henwood, Andrew Kemler, Maseo Maki
Directed by Trey Parker

Made while attending college, Cannibal!: The Musical is an astoundingly professional production. Attempting to tell the story of real-life accused cannibalist Alferd Packer, Trey Parker and Matt Stone craft a funny and enjoyable black comedy with well-written songs and a great sense of the absurd. I expected quite the gorefest as this was picked up and released by Troma, but instead it’s mostly a comedic musical with touches of graphic violence thrown in for good measure.  When it does get violent, the low-budget FX are incredibly effective, especially the tongue-ripping and the axe to the face! Recommended to fans of Parker/Stone comedies fo sho.

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