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.

Mini-Review: Team America: World Police (2004)

Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris, Maurice LaMarche, Jeremy Shada, Fred Tatasciore

Directed by Trey Parker

Expectations: High.


There’s a lot to like here, but a whole lot more to be bored by. I would have loved this if it was a short film, even a series of shorts. At about 100 minutes, it just seems to never end. The first 30 minutes are great, and honestly the rest of the movie is probably just as good, but there is a fatigue that sets in and I could only laugh at the same basic jokes so much.

My favorite part was a line in one of the songs, “I miss you as much as Michael Bay missed the mark on Pearl Harbor.” If nothing else, I’m glad that somewhere out there a song with this lyric exists. The other songs are also good, especially Kim Jong Il’s I’m So Ronrey but by the point it comes on in the film, I was so sick of the joke about how Asians have a hard time with R’s and L’s that it lessened the impact. The film is also lampooning the action film genre, and while it does a good job, for me it fell into the same traps as the films they were making fun of. For instance, the overly dramatic scenes with swelling music and heart-felt dialogue were just as boring as they are in big-budget action films. These scenes just weren’t funny enough for me and there’s a ton of them. The whole Alec Baldwin and his acting group, F.A.G., wasn’t funny either, bringing my least favorite parts of South Park to puppet form. “Look they’re in a group called Fag, it’s like they’re saying they’re all fags!” C’mon, you can do better than that.

The film is impeccably well made though. The production values are off the chart and the sets are lavish and fantastic. I still love the idea behind the whole thing, but I just wish that the script was smarter. I really should have known better when dealing with Parker & Stone, but hope got the better of me and my expectations were ultimately built up way too high.

If you’d like to read more positive takes on this film, you can click these links here to head over to Cut the Crap or Dan the Man’s website where there is no shortage of love for this one.

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