Sunday, November 21, 2021

Short Takes: November III

Reviews: Trevor, Mayor Pete, Finch

Trevor (c) Trevor

Theater: Trevor 
Stage 42 

If you’re in middle or high school, found this review (congrats on your good taste), love musicals and want to see one that’s about you but doesn’t talk down to you, please go see “Trevor,” a new musical based on the 1995 Oscar-winning short about an exuberant, extroverted teen boy, coming to terms with his sexuality and finding out his classmates are not so understanding. The songs are zippy and relatable, and the cast is mostly comprised of age-appropriate kids (so there is a can-do talent show quality to some). But, for adult audience members, your mileage may vary. If you were your school’s Trevor or his best friend, you will probably be moved by the show and its message. For the rest of us, the show may feel a bit simplistic and predictable, which wouldn’t have been such a problem if it wasn’t for the over two-hour running time. The only surprise is the appearance of a character we hadn’t seen at the end of the play and the lesson learned there was unexpectedly touching. The lessons of tolerance and acceptance are always welcomed themes in musicals and “Trevor” has both and a lot of good will. So, kids, enjoy the show. 

Mayor Pete (c) Amazon Prime

Film: Mayor Pete 
On Amazon Prime 

Pete Buttigieg was a well-liked mayor of South Bend, Indiana when he decided to run for President in 2020. If you want to know why, besides the usual civic talking points of duty to his country, you’re out of luck, because this documentary is only concerned with how, as it shows each milestone that led to Mayor Pete, as he is affectionally known (as to avoid mispronouncing his last name), to win the Iowa caucuses and for a short time, be the Democratic frontrunner. An openly gay and married candidate is historic, and the movie does a good job giving us the highs and lows of his journey. But when Buttigieg ultimately drops out of the race at the beginning of March 2020, shaking off a persistent cough (prominently shown but never commented on), we barely know the man behind the candidate, besides his consistent boy scout can-do attitude. Same goes for his husband, Chasten, and his love of cow puns. Director Jesse Moss, who also directed the political doc “Boys State” from last year, gives the film a dramatic arc that will be suspenseful for future viewers when the whole 2020 election (with a January 6, 2021, insurrection postscript) is a just a horrible memory. 

Finch (c) Apple TV+

Film: Finch 
On Apple TV+ 

In “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks played Chuck, a FedEx employee stranded on a deserted island. In “Finch,” Hanks is the title character and the deserted island is St. Louis. We are in apocalyptic times, after a solar flare has decimated most of the ozone layer, and the human race has mostly decimated itself. Instead of Wilson, the volleyball, we get a homemade robot named Jeff that can actually talk back to Finch, although as a newly created sentient being, he is knowledge and commonsense deprived. But as safe as St. Louis is, Finch and crew (there’s also a robot dog as well as a real one) have to hit the road where unknown dangers lay. Like last year’s “The Midnight Sky,” and “I am Legend” and “The Martian” before it, “Finch” has all the usual tropes of a human-spirit survivor in an unforgiving landscape tale. It’s strange that Hanks would do another solo movie after his triumph in “Cast Away,” especially a character like Finch, who is so dour and cranky that I’m surprised Robot Jeff didn’t research what mercy killing was and made this a more bearable movie short. And like “The Martian,” the needle drops are also rather cringy, especially the overuse of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The special effects are effective, particularly Robot Jeff, who is an upgraded, distant relative of No. 5 in the “Short Circuit” movies. But two hours in the company of Finch and Jeff, and not much else, may not be the movie most people will want to endure after a year of self-isolation during a pandemic.

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