Saturday, November 27, 2021

Short Takes: November IV - Holiday Shows

Reviews: A Sherlock Carol, Love Hard, Home Sweet Home Alone

A Sherlock Carol (c) Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

Theater: A Sherlock Carol 
At New World Stages 

A fun and inventive mash-up of a Sherlock Holmes mystery and “A Christmas Carol” (Doyle x Dickens, if you will), “A Sherlock Carol” should be a staple of community theaters around the country that want something saucier than the usual Christmas family fare. Given a first-rate production here, the play written and directed by Mark Shanahan has Sherlock (Drew McVety), whom everyone thought was dead after his fall off the Reichenback Falls with Moriarty, in a professional funk, questioning his future as a detective, even when asked by many in London to help solve some crimes. But when he hears that old Ebenezer Scrooge (Thom Sesma at his most cheeky) may have been murdered, well, can he resist taking this case?  Shanahan is more successful with the “A Christmas Carol” part of the story than the Sherlock, spending way too much time on the Sherlock lore and the many murder suspects (although it does give the talented ensemble plenty of opportunities to show off their chameleon skills in many parts). All that does pay off handsomely in the last half hour when the mystery is solved in a deliriously inventive finale. McVety and Sesma commit to their parts wonderfully, but it’s Isabel Keating who’s the real culprit, stealing every scene she’s in. Lock her up. 

Love Hard (c) Netflix

Film: Love Hard 
On Netflix 

One movie genre that never changes its formula is the Christmas romance, made popular by the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. Now Netflix has gotten into the lucrative game, and they have wisely stuck to what fans have come to expect: two single people who seem right for each other (they just don’t know it) having to endure ridiculous plot twists that ultimately end with a romantic resolution on Christmas. Two deviations set this movie apart: the non-yuletide title (a play off another movie title that only some people consider a Christmas movie) and the mostly Asian American family at the center. Oh, and maybe the ethically questionable catfishing incident that sets the movie into motion. So, once Natalie (Nina Dobrev) finds out that the Josh she meets (Jimmy O. Yang) is not the Josh she expected to meet from the dating app (Darren Barnet), why does she stay in the picturesque upstate New York town? Your guess is as good as mine. And if you think a casual mention of an allergy doesn’t come back, or the true nature of the rural hospital the allergy sufferer wakes up in may not be what it appears to be, or the reference to “Love Actually” won’t inevitably lead to its most overplayed meme, you haven’t seen enough of these movies. But, just having an Asian family and puppy dog comedian Yang at the center of all the usual mechanicians is good enough for me. 

Home Sweet Home Alone (c) Disney+

Film: Home Sweet Home Alone 
On Disney+ 

I was never a fan of the original “Home Alone” in which a sadistic farce subplot was somehow jerry-rigged into a heartwarming tale of the true meaning of Christmas (it’s family, d-huh). This reboot (which has a tangential connection to the original) is even worse because the mean parts are even nastier and the sentimental parts even more treacly. I believe there’s a workable movie in here, but director Dan Mazer populates it with so many unlikeable, cartoony characters that I wanted the Grinch to torch the whole town. Our hero (terrorizer) is Max (Archie Yates, who was so wonderful in “Jojo Rabbit”) and he is left alone at home on Christmas Eve by his horrible family (good riddance, I say). But in this age of social media and smart home devices, there is no reason why this movie should even exist. As for the pair who tries to break into Max’s house, they are even watered down to not be robbers but a down-on-their-luck couple (Rob Delaney and Elle Kemper) who believes Max stole something of theirs they want back. The movie spends so much time making the couple sympathetic that what ultimately happens to them is particularly cruel, making the movie a mash-up of “Panic Room” and “The Purge.”

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