As is often the case with December movies, the last weekend of the year is usually lacking in new releases. Usually movies given limited runs in theaters earlier in the month (particularly Oscar contenders) finally get wider, more mainstream releases. Rather than waste anyone’s time on giving critiques of “Holmes & Watson” or “Vice” – both of which are receiving polarizing, negative feedback – I think it would be interesting to examine an interesting, subtle theme instead.
Hollywood studios have a reputation for catering to young viewers, primarily families, teens and 20-somethings. This trend is especially prominent with big studio blockbusters, including those excessive reboots and remakes, like “The Grinch,” “Into the Spider-verse,” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” all of which are currently in theaters. But recently, I’ve also noticed quite a lot of new releases are actually targeting slightly older audiences. “Mary Poppins Returns” is coming to theaters 54 years after its predecessor, and while appropriate and aimed at families, the viewers likely to have Mary Poppins on their radar are the adults who grew up in the era of the 1964 Disney film and P.L. Travers’ book series. (Though this critic, who grew up at the end of the 20th century, was a little underwhelmed with the new retro musical.)
Most surprisingly, though, has been delightful Transformers prequel “Bumblebee,” which is part of a franchise that has been accused of pandering to the lowest common denominator (i.e. middle schoolers). Director Travis Knight and screenwriter Christina Hodson go back to basics, not only by setting the film in 1987, but also giving the action flick the same tone, humor, atmosphere, and character of an action flick made in 1987. The former 1980s kids who remember the old Transformers toys and cartoons will likely appreciate the new addition to the robot series. Similarly, Steven Wan’s “Aquaman” is clearly doing well with movie fans, and was the top movie at the box-office Christmas weekend. It’s a film that again has a superhero who once primarily appealed to fans from the 25+ crowd.
Another popular actor among the 25+ age group is Jennifer Lopez, who stars in her first romantic comedy in a decade with “Second Act.” In this case, and with Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” the older target audience is holding the film back from doing well financially (although they’re also both mediocre features). The best movie in wide release right now might be Yorgos Lanthimos’ costume drama-satire “The Favourite.” An early 1700s set period piece that might bore youngsters, this film has proven to be one of the most intriguing for grown-ups in 2018. So, for the first time in a long while, there are more movies in theaters this holiday season aimed at appealing to the parents more than the kids.
— Megan Bianco