Todd VanDerWerff

Todd VanDerWerff
Tomatometer-approved critic

Movie Reviews Only

Rating T-Meter Title | Year Review
2/5 53% Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) You have to wade through a whole bunch of effects that feel ... abandoned before they were fully baked.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 7, 2018
100% The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) It's still a superb version of a very good story, with some terrific songs. The special loses something by condensing the story as much as it does, but it's hard to go wrong with Dickens in song. ‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 7, 2018
B+ 100% The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) The Stingiest Man In Town remains a brisk retelling of one of the most famous stories ever told, a retelling that boasts fun songs, a good deal of TV history being made, and a great central performance. ‐ AV Club
Read More | Posted Dec 6, 2018
63% The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1985) This is something like Rankin/Bass's fifth attempt to tell the back-story of the jolly old elf. But there's something so pleasingly goofy about Santa wandering into scenes that might as well be ripped from the pages of Marvel Comics.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 5, 2018
50% Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) Muller's script is willing to go for the jugular in terms of pathos. Plus, watching this one lets you realize how much terror of being made fun of as a child animates Rankin/Bass. ‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 5, 2018
No Score Yet Cricket on the Hearth (1967) There's blindness caused by grief, melodramatic plot twists by the bushel, and a cricket narrator. But it's all a little bland, with songs that last way too long.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 4, 2018
73% The Little Drummer Boy (1968) The drummer boy is a misanthrope who hates all of humanity, which makes for a surprisingly entertaining character to follow around. Rankin/Bass was terrified of playing up the darker sides of its characters. It shouldn't have been.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 4, 2018
No Score Yet Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) It's confused and more than a little boring. And the Christmas connection is very nebulous.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 3, 2018
20% Rudolph and Frosty: Christmas in July (1979) The attempts to turn these corny stories into some sort of epic strain with flopsweat, and the hoped-for Avengers-style team-up of the company's big two mostly results in scenes where you wonder why Frosty's not melting in the middle of July.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Dec 3, 2018
50% Jack Frost (1979) Jack Frost features some marvelously cracked creations... but the 1979 special's fairy-tale structure and flimsy integration of Groundhog Day folklore make for a bloated, quasi-magical mess. ‐ AV Club
Read More | Posted Nov 30, 2018
50% Jack Frost (1979) Here's a special to show your kids if you want to teach them life is full of crushing disappointments.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 30, 2018
50% Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) In its best moments, Shiny New Year lives up to the howling madness at the center of all Rankin/Bass.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 27, 2018
92% Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970) Everything Rankin/Bass did works perfectly here. The guest voice (Fred Astaire) is dead on. The filling in of mythology around a holiday figure is just great. And even the song the special builds toward is one of the better Santa Claus songs out there.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 26, 2018
2.5/5 69% The Christmas Chronicles (2018) The masculine Jesus was all I could think about when watching The Christmas Chronicles... This is a Santa who, in the parlance of the times, can get it.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 26, 2018
No Score Yet Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981) This is perhaps peak Rankin/Bass insanity. Roughly two-thirds of the script is exposition...‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 21, 2018
3.5/5 83% Creed II (2018) One reason Creed II manages to avoid totally losing itself in Rocky lore is simple: It's still rooted in a movie that took its characters and their emotional complexities seriously.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 21, 2018
4/5 88% Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) As bold and smart a story about what it means to live online as any we've ever come up with...‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 21, 2018
90% The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) This is, like, 15 different specials awkwardly stitched together. That's normally a bad look for Rankin/Bass, but it works here, where the battles of the Miser brothers play nicely off Mrs. Claus's attempts to save the holiday.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 20, 2018
3.5/5 79% Halloween (2018) The single best reason to see the new Halloween movie is that it nails the last 20 minutes, when Laurie and Michael finally face off.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Oct 19, 2018
1/5 13% Life Itself (2018) Fogelman's work is a little like listening to James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" while shopping for candles in a Pier One: It never stops to question its economic comfort, its upper-class value system, or its essential whiteness.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Sep 24, 2018
2.5/5 33% The Predator (2018) What's wrong with The Predator goes deeper than a couple of bad cuts, but it still stinks that a promising movie was scuttled by a director's questionable decision-making - both on set and in post.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Sep 13, 2018
95% BlacKkKlansman (2018) What I especially love is how the movie refuses to offer up any pat or easy answers.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Aug 27, 2018
3.5/5 72% Christopher Robin (2018) The only way to completely and totally enjoy Christopher Robin is to not think about the Disney corporation.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Aug 3, 2018
59% Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) There's something so fun and goofy about them that it's hard to get too mad.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jul 13, 2018
63% Uncle Drew (2018) Uncle Drew is a lot of fun, the storytelling is rock solid, and if this were somehow a Saturday Night Live sketch starring Irving, we'd all be saying, "Wow, he's a lot better than most athletes they get on this show!"‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jul 5, 2018
3.5/5 53% Book Club (2018) I would like to rent out a massive theater and invite the mothers of everybody I know to sit and watch this movie with me. I'll provide the blankets and wine.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted May 18, 2018
70% Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) In an age when our blockbusters feel more pointlessly busy and somber than ever, [Solo] just might come as a relief. ‐ Vox
Read More | Posted May 15, 2018
84% Avengers: Infinity War (2018) As it is, everything feels like a bait and switch.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Apr 27, 2018
4.5/5 96% The Death of Stalin (2018) The Death of Stalin is Iannucci's most complex and almost nihilistic rendering of what politics is:‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 16, 2018
3/5 92% Love, Simon (2018) As a piece of filmmaking craft, it's competent, if unremarkable...if Love, Simon helps even one gay teen come to terms with their sexuality, in the friendly confines of familiar movie formulas, hey, it was probably worth it.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 16, 2018
3.5/5 46% Red Sparrow (2018) ... as a movie about being Jennifer Lawrence, about having everyone think they understand you simply because they're looking at you all the time, about trying to hide your real life behind ineffective filters, it's much more compelling.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 1, 2018
97% Black Panther (2018) Black Panther asks how we retain our moral compass in the face of people who invite us to give in to our baser instincts.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Feb 6, 2018
3.5/5 80% The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) ... will appeal to every member of the family with almost scientific precision.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 21, 2017
2/5 52% Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) What's interesting about Roman J. Israel, Esq.... is that what doesn't work about it is exactly what did work about Gilroy's earlier film, which was one of my favorites of 2014.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Nov 16, 2017
2.5/5 52% Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) The Golden Circle is two hours and 21 minutes long, and at least half of that feels like clutter. ‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Sep 21, 2017
4/5 91% Stronger (2017) Fortunately, almost everything in Stronger works really well.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Sep 21, 2017
3.5/5 78% Atomic Blonde (2017) Sometimes in life, all you want is something that looks super awesome, regardless of whether it makes any sense. Atomic Blonde manages that trick in spades.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jul 27, 2017
3.5/5 48% Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Besson doesn't know how to take half measures, a welcome trait in a world increasingly full of cookie-cutter blockbusters. If that means he's often jetting off into deep space without any real plans to return to Earth, by God, give me the stars.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jul 19, 2017
2/5 15% Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) It has a certain gonzo purity that kept me waiting for the movie to find some other gear it never located.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jun 20, 2017
1/5 21% The Book of Henry (2017) The Book of Henry is such a good bad movie because all involved really want to do something meaningful but haven't really thought about how to guide the audience to that point. It's a movie that wants to dance but settles for flailing.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jun 16, 2017
3/5 69% Cars 3 (2017) It's not to the level of that first film, but its amiable, ambling nature keeps it from becoming too boxed in by its needlessly contorted plot.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jun 12, 2017
1.5/5 15% The Mummy (2017) The Mummy doesn't have anywhere near enough adequate bits to get people excited for its own third act -- which unfurls in a gigantic maelstrom of computerized effects -- much less a whole franchise.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jun 9, 2017
3.5/5 87% Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (Captain Underpants) (2017) I don't think Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie should be as good as it is -- which is to say, light and breezy and solid early-summertime fun -- solely because its name is Captain Underpants.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Jun 2, 2017
2/5 29% Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) How was the movie? It was okay, I guess! Second best Pirates of the Caribbean movie! With a bullet! (For the record, that's not really a compliment.)‐ Vox
Read More | Posted May 25, 2017
5/5 97% Your Name. (Kimi No Na Wa.) (2017) By the time Your Name reaches its final half-hour or so, the film has moved so far beyond its initial premise that if you think back to the beginning, you'll be astonished by how far it's come.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Apr 10, 2017
1/5 17% CHIPS (2017) "Neither here nor there" is also a great description of CHIPS, which always seems to be on its way somewhere else. It never gets there.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 24, 2017
4/5 91% Raw (2017) In the hands of writer-director Julia Ducournau, the film becomes a fascinating, metaphorical exploration of becoming an adult - or female sexuality, or animal rights, or something like that.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 23, 2017
1.5/5 54% The Belko Experiment (2017) Every time Belko gets into a groove, with some fun plot twists or inventively gory moments, it pauses to make some point or another about the modern workplace that feels at least a decade out of date.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 17, 2017
76% Kong: Skull Island (2017) I wish I liked Skull Island as much as I like individual moments in it.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 9, 2017
2/5 64% Before I Fall (2017) A deeply dull, deeply confused movie.‐ Vox
Read More | Posted Mar 3, 2017
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