A quick explanation about this week's movies: with an estimated $40 million at the domestic box office, "Sound of Freedom" had the most money at the end of the weekend. But because it made it a point of opening on Tuesday, July 4, instead of the usual Friday, it had a three-day head start over "Insidious: The Red Door," which finished with $32 million. I've decided to give attention to both movies. I'm also throwing in "Elemental," which I would have reviewed two weeks ago had I not been on vacation.
After the streak-breaking disaster that was last year's "Lightyear," Pixar is back to making decent movies. Not great movies - this one isn't on the level of "Toy Story" or "Up" - but solid, enjoyable movies.
Fire-person Ember (Leah Lewis) lives in Element City with her immigrant parents. She meets water-person Wade (Mamoudou Athie), and the two work toward a shared goal of saving her parents' store. The two become friends and eventually fall in love, but for various reasons, fire-people and water-people are forbidden from touching.
The clunky metaphor sometimes gets in the way of the message of racial and cultural harmony (because yeah, fire and water shouldn't mix if the goal is anything other than extinguishment), but the movie still serves up an imaginative, funny world and heartfelt performances. It's familiar (occasionally predictable) territory for Pixar, but "Elemental" represents a welcome return to the familiar.
"Elemental" is rated PG for some peril, thematic elements and brief language. Its running time is 101 minutes.
"Insidious: The Red Door"
I'll be honest, I had retained very little about the "Insidious" series going into "The Red Door." That's partly because this franchise has been dormant for over five years, and partly because it's easy to confuse it with similar supernatural horrors from the "Conjuring" universe, which also stars Patrick Wilson, who here serves as director.
Returning characters Josh Lambert (Wilson) and his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) underwent hypnosis to forget the events of the first two films. Nine years later, as Dalton is entering college, the two have a strained relationship to go with their shared foggy past. The two characters, in their own ways, are forced to confront their pasts and their connection to the world known as "The Further" and the demons and spirits that live within.
Aside from one admirably claustrophobic sequence in an MRI machine, "Insidious: The Red Door" is content to settle for startles when it should be striving for scares. I'll no doubt be back to forgetting all about this series in no time.
"Insidious: The Red Door" is rated PG-13 for violence, terror, frightening images, strong language and suggestive references. Its running time is 107 minutes.
"Sound of Freedom"
The depraved world of child trafficking is the setting for "Sound of Freedom," a film that is disturbing to its core, yet manages to stay within the confines of the PG-13 rating.
Jim Caviezel (no stranger to challenging subject matter since taking on the ultimate high-pressure role in "The Passion of the Christ") stars as Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, who switches his career aspirations from merely catching child predators to actually rescuing children. The story follows him on both a well-backed sting operation and a rogue lone mission as he attempts to reunite a family whose two children have been taken.
Flaws like a noticeably low budget and poor pacing are balanced out by the dedicated performance by Caviezel and film's obvious good intentions in raising awareness of an uncomfortable, yet important issue. That is, until a mid-credits "special message" where Caviezel directly implores the audience to encourage others to spend money on the film. Surely this spot could have been used to promote an anti-trafficking organization of some kind instead of the film itself. It undermines the selfless tone of the film that preceded it and frankly makes the whole project come off as greedy.
"Sound of Freedom" is rated PG-13 for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug content and smoking throughout. Its running time is 131 minutes.