The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an uneven film with an obvious secondary goal. First agenda item is to sell a few tickets. It will. Second is to establish a franchise that will live on through sequel after sequel. It will not.

The best thing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has going for it is the finest cool music soundtrack since Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen (from David Holmes). Much of the music (credit to Daniel Pemberton) has a mid-20th-century feel; some of it is used mainly to punctuate the action, a la Tarantino.

The second best thing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has going for it are the women’s dresses. The colorful costumes on the ladies are gorgeous and the outfits do a nice job of evoking the 60s.

The story, inspired by the TV show that aired from 1964 to 1968, has the two lead characters American Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) teaming up to foil the fiendish plot of some folks who have a nuclear warhead. The setting is Cold War era Europe.

Almost every time Cavill speaks in the film, I am reminded of Bill Hader’s SNL impersonation of Dateline’s Keith Morrison. Apparently Cavill was trying to channel the speaking style of the late Robert Vaughn, the original Solo from TV. Hammer is good, but not quite the compelling screen presence needed to keep the dream alive for more U.N.C.L.E. movies.

Gaby (Alicia Vikander) is on the good guys’ side. Her father has been forced to work on the bomb. She and Elizabeth Dibecki (as the villainess Victoria) get to wear the neat throwback threads. Vikander is beautiful and has genuine charm in this role that’s quite different from her breakthrough performance earlier this year in Ex Machina. Also in the film is Hugh Grant as Waverly.

Director Guy Ritchie (who co-wrote the script) maintains a good pace and delivers several memorable shots. Chuckles are spread throughout the film. My favorite silly moment has an unconcerned Solo sitting in a truck cab, enjoying a sandwich and a glass of wine, while Kuryakin is right in front of him in a burning motorboat trying to elude a pursuer.

While The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has the legacy of its TV antecedent to help generate ticket sales, the story is almost boilerplate and the lead actors lack the heft to carry The Man From U.N.C.L.E. onward to franchise glory.

“Mirror, Mirror”—(Lily=White)

“Mirror, Mirror” is a sweet, funny retelling of the “Snow White” story. There’s much to like here, including seven small people who add huge amounts of charm.

“Mirror, Mirror,” is a live action film that has the look of an animated film. Many of the characters look like real people but could pass for animated characters. Many of the cartoon-like settings obviously were created with a bit of computer help. And the movie contains some ridiculous situations and one-liners that could’ve been borrowed from a “Shrek” script.

Lily Collins as Snow White is impossibly gorgeous, resembling young versions of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Despite her delicate beauty, she readily jumps into action scenes. Her faceoff with Prince Alcott, played by Armie Hammer, is a wonderfully staged scene that mixes flirty romance with artful swordplay.

Hammer, best known for playing the bitter Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network” and Clyde Tolson in “J. Edgar,” shows he can deliver physical and verbal humor. Appearing shirtless in several scenes, he also provides eye candy for the ladies.

Julia Roberts is The Queen, who drops a few funny lines, while maintaining her evil wickedness. Nathan Lane is Brighton, another character with a cartoonish look, the Queen’s attendant, who is not quite evil enough to be a henchman.

The real spice for this movie comes from the little people who play the Seven Dwarfs. Here are more real people who have cartoonish characteristics. They’re likeable. They’re funny. They’re bandits. And they are good fighters—an important factor as the film approaches its climax. Don’t try to match them up with the Disney Dwarfs; these have more personality. Their names, in no particular order, are: Half Pint, Wolf, Grimm, Grub, Chuckles, Butcher and Napoleon.

This is a family friendly, PG-rated film, which is perfect for moms and daughters. There is a scary beast that appears during the final battle, but the depiction is not overly frightening.

The costuming is impressive. The tempo is consistent. And, once again, good overcomes evil.

After a winter with little snow, spring brings a really good Snow.