The Way Back (2020). I was wishy-washy on this Ben Affleck vehicle when I first saw the preview. Though not an actual Disney movie, it reminded me of one of the Mouse House's many sappy sports flicks. Team stinks. Coach with own issues comes along. Mutual healing ensues. Cue "We Are The Champions". Annnnd scene. But thankfully that's not what's going on here.
Affleck turns in some of the best work off his career as Jack Cunningham, a guy who went from knocking down jump shots as a high school stud to knocking down whiskey shots as a sad, middle-aged construction worker separated from his wife. Cunningham looks like what Chuckie from GOOD WILL HUNTING might have turned out to be except Chuckie didn't squander the talent Cunningham did. He reluctantly takes the head coaching job at the high school where he made his legend when asked by a kindly priest. After some initial static with the players, the standoff-ish Cunningham gradually warms up to the diverse squad at his disposal and learns how to push the right coaching buttons. As the team has the most success it's had since he played, so does Cunningham in his latest attempt at sobriety.
One may point out that the subject material of addiction is right in Affleck's wheelhouse. While that may be true, it doesn't make the work any easier for the actor who has been no stranger to ups and downs in his career and life. Affleck makes Cunningham empathetic, offsetting his surliess before we eventually find out why the character is so morose. This being a realistic movie about recovery and sobriety, nothing is wrapped up in a bow (thankfully). It's not "team wins championship and he never drank again" treacle. It's a movie about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and geting back on the horse. Thanks to Affleck's work, this movie works. B+
Good Boys (2019). I asked the guys on Spittin' Chiclets this week who this movie was supposed to be made for. It's an R-rated feature about three 11-year-old sixth-graders. It felt like you were either to young to see it or too old to watch it. But with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg serving as producers, the answer was likely "stoners who like to laugh at little kids swearing their faces off". But GOOD BOYS is about more than just profane prepubescents. It's about that last year or two of innocence before junior high, when we slowly say farewell to our first 'best friends' and pay all of our attention to our raging hormones. I enjoyed the homage to other movies buried within this one (with the BOOGIE NIGHTS one being the best). This might not join the upper echelon of all-time comedies like SUPERBAD but GOOD BOYS has a lot of heart and a bunch of laughs provided by the three young stars. And the profanity is pretty hilarious. B