Under Wraps (1997)

Under Wraps. Released (premiered): October 25, 1997. Directed by: Greg Beeman. Starring: Adam Wylie, Mario Yedidia, Clara Bryant. Runtime: 1h 35 min.

When people think Disney Channel Original Movie, ones like “Halloweentown” or “High School Musical” stand out. But today, I’m reviewing the true original DCOM, “Under Wraps,” the first to premiere on the network as the re-branded Disney Channel Original Movie.

A local museum curator and grump, Mr. Kubat (Ed Lauter), dies and Marshall (Mario Yedida), Gilbert (Adam Wylie) and Amy (Clara Bryant) decide to see what weird stuff the old guy had in his basement. They find more than they bargained for when there’s a mummy named Harold (Bill Fagerbakke, Patrick Star on “Spongebob Squarepants”) chilling in his sarcophagus.

As far as these DCOM Halloween movies go, they’re rarely scary. They just have spooky monsters and usually make for decent Halloween movies. “Under Wraps” is easily the least scary of them all. But that’s not this film’s intention (or usually any of the DCOM Halloween movie intentions). This mummy is just funny and entertaining. There’s some good fish-out-of-water humour and slapstick comedy that made me think of Jim Carrey. The makeup is decent for Harold, too.

Some of the humour’s childish, but again, that’s understandable for a Halloween TV movie made for kids. I’m still a kid at heart so there’s some okay enjoyment to be had here. Certain sub-plots aren’t always interesting. For example: Marshall’s Mom (Corinne Bohrer, and that’s literally the character name) is dating a new guy named Ted (also played by Bill Fagerbakke) and Marshall isn’t coping with it well after his parent’s divorce.

It’s not super interesting while watching but it was probably put in because it would be relatable for any kids watching it that may not be handling divorce well. It handles it fine in that respect and the attempt at developing a character is welcome, as they don’t try with anyone else.

Basically, Marshall likes horror movies; Gilbert’s spooked of his own shadow; and Amy is… Well, she’s not well-developed and she’s there for an eventual schoolyard crush, and her mom (character name simply Amy’s Mom) is selling Kubat’s house so she’s their way into the basement to find Harold.

The friendship with Marshall and Harold is a highlight. The main plot of the film other than just three kids hanging out with a mummy is they have to get him back into his sarcophagus before Halloween ends. If they don’t, he’ll turn to dust and his soul would be lost, as a horror shop owner named Bruce (Ken Hudson Campbell) tells the kids. He’s a horror shop owner but also an exposition fairy.

Under Wraps featured

Bill Fagerbakke in “Under Wraps.”

The villain and the main conflict is weak and there’s a dumb twist that’s too silly to not talk about. It’s really the stuff you’d see in a TV movie like this, so SPOILER WARNING! Basically, the Kubat guy is still alive. He faked his death because he was going to go to jail for tax evasion. He’s trying to sell the sarcophagus but wants Harold because a real-life mummy is real valuable. Of course, the kids don’t want Harold being sold to one of his shady buyers. They really dress Kubat as a gangster interested in arts and culture when they show he’s the villain. END OF SPOILERS!

The acting’s fine for the kids, and when Marshall fake cries it’s the only bad moment. If they’re doing random hijinks, they’re completely passable. The teleplay by Don Rhyme is fine for what it is, but character development, plot structure and the conflict is shaky at best. The mummy makes up for it by being funny most of the time, and without him being so amusing this would have been a lot worse.

I think the best writing is a movie-within-a-movie called “Warthead IV” that Marshall adores. The monster looks like the Toxic Avenger and there’s some funny, cheesy overacting. But when the monster crashes through a window and puts the Movie Dad (Tom Virtue, Steven Stevens on TV’s “Even Stevens”) near a spinning knife in the garbage disposal is the closest this comes to horror. It’s campy and looks like a fun movie, and I would watch it. It’s one of the better moments of the film.

Score: 60/100

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Dirty Grandpa (2016)

 

Released: January 22, 2016. Directed by: Dan Mazer. Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch. Runtime: 1hr 42 min.

This comedy feels like screenwriter John Phillips lost a bet and since he lost, he had to write a screenplay with filthy joke after filthy joke. Dirty Grandpa is the result.

This follows Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a boring corporate lawyer who’s about to get married to the most basic, control freak fiancé to come on film this year, named Meredith (a forgettable Julianne Hough).

Jason’s grandma just died and he now has to drive his ex-Special Forces grandfather, an appropriately named Dick (Robert De Niro), down to Florida, hoping to prolong the tradition of going down to Florida this time of year. While Jason has to be home for the rehearsal dinner, Dick begins to show his true colours and tricks Jason to Daytona Beach for spring break.

Raunchy and offensive, and just about as crude as it can get at every turn, Dirty Grandpa fails in just about every respect. It shouldn’t be confused with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, because that’s actually funny in its own mischievous way.

I hope me not liking the film makes me sound like every old white critic out there that didn’t like the film because it’s offensive. I’m only 21, damn it!

But I’m the target audience, and I found this to be a pointless experiment in shocking the audience at every turn.

DeNiro’s Dick Kelly is an unlikable, racist, homophobic, perverted old fart who also has an obsession with poking Efron’s Jason in the butt and twisting his nipples. This grandpa is so awful, he makes me want to call my own grandfathers and thank them for not being perverted old freaks.

The film was super uneven in its tone, which was frustrating. It wanted to be balls to the wall crude, but also shoved dramatic pieces in there. They’re heartwarming when they come – but only a minute later, it’s interrupted by a De Niro stunt penis on Zac Efron’s pillow or De Niro arbitrarily commenting on Andre the Giant’s massive fingers and what he can do with them in the bedroom.

The bizarre crudeness undermines any sentiment the film has to offer – like a bizarrely heartwarming karaoke duet with Zoey Deutch that almost brings Efron back to his High School Musical days. Take a look at him now, Disney.

Plaza has a filthy turn as Lenore, who’s trying to get with Dick because she thinks he is a professor and that’s on her slutty bucket list.

Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa (Source

Along the way, they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy), who attended photography school with Jason. She’s the only one who doesn’t get raunchy dialogue – and should feel the least embarrassed to be in this smut.

I love crude humour. But only when it’s funny. This just felt like it took a shrapnel accuracy approach to comedy — writing filthy jokes and seeing what sticks. Plot twist: Nothing does stick.

It’s a predictable farce that results in an early contender for the year’s worst film. Dan Mazer (producer on Brüno) directs the actors on what looks like their first take. They say dialogue that’s supposed to be funny, but rarely is. The cast tries their very best and the film isn’t their fault.

It’s bad writing and dreadful jokes, which only made me laugh once. At this point, I’m trying to forget Efron and De Niro were ever in something so damn desperate.

The epitome of desperation in the film is a scene with Efron waking up the beach nude after a night of partying, only a stuffed bee covering his nether regions.

A young child then comes over, using vocabulary like “He let me kiss it” and “I stroked it” when his petrified father comes over. It looks like he molested the poor kid – and for Dirty Grandpa, this is their below the rock bottom of desperate comedy.

In certain scenes I was truly debating walking out, which is something I haven’t considered since 2013’s Grown Ups 2. So in a way, the filmmakers won. They nearly shocked me out of the movie. Congratulations?

1 star