TORONTO: Short Reviews Of "Stranger than Fiction," "Little Children," and "The Host"

by | September 11, 2006 | Comments

"Stranger than Fiction" is amusing but never quite soars; "Little Children" is a tense character study with fine performances; and "The Host" is a loony monster movie with unexpected depth. Here are short reviews of these films, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"Stranger than Fiction" has an ingenious concept. It’s the story of an average Joe (Will Ferrell) who realizes that he is living in the midst of a novel; a woman (Emma Thompson) is accurately narrating everything he does. Eventually, he learns from the voice that he is going to die, and he tries desperately to both find the author and take control of his own life story. It’s a setup that promises a Charlie Kauffman-esque meta meditation on the nature of art and life. However, despite some wry dialogue and an effectively restrained performance by Farrell, "Stranger than Fiction" never really transcends its central idea. It’s a bit disappointing that "Fiction" isn’t stranger.

The essence of "Little Children" boils down to two five-word sentences: "My love is a fever" and "please be a good boy." When key characters in the film read these words, they know exactly what they mean, because they’ve been thinking the same things. What first appears to be another attack on suburban yuppies evolves into something much deeper. From the moment they meet onscreen, Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) share an undeniable chemistry; they see in each other an opportunity to transcend their mundane existences. But their bond begins as a platonic one; they hang out at the pool with their small children, content to enjoy each other’s company. One of the best things about "Little Children" is how real it all seems. Winslet and Wilson generate so much heat, and their characters are created with such attention to detail, that it’s easy to see how they drift toward each other. The other performances are just as fine; Jennifer Connelly is solid as Brad’s decent, albeit distant, wife; the child actors are uniformly excellent; and Jackie Earle Haley, as a man with a sexual predisposition toward children, pulls off a nearly impossible accomplishment: he makes his character an empathetic (if not sympathetic) creation, a man who knows he has little control over his sad, empty life. "Little Children" is an adult film in the best sense; it creates three-dimensional characters, sets them loose to do what they will, and trusts that we will understand.

A scene from "The Host."

What is "The Host?" It’s a monster movie, a political satire, a wacky comedy, and a poignant look at the ties that bind a dysfunctional family. What’s surprising is how much of this bizarro South Korean import works. If nothing else, "The Host" does a great job of shifting tones and defying expectations. When a schoolgirl is abducted by a mutant fish monster, her slacker dad, archery champion aunt, alcoholic uncle and kindly grandfather undertake a Sisyphusian mission to rescue her; meanwhile, incompetent and overly bureaucratic governmental and military officials warn the public about a supposed virus emanating from the monster without stopping the creature itself. The CG effects are solid, the laughs are goofy, and there’s a real sweetness in the family’s search for the little girl, the only person in the clan that everyone truly likes. If there’s a complaint to be had, it’s that, at two hours, "The Host" is a little flabby. With a few trims, this could be a fanboy classic.

Yep, that’s Sam Jackson. Click for more festival pics.

Tag Cloud

National Geographic Television Academy 4/20 Thanksgiving Amazon Prime Video based on movie Starz discovery Ovation A24 Infographic Star Wars BAFTA YouTube Red Horror History green book travel children's TV comedies GIFs Mary Tyler Moore Spring TV Baby Yoda Masterpiece Classic Film cults VICE USA Network A&E YouTube Premium The Purge spanish language TruTV Travel Channel IFC Films renewed TV shows HBO Max doctor who CNN cancelled TV series video on demand series DGA Crunchyroll Pixar south america TCM foreign technology Premiere Dates The Witch Shondaland screenings Toys sag awards batman dceu SXSW kids dark werewolf Showtime CW Seed The CW Vudu psychological thriller Calendar Film Festival Amazon zombies Britbox chucky facebook Awards Tour comiccon cats HBO PBS toy story award winner Mindy Kaling First Reviews Red Carpet Summer cartoon documentary teaser Animation Cannes YA politics Mary poppins TCA news FX on Hulu 2019 Sony Pictures Hulu American Society of Cinematographers Quiz TCA Winter 2020 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina CMT transformers adventure elevated horror Awards Tubi sports AMC social media Schedule Spike animated Brie Larson Spectrum Originals Drama Sneak Peek Kids & Family Writers Guild of America blockbuster canceled MSNBC Binge Guide book YouTube cars miniseries Turner Classic Movies Walt Disney Pictures theme song name the review Black Mirror Anna Paquin crime Pirates GoT VH1 christmas movies 20th Century Fox space Christmas Sundance TV diversity justice league See It Skip It canceled TV shows zombie MTV Interview Comedy Central El Rey PlayStation Disney+ Disney Plus E3 Discovery Channel Trophy Talk Oscars war blaxploitation 21st Century Fox cooking Superheroes The Arrangement TIFF Trivia BBC One comics NYCC richard e. Grant Sundance Now Black History Month parents thriller FOX 2017 CBS All Access Marvel Television biography Marathons PaleyFest nature FXX crossover Comedy Netflix Christmas movies supernatural TV renewals Family Mary Poppins Returns Hear Us Out BET Awards Grammys BBC Cartoon Network hispanic boxoffice Mudbound Year in Review disaster OWN latino independent Holidays Comics on TV Star Trek Set visit Apple TV+ The Walking Dead Endgame Reality Academy Awards Country Nominations reboot SDCC APB anthology Fantasy cinemax RT History ratings Ghostbusters Acorn TV universal monsters psycho franchise Paramount docudrama Superheroe Adult Swim stoner aliens Fall TV streaming Rock Emmys ITV 71st Emmy Awards Cosplay medical drama Polls and Games Song of Ice and Fire critics Pet Sematary Esquire Teen asian-american OneApp indie Avengers spider-man robots cancelled TV shows DC Comics what to watch game of thrones golden globes satire comic Video Games DC Universe criterion Crackle TCA 2017 serial killer Rocketman festivals Valentine's Day Tarantino BBC America San Diego Comic-Con finale ghosts dramedy Heroines cancelled television slashers scary movies First Look 2016 Lifetime Paramount Network CBS Lifetime Christmas movies Funimation Character Guide Nickelodeon Disney vampires mission: impossible breaking bad Freeform casting Reality Competition sitcom Best and Worst Apple TV Plus Amazon Studios jamie lee curtis Podcast zero dark thirty Film Lionsgate Emmy Nominations Shudder Bravo singing competition free movies VOD Certified Fresh Syfy mockumentary concert Sundance TBS Universal USA GLAAD 2020 natural history unscripted crime thriller Lucasfilm composers rotten movies we love revenge DirecTV Food Network Box Office Chernobyl harry potter Extras spain dogs child's play movies Sci-Fi a nightmare on elm street twilight MCU Pop TV directors Action romantic comedy Holiday Tomatazos movie best true crime HBO Go TLC Nat Geo films Disney Channel ESPN cancelled crime drama Epix quibi Hallmark Christmas movies TV Land spy thriller Countdown BET television adaptation Mystery hist Peacock WarnerMedia NBC Rocky ABC Family die hard ABC halloween LGBTQ RT21 FX documentaries Creative Arts Emmys sequel political drama video Music New York Comic Con historical drama 2018 Apple Marvel romance spinoff Marvel Studios dragons Winter TV Disney Plus Winners cops Columbia Pictures Pride Month President Logo DC streaming service 007 strong female leads WGN 2015 Rom-Com all-time Ellie Kemper Pop TNT mutant tv talk Biopics Dark Horse Comics TV SundanceTV X-Men screen actors guild anime talk show Election versus reviews Arrowverse E! binge Women's History Month science fiction LGBT Netflix Turner Martial Arts Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt police drama Tumblr Fox News Trailer Photos 45 Elton John Western Disney streaming service 24 frames dc Opinion Warner Bros. Captain marvel stand-up comedy Hallmark IFC indiana jones Musical Amazon Prime joker witnail Watching Series game show Super Bowl period drama Comic Book Musicals Stephen King