Category Archives: Drama

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Review

You know what they say about the road to Hell…

“Dear Evan Hansen” is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name, and features Ben Platt reprising his titular role as a socially awkward high school student who finds himself caught up in a lie involving a recently deceased classmate. Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, and Colton Ryan also star while Stephen Chbosky directs.

I didn’t know much about this film until recently, not even that it was based off a successful musical (I assumed it had been a YA novel or something, since everything is based off an IP nowadays). There has been some heat on the internet surrounding the casting of 27-year-old Ben Platt (whose father also produced the film) as a high school student, as well as the questionable morality of the film’s plot, and while both of these are valid complaints that are hard to completely ignore while watching “Dear Evan Hansen,” the film makes up for it with some catchy songs and solid performances.

Ben Platt made his theatrical debut as a college student in 2012’s “Pitch Perfect” and here we are a full nine years later and he has regressed into high school. The film tries its best to pass him off as a fresh-faced teen but it is often hard to buy. Sometimes a performance or narrative is so engrossing that it is easy to ignore mid-20-somethings playing high schoolers (Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man” or the entire cast of “Scream”) but here Platt is too distracting. His performance is solid enough, with some scenes of genuine emotion, but his singing is hit or miss (it may be the songwriters’ fault but his octaves just seem too high sometimes) and he has an ugly cry face (which doesn’t help the “looking old” thing).

I enjoyed Nik Dodani’s performance as Platt’s friend, he has a few amusing quips, and Kaitlyn Dever, whom I’ve been a fan of for years, continues to show why she is a rising star with some nice work as the sister of Platt’s deceased classmate. And God bless Amy Adams, even with a middling script like this she is determined to sell it. Playing a grieving mother desperate to latch onto any positive memory of her son, Adams is one of the only consistently genuine things about the film, and while it obviously won’t earn her another Oscar nomination to inevitably lose, it is a solid performance.

The musical was created by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo behind “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman,” so obviously there are going to be a few banger songs and dance sequences. I particularly liked “Sincerely, Me,” while is pretty comical as well as probably the most toe-tapping of the whole film. Some of the other songs are entertaining, too, but there are some that seem out of place (and a few cringe-worthy “talk-sing” monologues).

People on Twitter have questioned the morality of the film, centering on a character who exaggerates his friendship with a dead student simply to make the parents feel better, and if that offends you then I can’t tell you that you’re wrong. It never stopped me from fully enjoying things as I think it is handled as well as one could possibly expect a premise like this to be handled, but it’s worth noting.

“Dear Evan Hansen” wears its heart on its sleeve and tries to be something a little different in the pretty worn teen drama genre. Not everything sticks and you feel the 136-minute runtime (this could’ve easily ran 100 minutes and been a better, slicker experience), but if you like your movies covered in cheese and built to contrive the tissues, then this is your ticket.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘In the Heights’ Review

If anything is going to bring back the theater experience, it’s this film.

“In the Heights” is based on the stage play by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and follows a young man (Anthony Ramos) in Washington Heights, New York City as he goes about his life among his community. Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smits also star while Jon M. Chu directs.

Like many a’film, this was due out last year but was delayed until this June due to the pandemic. Because it is a Warner Bros. film it now falls under the “in theaters and streaming on HBO Max” umbrella like “Conjuring 3” and “Mortal Kombat,” but I hope that audiences make their way off the couch and into a theater and experience this colorful and fun, if slightly overlong, slice of summer.

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda became a household name with “Hamilton,” he wrote and starred in “In the Heights,” a musical based in-part on his Latino upbringing in NYC. Miranda produced and has a small role here, but the show now belongs to his “Hamilton” co-star, Anthony Ramos. Ramos has shown up in several supporting roles in the last few years (namely “A Star Is Born” and last fall’s “Honest Thief”) but this is his first true starring role and he makes the best of it. He gets a range of emotions to play with but also emerges into every scene with energy and I can’t wait to see what he does next (rumors have it leading the latest “Transformers” film).

The rest of the cast is solid, too. I really enjoyed Gregory Diaz IV’s witty teenage cousin of Ramos, as well as Jimmy Smits adding some gravitas to his scenes and Olga Merediz, reprising her Tony Award-winning role as Ramos’ abuela, providing the film’s emotional backbone. A few of the other performances and singing can be a bit wonky or over-the-top at points, but no one is flat-out bad and everyone seems to be having fun.

Being a musical, the dance numbers are arguably the most important aspect of the film and for the most part they sore. While the choreography isn’t as detailed or fun as “La La Land” or the songs as catchy or memorable as “Hamilton,” the film manages to capture the spirit of summertime in New York City very well. There are a couple instances of poor CGI or simply too much going on, as well as some poor sound editing (an issue even “La La Land” has in a few spots), but I was tapping my foot on several occasions. Not every song is a bop, but the ones that hit hit in the best ways (“In the Heights” and “96,000,” especially).

My biggest complaint with the film revolves around its editing, which I’ve already touched a bit on. There are several continuity errors between takes (enough that I started to notice and felt compelled to mention here), as well as at least two occasions where the actors’ lip-synching of the songs was blatantly off. The film’s transitions between acts also aren’t very seamless, and while in a stage play you have intermissions and set changes to break the story apart, a film should flow organically. At 143 minutes I started to feel the runtime adding up, and I can think of a few musical numbers or subplots that could have been trimmed out to make this a breezier, more streamlined experience (it is worth noting that my friend I saw this with thought the film flew by, so the pacing may be a personal preference).

“In the Heights” works better in moments than as a cohesive whole, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out, especially in a (respectfully distanced) “packed” theater. Films like this are why we go to the movies and I was lucky enough to see this in IMAX and got to see every drip of sweat on the characters and hear every clank of a Coke bottle. The film will mean more to some people than others (in the same way “Black Panther” did) but there is something here for everyone, so long as you go in with the right expectations.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ Review

Theaters are BACK, baby!

“A Quiet Place Part II” is the sequel to the 2018 sleeper hit, again written and directed by John Krasinski. The film follows a woman and her children (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) one more having to navigate a world where aliens are hunting them based on sound; Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou join the cast.

This was due out in theaters in March 2020 (I had my ticket bought and was a week out from going) but became one of the initial films to be delayed due to the coronavirus shutting down theaters. It has been a long wait, but there is something poetic about “A Quiet Place Part II,” a rare sequel that does its predecessor justice, being the first “big” release of the (almost) post-pandemic era.

“A Quiet Place” took a lot of people by surprise when it came out, and came *this* close getting a Best Picture nomination (it earned top nods at nearly every guild). I like the film and think Krasinski, known for his comedy, did a good job directing the thriller. The sequel ups the stakes (and by default, the budget) but Krasinski manages to keep the film’s heart in-tact. The action sequences are bigger and I really enjoyed the tracking shots and use of background actors to create a sense of chaos, compared to the “hold your breath and look over your shoulder” sequences of the first film. I think he does make the mistake a lot of monster movies (especially sequels) make and shows the creatures a bit too often (the scariest thing is what you can’t see), but it is never overly excessive. I do think that we lose some of the “don’t you dare make a sound” tension since the characters have a way to fight the creatures, but Krasinski is able to play with these new rules.

Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe are both great talents and they’re good here, but the show belongs to Millicent Simmonds and Cillian Murphy. Simmonds takes the reigns as the lead of the film, and she and Murphy, playing a man dealing with being alone in this bold new world, make an interesting team. Their quest is where “Quiet Place 2” thrives, creating some of the tensest sequences of the film.

Much like the first film, I think it takes a bit of time to get the ball rolling, but once Krasinski really gets things moving he doesn’t stop until the credits roll. The film does have some moments of poor sound editing where it is difficult to make out what actors are saying, but for the most part the seamless transition from booming screams, to static, to mute make for an immersive experience.

The film does a great job of building off the lore and rules of the first installment while introducing new challenges and risks, and that isn’t an easy thing for a sequel to do (clearly; name five follow-ups as good as their predecessors). You hear the line “this deserves to be seen in a theater” a lot and usually it’s just code for “this is a big-budget blockbuster that you will forget about almost instantly” but in this case it is actually true: this film deserves to be seen in a theater. From the sound, to the action, to simply giving Krasinski and his team the support they deserve, “A Quiet Place Part II” is a great unofficial start to both the summer movie season and return to normalcy at the cinema.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘Cruella’ Review

I really think I like these live-action Disney remakes more when they add onto the original stories and aren’t just shot-for-shot remakes like “The Lion King.”

“Cruella” is the origin story for the “101 Dalmatians” villain, with Emma Stone in the titular role as the criminal mastermind obsessed with fashion. Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong also star, with Craig Gillespie directing.

You can just engrave the 2021 Oscars for Hair & Makeup and Costume Design to this film already, because from the opening frame to the closing shot they steal the show. Taking advantage of London’s 1970s fashion scene, Jenny Beavan (a two-time Academy Award winner herself) creates elaborate dresses and detailed jackets, and has each character leap off the screen.

Aiding them greatly is Emma Stone, who continues to somehow impress and surprise me despite already being an Oscar winner. Stone makes the character of Cruella her own and in a way gets to play dual roles, since the film presents the black-and-white haired Cruella as a mysterious alter-ego to Stone’s timid Estalla, a product of the streets growing up. Stone carries her normal charm and wit, and gives one of the better performances of these Disney remakes.

I also really liked Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Jasper and Horace, Cruella’s (somewhat reluctant) partners in crime. Fry has good comedic timing and Hauser has shown he can play a likable buffoon, and the pair play well off Stone’s energy. It is also always a treat to see Emma Thompson in anything, much less getting to have her chew scenery as a bad guy.

The film has a great energy about it, and for the most part you don’t feel its 134-minute runtime. Full of incredible music and snappy direction, the film moves along well, only really struggling in the third act where things get a little too repetitive. It could also be argued that this is not a kid’s film (it is rated PG-13), but there isn’t anything too crazy here that a 10+ audience couldn’t handle.

As we start to get back to normal and theaters return to the forefront, it is good to see we will have some quality pictures to check out. “Cruella” plays out like “Joker” and “The Devil Wears Prada” had a lovechild, but I really enjoyed myself during it and recommend supporting your local theater by seeing a film so vibrant on the big screen.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘Cherry’ Review


I’m all for Tom Holland and the Russo brothers spreading their creative wings and trying to do more than Marvel blockbuster films, but maybe they should choose better projects than this one.

“Cherry” is based on the popular semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker. Tom Holland stars as an Army veteran who battles PTSD and an opioid addiction, and resorts to robbing banks in order to pay for his habits. Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, and Jeff Wahlberg also star while Joe and Anthony Russo direct.

The Russo brothers began their careers with small comedies but are best known for directing several installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the two best films of the franchise “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” They have branched out into the action-thriller genre in producing roles with “Extraction” (starring the MCU’s Chris Hemsworth) and “21 Bridges” (with the late/great Chadwick Boseman), but this marks their first directorial effort outside the MCU in nearly 10 years. There are flashes of inspiration and style, but overall “Cherry” is a misstep on nearly every level.

Tom Holland quickly became a fan-favorite after being a scene-stealer as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War” and has since grown a large fanbase. He continues to charm as the superhero but has also tried to branch out into more serious films, including this past fall’s “The Devil All the Time.” Holland is undoubtably a talented actor and will one day get his big awards, but that won’t start with “Cherry.” He is asked to convey a lot of emotions- love, scared, scarred, angry- but is let down by a very hacky and juvenile script. Some of the lines that Holland is forced to deliver are just too awkward or unnatural to be taken seriously. It is nowhere near a bad performance, Holland has some moments where he carries himself well, but this would be a tough task for any actor to sell.

The screenplay was written by Angela Russo-Otstot (the director’s sister) and Jessica Goldberg, and it is, simply put, not good. There are 4th wall breaks (until there aren’t), awkward narration (until there isn’t), and unnecessary use of profanity (“you want me to punch this guy in the d*ck?”). It jumps around time liberally, hurting any real sense of momentum or continuity, and there are really no redeemable characters in this entire ordeal. I’m not sure how loyal of an adaptation this was of the book, but it in no way made me interested to read it.

On top of the random choices from a narrative perspective, the Russos chose to use random moments of slow-mo, big words on-screen, and not-so-subtle commentary (one of the names of the banks Holland robs is called “Sh*tty Bank”). It makes the entire film come off like a pretentious student project, and for having directed the “Avengers” films that have such vibrant characters and massive scopes, there is very little trace of either of those things here. The only real compliment I can give the direction is towards the very end the bank heist scenes have some tension.

“Cherry” could have maybe been worth the mildest of recommendations if it was a 100-minute movie about a PTSD veteran who robs banks, but coming in at a pretentious and bloated 141-minute runtime there isn’t a real reason to watch this. Maybe if you fast forward past the first hour where Holland is a lovesick puppy dog awkwardly jamming exposition down our throats you can find some enjoyment, but otherwise this film is swing and a miss Oscar bait. Anthony Russo said that the pair made this film as part of the “one for them, one for you” Hollywood mantra, but the end result is more like “one for them, one for nobody.”

Critics Rating: 4/10

‘The Independents’ Review

“The Independents” is a semi-true story of the formation of the band The Sweet Remains, and stars the real-life members of the band Rich Price, Greg Naughton, and Brian Chartrand as fictionalized versions of themselves. Naughton also writes and directs, with Boyd Gaines, James Naughton, Keira Naughton, Kelli O’Hara, Chris Sullivan, George Wendt, and Richard Kind also starring.

I typically like these small films that feel “real,” with the best way I can describe this is a mix between “Sideways” and last year’s “The Climb.” We have seen the “struggling artists come together for one last shot at fame” story a hundred times before and this doesn’t make any attempt to break the mold, but thanks to some genuine performances, humorous writing, and toe-tapping songs, this film mostly works.

The three main stars each play a different stereotype we typically find in the genre, with Greg Naughton playing the stoner with marital problems, Rich Price acting as a man who thinks he missed the boat and is stuck teaching a college course, and Brian Chartrand as the care-free spirit (who may or may not be close to homelessness). The three share some solid chemistry (they are real-life friends, after all), and when they do have conflict it is not overtly contrived.

The three-man harmony isn’t a genre of music we hear too often these days (a point made in the film by Richard Kind’s agent character), and the melodies are soft and warm.

The film shows the emotional toll that trying to chase your dreams can take on a person and their relationships, and even if it is a bit rushed and open-ended by the end of the film, sometimes it isn’t about the destination so much as the journey. “The Independents” is an independent film that is easy to watch and forgive the flaws, because you can sense the passion the crew had while making it. In a world where capes and creatures dominate our screens, sometimes a small-scale humanistic story is refreshing, even while familiar.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Review

This film will be noted as one of the best of 2021, but is going to receive nominations for the 2020 awards season. Make it make sense.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” tells the story of criminal-turned-FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) and his betrayal of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Algee Smith, and Martin Sheen also star, while Shaka King directs.

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are two of the best rising talents in Hollywood right now, with both going from obscure favorites to mainstream faces following “Get Out” in 2017. Kaluuya earned an Oscar nomination for his work there, and subsequent praise for his performance in “Widows” and appearance in “Black Panther,” while Stanfield has appeared in numerous acclaimed films like “Knives Out,” “Uncut Gems,” and “Sorry to Bother You.” Their reunion here produces a film that is entertaining and intense, but also ponderous and at times infuriating.

As Fred Hampton, Daniel Kaluuya embodies charisma and passion. An onlooker of one of his speeches calls him a poet, and it’s certainly true. He enters rallies to the sound of drums and the chanting of his name from a roaring crowd like he’s a college football star running out of the tunnel onto the field, and makes a point to gather oppressed people from all walks of life, not just African Americans. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Hampton knew he would not live to see old age (he would die at just 21) but he is ready to trade his life for the advancement of the people.

As petty thief William O’Neal, LaKeith Stanfield has a much more challenging role to balance, essentially playing a less-moral version of Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed.” Having his arm twisted by the FBI to infiltrate the Panthers in lieu of going to prison, O’Neal is portrayed as much more conflicted in the film than he was in real life but it serves the story wonderfully. While in reality O’Neal felt “no allegiance” to Hampton and the Panthers, director Shaka King and co-writers Will Berson and Kenny and Keith Lucas choose to make O’Neal becoming a rat much more of a conflict of emotion. In one scene where Stanfield must keep his Panther facade up during a rally despite realizing his cover may be about to be blown, and it is masterful acting and direction by all parties. There is the classic “who else knows about me?” confrontation between O’Neal and his FBI handler, as well as a nice touch by King to have the pair meet in progressively more fancy settings as the film goes on to symbolize how removed from his own world O’Neal is becoming, and it adds a little bit of freshness to a story beat we’ve seen before.

The supporting cast is solid as well, with Jesse Plemons playing O’Neil’s FBI handler thinking he means well, comparing the possible threat of the radical Panther party to that of the KKK. However, he and J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen, in make-up and prosthetics that make him look like Danny DeVito’s Penguin) would rather take Hampton and the Party out than fix any actual problems that created the need for the Panthers in the first place (“you can’t cheat your way to equality” Plemons says to Stanfield).

I really enjoyed the musical score by Mark Isham and Craig Harris, too. It has its tender moments of delicate piano, intense sequences with knocking of wooden blocks, and some cool drum and guitar riffs when characters and simply hanging out. The cinematography by Sean Bibbitt is also pretty good, with nice framing and detailed rain sequences.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is by-default the best film of 2021 to date (no offense to “The Marksman” or “Outside the Wire”), but I already know I will be talking about it all the way through my Top 10 list in December. Much like “The Trial of the Chicago 7” it may take place in the 1960s but the parallels to modern times could not be any clearer, and it adds to an already impressive filmography from its lead stars. This may not be an easy watch for some people, but it is a necessary one for all.

Critics Rating: 9/10

‘The Marksman’ Review

Another year, another Liam Neeson-with-a-gun movie.

“The Marksman” stars Liam Neeson as a retired U.S. Marine who lives on the Arizona-Mexican border, and is forced to escort a young Mexican boy (Jacob Perez) to Chicago while being pursued by cartel members. Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, and Teresa Ruiz also star, while Robert Lorenz directs.

Despite insisting he was done with the “retired/widowed/alcoholic ex-killer gets caught up in a situation and reluctantly does the right thing” movies several years ago, this is the second such film of Liam Neeson’s to come out during the pandemic alone (the other being the perfectly fine, whatever “Honest Thief” last October). I could honestly copy and paste most of my review for that film here and not need to change anything but names and locations, because like many of Neeson’s recent outings “The Marksman” is a very workmanlike, boilerplate installment into a well-worn genre that will give its intended audience their kicks.

While “Taken,” “Non-Stop,” and even “Unknown” all have their own sense of flair and energy, recent films by Neeson have been pretty tame. However that is not the fault of the 68-year-old Irishman. Unlike Bruce Willis, who seemingly puts out a new film every three months and reads his lines like a hostage tape, Neeson never phones his roles in. Yes at this point he is essentially playing himself, growling and only half-trying to conceal his Irish accent, but he adds a sense of gravitas to these films that would otherwise feel straight-to-VOD.

Unlike “Honest Thief” I will at least give this film credit for having a little bit of color. Cinematographer Mark Patten includes some nice sunset shots painted against the desert hills of the American Midwest, and makes each state that Neeson and Perez pass through feel at least a little unique.

The film is paced fine-enough, although there really isn’t 108 minutes’ worth of actual content here. Like most buddy road trip movies there are plot conveniences to force the story along (Neeson finds a bag of money but continues to use his credit card simply so we have an excuse for the bad guys to track him), and until the final shootout there isn’t much action. Robert Lorenz has made a career producing Clint Eastwood’s films (his sole other directorial effort was of Eastwood in 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve”), and it is easy to see this having been written with Eastwood in mind (this plot is also incredibly similar to Eastwood’s 2018 film “The Mule”).

Those who like Liam Neeson shooters or any these senior citizen romps should get their kicks, and if you’ve been looking for a reason to return to the theater then this is as good-enough as any I suppose. Normally January is reserved for the stinkers (last year’s worst film “The Grudge” literally came out on the third day of 2020 and I never forgave it), so by those standards “The Marksman” is a hit; just know that this isn’t Neeson’s first rodeo, and he and Lorenz have every intent of sticking to the formula, for better or worse.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘The Midnight Sky’ Review

As far as blatant rip-offs go, I’ve seen worse than this.

“The Midnight Sky” is the latest directorial effort from George Clooney, based on the novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” The film follows a lone scientist in the Arctic (Clooney) who must journey to a radio tower to warn off a returning spaceship (containing Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, and Kyle Chandler) after a global catastrophe on Earth.

George Clooney is a very interesting director. When he hits, he hits, with serious dramas like “The Ides of March” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” However he has recently fallen into a bit of a rough spell, with missed opportunities like “Monuments Men” and the awful “Suburbicon.” His latest (and most ambitious) effort, “The Midnight Sky,” is his first attempt at both a blockbuster and at taking part in the Netflix machine, and while the results are mixed, I think there is enough here to be worth checking out from your couch.

As far as his direction here goes, I appreciated Clooney’s humanistic approach. He had to take a “crash course” on visual effects (more on that in a second), but as far as his handling of the actors go, I think he did a good job getting personal performances from his cast. As far as the story goes, it’s a bit more mixed, because while Clooney’s personal “Revenant” journey through the Arctic with a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) is intense and emotional, the sequences aboard the spaceship belong in a completely different movie (and that movie is “The Martian”).

Half of the special effects are solid here, but in 2020 it takes a lot to wow an audience (especially without seeing them on a big screen). Some of the greenscreen moments are a bit wonky, but Clooney does manage to take a page out of his “Gravity” playbook and create a few “wow” moments when he pans back to reveal the full scope of the universe. In a year where “Birds of Prey” is going to end up as the highest-grossing superhero movie, I could see “Midnight Sky” slipping into the awards talk for its production value, but in a normal year this wouldn’t earn any additional talk for its VFX.

The familiarity of the film certainly hinders it, and for some viewers may even ruin things. However I found myself enjoying a fair amount, whether it was with the film (an exciting snowstorm sequence shot in real-life 50 mph winds at 40-below) or at its expense (the astronauts break out into a carpool karaoke of “Sweet Caroline” like its the 7th inning at Fenway; dumb). Alexandre Desplat’s score, while on-the-nose at points, is also very good, and is one of my favorites of the year.

“The Midnight Sky” thinks it is being slick trying to be a half-dozen better films rolled into one, but given our limited amount of big-budget fair in 2020 I think this latest attempt by Netflix to break into the blockbuster game is admirable-enough to warrant checking. Sure, you could watch “The Revenant” or “Interstellar” or “Ad Astra” instead (and likely should), but for those who demand little and want something “new” (used in the loosest of terms), I think this works.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘All My Life’ Review

Sometimes good intentions aren’t good enough.

“All My Life” is based on a true story and follows a young couple (Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr.) that must put their wedding on hold after one of them receives a cancer diagnosis. Kyle Allen, Chrissie Fit, Jay Pharoah, Marielle Scott, and Keala Settle also star while Marc Meyers directs.

In a film like this, the performances of the leads are important. Thankfully, Jessica Rothe (known for “Happy Death Day”) and Harry Shum Jr. show flashes of chemistry and charisma, with a few entertaining exchanges early on (“go on, wit me” Rothe says to him after meeting at a bar). They may not have the same sizzling partnership as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but they are able to come off as a real couple.

Unfortunately, that is about where the compliments end. The rest of the film is simply bland, from the direction to the screenplay. It truly never builds up any momentum, and there is never any real conflict. The pair meet in the second scene of the film and begin dating in the third, and then once Shum is diagnosed with cancer we don’t really see his struggles depicted in a gradual decline, like in “50/50.” There are one or two scenes where the gravity of the situation overtakes the couple, but otherwise his appearance never changes and if we weren’t being straight-up told the updates by the doctor we would have no idea how concerned to be.

Most of the plot focuses on the couple and their friends racing to put together a wedding while Shum is still healthy, and there isn’t any real drama or stakes there, either. Everything continues to fall into line, which is obviously great if that is how it played out for the real couple, but doesn’t make for entertaining cinema. A film like, say, “The Photograph” may seem familiar in its structure, but its camera work and backdrop (both this and that film were shot in New Orleans) keep us visually engaged; this doens’t give us that luxury.

Look, I am in no way this film’s target demographic. I like romantic comedies just fine (I just watched “The Broken Hearts Gallery” and found it delightful), but romantic dramas are typically hit-or-miss with me. Maybe the teenage girls looking for a good cry will find enough here to be worth their while, but when I wasn’t bored watching this, I just kept thinking of better movies of similar premises. “All My Life” isn’t inherently “bad,” it’s just blah.

Critics Rating: 4/10