Satiric dinner party on The Menu, The Wonder well-crafted, Disenchanted a Disney spoof

Menu offers a tasty satire

Deliciously wicked, Mark Mylod's The Menu gleefully skewers elitism in all its forms, laying waste to the pretentious and privileged with abandon. The action takes place at Chef Slowik's (Ralph Fiennes) The Hawthorn and the dining party of 12 includes mismatched couple Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy); a fading, never-named movie star (John Leguizamo) and his disgruntled assistant, Felicity (Aimee Carrero); pompous food critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer) and her sycophant editor, Ted (Paul Adelstein); long-time marrieds Richard (Reed Birney) and Anne (Judith Light); and Bryce (Rob Yang), Soren (Arturo Castro) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr), three bored bros looking for something cool to do.

The night devolves when the patrons' secrets are exposed, Slowik revealing he has a grievance against each of them and the evening a reckoning in which he will dispense his brand of vengeance. The wit in Seth Reiss and Will Tracy's script is razor-sharp, with fierce bits of dialogue that cause as much damage as any handgun. Fiennes and Taylor-Joy are delightful in their own twisted ways as this skewering of classism takes one unexpected turn after another. Again, not for all tastes, but if you like to laugh rather than rage at the injustices of the world, The Menu provides a clever catharsis to do so. In theaters.

Wonder an intriguing morality piece

Deliberate but well-crafted, Sebastian Lelio's The Wonder slowly reveals itself to be about much more than an examination of faith. Set in Ireland in 1862, the film looks at not only a collision between religion and science, but sacrifice in the face of oppression. Florence Pugh is Lib, an English nurse who's been hired to observe an 11-year-old girl, Anna (Kila Lord Cassidy). Her parents claim she hasn't eaten in four months, something the local clergy nor doctors can disprove. Along with a nun who's been hired for the same purpose, Lib is to report what she observes, a duty that draws her closer to Anna's impoverished family.

Of course, there are surprises in store as this mystery is unraveled, the script by Alice Birch and Leilo delving into the country's history – particularly the potato famine – and how the traditions and beliefs of the past are threatened by a modern beliefs and science. The chemistry between Pugh and Cassidy proves poignant, while the conclusion proves deceptive. The hope it offers is tinged with a sense of foreboding, that any solace the characters may find will likely be temporary. Streaming on Netflix.

Adams' magic buoys Disenchanted

Seems the "happily-ever-after" life Giselle found in New York City in the 2007 Disney spoof Enchanted wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Years have passed, disillusionment has set in and her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey), her stepdaughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) and newborn Sofia (Mila Jackson) have moved to Monroeville, after Giselle sees a billboard that promises "a fairy tale life." Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to its billing. So, doing what any desperate maiden would do, Giselle wishes for Monroeville to live up to its billing. Her wish comes true, the town transforms into a knock-off of the Beauty and the Beast village, and complications ensue.

Clever, up to a point, the film is buoyed by Amy Adams' charm, her portrayal of Giselle's well-intentioned naiveite generating big laughs, as do her struggles when her evil nature tries to emerge. James Marsden is also a delight as the overenthusiastic Prince Edward, while Maya Rudolph is perfect as the duplicitous Malvina. To be sure, the film is too long and sags horribly during its predictable third act. Still, as far as light-hearted time-fillers are concerned, you could do much worse, while Alan Tudyk's voice work as a magical, talking scroll is a true delight. Streaming on Disney+.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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