The New Mutants

★★1/2

A long preamble to my review of “The New Mutants:” The movie was originally supposed to come out Apr. 13, 2018, was pushed to Feb. 22, 2019 to avoid competition with label mate “Deadpool 2” and then to Aug. 2, 2019 so as to not compete with “Dark Phoenix.” It was later moved to Apr. 3, 2020 after Disney acquired Fox. COVID-19 hit and the movie was jettisoned from Disney’s release calendar altogether before finally being pushed to Aug. 28, 2020. Having finally seen the movie – I can say I didn’t hate, but it wasn’t great. Disney-owned streaming services such as Hulu or Disney+ would’ve been perfectly serviceable homes for this picture.

Additionally, I will say I felt safe seeing “The New Mutants” in a theater. I went to the AMC Traders Point 12 on Indianapolis, Ind.’s Northwest side. The theater was operating at 40 percent capacity, but attendance was well below that. The staff wore masks. Patrons were in masks. There were sanitation stations littered throughout the complex. The audience I saw the film with was one of the best-behaved I can recollect in recent memory because we all legitimately wanted to be there – even if none of us seemed particularly high on the picture itself. Maybe I have fewer reservations about seeing a movie theatrically than do some of my colleagues because I’ve also been bartending throughout this pandemic? My best advice to y’all – don’t go if you don’t feel comfortable; go if you want to and feel comfortable. We all – both sides of the aisle – need to work on not politicizing the situation we currently find ourselves in and not judging others for doing what they’re comfortable doing so long as they’re being safe about it – even if their actions are counterintuitive to your own.

OK, I’m hopping off my soapbox now. “The New Mutants” is directed by Josh Boone (“The Fault in Our Stars”) and features an impressive cast comprised of Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Adam Beach. The movie itself plays like a weird hybrid of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Glass” (Maybe that’s mostly Taylor-Joy’s presence and the institutional setting?) and your run-of-the-mill “X-Men” flick with a dash of horror thrown in for good measure.

The cast is uniformly good. No real surprise as Boone showed a deft hand with actors before in “TFiOS.” (Admission: I drunkenly watched “TFiOS” in bed on HBO a handful of years ago while my wife slept. The movie had its way with me and I wound up ugly crying like a little bitch.) Boone’s latest works best when trading in character. Williams kinda comes across like a young Angela Lansbury meets Teen Wolf, but she exudes the same charming grit she brought to Arya on earlier seasons of “Game of Thrones.” Taylor-Joy is enjoyable even with a Natasha Fatale accent. Heaton, looking strikingly like River Phoenix, is more likable here than he is on “Stranger Things” despite a questionable “Kentuck-eee” accent. Braga is a good actress and does what she can with a role that seems like it got hacked to pieces. Hunt is the film’s lead and does a decent enough job headlining. Zaga has a presence and I could see him going places due to his physique if nothing else. Beach is briefly on hand as Hunt’s character’s father – he doesn’t have a whole helluva lot to do, but it’s always nice to see this cat after his turns in “Joe Dirt” (“hoosker doos, hoosker don’ts”) and as Ira Hayes in Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers.”  

I enjoyed “The New Mutants” most when it was evoking “OFOtCN,” and that’s likely what kept getting it postponed. People aren’t going to this movie for McMurphy and Chief – they wanna see mutant mayhem. The horror feels more “Goosebumps” and less “Fear Street.” The action isn’t especially deft. Graphics often aren’t rendered particularly well. A buddy I went with suggested the film’s photography was too dark – I didn’t agree per se – but this is often a technique employed to camouflage budget deficiencies. Long story short – the picture has its charms, but it’s my least favorite “X-Men” film to date and you can wait six months to a year to watch this at home on Hulu or Disney+ – and that’s whether you feel safe going to the movies or not.

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