My wife and I recently saw the movie “Baby Driver.” Without kids.
Here is my review.
If your initial reaction to the newly-released movie “Baby Driver” is that it all seems familiar, there’s a reason for that: we’ve been down this road before. Many times, in fact: The heart-clogging whiffs of popcorn drenched in partially-hydrogenated oils; the somewhat soothing din of movie and car ads drifting through the lobby from multiple TV screens; the irresponsibly-large cutouts of films which must be truly terrible if their studios have commissioned such over-sized monstrosities to attract viewership.
But where most theaters rely on standard derivations of the same old themes, the Xscape theater where we attended the screening of this movie strives for more. And, overall, it succeeds.
Helmed by a famously reclusive, almost mythic General Manager, this production’s ensemble cast is mostly standard fare, with some very clear stand-outs. The ticket seller (played capably by an eager-but-largely-unqualified young man) is somewhat slow to provide our tickets. It is soon clear, however, that he is doing the best he can with what he was given, and that perhaps the fault is with the technology. If not, the acting is second-to-none.
“. . . it all seems familiar . . .we’ve been down this road before.”
It would have been better had we simply used the self-serve kiosks (an introvert’s best friend, and an outstanding touch), but we needed to use our frequency card, and those can only be keyed by humans. This slight annoyance is forgivable, but I still wonder what this would have looked like in the hands of a more tech-conscious company.
The concessions workers are mostly forgettable, although having a trainee take our order is a nice touch, and a clear nod to other local theaters, most notably the long-defunct River Falls 10.
The drink choices are nothing new, but what really sets Xscape apart in this area are the self-service fountains, which allow for endless refills. We’ve seen this before in countless fast food productions, but Xscape handles this with their characteristic flair, selling overtly large cups and dispensing drinks which are as tasty as they are cold and expensive. It also helps that not many theaters are using this technique. Xscape is clearly banking on the moviegoer to respond favorably to this device. For the most part, it works.
The food choices, on the other hand, are unoriginal and might have been impressive 15 years ago when most theaters still served only boxed candy and popcorn. Pretzels and nachos heated in a microwave are hardly ground-breaking. The ice-cream novelty freezer would have been a nice surprise, but its placement on a random wall far from the concessions counter broke the food-ordering pacing for me. This was a disappointing misstep; however, we brought our own candy, so it didn’t ruin the experience altogether.
“. . . drinks which are as tasty as they are cold and expensive.”
The ticket-taker (played to perfection by a dour, disinterested kid who, understandably, wanted to be elsewhere) really shows how seriously Xscape has taken this franchise; that feeling like I’m not exactly a guest, but slightly more than a random ATM machine is palpable, buoyed by the mesmerizing and aforementioned soundtrack of coming attractions and random commercials being played in loops on the screens in the lobby and hall.
Having met most of the ancillary characters and made the first obligatory restroom stop, we finally reach the pivotal moment of finding the theater and settling in the for the rest. And boy, the rest is a doozy!
Unlike most recent movie-going experiences, we are suddenly introduced to two superstars who shine like beacons of hope, saving this outing from what was certainly on-track to be a mostly lackluster affair.
The first of these is the always-fabulous leather recliner chair. Some have called these plush chairs a bit derivative of Sharper Image’s early work, adding nothing new to the genre, and being a bit overkill in this setting. I disagree! They embrace their own eccentric reputations, seeming to revel in the amazing ridiculousness of everyone treating a room full of strangers like it’s their own living room. I was thankful my neighbor did not remove his shoes, but I could have not blamed him if he did – the license which Xscape has taken here leaves this door wide open. And I’m ok with that.
The foot rests, when fully extended, are a bit close to the chair in front of you, leaving not much gap for the occasional bathroom-breaker. But I choose to believe this is an intentional design, an homage to the early days of theater-going, when even if people had to pee, they were trapped in their seats by their large hoop skirts and 12 piece suits. A brilliant touch, and one which will one day be heralded as visionary.
(It should be noted that fans of the standard La-Z-Boy may be overwhelmed with the comfort at first, but will not regret sticking with it, in my opinion.)
“I was thankful my neighbor did not remove his shoes . . .”
The second shining light of this production is the breakout superstar lack of any children whatsoever. As someone who loves his own kids more than life itself, I have to admit that’s not always the case in a theater setting. But, when the lights dimmed and there was not a fidgety child or cooing baby evident in the house, it was a moving experience, and one I won’t soon forget.
Of course, the presence of children was unlikely given the nature of the film, but these days you never can tell. I have seen families with children walk into wildly inappropriate films, so anything was possible. I will not be the first to say it, and not the last, but hear me clearly: keep an eye on this one. When/if theater award season rolls around, it will be a crime if “lack of any children whatsoever” doesn’t walk away with a statuette.
Overall, this production overcomes some silly mistakes and oversights to provide a nice experience. If nothing else, the refills, chairs, and lack of any children whatsoever are worth the price of admission. This one will likely stick with you after the credits roll. And that’s what good cinema should do.
I give it a decidedly First-Rate 4 out of 5 Smoking Einsteins
(Oh, and the movie was good too. 4 1/2 out of 5 Smoking Einsteins )