Over the years the rights to Winnie-the-Pooh have been acquired by Disney, so the muscle of the world’s savviest media corporation stands behind the winsome cartoon bear. If that doesn’t already seem like a mismatch, it will after you see Goodbye Christopher Robin, a British film about the origins of Pooh. This gentle movie examines what happens when a cartoon character becomes a media phenomenon.
American Made doesn’t entirely stand on its own as a movie, but it provides some kick for two reasons. One is the project’s based-on-fact nature: Its cavalcade of unlikely encounters and officially sanctioned malfeasance—peopled by a cast of historical figures that includes future jailbirds Oliver North and Manuel Noriega and future president George W. Bush—is truly incredible. This is the story of Barry Seal, a former TWA (Trans World Airlines) pilot who flew drug shipments for the Medellín cartel and managed to get involved in the Iran-Contra scandal (and, the movie strongly suggests, was working at the behest of the CIA, too).
The other reason American Made is frequently lively is the presence of the actor who plays Seal, one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. It may have snuck up on us, but Tom Cruise has now been a major movie star for almost 35 years (Risky Business came out in ’83), a longer run at the top than many legendary stars. Cruise is good in American Made, throwing himself into the film’s gonzo narrative with his usual gung-ho energy. This is a black comedy, and irony isn’t Cruise’s most natural mode, yet by playing Seal as a slightly dimwitted cheeseball on the make, he gets into the movie’s you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff spirit.
If Woody Allen can leaven his comedies with supernatural gimmicks, why can’t Richard Curtis? The British author of Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral has built his latest project around time travel, but Curtis isn’t interested in the vasty reaches of future worlds or anything like that. His focus remains romance, played out on a modest scale.
On his 21st birthday, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is taken aside by his father (Bill Nighy) and informed of the family gift: The Lake men can time-trip. There are temporal restrictions, but basically Tim can go back and fix past errors by going into a dark closet and thinking hard about the previous moment in question. This is especially helpful during his courtship of Mary (Rachel McAdams), a cute and funny catch who seems to love him as much as he loves her. This is one of the odd notes about About Time: The central romance pretty much goes swimmingly.