The biggest movie surprise of the summer for me was discovering that I am pretty much the only person in the world who REALLY didn’t like “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” And BOY did I hear about it. I never knew ABBA fans could write such nasty emails. Other than that, the summer was mostly business as usual. The blockbusters ranged from pretty good (“Ant-Man and The Wasp,” “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”) to utterly dumb (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and I AM SORRY “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”). Still, there were four big summer surprises.
‘Teen Titans Go! to the Movies’
This was, without a doubt, the best non-romantic comedy AND the best superhero movie of the summer. Based on the (very funny) animated TV show, “TTG!” followed superheroes Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire as they attempted to get their own movie made. Among the extended fart jokes — as in, both the farts and the jokes about them were extended — was a surprisingly complicated story about leadership and validation, with an honest friendship at its core. It also had best-song-of-the-year contenders in “My Superhero Movie” and “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life,” AND the best final line of the summer.
‘Sorry to Bother You’
Boots Riley’s genre-busting debut wasn’t a surprise just because it was so extraordinary for a first-time director, but because it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen — not just this summer, but ever. A satire-comedy-magical realism-quasi-horror film with a message, it followed Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a black telemarketer in an alt-universe Oakland who finds wild success after he starts using a “white voice” (dubbed by David Cross). I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked in — the inaccurate buzz was that the film was similar to “Get Out” — but it wasn’t, to my surprise and delight, what I got. What I got was mind-blowingly better.
I have no desire to relive my experience as an eighth-grade girl, what with the poor fashion choices and the tormenting of my mother and the crippling self-hatred. I also have no desire to live as an eighth-grade girl today, now that all of those things could be broadcast to the world and immortalized in a lot more places than the Cooper Middle School yearbook. Writer-director Bo Burnham’s film not only made me remember those times that have (THANKFULLY) passed, but empathize with girls going through adolescence today. Beyond that, it made me empathize with the girl I once was. Yeah, she was a terror, but she deserves a little more love than I ever gave her.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’
The romantic comedy has often been dismissed as one of cinema’s lesser genres, which is unfathomably stupid since both romance and comedy are incredibly difficult to do well on screen. But the modern rom-com, it has to be said, has gotten pretty stale — how long has it been since we’ve had a “Notting Hill” or a “Bridget Jones’s Diary?” Sure, things picked up with last year’s “The Big Sick,” but now we have “Crazy Rich Asians.” Not only is the movie important in terms of cultural representation, it has raised the bar for the genre and shown that a great rom-com can bring in multiple truckloads of money.