Ranking Every ‘Even Stevens’ Episode Ever!

Even-Stevens

I’m a huge Even Stevens fan. Perhaps the biggest ever. Growing up I wanted to be Louis Stevens more than anything. I dressed like him, laughed like him, and even talked like him. I would set my clock every evening for when the show came on and would be quoting the episode the next day at school to my classmates’ and teachers’ eye-rolling. To this day, I still watch it almost every night. It makes me happy and keeps my life filled with joy and fun.

And I’m sure I’m with most Even Stevens fans when I say that any episode is a good episode. But much like the Oscars or my children, there are always gonna be some that are better than others.

Although I still watch the show routinely, I suddenly had the idea–or perhaps the urge–to rank each episode one by one. I kept track by viewing the entire series twice through for good measure. I carefully and thoroughly listed each one in comparison to the others. Keeping in mind things like episode premise, hilarity, consistency, and quotability, I’ve compiled the ultimate list you are about to see. (Those of you who actually care, that is).

Sure, it’s gonna be hard for me to remain unbiased, but I will try my best.

If you’re wondering where to go to watch the show, most of the episodes are available on YouTube, albeit with questionable quality, but there nonetheless. The show has also been released on DVD in Canada for you to purchase on Amazon.

So enjoy my rants about how annoying Ren is, and without further ado, I give you my ranking of every Even Stevens episode:

65. Family Picnic (Season 1, Episode 8)

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The Stevens compete in the annual family picnic. Louis isn’t that into it. While the rest of his family–competitive as they are–are completely gung-ho about winning for their 3rd straight year. This one isn’t bad, it’s just somewhat flat. Sure, we have the whole “cheaters never win” theme, but it isn’t as hard-hitting as it could be. Louis is very underutilized. He is his usual quirky self, but this is the episode where he is perhaps the most contained.

64. In Ren We Trust (Season 3, Episode 21)

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If there was ever an episode that typifies the surrealism of season 3, it’s this one. The gang finds a briefcase containing $4000, but Ren decides to report the money to the police instead of keeping it. On her way there, she impulsively decides to buy a $4000 pair of lizard skin pants. Other than that, not a lot happens in this one, as it suffers from the “it was all a dream” trope. There are few jokes, but mostly a lot of running around chasing Ren. Although, like any episode, it has its moments. There’s a solid Beans subplot, along with an seemingly off-the-cuff moment by Louis at the end. But overall, it’s not really the penultimate episode we would hope for.

63. Gutter Queen (Season 2, Episode 2)

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In this one, Louis hires a butler, Chives, who is the nucleus of each highlight in this episode. Unfortunately, he provides a hindrance as well. With him around, Louis morphs into a more selfish version of himself. Not that Lou isn’t always trying to find ways to benefit in life, but here it’s stretching–even for him. Part of the beauty of his dynamic with his family is, although he’s the prankster, he always means well at heart. But Chives makes him put that aside. Of course it adds depth to his character, albeit unintentionally, but it also begins his transition into the Louis of season 3, where he substitutes a lot of his carefree goofiness for a more controlled style of humor. And while it works great in the 3rd season, we don’t really need to see it prematurely. You’d think that this premise would be a perfect setup for an awesome episode, but instead we get the weakest one of the strongest season.

62. Little Mr. Sacktown (Season 3, Episode 6)

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Louis trains Beans to win the Little Mr. Sacktown pageant, but realizes that maybe he’s doing it for himself instead of for Beans. This one’s not so much of a Louis episode as it is a Beans episode. And in the 3rd season, Beans is beginning to waver. He gives us a laugh or two here, but his awkward precociousness starts to fade, turning him into an occult caricature of himself. A highlight is the vaudevillian pageant host and his ventriloquist sidekick.

61. Surf’s Up (Season 3, Episode 20)

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It’s no coincidence that 2 of the final episodes in the series are towards the bottom of this list. Actually, it might be a coincidence now that I think about it. This episode has its moments, but they’re mostly in the first few minutes. It slowly fades after that, and the laughs become more intermittent. Ren and Louis’ stories equally share time in the episode, but Ren’s may be a little more interesting. She meets a nice guy, but thinks he might be a merman (a male mermaid). Meanwhile, Louis is feeling left out when Twitty wants to go surfing without him. It’s a good final moment between Louis and Twitty, but could have been even stronger.

60. All About Yvette (Season 1, Episode 5)

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Episodes like this are what remind us how annoying Ren is in the first season. It also makes us glad we never see very much of Charlotte in other episodes. She’s too much like Ren, when one Ren is usually too much. In this one, Ren gets jealous when Charlotte’s old best friend comes to visit Sacramento. Meanwhile, Louis is trying to convince his mom that he is responsible enough to babysit Twitty’s little brother. Although Louis shines in the few moments we get to see him, this episode is mostly about Ren. It’s the most cloying Even Stevens ever gets, and would probably be at the bottom of my list if Louis wasn’t so solid here.

59. Influenza: The Musical (Season 2, Episode 21)

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Credit the musical episode for what it tries to do. The songs are catchy, but there just isn’t enough of a premise for it to be any higher on the list. Also, the music sort of inhibits Louis from being Louis. But with an impressive 6 original melodies, Influenza can be enjoyed at a different level than the rest of the series. Louis’ “I Always Find a Way” number is by far the best. He has a way of both participating in and mocking the silliness of the whole exhibition. And he gives us the word “phlucus”.

58. My Best Friend’s Girlfriend (Season 3, Episode 3)

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If this episode doesn’t make you want to experience the joys of foam hunk diving, I don’t know what will. But don’t let that bit of fun fool you–this episode just isn’t as goofy as the rest. It’s centered mostly around Louis, but he’s fairly contained. When Twitty gets a girlfriend, Louis feels like he’s been replaced. He spends time training Tom to be his new best friend, which is pretty entertaining in itself. There’s just a sort of silliness missing from this episode.

57. Louis in the Middle (Season 1, Episode 6)

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After Louis saves the life of the most popular guy in school, his own popularity skyrockets. His old friends try to keep him grounded, while his new friends prove to be different than they seem. This one has its fair share of memorable bits, but it’s never laugh-out-loud funny. I like the depth built between Louis and Twitty, but this episode tries to show Louis as unfunny and annoying to the people around him. The Ren story line is small, as she deals with Larry Beale trying to sabotage her attempt to improve the cafeteria food. I’ve always wondered if the writers ever toyed with the idea of a Ren-Beale relationship. There are plenty of times where it could have worked. Also, it’s fortunate that this is the second and final appearance of the ever-so-obnoxious Charlotte.

56. Thin Ice (Season 2, Episode 7)

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It’s another Ren-centered episode where her old neighbor, Nelson Minkler, moves back into town and keeps embarrassing her with his obsessive compulsivity. Louis and Twitty are great, but besides a small subplot of them harassing people with prank phone calls, there isn’t much else.

55. Ren Gate (Season 2, Episode 19)

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Principal Wexler gets fed up with Louis’ antics and decides that maybe giving him more responsibility will serve him better than detention, so he forces him to be a hall monitor. Half of the episode we get normal Louis, but the other half we get strict Louis. He takes his new position very seriously, which rids him of any perverseness. Story-wise, the episode is pretty good. It’s surprisingly grandiose and has some affable features.

54. Hutch Boy (Season 3, Episode 10)

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Starting off slow, this one really picks up about 1/3 of the way in. Louis is getting bullied by Lloyd Offler for unknown reasons–which is perhaps the problem. I understand it’s supposed to be funny that we don’t know why, but we just love Louis so much that it incites more frustration than laughter. And I’ve never really liked how this episode concludes. The “fighting” scene towards the end is my favorite part, as it gives Louis more freedom than he usually gets in the 3rd season.

53. Snow Job (Season 3, Episode 17)

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Louis makes it snow outside of Principal Wexler’s house with hopes that it will cancel school, letting Louis skip his algebra midterm. Meanwhile, Ren has one week to learn how to pole vault. The jokes aren’t necessarily flying, but there are some pretty good quotes. The Louis dance at the very end is in my top 3 favorite moments of season 3. And in a very one-liner-centric season, that quick sequence is well worth the wait. Phyllis Diller has a great cameo as the track and field coach, and so does the always under-appreciated Artie Ryan.

52. A Very Scary Story (Season 2, Episode 13)

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If you’re a fan of the Louis scream, then this is the episode for you. Louis tries to figure out what’s going on after discovering that his friends and classmates have all become brainwashed at school. Although it’s not filled with any flat-out jokes, it’s a really good Halloween episode. The story is solid and so is the creepiness. Also, Louis’ penguin jockey costume is a classic.

51. Where in the World is Pookie Stevens? (Season 3, Episode 2)

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Ruby usually doesn’t get on my nerves too much, but she’s a tad bit annoying in this one. On top of it, Ren is completely obnoxious throughout this whole episode. It just reminds you of how spoiled she is. Here, she accidentally puts her beloved Mr. Pookie stuffed animal into a box for the family garage sale. After it’s sold, she gets upset at Louis, then makes her family go on a manhunt to get it back. I understand that it’s hard to lose your most sentimental possession, but it’s her own selfish fault that it’s gone, yet she goes around blaming her brother. It’s also not very believable that her parents would think she’d want to sell the doll in the first place. If I were her, I would be mad at them, not Louis. But she isn’t, and it’s Louis who ends up fixing the whole thing. That rant aside, Louis’ freakout at the end is the highlight of the whole thing.

50. Take My Sister…Please (Season 1, Episode 3)

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There are perhaps more plot holes in this episode than any other. And Ren’s obnoxiousness may be at an all-time high, but luckily it’s mostly features Louis. When he misses the sign-ups for the talent show, he tries to commandeer Ren’s act. Even though there aren’t a whole lot of memorable moments in this one, there’s a nice scene that Louis and Ren share towards the end. Plus, it features this gem of a line: “Opera is boring. In fact, they would’ve named it boring, but it was already taken by ballet.”

49. Swap.com (Season 1, Episode 1)

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This is the very first officially broadcasted episode. So, as you can imagine, it’s gonna be either hit or miss. And while this episode isn’t a total wash, it’s mostly arid of full-on jokes. Louis has some great subtle moments, but the storyline doesn’t allow for him to get in much of a rhythm–especially amidst the slower moving pace of the first season in general. In this one, Louis has to trick Ren into hanging out with the school nerd, Ernie Morton, for a whole day so that Ernie will give Louis his highly rare collectible trading card. It just comes down to the fact that Louis isn’t in it nearly enough. And when he is, he’s not given a whole lot to do.

48. Beans on the Brain (Season 3, Episode 16)

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Louis blows off Beans in order to hang out with his attractive cousin. But every time Louis goes in to kiss her, his guilt turns her face into Beans’. The few instances of corniness don’t ever last long. Donnie has some bright spots, too, as he fakes an ankle injury after embarrassing himself in a football game. This episode is full of some subtle, yet classic lines, and Louis has some great outbursts, but it’s sprinkled among a lot of saccharine, which prevents it from making it any higher on the list.

47. Get a Job (Season 1, Episode 17)

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In this episode, Louis tries to find work in order to buy a slushy machine. But it’s easier said than done, as he can’t seem to keep a job. My favorite part of this episode is the beginning when Louis tries convincing his dad to buy him the machine by throwing a Father’s Day party even though it’s not Father’s Day. Louis is almost always at his best when he’s scheming. The bad part of this episode is that there are about 2 or 3 montages. I’m not a huge montage fan, as I find it takes time away from actual substance and jokes.

46. Close Encounters of the Beans Kind (Season 3, Episode 8)

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Talk about weird. This episode may be the most unusual one in the series. Louis and Twitty suspect that Beans is an alien, so they do some snooping to find out what’s going on. Unfortunately, it’s not a concept the writers ever build upon in future episodes, and it’s not filled with a ton of laughs either, but you have to commend this one for having a really interesting story–especially one about a character we already know and love.

45. Raiders of the Lost Sausage (Season 3, Episode 7)

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The thing about these high-concept episodes is that the jokes are so well-scripted that it doesn’t give Louis the liberty to be Louis. This one takes notes from Airplane! as it applies that humor to an Indiana Jones-esque story line. Louis discovers the beginnings of a hidden tunnel buried within the walls of his house, and does research to find that there may, in fact, be treasure stashed away behind all the dirt. Like I said, the humor is mostly in the script here, rather than through organic triggers, but it’s is a solid episode, nonetheless.

44. Shutterbugged (Season 2, Episode 2)

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For a Ren-dominant episode, Shutterbugged is pretty good. Ren’s yearbook picture looks terrible when her face swells up after a visit from the dentist. Since Principal Wexler won’t authorize any reshoots, she protests at the cost of being expelled from school. Meanwhile, Louis is bunking with Donnie for two weeks. This episode is filled with classic Louis-isms (“That’s what you get for being a high achiever”) and perhaps the best shaved dog butt face. Which isn’t bad considering there isn’t nearly enough of him in this one.

43. Head Games (Season 2, Episode 8)

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We’ve reached the point in our list where the episodes are getting really good. Notice how it didn’t take long. The first half of the 2nd season is really the sweet spot in this series (along with the last few episodes of season 1). And this one’s just really satisfying. The laughs are never really huge, but they’re consistent. Louis gets into Twitty’s head during his baseball game and it starts affecting his pitching. Louis isn’t doing anything crazy here, but he’s just a wonder to watch on screen–even though the episode’s not strictly about him. It shows how important he is to the show no matter what role he’s in. Even the weakest of these episodes meshes together perfectly.

42. Leavin’ Stevens (Season 3, Episode 22)

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Ah, the series finale. These are usually the episodes that are the most unique from the rest of the series. The tone is different, the characters’ stories are all wrapping up, and whatever needs to be said must be said. However, Leavin’ Stevens doesn’t skip a beat. The jokes are all there. Everyone is their usual self, and we don’t get some ridiculously over-sentimental conclusion that breaks away from the silliness of the rest of the series. Although it does give us a heartfelt sendoff to the Louis-Tawny ordeal–however, not an ending, but a place to begin. Maybe it has to do with the fact that The Even Stevens Movie is still ahead of them, but this final episode stays in line with the spirit of the show.

41. Boy on a Rock (Season 3, Episode 13)

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Louis thinks that Twitty’s ex-girlfriend has the hots for him, and tries to figure out how to handle the predicament. This one has some good moments and some even better one-liners. It’s not non-stop hilarity, but it’s definitely filled with some very underrated material. There’s an odd one-off bit featuring these two old guys who hang out in a deli inside Louis’ head and act as his conscience. It’s pretty amusing, but not necessarily vital to the episode. If anything, it’s more weird that they’ve never been featured before. But the chase sequence towards the end tops it off nicely.

40. Tight End in Traction (Season 2, Episode 20)

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“Hold on my impatient friend, the best is yet to come.” It almost feels like a classic line from an ’80s blockbuster. And while this is the exact opposite of that, it does contain a few laugh-worthy bits. The episode starts off a little slow, building towards some great moments, but it wouldn’t be the episode I’d pin that quote to. After Louis rigs Donnie’s pummel horse with the motor from a mechanical bull, Donnie gets hurt. Unfortunately, he has a meeting with the head coach of his dream college, which won’t go over so well if he’s bedridden. I always feel, when watching this episode, that Louis doesn’t quite get the conclusion he deserves. Although the outcomes of his prank could have been catastrophic, his reasoning behind it is somewhat understandable. But Donnie wins in the end.

39. After Hours (Season 1, Episode 13)

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This is one of the rare instances where Ren and Louis are involved in the story together. And it’s refreshing. When Ren gets detention for the first time ever, she isn’t able to work on her commissioned 75th anniversary display after school. With Louis’ help, they break into the halls at night and try to get past the roving Coach Tugnut. This episode’s cool because we get our only peek inside the detention room where Louis spends much of his time. It’s got some good moments, even though Louis doesn’t do anything over-the-top. I always have a hard time ridding this one of its anonymity, but it’s a solidly reliable episode.

38. Deep Chocolate (Season 1, Episode 12)

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You hate to see Louis and Twitty fight, but even the best of friends have their issues to resolve. The two of them desperately want to win the grand prize at their school’s chocolate bar fundraiser. The jokes taper out towards the end, but it’s still a solid episode.

37. Stevens Genes (Season 1, Episode 2)

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I love watching Louis run, and here we get a whole episode full of it. It’s also the episode where Louis realizes that, in a family full of high-achievers, his strength is his ability to be funny. Even Ren admits it. It takes about 8 minutes for this episode to really gain traction, but it’s good for a few good laughs.

36. Love and Basketball (Season 2, Episode 9)

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In this episode, Donnie is head coach of a youth basketball team. But they don’t win a single game until Louis comes on board as his assistant. Louis gets cocky about it, so Donnie signs the team over to him. This one starts off slow, but gains some pretty good momentum by the halfway point. Louis’ idea of coaching techniques is awe-inspiring. I like Ren’s story here too, as she tries to get her first kiss with Bobby Deaver, but he just keeps giving her high-fives instead.

35. Band on the Roof (Season 3, Episode 5)

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Fitting in perfectly with the high-concept story lines of the 3rd season, the show finally tries to resurrect the whole music group idea and make it an underlying element to the series. But it never really furthers much past this episode, besides the seldom music video outros. And depending where you stand on the whole thing determines whether that was actually good or bad. This episode acts as a “rockumentary” of the Twitty-Stevens Connection–a band made up of most of the show’s main characters. There are a few high points, but I mostly appreciate how the uniqueness of the episode never takes away from the spirit of the series. Not one of the best, but definitely not one of the worst, either.

34. The Thomas Gribalski Affair (Season 2, Episode 18)

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I like these episodes where Louis tries to figure out his relationship with his father. In this one, Louis becomes jealous of Tom when he realizes he’s been spending a lot of time with Mr. Stevens (“Steve Stevens is the real deal”). The highlights from this episode come from all the made-up games that Louis and Twitty play–a concept featured intermittently throughout the series, but focused on here. The laughs, albeit inconsistent, all come from classic bits. You hafta love Tom and Louis’ dynamic, too.

33. Model Principal (Season 3, Episode 19)

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This is one of the darker episodes in the series. When Principal Wexler quits his job in order to pursue a career as a model, Lawrence Junior High becomes out of control under the authority of his replacement. Seeing Ren and Louis working together almost always makes an episode better. Here’s where we really start to see Louis at a new level of maturity and awareness. He’s becoming more calculated with his humor. There’s a below par Donnie and Beans storyline, which feels a bit prosaic and forced. It’s merely an excuse to have them make an appearance, and serves very little purpose. But this episode gives Principal Wexler the homage that he deserves as the series wraps up.

32. Sibling Rivalry (Season 2, Episode 15)

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Louis’ energy is at an all-time high in this episode. He’s on a whole other level, like he had 9 cups of coffee before the show. He and Ren bicker non-stop throughout, which makes for great television. They compete against each other on a “sibling wars” game show, even though it hardly has anything to do with which sibling is better at life. The host is obnoxious, but it’s unclear how intentional that is. And although the momentum slows a bit towards the end, the first 2/3 is rock solid. I like to think that almost each episode has at least one joke that stands out above the rest, but this one has nothing really in particular. Nonetheless, Louis is on his A-game, so everything he does is laugh-worthy.

31. Uncle Chuck (Season 2, Episode 17)

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Some of us are lucky enough to never experience this, but for those of us who do, we know it’s a sad moment in life when you watch your hero die. Not literally, but to realize he or she isn’t the person you had thought they were. You see behind the curtain. Louis’ hero is Uncle Chuck. In a family where everyone else is an overachiever and a go-getter, Uncle Chuck is right there with him. His antics make Louis not feel so alone in this world. We finally see who Louis takes after. But in turn, it hurts his relationship with his own father. This isn’t just a fallen hero episode, but a father-son one. And depth aside, it’s got some great laughs. Louis drives his dad so crazy that his head literally explodes!

30. Easy Way (Season 1, Episode 10)

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This is one of the first episodes where Louis gets to fully take the reins. It’s all Louis, as there is no Ren substory. And you don’t want to take your eyes off of him. When everyone in school has to donate their time to raise money for a local charity, Louis decides to nap in a window for a whole day. The laughs may not be huge, but this episode perfectly showcases the subtle humor of the series with its swift timing. It’s also the first appearance of the ever-so-underused Cynthia Mills. But my biggest complaint–as is common with many season 1 episodes–there are too many montages.

29. Foodzilla (Season 1, Episode 7)

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The first 12 minutes of the episode are top notch. Louis’ goofiness is right where you want it to be. He does a live report for Ren’s school news program, where he plans to interview the lunch lady. Deciding to wing it and storm into the lunch kitchen unannounced causes the lunch lady to get upset at him, but the result is priceless. Highlights all come from the first half of the episode–ending with the lunch lady freakout, which turns into a Louis freakout. After that, we get a version of Louis that we rarely get to see–remorseful Louis.

28. Luscious Lou (Season 1, Episode 16)

 

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Louis’ dad makes him join the wrestling team, so he trains hard to become the best in his weight class. But when he finds out that his cross-town competition is a girl, he tries getting out of it any way he can. This episode’s great because it features Louis outside of his element. The humor is subtle, but smart. The highlights definitely come from when he first joins the wrestling team. He thinks it’s professional wrestling and treats it accordingly. There are a few montages but they’re all fairly engaging. And the very minor subplot with Donnie is funny in its own right.

27. The King Sloppy (Season 3, Episode 12)

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The 3rd season is known for having solid finales. And this one is no exception. Granted, it’s not as big as its contemporaries, but makes for a memorable scene. Louis and Twitty are trying to finish a oversized burger so they can get their picture on the wall of Tex Nagita’s Burger Bonanza. Seeing that it’s almost impossible, they enlist the help of Mike Hegiman–a made-up wig-wearing version of themselves–so they can switch with each other interchangeably and finish the burger. You can tell that Beans has become slightly stale in the 3rd season. He loses his cute little kid awkwardness, becoming too mature and self-realized, which just attenuates the spirit of his character. But you gotta love Mike Hegiman.

26. Devil Mountain (Season 2, Episode 10)

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This is possibly my favorite Tom episode. He has some amazing lines. When he begins to think that Louis and Twitty are just using him for his pizza oven, he takes it personally and betrays their trust in return. The Ren story is not so bad either, with Mr. Stevens’ help. He finally gets his chance to shine for a whole episode. But as great as he is, you’re still wishing for more Louis. He’s at the top of his game in this one, proving that he can do so without being the center of attention–even in his own storyline. The best part is when he and Twitty turn Tom’s chess match into a raucous sporting event. Classic.

25. Dirty Work (Season 3, Episode 14)

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This is one of my favorite Ren-centered episodes. Bust mostly because it has one of the best Louis subplots. While Ren is realizing that Principal Wexler may just be using her to do his dirty work, Louis starts a club on campus that is an ode to the lumberjack–which is obviously just an excuse for him and his friends to goof off during school. This episode inspired me to start my own club in high school, where I did the same thing. There are some supporting characters that standout–such as Coach Tugnut, who may be at the top of his game here. All around, this just might be the most well-written episode of the 3rd season.

24. Almost Perfect (Season 1, Episode 20)

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It’s hard for me not to rank this episode higher up on the list. I’ve seen it an absurd amount of times and can recite the whole thing almost verbatim. But even though she makes up for it in the end, Ren is obnoxious and her storyline gives off a false sense of importance as she whines and complains about receiving a C in wood shop class. Louis, however, is on his game. After his locker becomes infested with living creatures, he gets assigned an old abandoned janitor’s closet, which he turns into a south-of-the-border-themed man cave. His schemes and antics showcased in this episode play as a microcosm of why I aspired to be just like him in junior high–carefree and creative. Filled with quotables, yet short on actual jokes, this one may be in my top 3 personal favorites. Joe Flaherty makes a solid cameo, and Louis and Ren share a couple of nice moments together.

23. A Weak First Week (Season 1, Episode 21)

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Although this episode premiered at the end of season 1, it’s a reworking of the show’s original pilot. It features Louis on his first day of junior high and shows him trying to acclimate to the pressure of living up to his high-achieving family. Although the laughs are far between, there are some classic lines that I’ve used on many occasion. And Louis kills it with his impeccable delivery. “I haven’t read that far. I’m still on the Table of Contents–it’s good though.” It’s a thoroughly engaging pilot. Plus, it kicks off Louis and Tawny’s relationship.

22. Scrub Day (Season 1, Episode 9)

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This is one of the only episodes where Ren has Louis’ back the whole time. Each year, the 8th graders have a tradition to humiliate the 7th graders on “scrub day”. But this time, Louis gets himself into a position where he’s the only kid in his class to get humiliated. The jokes aren’t flying like crazy, but it’s thoroughly engaging. I’ve always loved how, in the end, Louis wins the battle against his bullies. Donnie’s story is funny, too. He chooses Rocky Balboa for his American history presentation.

21. Hardly Famous (Season 3, Episode 11)

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It’s one of the finest final 5 minutes of any episode. The interpretive dancing sequence with Louis and Twitty ranks up there with the series’ best. When Tawny nails the audition for the new arts academy, Louis is afraid to lose her to another school. We pretty much never see Louis as serious as he is here. It’s almost startling. But that balance is what makes this episode great. It adds so much to the depth of Louis Stevens. It’s a little slow from the get-go, which prevents it from being among the higher ranks on the list. I’d also like to draw attention to Tom, who has a minor subplot where he, too, auditions for the academy.

20. Easy Crier (Season 2, Episode 12)

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Louis befriends Lenny, the new kid, whose size intimidates other students, making people fear Louis in the process. It’s a really funny episode with a few good Louis freak outs. We get a nice taste of that chaos we love so much throughout the series. This is really where the show zeniths, so almost every episode during this time is of the highest quality. But here’s my complaint with this one: Not only does it frustrate me that Louis “loses” in the end, but it never fully makes sense why he loses, either.

19. The Big Splash (Season 3, Episode 15)

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I love the concept for this episode. Louis joins the diving team at school, but just uses it as an excuse to goof off by doing cannonballs instead of actual dives. After a talk with his dad, he struggles with the fact that nobody thinks he takes anything seriously. It’s a notion that I, too, have dealt with at times in my life and can relate to. The finale is superb. Ren gives us one of her best moments, and Tom has some nice lines as well.

18. Movie Madness (Season 1, Episode 18)

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As far as all-time great Louis quotes go, this one’s stacked. Louis makes a movie to enter into an amateur film festival. But when he becomes controlling on set, his cast and crew quit. This time it’s Louis reacting to the chaos around him instead of him being the one who catalyzes it. On the other hand, Ren is annoying, but her story is pretty good–and necessary, as it introduces us to both Bobby Deaver and Ruby.

17. Wombat Wuv (Season 2, Episode 16)

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This episode features the absolute best Ren storyline in the whole series, and it’s only a subplot. She joins the cheerleading squad and gets criticized for her lack of perkiness, so she decides to be overly perky about everything. Louis falls in love with the new cheerleading coach, inspiring him to become the school’s new mascot. The humor is both broad and subtle, and features one of my all-time favorite moments as Louis shouts at Tawny while riding by on his bike (you really hafta see it for yourself).

16. Duck Soup (Season 2, Episode 3)

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Here’s another episode that’s on my own personal list of favorites. After Louis gets attached to a duck he finds in his backyard, he refuses to allow an eccentric gourmet chef to kill it for dinner. It just so happens that the chef is preparing a meal for the Lieutenant Governor so Mrs. Stevens can get a bill passed. There are several lines I used to annoy my parents with on a daily basis back in the day. Louis is on top of his game, and gives us an amazing French chef impression. There’s a lot of ground to cover with only one storyline, but the episode moves so smoothly you hardly notice.

15. Short Story (Season 3, Episode 9)

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It’s one of the most gripping stories of the series and an ingenious concept. Louis discovers he has an evil twin, Loomis Freeman, who keeps pranking everyone in school. But Louis is getting blamed for it all. Meanwhile, Ren dumps some guy just because he’s shorter than she is. The only bad part here is the ending. Ren wins after being a jerk, yet Louis loses for doing nothing bad at all. You never like to see Louis lose, although the scene between Louis and Loomis is one of the all-time best.

14. What’ll Idol Do (Season 1, Episode 4)

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When Louis’ favorite VHS tape goes missing, he sets up a home surveillance system to figure out what’s happened to it. Meanwhile, Ren’s mentor, June Marie, may not be all that she claims to be. Louis is hilarious on a mission to solve the mystery of his lost tape. It proves that even without clearly defined jokes, Louis is just as enjoyable to watch. It’s one of the more slower-paced episodes, but there are no lulls. Each joke and each conclusion is well deserved.

13. Your Toast (Season 3, Episode 4)

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Louis is simply spectacular in this episode. Captivating. Otherworldly. Everything he does is perfected to the point of awe. Watching Louis learn how to play the drums is like watching a thunderstorm from a distance–artistically chaotic. He does everything that would put this episode at the top of this list. The only problem? It’s not his episode. There’s not enough of him. Most of the episode revolves around Ren’s new job at the gourmet toast stand in the food court, working under an overbearing boss, Mr. Squirelli. It’s filled with some insane plot holes and some even worse acting. Ren is the least annoying part about it. But honestly, it’s still oddly engaging.

12. Wild Child (Season 2, Episode 11)

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Mrs. Stevens hires an image consultant to help her with her campaign for secretary of state. Louis takes offense when the consultant makes him dress like a little boy for a news segment. He ends up going ballistic on the reporter, in what has to be the best Louis freakout of the series. Louis is brilliant, and once again, we get to see the always under appreciated Cynthia Mills. The only thing that hurts this episode is the jokes slowing down towards the end. More like, Louis becomes less involved. But the first half is so top notch that it doesn’t matter.

11. Stevens Manor (Season 3, Episode 18)

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There’s nothing better than a scheming Louis. In an attempt to make some extra money while his parents are out of town, Louis turns his house into a bed & breakfast with the help of his friends. This may be the most consistently funny episode of the 3rd season. Even during the breaks in the laughter, there’s something to at least smile about. The humor is found in the Louis-controlled-chaos, with everyone around him just playing puppet to his ridiculousness. And even though Ren can get a little annoying here, it’s not in an anti-Louis kind of way–more of a “trying to match Louis” type of way. This is a solid episode.

10. Battle of the Bands (Season 1, Episode 14)

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This was the first Even Stevens episode I ever watched, so I’ll try not to be biased. But it’s just so hard. Though, it really could’ve been any episode, there’s a reason why I got immediately hooked on this show. It isn’t just Louis who’s good–everyone is at their best. Throw in a bunch of amazing dialogue, and this episode is a classic. Louis gets kicked out of his own band and starts a new one to compete with his former. The chaos is priceless and leads to some of the best moments of the first season. It’s also the most we ever get of Artie Ryan. I truly owe it to this episode.

9. Sadie Hawkins Day (Season 2, Episode 14)

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This episode always makes me laugh so hard. Louis’ comedic timing is at an all-time high at this point in the series. With the Sadie Hawkins dance approaching, Louis acts overly cocky with Tawny, making her not want to ask him to the dance anymore. It’s just one funny thing after another in this episode. Louis’ “bad boy” routine is priceless, and so is his freakout at the end.

8. Starstruck (Season 2, Episode 1)

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It’s the BBMak episode, but I like to think of it as the lucky penny episode. Louis finds a penny on the ground and everything in his life starts going perfectly. What makes it one of the best is that it’s such a fun episode. The scene in the recording studio with BBMak is the highlight because we see Louis acting like his usual ridiculous self, even amongst actual celebrities. But it breaks my heart every time he loses the penny at the end. I think I live vicariously through him too much.

7. Strictly Ballroom (Season 1, Episode 19)

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Watching Louis try to dance is worth the price of admission. I’ve borrowed some of his original moves, myself. But after being invited to a friend’s party, Louis realizes he’s not good at dancing. So he learns the antiquated dance of the rumba. Some of my favorite lines are from this episode. On the other hand, Ren is just absolutely obnoxious and acts like a spoiled brat the whole time. Otherwise, this one would’ve cracked the top 5. However, I can’t let Ren completely ruin an episode where Louis is perfect.

6. Heck of a Hanukkah (Season 1, Episode 15)

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This episode wasn’t shown on TV much back in the day, unless it was December. Maybe it’s that infrequency that made this one so desirable. In the “It’s a Wonderful Life”-type story, Louis sees his family in a world where he never existed. It gives him a chance to show off his straight man chops, but balances it out with some classic goofball Louis, too. Aside from being funny, it’s deep–showing Louis’ importance to his family, even though he’s the black sheep. He taught me that in a world where everyone around you seems good at everything, you have to focus on your own good qualities.

5. The Kiss (Season 3, Episode 1)

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This classic episode kicks off the 3rd season with perfection. Louis and Tawny have their first kiss, taking the relationship to the next level. It’s nice because you never see Louis passionate about anything like he is about Tawny. Meanwhile, Ren writes a boring and vain school play, which she decides to “spice up” by adding a final scene where Tawny has to kiss another boy. This episode is hilarious all the way through and has one heck of a finish. Ren gets her ego checked while Louis gives us one of his best scenes ever. It’s a shame that he and Tawny break up, but it goes down in the most entertaining way possible.

4. Secrets and Spies (Season 1, Episode 11)

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As we move towards the top of our list, you’ll see the episodes become more and more consistent. And the consistency in Secrets and Spies helps give it a spot in the top 5. This is a fun episode and is one of my personal favorites. Louis’ tries to figure out where Ren keeps going after school, and then proceeds to mess with her head once he does. There are a bunch of little side jokes throughout that help add to the perfection of the episode.

3. Quest for Coolness (Season 2, Episode 4)

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Growing up, the quest for coolness is never-ending. We’ll give almost anything to be cool and to fit in, and this episode shows to what extremes. After Louis and Twitty find out they’re the only ones in school who don’t own Quasis–a brand of shoes that are sold out everywhere–they meet up with Scabby, a “rather shady character” who claims he can get them a pair. This episode has everything from comedy to mystery to chase scenes. It has a relatable message and an even better ending. Plus, we love watching Louis and Twitty get into mischief the whole time. It epitomizes what makes this show so great. And it’s Louis and Twitty’s chemistry perfected. This one’s in the top 3 for a good reason.

2. Broadcast Blues (Season 2, Episode 6)

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For the most part, the episodes featuring Beans are lower on the list. Mostly because his cuteness starts to wear off by the 3rd season. But when he’s good, he’s great. In this one, Louis and Twitty trick Ren into thinking Beans is a genius so she’ll have a good story for the junior news anchor competition. It’s also, by far, Donnie’s best storyline, as he tries convincing everyone he’s smart by using tricks he learned from a video tutorial. This whole episode is just wall to wall comedy. It also slightly foreshadows the surrealistic tone of the 3rd season. And of course, there’s Cynthia Mills. The scene between her and Beans is an off-the-charts classic.

1. Secret World of Girls (Season 2, Episode 5)

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It was a long and grueling process (not really), but we finally have our victor. Maybe you Even Stevens diehards out there knew it was going to be this one all along. But can you blame me? It’s been my favorite episode since the day it debuted. Famously marking the first appearance of Beans, it also arguably marks the point in the series where Louis finally gets his confidence and self-assurance. While Ren is throwing a slumber party and demanding everyone out of the house, Louis has the idea to secretly record her and her friends, selling tickets to guys in his class for the viewing party. Sure, I hate seeing Ren get the win in the end after acting like a complete brat the whole time, but everything that happens prior to that is sheer brilliance and fun in every way possible. It’s just a perfectly constructed episode. Even the montage is funny. You secretly wish you had the ability to pull this off this scheme back in junior high. And I know Louis gets caught in the end, but to this day, I still think he can get away with it. It’s just as painful every time.

 

So that’s it! If you have these episodes available to you, I highly recommend going through and making your own list of favorites. Let me know what they are in the comment section below.

Also, check out my ranking of every Boy Meets World episode ever!

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Quick Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

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If you’re one of the people who thought there needed to be a sequel to a film that was already adding nothing really new to the lore of Snow White, then at least you saw the first film. If you didn’t see the first film, then you’re in luck because you don’t have to. Not in order to watch this one. This prequel/sequel is only cosmetically related to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.

I mean that in both a good way and a bad way. The two films share some of the same cast–Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost–but feels weighed down by the fact that its predecessor wasn’t at all as amazing as its trailer lead us to believe.

But let’s, for a moment, judge this movie solely on its own being, and not based on how necessary it is or the demerits of that which came before it.

The first installment ends the same way all Snow White adaptations end, except for an ambiguous love story between Snow White and Eric the Huntsman (Hemsworth).

Snow White isn’t in this movie though. She’s mentioned and silhouetted, but basically omitted. Which is fine. She was probably the worst part of the first one anyway.

Even better, we get a couple of nice additions to the cast in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain–both of whom do a superb job in their respective roles of the evil Snow Queen and Sara, the huntsman’s wife.

When I say this installment acts as a prequel AND a sequel, it means it shows the origins of how Eric becomes the huntsman and how he meets Sara, but then flashes forward 7 years after she dies (we know this from the first film).

The sequel portion of the story has the huntsman setting out on a journey to find the magic mirror, which Snow White sends away after it starts making her go crazy and homicidal. This is where the plot gets hairy. It’s never clear why the mirror is making her mad, nor how she has the willpower to send it away, nor why the huntsman needs to retrieve it even though Snow White wants it gone to begin with.

The magic mirror is a MacGuffin in the worst sense. Not only do we not need it as a plot device, but we’re not even really sure why it’s a plot device. There could’ve been a more sensible reason for Eric and the dwarves to set out on their quest.

The action sequences are, at times, ridiculous and silly–over-saturated with shaky cam so we’ll just accept what’s happening on screen. But the thing is, we would’ve been just as fine without the queasiness.

There’s plenty of levity from the dwarves, played by Frost and Rob Brydon. The jokes are a fairly even mixture of both hits and misses. But it’s okay, at least it keeps the movie fun and not too self-aggrandizing. That is, until it wants to be self-aggrandizing. Jarring tonal shifts and an overly jokey Hemsworth all of a sudden make us confused about what feel we’re supposed to be getting.

Truth is, I can’t think of a good enough reason to hate this movie. It’s far from perfect, but I find it fairly entertaining. There’s a lot of meandering somewhere in the middle of the story. The journey to the mirror isn’t half as exciting as it should be. Nonetheless, The Huntsman tops its predecessor, not on essentiality, but on a unique premise.

 

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: Pulp Fiction (1994)

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If a piece of art is highly influential, does it make that piece of art good? Yeah, probably–great, even. But it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to like it.

Intermixing and connecting four stories, the film compares and contrasts all different types of low-level scums of the earth.

In Pulp Fiction, the dialogue is superb–near perfect. Quentin Tarantino’s direction is that of ridiculously mind-numbing proportions. The cinematography is truly something else. Not to mention, groundbreaking on so many different levels–replicated infinitely.

But just because it’s groundbreaking, doesn’t mean it has to be my favorite film.

Perhaps this has something to do with all the hype I’ve been hearing my whole life about how it’s the greatest film of our lifetime–of ALL time. But I wanted to love it. I expected to love it!

And although I didn’t love it necessarily. I liked it–a lot. Tarantino might just be my favorite director. I think he’s the greatest auteur of our generation. Each film of his I’ve seen has inspired me even more in my own writing and artistry.

What I like about Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and even Reservoir Dogs, is the sense of grandeur and importance. They all command your attention with mere dialogue in ways that most mainstream action blockbuster flicks never will.

And Pulp Fiction is engaging in that same way. But it differs from those other Tarantino films in one particular way: It’s mostly much ado about nothing. I get that it’s supposed to pose as commentary on the state of the film industry and mimic countless classics that have gone before it. But too often does Pulp Fiction take its sweet time getting to the point. That’s Tarantino’s style with his hard-hitting dialogue–which I find entertaining. But if there is no point (or no point of any substantial value) then all that dialogue gives us just that–entertainment.

Which I’m all for. Some of my favorite films are meaningless is the grand scheme of things. But in those films, I care deeply about the characters. I relate to them. I root for them. Here, I’m not sure who I root for, if anybody. But maybe that’s the point, too.

The nonlinear story is cool, and is brought back to popularity with this movie, but definitely not the most interesting I’ve seen in cinema. On the other hand, watching the stories unfold is. Never knowing what’s coming around the corner or which characters to trust or like. Tarantino gets the absolute best performances out of his talent–Samuel L. Jackson above all else.

The best scene is when John Travolta and Uma Thurman venture to a 1950s-themed diner. Every employee there is a caricature of some ’50s icon. Which is a curious thing since this film pays homage to countless zeitgeists of yesteryear, but almost none of them are from the 1950s.

Perhaps its groundbreakingness is partially due to massively exposing the world to Tarantino and proving that he wasn’t just a one-hit-wonder with Reservoir Dogs. That his style is here to stay.

The movie is exploitation that critics reaffirm as high-quality, while also changing the game for independent films, making it okay for A-listers to appear in these lower budget productions.

But like I said, I also have to credit it to its technical accomplishments. And the fact that it’s thoroughly and consistently engaging.

Pulp Fiction is an amazing film. Perhaps Tarantino’s greatest artistic accomplishment. But one that I could watch over and over? It’s not even my favorite Tarantino film.

Twizard Rating: 97

Quick Movie Review: Barbershop (2002)

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There are a lot of experiences that young men should have growing up. Being exposed to the barbershop culture is one of them. I loved going to get my haircut when I was a teenager. Not just because I felt rejuvenated with my fresh cut, but because I enjoyed the banter, the stories, and even the superfluous arguments. It’s something I still look forward to when I go get a trim. And it’s captured perfectly in this 2002 Ice Cube comedy.

The story isn’t anything too intricate. It surrounds Cube’s character, Calvin, trying to decide whether or not he should sell the barbershop passed on to him by his late father. But most of the film is spent filling us in on the happenings of the employees and patrons of the shop, and their own stories. By far the most interesting part, we get a great sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. We feel like we’re right there in the shop with them.

It has its fair share of broad comedy, but there aren’t a lot of moments of subtle humor. Which is okay, since it does the former so well. While it’s rarely hysterical, you can definitely appreciate the repartee. In fact, most of the highlights don’t come from the barbershop at all, but from Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate’s characters stealing and attempting to open an ATM machine. This subplot goes on throughout the entire film.

With an impressive cast and an even more impressive Ice Cube, the beauty of this film is in its characters. They’re not all likable, but you get to know them well enough to understand them. It’s deceptively deep.

Ultimately, Barbershop turns a very simple premise into something much bigger and more meaningful. And it does it without ever feeling like it’s being stretched too thin.

Although it’s not perfect, it’s perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a culture so beloved by American males.

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: Midnight Special (2016)

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It’s a movie about a father trying to save his son with super powers. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Yeah, I thought so, too. It’s not that this movie is complete garbage, because it isn’t. It’s just misguided. And slow. Really really slow.

In the beginning we see a boy, Alton, who has been kidnapped–or so we are lead to believe. We soon figure out that he’s been taken by his biological father (Michael Shannon), away from a Branch Davidian-type cult that’s exploiting Alton for his powers.

This is, by far, the best point in the film. We’re excited to see what’s about to happen. Somebody’s got a secret. There’s going to be a cool twist somewhere! …Don’t hold your breath.

Certain things always remain unclear. At times this feels intentional. Not using contrived means of letting us in on what’s happening–instead, revealing it to us slowly throughout the movie. But what seems artistic at first, soon makes you realize that maybe it’s just done as a means to fill up its runtime.

The acting is very impressive. Everyone is perfectly believable in their own respective roles. But unfortunately, that technique–the ambiguous exposition one–also contributes to us feeling like we don’t really know our characters very well. It’s hard to get attached. It’s even harder to care.

We’re also never really sure what Alton’s super powers consist of. He can control electricity and stuff, but what’s with his laser eyes?

There’s a lot wrong with Midnight Special. And honestly, I can live with those reasonably minor pitfalls. The main problem? This film should be way more fun than it is. It’s nowhere near as cool as the concept leads us to believe. The most interesting part is the end, which is all too brief.

The issue is this film commits way too much to the “realism” aspect of its “magic realism” label. We don’t get enough of what sets it apart from other movies with similar story lines.

We get mystery, but much of it goes unsolved. Even after the movie ends.

But like I said, this film isn’t a total wash. As slow as it is, the dialogue is engaging. And it keeps us in our seats waiting to see what happens. But then, at a particular point in the movie–I can’t remember exactly when–we realize it’s not going to resolve at all how we want it to. That’s when we feel cheated.

I’m still not quite sure why they decided to name it “Midnight Special”. It makes me think of some sort of neo-western. But it’s not. It’s about a boy with unclear super powers.

Twizard Rating: 68

Quick Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

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They’re all older, yet they’re all pretty much the same. Maybe that’s another Greek stereotype I’m unaware of. But in this sitcomy world that Nia Vardalos has created for us, it makes sense anyway.

From the very first moments, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes off as more of a cast reunion or a “Where Are They Now?” special than anything else.

By nature, the title already limits what this film can be about. And it shows. Obvious with every forced plot point, it tries to cover too much ground, but then still finds a way to sneak a wedding into it all.

Amidst trying to be the mediator for her whole family, Toula (Vardalos) must deal with her daughter possibly leaving home for college. She also must try to handle her own suffering relationship with her neglected husband (John Corbett), while trying to plan a wedding for her parents who recently find out that their 50-year marriage was never official.

At one point there are about 3 major story lines competing for the title of “main”. Plus several others intermixed. As a result, we get scenes that serve no purpose and film with no direction.

The dialogue is just as sloppy–going for that quirky awkwardness that worked so well in the 2002 original. But here, it plays as unnatural and stiff.

Maybe the cast has lost its chemistry with one another. Or maybe it’s missing a little of what made the first one work. That first film was completely organic. The sequel is the exact opposite.

Everything is forced. From the dialogue to the character depth. Trying to squeeze every last bit of emotion out of its audience every chance it gets.

Not to say it doesn’t have its moments. I didn’t hate it. It just isn’t all that good. Certain performances outdo others. Michael Constantine is just as good as Toula’s father. But director Kirk Jones just can’t extract the same results out of most of the rest of the cast.

It’s all just really discombobulated. Directionless. It tries to prove points, but then counters them with opposing points–ultimately saying nothing. Or worse: not knowing what it’s saying.

Many jokes fall flat. Luckily the head count is so high that eventually there are a few you end up laughing at.

But as a whole, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a mess. It means well. Really, it does. It’ll even make you smile a few times. But after 14 years, you’d at least hope for a better story.

Twizard Rating: 59

Quick Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

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For those of you who haven’t seen Walt Disney’s animated version of The Jungle Book–or haven’t seen it in awhile, anyway–I’m sure you still know the famous songs, and perhaps even some classic scenes. But what you may not realize is that the version we’re most familiar with does have some issues of its own.

Not to say that Disney’s 1967 adaptation is anything to scoff at. It will definitely slap a smile on your face. But with a runtime that could have used a few more minutes, there’s always been some things missing.

Definitely an improvement on the original, 2016’s The Jungle Book fills out the classic story in a much more complete way.

With this one, we get answers to a lot of characters’ motives, as well as more realistic responses to drastic life changes.

There’s backstory provided for why Shere Khan wants to kill Mowgli, along with a more heartfelt goodbye as Mowgli leaves his wolf pack at the beginning of the film.

Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, passes the cute test. Almost so cute and precocious that he fails to give us the realistic performance we desire. Instead, it’s more of what you would see in a Disney Channel show. He’s oozing with “my parents made me audition for this.” Granted, he does alright considering he’s essentially acting with no other humans. And while director Jon Favreau gets the best performance out of him, he’s just a little too much Disney and not enough realistic. Which isn’t far off from original voice actor in 1967, who lacks the same kind of conviction. Compared to him, Sethi is an improvement.

But the narrative is really what drives this movie the hardest. It’s captivating even before the comic relief of Baloo (Bill Murray) shows up. And it has the added benefit of not being too long.

The jungle world created by the filmmakers paints a dark and sinister universe, just as mysterious as the jungle itself. There’s nothing peaceful here as long as Shere Khan is around.

King Louie, voiced by Christopher Walken, is just as wicked. He hearkens back to a Marlon Brando Godfather, living in the shadows and attempting to exploit the quid pro quo. This is also where “man’s red flower” becomes more of a prominent feature in this version.

The visual effects are an accomplishment alone. Every hair, every movement, without using any live animals. I’ve never seen anything like it. Truly amazing.

If you romanticize the 1967 original, then you may have a problem accepting this one for all its greatness. But this one is the actuality of what we’ve been romanticizing. And besides the acting, it’s near perfect. It’s darker and even more twisted, transcending Rudyard Kipling’s original source material to the maximum. It replicates the tone–but better. It’s everything good from the original–but better. And even brings back the beloved songs for good measure.

Twizard Rating: 99

Quick Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

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Boy, how well does this film holds up 14 years later. Can we finally admit to its greatness now?

Whatever tropes it derives from the rom-coms of old serve only to make us feel comfortable in its grasp. But don’t let the formula fool you. This film is anything but cloying. It opts out of cliche and sappy–instead, giving us rompy situations that we could actually see happening in our own lives.

Toula, played by Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the film, is a 30-year-old woman whose family fears will become an eternal spinster. She doesn’t seem to care about her appearance, and she is very awkward when it comes to talking to other people. She is of Greek origin, and her family won’t let her forget it. They’re the type who only talk to other Greek people. On the other hand, Toula doesn’t care.

She meets Ian (John Corbett), who isn’t Greek. They fall in love and want to get married, but have to deal with the wrath of her family–mostly her father, played by Michael Constantine.

The cast is perfect–especially Constantine, who we are often times convinced is Vardalos’ actual father playing himself.

The humor is mostly made of inside jokes from Greek culture. If you’re not savvy on that, you might think you won’t understand. But the script does an excellent job of not making us feel like an outsider. And most of us have families with weird traditions and tendencies, too, so we get it.

There are a few lulls in the narrative, but the script always recovers well with something funny around the corner.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is truly funny in the most organic way possible. The scenarios all seem real. Vardalos is believable and hilarious in the lead role. She channels the sort of uninhibitedness that Lucille Ball was known for. Almost like a Kristen Wiig before her time.

But most of all, this film speaks to generations of society who can’t see past cultural differences. It was relevant back in 2002, and is still very much that way now. It’s a tale we’ve been seeing, in one way or another, for centuries now, but still can’t seem to get us to change our ways. Although no one’s life is at stake in this film, we could all learn a thing or two from the story. It’s deceptively deep.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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2008’s Cloverfield was an entertaining movie, but 10 Cloverfield Lane brings entertainment to a whole other level.

Brilliantly written and coaxially directed, you know very early on that it’s not going to be a bad film. When the audience has that kind of trust in the filmmakers, it’s a very pleasurable experience. Driven by Bear McCreary’s very deliberate score, every moment of this film is calculated and poised.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a young woman running away from something–a relationship, we conclude. Then, not even 5 minutes into the film, something abrupt happens while she’s driving. She gets hit by another car, sending her violently spinning off the road.

In the next scene she wakes up to a prison-like room with no windows. She’s chained to the wall. In walks a man named Howard, played by John Goodman. Goodman plays this role how you wish he’d play every role. He’s mysterious and crazy and infernal. You’re never sure if you should trust him or not. Sometimes you feel like he’s okay, but other times he does things that make you reconsider.

It turns out they’re in a bomb shelter. There is one other person down there with them–a younger guy, about Michelle’s age, named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Howard claims, to Michelle and Emmett’s ignorance, that the Earth’s air is now chemically contaminated and unbreathable. Michelle and Emmett aren’t sure what to believe, but they stick together and have no choice but to trust Howard.

It’s like two movies in one. On the first hand, you have a guy who’s insane and may be actually kidnapping you, and on the other hand, there could be a possible post-apocalyptic scenario above ground. But it might not matter either way. Just because a crazy guy has a bomb shelter, doesn’t mean he’s not still a crazy guy.

Director Dan Trachtenberg does a fantastic job in his feature film debut. The movie is almost entirely set in this cramped underground bunker, yet he finds a way to fill all 1 hour and 43 minutes of film without it ever feeling repetitive or boring. We’re constantly on the edge of our seats. It’s one of the best suspense films in years. Hitchcock would be proud.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: Cloverfield (2008)

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Cloverfield came at a defining moment in viral culture. YouTube was really getting big, and smart phones hadn’t even been around for 2 years yet. So give credit to the awareness of the filmmakers, including producer J.J. Abrams, to take a chance on something that spoke to a new generation–perhaps the first film to do so (based off memory so don’t get mad if I’m wrong). It was modern and cool and what people actually wanted to see, but not like in a cheap way when some rich old guy says “Ooo, I bet the kids’ll really dig this.” But in a totally conscious way.

It’s a monster movie with a modern flair. Set in New York City (where else?), it features a group of friends trying to escape Manhattan away from this large unidentifiable creature.

The acting isn’t the best–save for Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller (the latter of the two having his career essentially launched by this movie alone)–but that may have to do with the completely exposed and unrealistic dialogue. It’s obvious that the filmmakers chose to focus more on concept and narrative. And that’s fine.

During the movie’s setup, before the monster attacks, a party is being held to bid farewell to Rob (Michael Stahl-David) before he leaves for a new career opportunity in Japan. Rob’s best friend, Hud (Miller), is documenting the whole thing–including the rest of the movie–on video camera, which may be the best decision by the filmmakers in this whole film. Miller arguably carries the movie and provides great comic relief, proving why he deserves to be such a dominant figure in these types of roles these past few years.

Director Matt Reeves does a good job moving the story along and not leaving behind much wasted space. It constantly feels like this is what might actually happen if there were some sort of monster attack.

One allowance you’ll have to make, however, is the corny love story amidst all the chaos. Rob convinces his friends to venture back into ground zero in order to save the one-that-got-away, Beth (Odette Yustman). But thankfully Cloverfield never takes itself too seriously. Or maybe it does, but it’s so much so that we just laugh and enjoy it anyway.

Twizard Rating: 86