Top Film Releases in April: Doing the Time Warp (Again!)

Daniel Pateman

As the calendar pages of 2019 tumble and we sacrifice an hour at the altar of British Summer, we find this month’s cinema somewhat nostalgic: glancing back at the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Millennials might turn grey to know that the original Pet Semetary is now thirty years old! But it’s hard to be glum when these films - ranging from coming-of age dramas to fantastical comedies - feel so fresh and vivacious.

The feral Pet Semetary prowls into cinemas on 4th April, with John Lithgow taking Fred Gwynne’s role as benevolent neighbour Jud Crandall. When the Creed family move in next door, their rural idyll is shattered by tragedy. In the throes of grief, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) turns to Jud and the mythical powers of the Pet Semetary for help. He soon learns, with bitter consequences, the wisdom of the film’s infamous line that, “Sometimes…dead is better”. This version of King’s parental nightmare has been dubbed “a brutally effective and convulsively disturbing story” by Peter Bradshaw, with many noting that it improves on Mary Lambert’s original.

Another eighties flick, Penny Marhsall’s Big (1988) casts its shadow on Shazam! (5th April), with fourteen-year Billy Batson gaining the ability to become an adult superhero. Excitedly exploring his newfound powers alongside disabled foster-brother Freddy, he soon finds himself on a collision course with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a physicist granted similar abilities. Shazam!s adolescent spin on being superhuman is pleasantly light-hearted, with Billy eagerly zapping poorly charged mobile phones and using his strength to wreck a bully’s car. It’s the breezy antithesis to the solemn intensity of Avengers: Endgame (25th April).

Continuing in the same vein of irreverence, and inspired by Big but reversing that story’s trajectory, Little (12th April) tells the story of Jordan Sanders: a hard-working, uber-successful, but mean-spirited tech-mogul. She’s put in her place when an aggrieved girl wishes she was little again, and - hey presto - Jordan wakes up as her tween self (Marsai Martin). Explaining this inexplicable reversal to her assistant April (Issa Rae) - who quips that “that's for white people, 'cos black people ain’t got the time” - she finds herself forced back to school while enlisting April to run her business empire. Director Tina Gordon previously wrote comedy What Men Want (2019) and this film looks like similarly raucous fun, while Little made fourteen-year old star Marsai Martin Hollywood’s youngest ever Executive Producer.

The upheaval of adolescence is rather more dramatically conveyed in Jonah Hill and Bo Burnham’s directorial debuts. Hill’s Mid90s (12th April) channels something of the gritty authenticity of Larry Clark’s Kids (1995). Shot largely on the streets of Los Angeles, we follow the travails of Stevie (Sunny Suljic) as he bounces erratically between unsettled home life and the camaraderie of a group of young skateboarders. The innocent admission to his new crew that “I’ve never been in a car without someone’s mum or dad before” heralds the start of a journey fraught with peril as Stevie crosses the threshold of adolescence. Meanwhile Eighth Grade (26th April), also produced by A24, is a poignantly astute reflection of a generation growing up with the omnipresent influence of social media; exacerbating self-scrutiny and the pressure to conform. Elsie Fisher gives a heart-breaking performance as Kayla Day, a socially anxious girl trying to survive her final week before high school, and won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Young Actor/Actress. With a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Vanity Fair describing it as “Exquisite”, this is one not to miss.


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