Unlucky Charms: The Official Nerfed Llamas Review, and ladies stay away from the Cyclops… he has “issues”
So far I have reviewed 3 classic Full Moon Features: Trancers, Arcade, and Bad Channels in my hunt to celebrate the famed b-movie studio for the entire month of May. Whereas I love the classics from the VHS rental era, I also want to shine a light on the newer films being made for the digital revolution. If you haven’t kept up with Full Moon Features, then you may not be aware that they still produce and distribute an average of 3 new movies a year, both sequels of existing franchises and all new intellectual properties. Charles Band and his team at Full Moon have had success with new franchises like Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man, but I wanted to check out something that was a bit off the beaten path. Upon watching a few trailers, I landed on Unlucky Charms as it appeared to be a fun little horror/comedy flick, which was just what I was looking for.
What is Unlucky Charms: Unlucky Charms is the tale of a reality TV show that has women competing to be the next model/spokesperson for the DeeDee Deville line of beauty products. The competition is fierce and mean, as each lady tries to position themselves to win each challenge set before them. Little do the contestants know that Ms. Deville is using magic to maintain her youthful beautiful appearance. When DeeDee’s magical beauty begins to fade, she calls on ancient magic attached to an enchanted charm bracelet to summon various magical creatures to start claiming the souls of each contestant individually as a sacrifice to grant her beauty back to her. Directed by Charles Band (creator of Full Moon), and written by Dominic Muir (Critters) & Kent Roudebush (a whole lot of Full Moon flicks), Unlucky Charms stars Seth Peterson (Burn Notice), Jeryl Prescott (the Walking Dead), Charlie O’Connell (Dude, Where’s My Car), Masuimi Max (Inland Empire), Tiffany Thornton (Game Change), Alex Rose Wiesel (Speed Date), Nathan Phillips (Get Santa), Anna Sophia Berglund (Dibs!), and Nikki Leigh (the Wedding Ringer).
What I Liked: This is another Full Moon Feature where I feel that the core cast do an excellent job. Acting in a low budget b-movie is not the same as working in a $200 million dollar Hollywood film. There is not always time, nor the budget to do a lot of retakes, so an actor in a b-movie needs to be able to nail their character while the film is rolling because they may not get more than a couple takes to get it right. It’s hard, fast-paced work that is not praised nearly enough, likely because the performances are not as nuanced or coached as A-list movies, which is not fair to the b-movie actor who is giving everything they can with what they have to work with. Jeryl Prescott is a perfect diva in her portrayal of the sinister and demanding DeeDee Deville. Seth Peterson is amazing in his scoffing performance of Pirl, the gay model consultant who essentially says everything we were already thinking, just a with a whole lot more sass! Charlie O’Connell smiles and oozes that producer douchebag vibe effortlessly (hope that’s not indicative of his actual self). Masuimi Max and Alex Rose Wiesel clash in epic mean girl verbal battles, and their rivalry is believable and fun to watch. Tiffany Thornton is excellent as the pure model without a vanity complex or back stabbing nature, a fun balance to other contestants. And Nathan Phillips is Farr Darrig, the magical being with a conscious that actually lends much needed gravitas to the narrative. All told, a solid b-movie core cast.
The production design for the set, and the castle location used to film the movie are stellar. The castle gives the film an authentic feeling, capturing the asthetics and decadence that you would expect from a multi-millionaire model and entrepreneur like DeeDee Deville. Also, the reality TV aspects are set up well. There are cameras set up everywhere, including a confession room, which really sells the concept. Costume design is well executed, as the models wear a variety of outfits from lingerie to casual wear. Farr Darring, the bearded leprechaun, has a terrific suit and ornate cane. A lot of attention was put into the costumes and it is evident when you watch the movie. Richard Band totally nails the score as well, bouncing from sweeping orchestrals, ominously creepy cuts, and typical TV style background music, all of which compliment the movie thoroughly.
One last thing that I was pleasantly surprised with was the overall arc for both Audrey and Farr Darrig. Whereas Pirl steals the movie, and Mika is the most entertaining model, Audrey and Farr are the heart and soul of the movie. Audrey represents wholesome values and pure living, showing that you can be a model without being a self centered vanity freak. Farr is a prime example of a loyal servant that is torn between his sworn duties and an internal struggle that he is battling to do the right thing and break free from his evil master’s control. Both characters experience complete and fulfilling stories that make the ending really pop in a good way.
What I Didn’t Like: The biggest complaint I have with Unlucky Charms is that I feel that the design and make up/prosthetics used to create the creatures and magical beings was severely dated. I couldn’t help but notice that movies from 15 and 20 years ago had similar creatures with better, more polished appearances. The movie focuses so much on the amazing castle set and the pretty women, that the grotesque characters look visually like an afterthought, which is a bit of a shame.
Also, I really wish that the Cyclops’ eye was not static. It never moves while he is moving or interacting with other characters. Although, in at least 2 scenes they used CG to animate his eye to move and blink, which makes the fact that 95% of the time the eye doesn’t move even more jarring. His character would have been far more engaging with an animatronic eye that moved and blinked in real time.
My only other concern would be that the plot seemed to hop around loose and fast from time to time. Unlucky Charms could have been about 5 minutes longer and it would have had enough time to adequately cover some of the gaps in an otherwise straightforward story.
Bottom Line: This is an odd Frankenstein of a movie that jumbles up Mean Girls with America’s Next Top Model, sprinkles in Leprechaun with a touch of Cinderella… and boobs, and it does so with more hits than misses. I will admit, at times it is too much like a reality show for my tastes (again, I’m not a fan of most reality TV), but that’s not to its detriment, in fact it’s an absolute strength. Much like other movies in the Full Moon catalog, it doesn’t have much budget to play with, but it strives so hard to be a bigger film than what it actually is, and that’s to the credit of it’s director, Charles Band, who puts a ton of heart into each of the films that he directs. The hard work and quirky effort that goes in to each of these films is what keeps me coming back for more. Essentially, if you are in the mood for a tongue-in-cheek take on model culture, vanity, with some monsters and scares sprinkled in for safe measure, then Unlucky Charms might be the film that grants you immunity from being eliminated (see what I did there?).
Check out the trailer for Unlucky Charms and see if you feel that this kind of magical reality vanity competition is for you: