We really, really do love it when an Outposter contributes here at Last Movie Outpost. If you have something movie related you want to get off your chest, or have a movie you want to review, then send it in to us via [email protected] and you will get to see your name in lights, and jump up and down excitedly grabbing your junk while telling people you have been published! Somebody who knows this excitement well is Wrenage, who has been busy this week. He already reviewed Down for your delight and delectation, and here he is again with his review for Smile.

Smile

Smile

The trailer for Smile got me. It has a shot where a woman sits in her car. Another woman approaches the vehicle. The approaching woman knocks on the driver’s side window, where only her chest is visible. Her smiling head then falls into view, dangling from a stringy neck.

Clever! This movie could be fun!

Smile

Smile was not fun. It’s a clunker, folks.

The main character in Smile is a female therapist played by Sophie Bacon (don’t say, mole!), who is Kevin Bacon’s daughter. A frantic patient tells Bacon (nice to mole you!) that something is pursuing her. The patient then kills herself in front of Bacon (I mean, nice to meet your mole). This is how the curse gets passed from one to another. A person witnesses a traumatic suicide and is haunted by a smiling entity until they kill themselves, and so on and so forth.

Smile

The premise has some similarity to It Follows, where the main character is pursued by an entity that only she can see. It Follows does it much better, however. Watch It Follows instead.

But since we are here, we will take a dive into Smile, and spoilers will happen. Smile originated as a short film directed by Parker Finn called Laura Hasn’t Slept. It won the 2020 Special Jury Recognition Prize for SXSW’s Midnight Short category. This attracted the attention of Paramount Pictures, who tapped Finn to write and direct a full feature film.

Laura Hasn’t Slept is on YouTube. It’s Twilight Zone-inspired story is thin. A woman visits her therapist. The visit turns out to be a nightmare. The therapist reveals themselves to be the entity. Roll credits. What set it apart to win a prize? It looks nice. The camerawork is nice. The acting and effects are fine. Sound effects are solid. One would have to watch all of the short film entries to see exactly what set it apart. That is a bridge too far for this reviewer.

Smile For The Camera

The rest of the Smile cast breaks down like this:

Jesse T. Usher plays the fiancé. Usher is A-Train on The Boys. The movie could have used some of A-Train’s speed. Smile plods. It clocks in at 115 minutes. The original short was 11 minutes. Smile could have easily been twenty minutes shorter. What intrigue it manages to generate is quickly extinguished by long stretches of no real plot development. Main character gets distraught. Main character asks for help. People are concerned. Main character gets distraught. Someone smiles at her. Main character asks for help. People are concerned. Someone smiles at her. Climax.

Smile

Kyle Gallner plays the ex-boyfriend. Gallner showed up in American Sniper and Scream 2022. I cannot remember him in either film. The only reason I remember him from Smile is because I have the cast list in front of me. Gallner is serious and concerned in Smile. Every character is serious and concerned in Smile. They all stagger along with pensive sticks up their butts. This makes them boring to watch.

Robin Weingert is another therapist in the movie. Weingert played Calamity Jane on Deadwood. The calamity of Smile is that it had potential to be interesting. Essentially, the entity lives on traumatizing victims. Yet, this time the entity picked a trauma therapist for a victim. This dynamic could have been used to great effect as the therapist uses her skills to “counsel” herself out of the creature’s clutches, but it isn’t. More on this later.

Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame is Bacon’s (Mole. Mole. Mole.) boss. As a comedic actor, one would hope Penn could inject a bit of life into the dour proceedings. Alas, no levity is allowed in Smile. Smile seems to fancy itself a serious movie, striving for prestige, perhaps, what with its deliberate (plodding) pace and somber (boring) tone. If valium was a movie, it might be Smile.

As for the rest of the cast, it has one more familiar face —Judy Reyes from Scrubs. She was fun on that show as Turk’s love interest, but again, no fun is allowed in Smile. The only thing that is allowed is for Bacon (Moley. Moley. Moley.) to wander around looking skittish. It is a full hour into the movie before she starts to investigate getting answers. By then, it is too late. The novelty of seeing creepy smiles has worn out, and what lore is discovered has all of the depth of a mud puddle anyway.

Say Cheesey

Smile is rated R. Does that mean there is gore or creative kills? Some believe that if a horror movie can’t be good, it can at least be trash. A couple frames of graphic violence exist in Smile. Mostly, the R-rating is for copious use of the F word, and Smile uses the F word in the worst possible way. I personally think of the F word like salt. If used in dialogue, it should be sprinkled in for effect.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Some writers and actors use it so often it is almost lyrical. The absolute worst way to use the F word is as a crutch to show how upset characters are emotionally.

“I need you to support me! F$#&!”

“Listen to me! I’m not crazy! F*#@!”

“You leave me and now you want my help? F&%$!”

Despite all of this, I made it to the end of Smile with hope. It seemed to be on track with what I talked about earlier, where a trauma therapist uses her skills to overcome a trauma-feeding entity. That is a genuinely intriguing idea. Fond hopes too quickly dashed.

Too many modern horror movies go with a downer ending, and Smile is no exception. I used to be a great fan of downer endings. There are some incredible uses of it, like Planet of the Apes. Yet, it seems modern horror movies have forgotten that it is okay for the protagonist to win sometimes. They all have downer endings now, and it has grown tiresome. Worse, it is downright stupid in Smile.

Smile ends with a showdown between Bacon (Mole!) and the entity, which is revealed to basically be a WNBA center. Okay, maybe slightly more feminine than a WNBA center…

Throughout the movie, it is shown that Bacon (Moley!) experienced a childhood trauma that led to her becoming a therapist. Her whole life has been spent wrestling with this trauma. In the end, she lets it go, which deprives the entity of its power.

Smile

That is a solid ending. The character went on a genuine journey from A-Z. They changed, and with their change, overcame their demons. In this instance, literally. But no…either Finn or the producers decided they needed a downer ending to leave the audience with a stinger.

This decision caused me to throw up my hands, along with making Bacon’s (I’m not going to say mole anymore; I just said it, didn’t I?) character look pathetic, plus negated her good performance. Basically, the movie took her from A to Z and then for a cheap downer ending, it threw away her entire journey. It deposited her all the way back to point A in seconds of screentime. Then it plays Lollipop.

Worthless movie. Nice trailer, though. Marketing was on point for Smile. They also had people sit behind home plate at Major League Baseball games and smile maniacally into the camera. All of this worked. So far, Smile has grossed $215 million worldwide off a $17 million budget. It even got some decent reviews and is sitting at a 6.7 on IMDB and 77 percent (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for me, Smile did not turn my frown upside down.

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