Candyman 2021 [Grade: B]

Director: Nia DaCosta

Story By: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, & Nia DaCosta

Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, & Vanessa Williams

* * *

The film has finally arrived—the 2021 version of Candyman. To be honest, I didn’t really have a high or low reaction to this project. 

There was something “safe” about this film despite the elevated shift that focused on race relations. This is not to say that the film being “safe” is necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t as exciting/worth anticipating… except to see Yahya’s fine ass.

* * *

Below are my grades for key components in #Candyman2021 that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. 

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. **NEW: I have broken the scale down by audience.  The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), Wait for Streaming, Don’t Rush, & Don’t Watch.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: A

Plot & Story: B

Pacing: B

Character Arc/Development: C

* * *

Entertainment Factors

General Public: Don’t Rush

Horror Lovers: Don’t Watch

Peele Fans: Worth the Watch/$$$

Film Enthusiasts: Don’t Rush

* * *

TAKEAWAYS:

1. It’s always a little weird thinking about what the messaging could’ve been when looking at a film focused on killing and gore, but one thing about having Peele as a writer is that due to his critical race approach to his stories, we can usually walk away with a message outside of the simple theme starters of horror/scary films. 

In this case, it seems that the team took the theme foundation of the original Candyman series —ensuring that the name Candyman lives on/ is eternal through a feared and curious belief by the “innocent blood” of the living— but used the history of “The Candyman” to elevate the purpose behind the original theme foundation to give a message about never forgetting / always remembering / giving respect to the innocent lives of Black [men] taken by racist acts. 

This message begins to take form towards the end of Act One, and develops in Act Two through Anthony’s newfound interest and relationship with William Burke, and fully flushed out/made blatant by Act Three. 

Also, the take on #SayHerName in this context was such a subtle, powerful, and eerie choice. 🙌🏾🙌🏾👍🏾

2. Oh Yahya! Such a beautiful man. 😍

3. Chile… that first painting was UGLY! Who was in charge of set design/props? Because I couldn’t take Anthony serious as an artist with that painting. 🤷🏾‍♂️😂

4. The story is “safe” because it actually follows the original Candyman + a little of Candyman 3. You know how it has been discovered that Disney reuses certain frames from past animation films with new animation films—like how Duchess from Aristocats is doing the same dance with the Alley cats that the Bear from Jungle Book did? This is what Candyman 2021 feels like—watching Yahya walk in the same plot lines as Virginia Madsen from 1992 with just a modern, updated scenery and context. 

What we end up with is a story about an artist in a creative slump is given a new spark of creativity after learning about the story of Candyman, Cabrini-Green, and gentrification. However, while on this creative journey of investigation, this artist unintentionally becomes more than just invested in the history of this new project. 

Act One catches us up with the history of the original story and sets the development of our main character up nicely. Pacing in terms of bringing the idea of “Candyman” up in order to move the plot, and dialogue, unfortunately get in the way of Act One feeling authentic and seamless.  🥴

Act Two is where things pick up, and Nia DaCosta does a good job with allowing us to see and experience Yahya’s development as he takes on this investigative journey. 👍🏾

Act Three is possibly the strongest Act which does a great job at tying all the pieces from the previous Acts together, and then providing those twists that had Peele written all over it. 👍🏾

5. So it took him THAT long to get that checked out? Like, really? 🤨

6. The cinematography was really beautiful. There was this nostalgic grittiness of the film from the 1992 debut but in a present day context. Just well done. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

7. Pacing was strong when focusing on how the film moved as well as the development of Yahya’s character. As a viewer, I never felt bored  or had a need to be inattentive. The issue for me lies with one very specific thing that also connects to the “safe” plot—1. How Troy transitions to tell the story of Candyman, and how the “resurrection” via this film is carried out. 

Now, I don’t know if it was just me, but that was such an awkward transition in that living room. And when I look back the first film, it annoys me because the writing at this particular point of the new movie actually set the characters up to bring Candyman’s name into the conversation in a more logical way—i.e. simply making a connection between with the urban legend after being told they were in the “old Cabrini Green” using the performative delivery of Troy’s character VS forcing it. 

Additionally, I liked the “art” context that got re-introduced the urban legend to a new generation, and also the twist at the end… but I feel there could’ve been more creativity taken with the “mirror summoning” approach—like, what could a new aged summoning look like if the film had ran with the art direction a little more (because those of us in Chicago know that it’s normal to come across a random art statement/pieces in odd places around the city—so what could’ve been done with this understanding)?

Also, something felt a little messy with how Anthony’s ultimate realization, bringing in Vanessa Williams, and his response were woven in. 🥴

7. Um… Clive’s character went left really quick. Like, nothing about his character at his introduction said that he would use language like “Not until I f— you.” The delivery of the line felt forced, and the moment felt like it belonged in an old Jason thriller. 🥴👎🏾

8. The ending! YEEESSSSSSS! 🙌🏾🙌🏾

9. I think there is something powerful about the choice made around which killings were visibly shown. 🧐

10. BUT… to point #9, there was a plot hole with that idea with young William Burke and his sister… 🤦🏾‍♂️

11. The character development was…eh. Visually, Yahya’s development was done well—so shout out to those in charge of make-up design. The mental development on the other hand felt a little sudden and not as strong as the development we see in the original. 

I felt there was still too much control that the character had of himself, and I wanted to see more of a Jekyll and Mr. Hyde conflict with Yahya. 🤷🏾‍♂️

12. I mean… I know she was creeped out, but those paintings she discovered in Act Three…now those were lit vs what was shared at that exhibit at the start of Act Two.👀🤷🏾‍♂️

13. The scene in the abandoned apartment with Teyonah and the police. Such a smart and powerful move for grounding the theme.👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 

14. At first I was a little iffy about the shadow puppets, but overtime I appreciated them with the over look and feel of the film. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾

* * * 

Overall, #Candyman2021 gives Candyman 3- meets I know what you did last summer – meets The Possession – meets Amazon Prime’s Them. 

Now the film isn’t bad at all, but I don’t think this film lives up to the hype that was planted and tended to all this time. The most interesting thing about this film is how it seems to use this resurrection to actually reintroduce Daniel Robitaille, Sherman Fields,  “The Candyman” as a this social reparation savior/“hero”/avenger of sorts.

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