Poppy (New Zealand, 2021, Indiepix Films, DVD, NR, 98 min.). The New Zealand film, written and directed by Linda Niccol, is the coming-of-age story of 19-year-old Poppy Simpson (a terrific Libby Hunsdale). She refuses to be defined by Down Syndrome and held back by her older brother’s smothering protectiveness. The brother (Ari Boyland as Dave) inherited their father’s car repair business and Poppy works there too. The business is not faring well and Dave is drinking too much.

When given the chance, Poppy can prove her skills at car maintenance, but she also wants to get her driver’s license, which Dave opposes, and expand her social life, which Dave discourages. Poppy’s road to pursuing her dreams has bumps, but there also is a lot of sweetness in the film, especially as she reconnects with Luke (musician Seb Hunter), a former high school classmate.

Poppy has been secretly studying to get her driver’s license and, when Luke calls in needing repairs to his car but cannot afford them, Poppy agrees to help him if he will give her secret driving lessons, as she has just earned her learner’s permit. As their friendship deepens, despite Dave warning Luke off, they also borrow clients’ cars for driving lessons. Meanwhile, Poppy is introducing Sofia (Kali Kopae) to Dave, whom Sofia is intrigued with.

The uplifting film moves toward the Burnout, a nonsensical – at least to me – car competition in which the cars raise a lot of dust by spinning in circles. It gives Poppy her big chance though. There are no extras. Grade: film 3.25 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Father of the Bride (Warner Bros., DVD, PG-13, 117 min.). Based on the same-named 1949 novel by Edward Streeter, which has spawned two other film versions and three sequels, this time the spin is a Cuban-American one, with some Mexican added. The 1950 adaptation was directed by Vincent Minelli and starred Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett as the parents and Elizabeth Taylor and Don Taylor as the engaged couple. The 1991 version was directed by Charles Shyer and starred Steve Martin and Diane Keaton as the parents and Kimberly Williams and George Newbern as the engaged couple.

Here, directed by Gaz Alazraki, Andy Garcia plays successful Miami architect Billy Herrera and Gloria Estefan plays his wife Ingrid. We first meet the couple at a marriage counseling session, during which Ingrid decides it is time they divorce as she feels unappreciated. Eldest daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) is coming home for a rare visit though and Billy wants to hold off news of the divorce. His aim is helped when Sofia announces at dinner that she is engaged to Adan Castillo (Diego Boneta), a fellow lawyer in New York City whom she proposed to and that they want to get married before moving to Mexico in two months to work for a nonprofit – none of which goes down well with Billy.

Meeting Adan helps cool down Billy’s objections to the wedding, but he now insists it will be a grand hotel affair that he will pay for. However, then Adan’s father (Pedro Damian as Hernan) shows up, with all his surprising details and insisting on his own version of the wedding with 500 of his guests. The couple only want a small wedding, perhaps on a beach. Nobody wants a Catholic Church wedding.

Isabela Merced plays the younger Herrera daughter, who kind of gets lost in the film until she offers to design the dresses for the bride and bridesmaids. The film also adds a ditsy wedding planner in Natalie, played by Chloe Fineman of “Saturday Night Live.” Natalie, who is described as a “wedding financial advisor, family therapist and stylist,” is both pretentious and clueless. Her comedy elements are weak.

The film is worth seeing for Garcia and Estefan. There is lots of Cuban-American flavor as found in Miami, including a park set up with tables for playing dominos. There are no extras. Grade: film 3 stars

The Last American Virgin (1982, MVD Rewind Collection, Blu-ray, R, 93 min.). I had fond memories of this coming-of-age comedy-drama by Israeli writer-director Boaz Davidson that had an unconventional ending. In the many interview extras, we learn the film is an almost shot-by-shot remake of Davidson’s “Lemon Popsicle” (1978), made in Israel and a worldwide success but never released in the United States due to its ending. Also, the story was based on Davidson’s own youth, with Gary, the shy kid who falls for the pretty new girl, based on himself.

The three amigos of “The Last American Virgin” are played by, from left, Lawrence Monoson, Steve Antin and Joe Rubbo. Courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection.


Pizza delivery boy Gary is played by Lawrence Monoson (“And the Band Played On”). The girl he falls for is Karen (Diane Franklin of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”), who actually falls for Gary’s best friend Rick (Steve Antin of “The Goonies,” “Survival Quest”). The third of the friends is David “Big Apple” (Joe Rubbo of “Hot Chili”), the overweight one who is there mostly for laughs.

The first half of the movie is a successful comedy with several memorable scenes, such as the three lads inviting three girls at the ice cream shoppe to a non-existent party by promising them drugs but resorting to Sweet’N Low instead. Then there is the measuring contest in the boys’ locker room. Another hilarious episode involves a pleasure-loving pizza customer, followed by a less happy encounter with a prostitute.

The second half is darker, after Rick dumps Karen and moves on to his next conquest. This leads Gary to make his romantic move.

In this just-before AIDS era film, there is lots of easy, mostly harmless casual sex and the soundtrack is loaded with popular hits from Tommy Tutone, Blondie, The Cars (3 songs), U2, The Police, Devo, The Waitresses, REO Speedwagon, Quincy Jones, The Commodores and others.

The extras are from a 2013 Arrow version, released in Great Britain. They include lengthy, entertaining interviews with Davidson, who discusses “Lemon Popsicle” and this film and how much was from his growing up in Tel Aviv (36:06: he mentions a third film based on the plot is being planned); Monoson, who mentions he faked a driver’s license as he was only 17 when cast (26:07); Franklin, who is frank about doing the sex scenes (20:59); and cinematographer Adam Greenberg, who only used a hand-held camera and who also shot “Lemon Popsicle” (21:10). There also is a photo gallery (3:36) and a mini-poster. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 4 stars

Men at Work (1990, MVD Rewind Collection, Blu-ray, PG-13, 98 min.). In this brother act, Emilio Estevez directs, writes and co-stars with brother Charlie Sheen in an uneven comedy about two garbage collectors who find the body of a murder victim, a city councilman no less. Carl Taylor (Sheen) and James St. James (Estevez) work very sloppily while complaining and bickering.

In a nod to “Rear Window,” Carl likes to spy on his neighbors. One night, they see the councilman (Darrell Larson) act aggressively towards his lover/campaign manager Susan Wilkens (Leslie Hope) and Carl shoots the man with a pellet gun, while Susan is in the other room. The guys do not see two unknown assailants strangle the councilman. The next day they discover the body in a metal drum during their trash pickup route, with Vietnam vet Louis Fedders (Keith David) along as an observer. Fearing the pellet-gun wound will implicate them in the man’s murder, they — nod to “Weekend at Bernie’s,” released the previous year – bring the corpse along in the truck and throughout their remaining adventures.

The setup, which includes Carl meeting Susan and their falling for each other, is a bit overly complicated, but Estevez and Sheen riff off of each other for the whole film, with David adding some nice comic moments. Oh yes, also along for the ride is the pizza delivery guy (Dean Cameron), whom they kidnap after he sees the corpse in Carl’s living room.

The film’s humor is a bit too broad, but interest picks up when the adventure does, although the climax is somewhat of a letdown. The only extra is a mini poster. Grade: film 2

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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