Genie movie review & film summary (2023)

Essiedu plays Bernard, who works for a horrendous boss played by Alan Cumming in a near-cameo that the actor likely knocked out in a single morning. Bernard has two brutal blows in the opening act of “Genie.” First, he works so hard that he forgets his daughter’s birthday, leading to his wife deciding it’s time for a trial separation. Second, he gets fired by Cumming’s meanie. He’s lost the girl, he’s lost the job, he’s lost his holiday spirit. Enter Melissa McCarthy as Flora, an actual genie that Bernard finds in a jewel box. Basically, time traveling two millennia, Flora is fascinated by the brave new world that includes smartphones, pizza, and Tom Cruise. McCarthy’s wide-eyed comic joy will be just enough for fans of this movie, and I’d be lying if I denied laughing a few times at her overt silliness. She does wide-eyed wonder at the state of the world we live in well, even if it starts to drag when one realizes that’s the extent of her character.

That’s the real overall problem with “Genie,” which bursts with energy initially but starts to suffer when it has to move away from McCarthy’s riffing to a little thing called plot. Flora and Bernard start working wishes to get his wife back, which is a drag narratively in suggesting that someone has to change their core to be a good partner. The final act does walk this back a bit, but we still have to watch an hour of Bernard wishing himself into a different guy. At one point, Bernard wishes his framed Messi jersey would become the literal Mona Lisa, and, believe it or not, our hero gets thrown in jail for stealing the painting. Here’s where one wonders if Curtis ever meant this to be a holiday movie. Most Christmas flicks don’t include art theft subplots.

And then there’s the end of “Genie,” which, light spoilers, basically lands at “don’t work so hard, guys.” The story of a workaholic who discovers his family is more important is an ancient family movie template, but most of those don’t have a genie who can grant literally any wish. By the time “Genie” is trying to pull heartstrings in the final act, it will really only work for the youngest members of the family. It probably will help if Dad’s a workaholic.

On Peacock now.

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