TL;DR – A better use of the ‘choose your own adventure’ structure but it still shows the flaws with the design
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene (bar playing the film again)
A while ago, Netflix dropped this weird little experiment onto its service, an episode of Black Mirror where you got to pick the direction of the story. Bandersnatch was an interesting experiment and a lot of people had fun with it but walked away from the experience feeling more than a little hollow. Well, Netflix has taken a second crack at the formula, this time with a show that could not be more different.
So to set the scene, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is getting married, since the end of the series, she has found love with the equally adorkable Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe). Things are looking up and up for Kimmy, right until she discovers an old book in her backpack Lucy (Stephanie D’Abruzzo) of a chose your own adventure novel (foreshadowing). However, the book was loaned out from the library after she had been taken, so it could not be hers. Were there other kidnapped women out there? Well, there is only one person to ask … the Reverend (Jon Hamm) himself.
Overall, one of the areas where the film shines is in its cast. After working together for four seasons, you can see that bond and drive right off the gate. This is important because one of the first things we do is have an in-depth conversation with a sentient backpack and if you are not on board with the cast, well that is your exit point. Ellie Kemper brings that bubbly charm that you need to be that counterpoint to all the other characters in the film. Also, we have another entry in Daniel Radcliffe’s long line of very odd yet charming characters that he has played recently.
If you have never read a chose your own adventure novel before, or didn’t have a go at the Bandersnatch experiment. You don’t just watch this as a normal film where you sit back and let the world run by. Here you have to make decisions as you what will happen, they might be ephemeral like if Titus (Tituss Burgess) goes to the gym or has a nap, they might be consequential, like if you pick Titus or Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) to go on the adventure with you, or they might seem ephemeral but have real consequences like your first choice what wedding dress should Kimmy pick. There are of course the same issues of the long awkward pauses where you wait between making the choice and the action playing out. Though there were some moments when it was clear the film knew this was a problem and played around with it.
These choices come up quite a bit at the start to get you used to the mechanic and then pull back for some of the bigger moments going forward after that. Like with Bandersnatch there are some wrong answers that you could pick that could lead to everything up to and including characters getting accidentally killed off. But I didn’t find this nearly as frustrating as last time because the writing is strong and the show has a 4th wall breaking whimsy about it that you don’t mind. If you do get something wrong, they just rewind like an old VCR and you can take a second swing at it (also sometimes they hid things in the rewind and also in the second options) and this will be happening a lot. Indeed I have four restarts before the opening credits.
However, much like many purportedly narrative choice driven video games, you’ll soon discover there is a very linear story underneath the façade of choice. When I first noticed the linear story I was a little disappointed but then it wasn’t an issue. I think having that clear narrative and the more whimsy setting meant that there was not as much at stake so you didn’t make taking wrong turns or experimenting. That is not to say that every choice worked as well as it could. There is at least one moment (I can’t be sure that I got to see everything in my two run-throughs) where Jacqueline pretends to be physically abused by Titus that just completely sits outside every other narrative choice in the film. There are also a few times when it does take a detour into the dark, and your mileage there will probably depend on your preferences.
In the end, do we recommend Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend? Yes, yes I think we do. I think the best recommendation I can give the film is that my first thought when I finished it was to go back and watch it again to see more of the options. There is also the sheer charm and joy that you come to expect from the show. I had a fun time here, and wouldn’t mind seeing some more. If you liked Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend I can also recommend to you Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend
Directed by – Claire Scanlon
Written by – Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Sam Means & Meredith Scardino
Created by – Tina Fey & Robert Carlock
Music by – Jeff Richmond
Cinematography by – John Inwood
Edited by – Kyle Gilman
Production/Distribution Companies – Netflix
Starring – Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm, Lauren Adams, Sara Chase, Sol Miranda, Amy Sedaris, Mike Carlsen, Dylan Gelula, Chris Parnell, Heidi Gardener, Jack McBrayer, Zak Orth, Fred Armisen, Johnny Knoxville, Patch Darragh, Tanner Flood, Bowen Yang, Josh Groban, Charlotte McKinney & Stephanie D’Abruzzo
Rating – Australia: M;