STREAMING REVIEWS: Pandemic comedy & 'baking machines'

Published October 28, 2021, 6:41 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

From France, we have a broad comedy set in the first days of Paris’ COVID lockdown, and then, a baking competition that’s engineered to be really different. Happy viewing!

Stuck Together (Netflix France) – It’s inevitable that a number of the new streaming content we’ll be offered will take on the subject of the COVID pandemic head-on. What will be interesting is the kind of treatment that will be given – how the pandemic will stand as a metaphor for something else. This comedy from France is one noble attempt of blending light-hearted humor, social commentary, and a pinch of drama. It may not always work, but it does have its heart in the right place. The funny thing is that it actually feels dated, as it’s set during the early days of quarantine and lockdown when there were no vaccines, and there was so much uncertainty and paranoia. As such, there’s almost a sense of nostalgia to the narrative.

It’s set in a Parisian residential building; and we’re offered a broad diversity of characters, from the couple who act as concierge and administrator to the families or couples who occupy the various apartments. There’s an elderly woman who runs the bar on the first floor and represents the neighborhood businesses hit by the pandemic, and even a doctor who runs a clinic/research lab. From the opening scenes of Paris under lockdown, there’s something stirring and dramatic about seeing a whole city like Paris bending under the yoke of the health crisis. And then, smartly, we’re treated to the little dramas that exist within each unit and the interactions that turn the building into a ‘community’. The humor is real, and we’ll see ourselves or people we know. It’s a fun film, but perhaps it stretches for far too long.

Baking Impossible (Netflix USA) – Here’s a baking competition that dares to be different. What is does is combine baking with engineering, and look for the best ‘Bakineer’ team. Each team in the show is composed of one baking chef and one engineer. They’re then asked to face challenges that require them to not only produce delicious desserts, but must also pass a stress test that will prove it’s also a sound engineered creation. They’re asked to create boats that float, robots, a dress that’s edible, and even a bridge that can actually take a load and have hydraulic capabilities. It’s fun, it tests their ingenuity, and puts the design components of the desserts on another kind of testing matrix.

The teams are entertaining, and given that there’s $100,000 at stake; it is no surprise to find emotions run high, and they’re all highly competitive. What’s fun is that the competition is centered on how their creations have to both taste good and yet function. You’ll laugh or feel for the teams as on the first episode alone, the one where they’re asked to make dessert boats actually sail, some won’t even float – that’s on the engineer in the team who didn’t properly distribute the balance or supply enough buoyancy and ballast, one of the tests in the latter stages involves, having their ‘sweet’ cars crash, while the crash test dummy has to survive the said crash. Love to see where they can take this series in future seasons. My youngest son, taking up Industrial Engineering, was the one who clued me in on this show.