STREAMING REVIEWS: From law school to low school

Published May 15, 2022, 9:50 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Neve Campbell and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in The Lincoln Lawyer

The two shows today just dropped on Netflix over the weekend. One is a legal series that’s adapted from the novels of Michael Connelly, so it’s hard to go wrong here. The second is broad comedy that relies on Rebel Wilson and a single-note High School premise. Funny in parts, but lacking as a whole. 

The Lincoln Lawyer (Netflix USA) – Mickey Haller should be no stranger to many of us. Crime novelist Michael Connelly first wrote about him via the 2005 novel The Lincoln Lawyer, and we had a film adaptation in 2011 that starred Matthew McConaughey as the idealistic but damaged lawyer who worked out of his Lincoln Continental car while going from LA courthouse to courthouse. Half brother to Connelly’s other creation Heironymous Bosch, it’s now funny to note that there’s a Bosch limited series showing on Amazon Prime, while this Haller limited series debuts on Netflix. Starring the noted Mexican actor, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Haller, this series takes off from The Brass Verdict, Connelly’s second novel which featured Haller. It’s inspired casting, as Rulfo really looks at home as the extremely smart, but weathered, lawyer. 

As with most series of this genre, it starts off with a murder in a deserted parking lot – that of a lawyer, who happens to be a friend of Haller. The newly expired lawyer leaves all his cases to Haller, and it becomes the opportunity for Haller to jumpstart his career. There’s a strong support cast involved here, and in fact, as the screenplay is written, they are at times, the stronger, more driven and interesting characters, and it seems Haller (Rulfo) is just waiting for cues and prompts from these other characters. I especially liked Becki Newton as Lorna, Mickey’s second ex-wife, and Jazz Raycole as Izzy, Mickey’s chauffeur. First ex-wife and mother to Mickey’s child is Maggie, played by Neve Campbell, and she’s a blast from the past. There’s never anything wrong with this David E. Kelley project, you’ll just wish there were more fireworks.

Senior Year (Netflix USA) – Ever since Rebel Wilson made her Australian presence felt playing support in various films, she’s been a popular choice when you need a comedienne with brash, unfiltered humor – like an Aussie version of Amy Schumer and Kate McKinnon. This latest on Netflix firmly puts her in a lead role, with a story whose premise has been used time and time again – emphasis on the ‘time’ aspect. The film opens with Steph (Angourie Rice) in her High School senior year; where she’s super excited about finally being popular, cheer captain, and possibly, prom queen. An accident during a routine puts her in a 20-year coma, where she suddenly wakes up as Steph, version 2 (Rebel Wilson). Needless to say, much comedy is mined from this 20-year hibernation, and how Steph still thinks like a 17-year-old.

For Steph, senior high was yesterday, and it isn’t long before she decides she wants to finish her year, and even be prom queen once again. This fish out of water situation is used for cheap easy laughs and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there is a feeling of déjà vu that washes over us. It’s actually when the film takes on the attitude and social mores of 1999 versus those of today that the film stretches to be something more than the sun of its parts. There’s even a wonderful cameo that shows us the filmmakers are capable of flashes of inspiration now and then. Angourie Rice is herself Australian, and she does a great job establishing the Steph character, such that when Rebel takes over, we’re actually invested in Steph. Nothing outstanding here, but watchable, despite the clichés and heavy-handed messages about inclusivity.