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As we head into the final leg of a contentious election year, Pass the Remote casts a vote for films to make you smile, laugh, tear up (in a good way) and maybe even prompt you to break out into song.
We all are in dire need of a mood adjuster. Here are five to lift the spirits.
“Holidate”: Netflix has a spotty record when it comes to rom-coms. This original is one of their finest, a ribald R-rated comedy about two singles (Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey) platonically being the plus-one for each other at every holiday occasion — from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day, and so on. Breezy, buoyant and witty, “Holidate” is an enjoyable bonbon wherein two love skeptics realize the no-duh obvious — they’re smitten and make the ideal match. Kristin Chenoweth is a hoot as a boozy aunt who’s a serial holiday dater. (Netflix, available starting Wednesday)
“David Byrne’s American Utopia”: Essentially a staged version (in abridged form) of the Talking Heads front man’s stage show, Spike Lee’s peppy feature is fun, thoughtful and upbeat as it tackles important and silly issues via song. Some of the Heads’ biggest hits get inventively choreographed and staged in this traditional concert-like film. It’s perfect for when you want to spring a sing-along with your tribe at home. (HBO Max, available now)
“Yes, God, Yes”: Prudes beware, director/writer Karen Maine’s frank coming-of-age dramedy finds peals of laughter from the awkward curious sexual fumblings of a 16-year-old Catholic high schooler (Natalia Dyer). Inquisitive Alice discovers impure thoughts are outrageously raging at a religious camp that her parents have sent her to, a gray destination brightened when she sees a cute camp counselor. Maine’s film negotiates tricky material and handles it with a refreshingly frank view of sexuality while keeping it light even as it deals with matters that are heavy. (Netflix, available now)
“Pride”: The Brits always come up with the winning recipe for feel-good, fact-based fare; and this tasty example from 2014 is one of their finest. Featuring a knockout cast — Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and more — it fluctuates from humor to drama as a group of LGBTQ advocates unite in 1985 with striking coal workers in Wales, making for a unique union. Matthew Warchus’ entertaining dip into Margaret Thatcher’s stifling reign is an intelligent crowd pleaser with a soul and a brain. (Amazon Prime, available now)
“Once Upon a Snowman”: Only have eight minutes? Disney+’s adorable “Frozen” snowman Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) gets his own origins story in this brisk and spry short. The Disney animation is exceptional, and the screenplay full of Easter eggs and clever asides as Olaf searches for his identity. It’ll make you smile in under 10 minutes. Can’t beat that. (Disney+, available now)