TV

[TV Movie] Dirty Dancing (2017)

Why would a television network ever try to tackle a remake of one of the most beloved movies from the 80s, Dirty Dancing? It’s a question I asked myself last week, and practically discarded, until curiosity got the better of me.

In case you’re not familiar with the movie, the premise of Dirty Dancing is a coming of age story seen through the eyes of Frances “Baby” Houseman, who in the summer of 1963, spends a three-week vacation with her family at Kellerman’s Mountain Lodge, a five-star resort in the Catskills in New York State. Baby is a smart, wholesome girl with plans to go into the Peace Corps out of college. She always does right by her parents and always follows the rules. A secret crush on one of the male dancers at the resort prompted Baby to curiously sneak past the “restricted to staff only” signs one evening. There, she runs into a friendly staff member who needs help carrying watermelons into the staff quarters. She then enters into one of the secret and frequent after-hours parties the working-class employees at Kellerman’s throw to blow off steam. The music is loud, the room is smokey, and the dancing is dirty! It is here that Baby meets the object of her crush, Johnny, and along with his dance partner Penny, a different world opened up to Baby from her sheltered upbringing. Johnny taught her how to dance and soon the two became inseparable…much to Baby’s father’s chagrin, who disapproves of Johnny’s sketchy pedigree… but don’t worry, folks, cue the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and there you have your happy ending…Baby had the time of her life…she arrives a girl, but leaves a woman.

The original Dirty Dancing is one of the core movies from my childhood. I saw the film in the movie theatre in August 1987, and later was able to re-watch a taped version off of VHS (and since have bought the DVD and Blu-ray). It was one of those films that was on a constant loop at our house, and I never got tired of it. There was something magical about it. The pairing of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, their dancing, and the love affair that the two emoted on screen was nuclear. Here was a girl who had a crush on someone and was able to actually attract the object of her affections, fall in love with them and live happily ever after; a dream come true for any teenage girl. Not to mention, the dancing and music were a perfect pairing. For a girl on the verge of teenhood, Dirty Dancing was a film that will forever resonate.

While watching the 2017 version of Dirty Dancing, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the original. I found myself swearing, cringing, guffawing and shaking my head in disbelief. As a matter of fact, the first raw critical thought I wrote down after watching it was:

“This did everything wrong.”

As I was trying to formulate this review, everything came up negative with me – EVERYTHING. I realized after my third attempt to write this blogpost that objectivity would be difficult here; I was too much in love with the original! So I did something I don’t normally do: I re-watched Dirty Dancing 2017 and tried to find some good in this film.

The 2017 version of Dirty Dancing stars Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Baby, Colt Prattes (dancer in Broadway productions) as Johnny, Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) as Baby’s older sister Lisa, and Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) as Penny. We also see Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood in a surprise pairing as Baby’s parents. Other recognizable actors were here too – Tony Roberts, Billy Dee Williams and Katey Sagal also make an appearance. This reboot follows the same plot from the original 1987 version, pretty much scene for scene, including soundtrack. Certain key characters’ plots, though, have been expanded upon here where they were glazed over in the original, particularly Baby’s parents and their marital troubles, as well as Lisa’s attraction to an entertainer.

The one major difference with Dirty Dancing 2017 is that practically every scene has the actors singing and dancing, using this as a plot device to move the film along, unlike the 1987 original. Every character here was made to sing: Johnny, Penny, Baby, her parents…everyone. With so much of its production focused on singing and dance routines I concluded that Dirty Dancing 2017 is actually more of the musical rendition of the original, as opposed to a remake of the original. With this thought in mind, re-watching this film was a lot more palatable for me.

What was a hit for me pretty much came down to casting for this film.

Abigail Breslin as Baby. At first viewing, I thought Breslin was mis-cast as Baby. She is almost too wholesome and fresh-faced to pull off dirty anything, let alone dirty dancing. But, honestly, I think she is a match – a bit clumsy, but purely honest. You can see her feelings in her facial expressions. I also liked the fact she doesn’t look totally polished here like a lot of the actresses we see nowadays.

Lisa, Baby’s sister. I really liked the relationship development between Baby and her sister. The 1987 version saw Lisa as aloof, selfish, and frankly a bit mean to Baby. It wasn’t necessary to expand her story-line, but I am glad there was a bit of breadth to Lisa’s character. The remake had them different from each other, but close sisters, and this is where Hyland and Breslin shone. Cue the scene where Baby reveals she is in love with Johnny – these two light up the screen. It was cute to watch.

Katey Sagal as Vivian Pressman. Vivian is a Bungalow Bunny at Kellerman’s and is a secondary character in the Dirty Dancing franchise. She basically lives at the Lodge during the week while her husband is away working. She takes dance lessons, drinks cocktails and sleeps with the staff. In the 2017 version, she is divorced, and happy about it, but still sleeping with staff. Seeing Sagal play a Bungalow Bunny was a real treat. She basically reprises her Gemma Teller Morrow role from Sons of Anarchy here. We even get to hear her sing “Fever”, and it was pretty decent.

Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood playing Baby’s parents. Marital problems have come to a head at Kellerman’s. At first, I didn’t think exploring this avenue was necessary at all, and to a certain extent, I still don’t think so, but, I did enjoy seeing Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood together, even if they were fighting.

Unfortunately, my optimistic lens was slightly askew and there were just some aspects of Dirty Dancing 2017 I couldn’t get past.

Jazz hands! Yes, I did say this is more of a musical. But, it seemed they shoe-horned singing routines where they should let the music play. In one scene, Baby and Penny practice some dancing, and Penny just starts breaking into song. And there was plenty more where that came from…

Hello iTunes marketing! Um, where is the classic music the original film was famous for? Most songs, with few exceptions, were remakes; even the Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley hit. What’s worse, most of it was autotuned! Can you imagine the Patrick Swayze hit, “She’s Like the Wind” remade…and autotuned? It happened! Prepare for a push of sales of the Dirty Dancing 2017 soundtrack on iTunes…this would have been partly forgivable had Dirty Dancing 2017 just been touted as a musical version…

Changing a famous line. If you are rebooting a franchise, you are allowed to take some creative liberties, and obviously, Dirty Dancing 2017 took many. But, look – never change key lines from the film. There is a famous part from the 1987 film where Baby is approached by Johnny for the first time, asking how she got into the Staff Quarters without permission, to which she says:

In the 2017 version, she says:

This isn’t the end of the world, except it was an unnecessary edit that I don’t understand the reasoning for. It was made even worse by Johnny who, instead of walking away silent like in the original, retorts:

OUCH! Sorry, but that is super lame. Why change it??

Lastly, NO CHEMISTRY between Baby and Johnny. Yes, indeed. The crux of the movie hinged on the love affair between Baby and Johnny, and I am sorry, it was missing in this film, and I blame Prattes for that. Breslin was able to convey a puppy dog crush, and all Prattes rewarded us with was an aloof jerkiness; dancing with Baby because he had to, pretending to love her because the script said so… I just didn’t feel it between Breslin and Prattes. Breslin worked her ass off here, and we got nothing but a leap off the stage and some jetés from Prattes. There was only ONE part of one scene where I actually felt there was “something” between them, but really it was Breslin and soft lighting that won it:

Armchair critics were very harsh with this 2017 remake of Dirty Dancing, and honestly, there are some inexcusable things here that are detrimental, but it isn’t all terrible. The dance numbers for what it’s worth are pretty okay, and I did enjoy the expanded sub-plots. Honestly, if I were 13 and watching this version today, I think I might have liked it a lot…maybe more than the 1987 version? I don’t know. I saw a bit of myself in this version of Baby, likewise seeing myself in 1987 Baby. There were indeed some likeable things with Dirty Dancing 2017. You may not have the time of your life, but there is no need to leave Baby in the corner.

2.75 / 5

Dirty Dancing (2017)
Aired on ABC, May 24, 2017

[TV] The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)

Do you remember where you were the night of June 17, 1994? I remember: I had completed my first year of University, and was home in Sudbury for a visit. My family and I were all hanging out in the rec room of my Mom’s house, trying to stay cool.

Following June 12, 1994, news of Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder was fresh, and we became glued to CNN as speculation of  O.J. Simpson being a suspect transfixed the world. For me, I didn’t know much about O.J. other than from the Naked Gun films (which was one of my favourite movie franchises at the time). So when we were flipping through the channels around 9 P.M. June 17, and saw the live feed of O.J.’s white Bronco navigating the Los Angeles freeways, we made some popcorn and watched the story unfold before our eyes…which was pretty much what my husband and I did this past weekend when we watched the first two episodes of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, airing Tuesday nights at 10 P.M.on FX Canada. True Crime buffs need to get on cuing up their PVRs for this one, if they haven’t already. The show is pretty damn good.

The show begins the night of June 12, 1994, when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found murdered on Brown Simpson’s Brentwood, California estate by a neighbour walking his dog. At the same time, O.J. Simpson is “running late” to catch his limo to LAX where he is due in Chicago. The story runs down the sequence of events as they unfolded in real life: contacting O.J about his ex-wife being murdered., his interrogation, and his wild ride down the LA freeway with his best bud Al Cowlings. All the players of the case are included, such as Kato Kaelin, Johnny Cochran and Robert Shapiro, as well as those on the periphery – Marcia Clark, Lead Prosecutor, and Mark Fuhrman, the infamous lead LAPD detective.

The cast of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story sort of caught me by surprise: Cuba Gooding, Jr as O.J.? Really? Yes, and it worked! Gooding played a whiny angry O.J. to a T. Then, there is John Travolta as a gaunt-faced Robert Shapiro. This was a little hard to take at first, only because – well, look at him! He looked like he spent too long baking in the tanning bed. That aside, Travolta plays a decent Shapiro. Of course, there can’t be O.J. without a Kardashian – Robert Kardashian to be exact – O.J.’s confidant, played by David Schwimmer. And, yes, we had a couple of guffaw moments watching as Ross counsels O.J. on how not to look as guilty as sin. About my only real complaint about this show is how it paraded every Kardashian family member in the first two episodes. Khloe, Kim, Kourtney, Kris…were all represented here (I swear, Grandma Kardashian was cast but ended up on the cutting-room floor somehow).

Now, I know sometimes T.V. adaptations of real crime stories can get packaged up on the “Sunday Night Movie” Cheez Cart, and true, I did PVR this show initially for the hell of it. But, I couldn’t pull myself away from this story. Be sure to check it out!

People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX
2016

[TV Movie] On an Endless Loop: Poison Ivy (1985)

Anyone remember the TV movie gem, Poison Ivy? I have to say the hot summer weather reminds me of this movie, namely because it is a hi-jinx summer camp movie, and because it was one of those films that seemed to be on TV all the time in the summer when I was a kid.

Poison Ivy was a film starring Michael J. Fox, Nancy McKeon and Robert Klein. It aired on NBC TV in 1985, and tells the story of one summer at an all-boys summer camp in Maine and the shenanigans that ensued there. Michael J is a Counsellor who falls for nurse Nancy who is engaged to be married to a real pill. Michael J. spends the movie trying to break up that relationship… Robert Klein is the camp director running the show, and takes his role very seriously. The movie also focuses on the campers, and all the movie character stereotypes are represented – the fat kid who wants to be a comedian, the athlete, the handsome con man, and the homesick Timmy who is misunderstood because he doesn’t know how to swim.

Poison Ivy is entertaining…cheesy, of course. And it was one of those films that, at my house, was poorly taped on VHS off of network TV and replayed on an endless loop for a good four months. Why? Because… kids…they like rewatching stuff.

It’s been a long time since I watched this film but, a lot of scenes, lines and even music come back to me in a flash.

Oh, how I prayed to go to a summer camp like Camp Pinewood. Those kids got to run around and eat all the chocolate bars they wanted! They could stay up until all hours of the night telling each other ghost stories. Heck, they had handsome Michael J. as a Counsellor. The stuff kids dreamed of in a summer camp was seen in this movie. It was so far removed from the rigid Bible Camp experience I endured every summer…

Rewatching this, one would assume by the setting and characters that Poison Ivy is meant for tweens. And in terms of plot and shenanigans, the movie generally does follow that formula, but only up until it reaches the blatant sexual content. Yup, there’s a few sexie tymes in Poison Ivy, which lost ten-year-old me a little but doesn’t blow past me today. For example, Robert Klein’s horny housewife flirting and evidently effing every cook, cleaner, Counsellor and bottlewasher in the joint is truly shocking. Not to mention an 11 year old reading a p0rn0 mag and having another friend turn to him and ask him if he can “do that stuff yet,”  to which he responds, “Not yet, but when I can I want to be ready!” Haha, wow.

Then, there is the uncomfortable racist game that takes place in the last half of the movie, called Colour War, which pins one half of the camp against the other, assigning colours to each team, placing a military spin on its execution and telling campers not to talk to that kid from the opposing team because of what colour he’s wearing. Yeah, not terribly P.C.

There are also some sweet moments that cannot be overlooked. Little Brian Firestone, the consumate nerd of the camp who writes books by hand and fashions beautiful love notes, falls for Nurse Nancy McKeon, going so far as to roll in a poison ivy patch to be treated by her in the infirmery. Another moment was having the other campers teach Timmy how to swim.

Not surprising, the entire Poison Ivy is available to watch on YouTube. If you’re up for some cheesy, uncomfortable nostalgia, go check it out.

Poison Ivy
NBC Productions
February 1985

This was originally posted in November 2014.

[TV] The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

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Last week, my friend Bill over at @STCPod, brought to my attention a new TV show that has been airing on HBO Canada, stating that it would be “super up my alley”. The Jinx, a six-part docudrama was his recommendation, and he encouraged me to block time immediately to watch it.

Was The Jinx up my alley? Boy, was it ever! Being a true crime buff, not only was it up my alley, it actually resides in my alley, pushing that hobo of everything else crime related aside to make more room for the Jinx‘s time-sucking self. I binge-watched this show, and with its subject in the news just this week, everything is coming up Robert Durst. I have been reading and watching everything on this guy, including every similar late-night news exposé on Durst on competing networks. You’d think I’d be bored to death of this story by now. Not a chance.

If you are not familiar with what the Jinx is about, here’s the Coles Notes* version:

New York native, Robert Durst, heir to a fortune from his mogul father’s real estate empire, has had a sordid and suspicious history that began with the disappearance of his wife Kathie in 1982, of which he is the prime suspect (she has never been found). In 2001, he was indicted, for the murder and dismemberment of neighbour, Morris Black. Amazingly, Durst was acquitted of all charges on a self-defense plea. As of March 2015, he is up on charges of murder on the 2000 execution-style death of his best friend, Susan Berman.

At the time the Jinx was in production, Robert Durst was free as a bird. It was after he watched the drama, All Good Things, a movie based on Durst’s life that he called the director of that film, Andrew Jarecki, and offered to be interviewed+ and thus, the Jinx was born.

I am familiar with Andrew Jarecki, particularly from his other crime docs, Catfish (which I reviewed here) and Capturing the Friedmans. Robert Durst’s story, when told through Jarecki’s documentary lens, produces one heck of a yarn that gets stranger with every episode. Interviews and reenactments of the tale through acting montages, and a haunting soundtrack which includes the Eels’ “Fresh Blood,” as the title track, the Jinx is definitely a series that is both fascinating and intense. Definitely check it out!

5/5

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Dir: Andrew Jarecki
2015 HBO

* Coles Notes (also known as Cliffs Notes in the U.S.) are student guides to literature, one could buy via Coles Bookstores in Canada.

+ Yes, you read that right!! Durst actually asked to be interviewed, and might have incriminated himself in the process…can you believe the audacity of this guy?

Merry Christmas, Sarca!

Christmas came early to the house of Sim…my Christmas Amazon order came in today!

The hubs and I did something a little different and unconventional this year. We decided to allow ourselves to buy our own Christmas presents. We had a price limit imposed, and we each went to town…virtually-speaking – he on eBay, me on my wish list on Amazon. I know it doesn’t sound very romantic to some people, but the hubs wanted retro video games and knows what he wants and where to get them from…and I knew what I wanted, so there. The holidays can be so stressful, and this is the perfect solution to the spousal gift-giving problem. Seriously, it was perfect for us!

And look at all the loot!

Corner Gas Full Tank (Complete Series)
NYPD Blue Seasons 6 and 7 (YES!!)
Graphic novels, New York Drawings and Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine
As well, I added Quebecois graphic novelist Michel Rabagliati’s Paul Joins the Scouts (from the “Paul Got a Summer Job” series)
Last, but not least, The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely Limited Edition CD, DVD and booklet! (Drool!)

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So good!

One little snafu, though. My copy of New York Drawings arrived damaged, so now I get to exchange it. Looks like I have a bit of a procedure to go through with Amazon. Wish me luck on that adventure!

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And on a different note, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank a couple of peeps from my WP email circle that graciously gifted me some great stuff:

Thank you to Brian Z for sending me Ray Lyell’s Desert Winds on CD. It was very nice of him to think of me when he found it. He sent it to me without wanting anything in return. Thank you so much!

Then, a couple of weeks ago I got a package in the mail – full of smurfs!

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Aaron from keepsmealive caught wind that I have a smurf figurine collection from the 80s…and found me a whole box full of more smurf figurines! These are Happy Meal Smurfs released to promote the new Smurf movie that came out a few years ago, so they are bigger in size than my vintage smurf figurines. Some of the smurfs Aaron sent are pretty rough looking, and we joked between us how he sent me dirty smurfs, haha! (I’ve since washed some of them). A big thank you to Aaron for this surprising and thoughtful gift.

At any rate, I am officially on my Christmas vacation. I will be doing some traveling up to Sudbury and hopefully get to spend some quality time with my Mom, Step-Dad and the rest of my fam whom I haven’t seen in a year. That said, I am going to take much needed time off to recharge and renew for the New Year.

To my good WP friends: Mike, Aaron, Heavy Metal Overlord, 1537, Deke, Geoff, and Brian – it’s been fun (and hilarious!) getting to know you guys. Best wishes to you and your families this Christmas! Give ‘Er x-mas-style! \m/ \m/

To the gamer guys on YouTube: The Cartridge Bros, Ram Vox, Duke and his kidlets from Retro Nonsense, Dean Lasagna, JRock, Lo, and anyone else I missed…Merry Christmas!! See you on Twitter!

And to my followers and faithful readers of Caught Me Gaming: Janna, Donna P, Jen, Gretchen, Angie, Bradley, Yvonne and anyone else I missed – thanks for your support. Merry Christmas!

See you all soon! Now I’m off to drink some coffee and Baileys!

[Film] Corner Gas: The Movie (2014)

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Sometimes you don’t know what you’re gonna get when TV shows do a movie. Some are great, some are cringe-worthy.

Thank the stars, someone had some good sense to turn a hilariously entertaining TV show like Corner Gas and make a decent movie out of it. No fuss, no muss: just an hour and a half long epi with Brent, Lacey, Wanda, Hank, et. al.

If you haven’t ever watched Corner Gas, this sitcom starred comedian Brent Butt as Brent Leroy, single 40-something who owns the only gas station in the teeny sleepy town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The basic premise is that nothing really ever happens in Dog River, and out of the boredom, shenanigans ensue. Wanda works with Brent in the ajacent convenience store. Next door is the Ruby, the only coffee shop in town run by perky Lacey. Brent’s parents, long-time residents of Dog River are always into something. The town cops, Davis and Karen don’t have much crime to solve. And finally Hank, Brent’s forever unemployed best friend loafs around always bumming food from the Ruby and looking for his next employment opportunity.

As usual, I was a late bloomer to Corner Gas. The Canadian TV staple that aired on CTV from 2004 to 2009 was just one of those shows everyone told me I should watch, but never made time for, until the hubs and I started borrowing scratched-to-sh!t season collections of Corner Gas from the Markham, ON library. And now, any Canadian with a TV and an antenna can watch Corner Gas as it airs in syndication. I loved this show – hilarious! And as an aside, I hope my Christmas Amazon order comes through as it should because Santa is supposed to deliver the complete Corner Gas collection straight to my mail box!

In Corner Gas: the Movie, Dog River’s mayor, Fitzie used the town’s entire funds to invest in property in Detroit, bankrupting the town. As a result, the Town’s electricity bill couldn’t get paid so the lights were going out, garbage wasn’t getting picked up and the water pressure was screwed up, so no one could afford to hire a plumber to fix it. People were considering moving away before their properties were devalued. Meanwhile, a big shot coffee company was looking to bulldoze the town to make way for their warehouse operations. Dog River is under threat and it’s up to the townfolk to save it.

The plot is typical, contrived, and clicheed, and exactly what you would expect from Corner Gas. What makes this completely watchable is the infused Brent Butt humour, the loveable actors, and comfort that comes from watching what is essentially a big long episode of Corner Gas, only everyone is a little older and greyer. All the original actors reprise their roles which is great to see, especially the silly Eric Petersen who plays Brent’s dad on the show. The film played in theatres for five days starting December 3, 2014 in limited release. It also aired on TV December 8, which is how I watched the film.

I don’t have anything negative to say about Corner Gas: the Movie, really. It was everything I expected – funny, an easy watch and comfortable like a hot cup of coffee. If you’re a fan of the TV show, and even if you aren’t, I recommend the movie!

9/10

Corner Gas: the Movie
2014
Watched on TV PVR

[TV] The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season 1 (Netflix)

“Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there.
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air…”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air??

You’re probably wondering why I would be reviewing an old sitcom from 1990 when EVERYONE has seen it before.

Well, everyone has, but me. The Fresh Prince passed me by. I am a first-time watcher.

I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights past 5:30 PM when I was young, and later in high school I really had to work hard to learn anything (studious, yet learning disabled, me) so I missed out on a lot of shows. I’ve caught up on many of them, since.  For example, I didn’t watch the Simpsons until I left for University in 1993. I started watching ER on re-runs in the late 90s. There are some exceptions, of course, but I missed out on a lot of the shows that aired.

Fresh Prince was one of those shows that just was not on my radar. Will Smith and his pal Jazzy Jeff’s funky “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was a big-time song for my sis and I when it first came out. We memorized the lyrics too. But, time passed, and I forgot about him. Then his TV show began, and everyone around me was watching it…except me. When I noticed a few weeks back the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was on Netflix, I decided to see what it was all about.

Will Smith plays a teen from West Philadelphia whose mom shipped him to live with his Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil in Bel-Air, California to escape schoolyard gangs that were making trouble for him. His Aunt and Uncle are wealthy, live in an affluent neighbourhood and are raising their three children: The snobby fashion conscious Hilary, the serious Carlton and the fun-loving adorable Ashley. Along with butler Geoffrey and his best friend, Jazz (played by Jazzy Jeff Townes) Will attempts to get his bearings as he adjusts to a new family, new school and a new set of house rules.

What is fun about this first season is how the TV show tries to incorporate Will Smith’s rap career by using baseline tracks of his songs in the background of the show, as well as providing the audience with a taste of his talent for dancing and singing. This guy does have talent, and his neon-coloured clothing aside, he really shone in 1990. He certainly is fresh-faced; his delivery, very fun-loving. The story-writing  and humour are derivative, but hilarious. I will say the perpetual fat jokes are alive on Fresh Prince, and I have to admit, they are a bit cringe-worthy with the overweight butt-of-jokes Uncle Phil… who is big…. and loves to eat…You get it…

Overall, the first season of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a lot of fun. Light as a feather and full of hilarity. If you haven’t watched it yet, you are missing out!

4.5/5