A time-loop comedy—yes, another one—is on its way for your repeat, repeat, repeat business. Other highlights from the March streaming-verse include an Amy Poehler-directed high school comedy, a long-awaited sequel to an Eddie Murphy cult classic, and revealing documentaries about personality tests, the college admissions scandal and more.
In Amy Poehler’s sophomore feature as director, she adapts Jennifer Mathieu’s 2015 novel of the same name, about a 16-year-old girl, stuck in a high school where women are proudly commodified, who finds inspiration in her mother’s renegade feminist past. She starts a zine—a Ms. for the “Mean Girls” set—helping to launch a woke revolution that challenges gender double standards. The thought that a ‘60s relic like a homegrown zine could actually have an impact in 2021 sounds like so much wishful thinking, but this good-natured comedy has its heart in the right place. Poehler co-stars, along with Marcia Gay Harden and Clark Gregg.
Available March 17
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal
The director of “Fyre,” the schadenfreude-laced Netflix allegory of music festival as natural disaster, returns with another revealing poke in the eye of the ultra-privileged. This time, Chris Smith’s subject is one of the juiciest chutzpah-laden scandals of recent years, in which celebrities and other high-profile clients paid criminal mastermind Rick Singer to open illegal “side doors” for their basically untalented children to bribe their way into colleges. Like Netflix’s excellent “The Social Dilemma,” “Operation Varsity Blues” is a docufiction hybrid, with Matthew Modine portraying Singer in dramatic reenactments, and the dialogue taken verbatim from FBI transcripts.
ON AMAZON PRIME
Coming 2 America
The Eddie Murphy reboot renaissance that unofficially kicked off with 2019’s “Dolemite is My Name” continues with the much-awaited sequel to the 1988 cult comedy “Coming to America.” “Coming 2 America” hopes to recapture the manic, culture-clashing pulse of the original, with Murphy’s Prince Akeem and his confidant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) once again traipsing to Queens, this time to find the son he never knew he had and groom the young man as an heir to his African throne. The chameleonic talents of Murphy and Hall are again put to use, with each actor playing four roles, rounding out a starry ensemble that includes Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Wesley Snipes and James Earl Jones—and even Morgan Freeman, Trevor Noah and Colin Jost in bit parts.
You can tell the sterling reviews and high ratings of “Russian Doll” and “Palm Springs” are already having an effect; every studio wants a time-loop project to call their own. In this latest action-comedy spin on the “Groundhog Day” paradigm, a retired special forces soldier played by tough-guy par excellance Frank Grillo awakens every day to repeat the worst day of his life, in which he is relentlessly attacked from dawn to night, inevitably ending in his death and rebirth to do it all over again. He’ll eventually get some help in breaking the loop from Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh and Mel Gibson. If the trailer is any indication, nobody is taking any of this nonsense seriously, which is exactly as it should be.
Available March 12
This equally painful and poignant documentary pulls back the curtain on the child stars of ‘80s and ‘90s television, where the canned laugh tracks and plastic surfaces of broadcast life masked a darker reality behind the lens. Actors barely into puberty were treated as de facto adults, which led to abusive working conditions and even sexual exploitation. “kid 90” is directed by Soleil Moon Frye, who played Punky Brewster in the eponymous sitcom, and the hundreds of hours of videotape she recorded from her stint on the series forms this documentary’s revelatory backbone. David Arquette, Tori Leonard and Stephen Dorff are interviewed as well.
ON HBO MAX
Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests
They may seem benign or even well intentioned, but personality tests such as the world-famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can have deleterious effects on society. With their multiple-choice answers to loaded questions, The MBTI and the “Big Five” break their testers down into distinct categories, ostensibly to foster understanding and improvement of oneself. But then corporate America became involved in standardizing the tests for employment, a process that has fostered racism, sexism and ableism. That’s the thesis of the sobering “Persona,” an impassioned and persuasive argument, told through interviews with experts and through stories of those victimized by the MBTI, for torpedoing these exams as employment litmus tests.