“Now… Who’s that sorry wannabe that disturbed my z’s?”
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Today is a very special week because Shaquille O’Neal had his birthday this week (March 6th). Shaq is a very close personal friend of ours, so we invited him over for a Munch night where we could enjoy the crowning jewel of his career, Kaazam.
Leanna knew Shaq has had a soft spot for chicken wings ever since his mom made them when he was young (or so this Bon Appétit article tells us), so she thought Shaq would enjoy some homemade wings on his birthday. We fried them and drenched them in a sauce that consisted mostly of Frank’s Hot Sauce, hoping Shaq would enjoy them. While, we know his his mom made them in a whole variety of ways, we couldn’t help making some wings we would enjoy as well.
The wings were surprisingly spicy, and Leanna said, “I wish we had some ranch right now… That would really compliment these wings.”
Out of nowhere, Shaquille O’Neal produced a jar of ranch with a flourish and a wink. “Homemade, with dill, parsley, and celery leaf,” he said, a grin on his face wider than the one he wore when he won the Bill Russel NBA MVP Award for the third year in a row. We found ourselves thinking of hobbits, who give gifts to others on their birthday. Shaq got a big laugh out of that one. “That may be the first time anyone every compared me to a hobbit!” he chuckled in his deep, silky voice, more akin to Smaug than Bilbo Baggins.
Ben made Shaquille O’Neal a turkey sandwich, since that’s Shaq’s go-to meal. We saw Shaq’s smile wane a few degrees, and each of us died a little inside. How could we have been so thoughtless? Shaq eats turkey sandwiches nearly every day. He deserves better on his birthday. A man like Shaquille O’Neal deserves a special birthday meal, not an everyday meal.
“I’m so sorry, Shaquille,” Ben said, looking downcast. “I wish we had done something to make this more special than just another tomato-lettuce-and-turkey-on-bread sandwich.” Ben, the shame clear on his face, looked up at Shaq, the friendly giant, unsure what to expect.
Shaq looked down at Ben, a twinkle in his eye, and said, “Look in your heart, Ben. The fact that you even thought to make me one of my favorite foods means that you are truly an exceptional human being and a man I am proud to call my friend.” Warmth radiated from Shaquille O’Neal, the man with a heart of gold. “Now look at the sandwich you made me. This sandwich is a very special sandwich indeed. You used focaccia instead of wheat bread? Never in my days!” Shaquille exclaimed. He took a Shaq-sized bite out of the sandwich, leaving less than half of the sandwich behind. “Mm! Thickly sliced, roasted turkey! Exquisite! And what have you done with these tomatoes? Did you marinate them in balsamic vinegar and…pardon me if I’m wrong, but am I detecting a bit of garlic?”
Ben froze. He didn’t remember doing anything to the sandwich. He could have sworn he just chopped up the tomatoes and threw it on whatever bread he had in the pantry with some cold cuts. But looking at the sandwich Shaq held in his hands, it was clear that there was something special going on with it. Maybe something… magical? Ben and Leanna locked eyes. They were both thinking the same thing: how did Shaq know to bring ranch? Did he do something to those sandwiches? They both mentioned wishes… was Shaq truly a genie? Is Kazaam based on a true story? They turned towards the man with the 7-foot wingspan, who had already polished off his sandwich and was humming Mambo No. 5 to himself as he started in on the dishes. One, two, three four five…
Meanwhile, André was sneaking a lemon meringue pie into the oven on broil to brown the meringue on top. He found himself humming along with Shaquille, as they both shared the same taste in music. Everybody in the car so come on let’s ride…
Much to Leanna’s annoyance, André and Shaq both broke out into song at the same time. “To the liquor store around the corner, the boys say they want some gin and juice but I really don’t –”
“Oh shit!” André swore. The meringue was only supposed to be in the oven for a few seconds, but he had gotten so caught up jiving with his good friend Shaquille O’Neal that he had forgotten about the meringue for just a second too long. He pulled it out of the oven but the damage was done. A good section of the meringue had blackened. André looked distraught, then saw how Leanna and Ben were looking at him, imploring him to call upon Shaquille O’Neal’s supposed magical powers to make this all better. “I wish I hadn’t burnt your birthday surprise, Shaquille,” André said, believing for a moment that magic really was real, and that Shaq was capable of bending it to his will.
Shaq started laughing, a sound that started low in his belly but soon started shaking all 325 pounds of him. His laughter filled the room, and indeed, it filled our hearts as well. “Son, I may be a genie, but even I can’t work miracles!”
We made Abracadabra Punch, a drink as magical as Shaq’s laugh and a color-appropriate reference to all of his years as a Laker. It uses Viniq, the liquor that shimmers, to achieve its mystical appearance. Mixed with pineapple juice and moscato, it tastes like… Well, it tastes like cheap fruit punch with 0% real fruit in it. But it shimmers!
💫 Drink whenever Shaq grants a wish.
🎤 Drink whenever Shaq busts a rhyme.
🔪 Drink whenever the movie is way too gritty to be a kids movie.
We aren’t above watching kids movies for Munch, but we think it is fair to say we are above watching this kids movie. Kazaam was poorly written, poorly cast, and worst of all, boring. As Kazaam plodded from one uninteresting scene to the next, it made a 90-minute runtime feel more like 120.
Our other main complaint is that Kazaam lacked a moral reason for existence. Most kid movies have a lesson to impart. Movies like How to Train Your Dragon, which focuses on self-acceptance and being yourself, have an idea and concept they want to get across. Kazaam, on the other hand, had no moral wisdom to share with us. If pressed, we might say the movie is supposed to be about selflessness, because Kazaam-the-genie makes a big deal about a selfless wish the kid makes at the end of the movie, but it kind of came out of nowhere and felt very tacked on.
The one shining light in the movie was, of course, our good friend Shaquille O’Neal. He was clearly putting in work, both on the acting front and on the rapping front. This was Shaq showing us his best self (off the court) and we were impressed. Onscreen Shaq is just a really like-able guy, and his enthusiasm in Kazaam really seemed genuine. We only wish the rest of the movie was as good.
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André: So boring. The whole thing felt like a kid power fantasy, which could have been really fun, but then they went and decided to try to make Kazaam a serious movie, while still keeping in some goofy (and some questionable) power fantasy scenes. In this sense, it reminded me of the recent Hobbit movies, where I felt they never truly decided if the movie was meant to be funny or not. The end result was a movie that wasn’t funny enough to keep me laughing or interesting enough to keep me engaged. Instead, I was just bored.
Leanna: He shoots. He misses. I’m sorry, but you can’t have a flying french toast sequence and a dad with real anger management issues in the same movie. It just doesn’t jive. Overwhelmingly, the best part of this movie was Shaq. Which leads me to believe that Shaq gave up on his acting career too soon. Wherever you are now, Shaquille, we’re ready for your next movie. Dinner’s on us. Also I lied. The other best part of this movie was discovering that Pedro (Efren Ramirez) from Napoleon Dynamite was one of the bullies. Who knew?
Ben: 30%. Watching it now as an adult, I realized the film made some weird choices. The slightly-darker-and-more-adult-than-a-kids-movie aesthetic along with the charisma Shaq exudes, definitely keep this film from being completely bland and horrid, but it doesn’t make for a great film. With characters jumping in and out of the story whenever they feel like it, hardly an attempt to teach a virtue, and actors that really could care less to be in the movie, you can easily see where the film gets its bumps and bruises. At best, its quality is that of a mediocre Nickelodeon or Disney film, even if it is a unique movie on its own. It is unique in that it is surprisingly gritty, and has a sense of heart that you don’t normally see in a highly produced kids film. It is worth noting that its handling of the bad guy in the film is highly xenophobic, and the conclusion of the movie is overwrought and grander than it has any right to be. Kazaam bricks the shot all in its own way.
And one final announcement…
Because we believe you don’t have to be a genie to make a difference, we donated $100 to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Given the hostility of the current environment to the 1-million plus trans and non-binary Americans who wish the world could see them as they truly are, we feel it is important to support them. With the withdrawal of federal guidance on transgender students, the Supreme Court deciding not to hear a landmark case, as well as the murders of three transgender women in Louisiana recently, we need to do what we can to support, help, and hold ourselves accountable.
And to the trans people out there, just know that you are loved, and you are worthy.