Movie Reviews

The TV Homages of WandaVision are an Amusing, Unfulfilling Distraction | TV/Streaming

Director Matt Shakman, head writer Jac Schaeffer, and production designer Mark Worthington clearly have oodles of affection for these TV classics, and practically every detail here serves as a kind of homage. There’s unchallenging comfort to be found in these recognizable scenarios and in the clear delight from Olsen, Bettany, and the supporting cast, in particular the sassily mugging Hahn as the nosy neighbor (her delivery of “How is anybody doing this sober?” during a particularly painful women’s committee meeting is fantastic) and the reliably warm Teyonah Parris as Wanda’s fast friend Geraldine. But there are only so many ways to make jokes about Vision not eating food, and about the couple using Wanda’s Sarkovian ancestry to explain their strangeness, and about Vision not understanding the details of human sex. And once “WandaVision” starts recycling the same content in each episode, it becomes difficult to ignore that the show’s primary interest is playing with form rather than propelling its story forward.

To be fair, the series is comparatively quite different from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s films, which grew darker as the franchise’s Phase Three came to an end, and from Marvel’s series on Netflix, like “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Luke Cage,” which were interconnected within themselves but didn’t really link up with the films at large. In “WandaVision,” though, characters actually laugh! Wanda and Vision are able to be in love! Vision makes a joke about mistaking “mastication” for “masturbation”! On those low-stakes pleasures alone, “WandaVision” delivers. But the question remains: What do we learn about Wanda and Vision by recreating the aspect ratios, costume design, and special effects of the past? What is the benefit of placing them in the suburbia of yesteryears, and what singular insights are really provided from these times and this place? “WandaVision” doesn’t explain why its titular characters would retreat into this nostalgia, and without that core knowledge, its recreations feel increasingly hollow. Perhaps the series will explore that in the remaining six episodes that were not provided for review. But until then, “WandaVision” asks the question “What exactly is your story?” of its titular characters, but doesn’t have an answer for it.

“WandaVision” premieres on Disney+ on Friday, January 15. Three episodes of nine screened for review.

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