'El Camino' cooks up a weaker batch of 'Breaking Bad'

Aaron Paul in 'El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie'

The big question for "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" is whether it justifies returning to a series whose finish, if not completely closed-ended, was wholly satisfying. The answer is a qualified no, as the initial rush from seeing Aaron Paul back in the role -- coupled with an assortment of clever callbacks -- don't fully warrant cooking up this sequel.

Lest anyone have forgotten, the series signed off six years ago with Paul's Jesse Pinkman having been liberated from captivity by his one-time partner Walter White, riding into an unknown future.

Without spoiling anything, the movie -- written and directed by series creator Vince Gilligan -- basically picks up where the show left off (as "Bad" prequel "Better Call Saul" has demonstrated, Gilligan doesn't really sweat time lapses), charting Jesse's next moves from there.

Of course, the "Bad" finale sent the character into the night with a cathartic yell, but there was the little matter of what one does after such an ordeal, especially with that many dead bodies in the rear-view mirror as baggage.

What ensues, though, is essentially a rather low-octane thriller, punctuated by trips down memory lane. And while there are some fine moments buried within all that -- some showcasing Gilligan's quirky streak, like an incongruous rendition of the song "Sharing the Night Together" -- it still feels a trifle unnecessary.

Perhaps that's because some things that worked inordinately well in the series -- the long pauses, the quiet, and the ability to tease out the tension surrounding seemingly inescapable predicaments -- are processed differently when crunched into a two-hour movie.

As with "Downton Abbey," this "Breaking Bad" revival stems more from a desire to capitalize on a beloved property -- the very definition of a "You might also like" suggestion -- than the creative spark that the show regularly delivered.

The movie can be good, in other words, and still feel like something of a disappointment relative to the sky-high expectations -- existing primarily as a sort of bonus to the fans.

That's hardly a crime, as these things go, but "El Camino" nevertheless plays more like the generic version of "Breaking Bad" than a full-strength dose of it.

"El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" is playing on Netflix and in select theaters.

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