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Film Dribble
Tuesday, 10 May 2005
Why do I always come here/ I guess I'll never know/ it's like some kind of torture/ to have to watch the show
Now Playing: Newish stuff I saw this week
KICKING AND SCREAMING (2005, Jesse Dylan)- I've started to like Will Ferrell in the last several years, in movies like ZOOLANDER, ELF and ANCHORMAN. While his cuddly white-bread dufus schtick would seem to be an ideal fit for a kid's movie, this isn't a very good vehicle for him, not so much because the character doesn't work in the film, but because the film isn't funny. At all. Ferrell's character has some serious issues here, namely his relationship with his ultra-competitive dad (Robert Duvall), who has always been driven to win, especially against his son. This central storyline doesn't work for a PG-rated family film, since while the rating requires it to be toned down to kid-friendly levels, effectively taking any potential bite out of it, it's still too serious-minded a plot on which to hang ninety minutes of silliness followed by a pat, forced sentimental climax and reconciliation. It's in the final reel that Ferrell's sappy side comes out after it was so expertly hidden in ANCHORMAN, and the results are deadly, making me think of the sage words of the alien in STARDUST MEMORIES- "you wanna do the world a world a favor? Try telling funnier jokes." Rating: *.

MONSTER-IN-LAW (2005, Robert Luketic)- ever since MEET THE PARENTS, the conflict between in-laws (or future in-laws) has become a popular premise for Hollywood comedies. However, it's wearing fairly thin now, with the only thing making this better than FOCKERS being the long-awaited return of Jane Fonda. She's every bit the star presence she was when she was last seen onscreen a decade and a half ago, and although she's unafraid to tear into a role (or to look her age, for that matter) she still commands the screen. Now all she needs is to find movies that are really worthy of her. A big problem is that Jennifer Lopez's character is clearly no match for Fonda, and any attempts the movie makes to even the odds don't ring true. Even more deadly is the fact that J. Lo seems to have forgotten how to interact with her costars- she can deliver her lines all right, but she never really engages with the people around her, as though she's acting in front of a blue screen (or maybe having her own dialogue filmed and then having her costars interact with her double, like Sinatra did in his later films). More assured filmmakers- Soderbergh, or even Martin Brest- have gotten good performances out of Jenny from the Block by making her earn her paycheck, but Luketic isn't on their level. And quite frankly, it shows in the finished product. Rating: *1/2.

CRASH (2004, Paul Haggis)- looking at the rating below, I'm probably overrating this, but not nearly as much as the critics who are fawning over it. Seems to me a clear-cut case of being so taken with the film's message (the tendency in every one of us to judge others, whether we admit it or not) as to disregard the clumsy manner in which it's delivered. Haggis neglects to make the characters at all interesting, instead making them mouthpieces for various theories on race relations, which bogs the film down in speechifying, particularly in the first half-hour. Likewise, he sets the film over the course of a day and a half, which gives it the feel of a writerly exercise but also points out his over-reliance on some rather far-fetched coincidences. That said, nearly all the performances worked for me, and some were actually quite impressive, particularly Terrence Howard as a black studio executive. I actually think the film would have worked had it spun out the Howard/Thandie Newton/Matt Dillon storyline out to feature length (and with the timeframe expanded to, say, a year)- a film that explores the judgmental nature of many police officers would certainly be a worthwhile project, and the tensions that arise between Howard and Newton would be an ideal counterpoint. But for every moment I found myself caring about what was going on, there was one moment I found myself slapping my forehead, and at least once during the film I wanted to throw something at the screen (that would be the highly contrived scene involving the little girl). Still, CRASH is a film that should be seen for what it's trying to say, even though you have to wade through a lot in the meantime. Rating: **.

IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL (2004, Jessica Yu)- I'm tired. Comments to come, maybe. Rating: **1/2.

Posted by hkoreeda at 3:04 AM EDT

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