Boogeyman

Posted on February 4, 2005 at 8:53 pm

D
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Characters drink to celebrate and to escape, references to drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Near constant peril, reference to child abandonment, children threatened, adults abducted violently, death or disappearance of several characters, creepy dream/imagined sequences, supernatural threats
Diversity Issues: Wise female character
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

With a storyline thinner than the protagonist’s stereotyped rich girlfriend and enough lead-heavy dialogue to sink a movie of twice the caliber, “Boogeyman” is a bloated 86 minutes of overzealous spookiness, to be admired primarily by aspiring sound-effects specialists.

Eight-year old Tim Jenson is scarred for life before the title sequence rolls. He went to bed one night jumping at shadows in his rural, gothic home and watched in horror as his closet violently swallowed his father. Fast-forward fifteen years and Tim (Barry Watson, of TV’s “7th Heaven” mini-fame), now a twitchy lygophobic with a tendency to stand staring at dark closets, has to go back home for a funeral. He alone sees that all dark places — under the bed, in the closet, behind the pantry door — are potential lurking spots for the boogeyman. At the off-hand recommendation of his psychologist and to further the plot, he must face his childhood fears, including that of his supernatural closet. Or did Dad really just run off on the family, leaving Tim to seek a more violent explanation?

The movie cuts to the chase quickly but then wallows in atmospherics. The lengthy character-development scenes ensure plenty of opportunities for Tim to freak himself out, for girlfriend, Jessica, to show how two-dimensional she is, and for childhood friend, Kate, to be sweet and understanding. Guess who the Boogeyman gets? There is not a single scene that director, Stephen Kay (Get Carter), leaves unburdened of ominous portent. The creaking, sighing, screeching house, coupled with unnerving close-ups, quick cuts, and flickering lights might make some audience members seasick and others wish they could TiVo to the final confrontation.

Touches of humor, some genuinely spooky moments, and the occasional flash of decent acting keep this movie a notch above straight-to-video caliber, but do not justify the price of admission. Watching Tim at the child counseling center offers a hint that this movie could be richer, more interesting fare, but then the next scene –a possible boogeyman lurking behind a ceiling tile— tugs us back to the over-the-top forcedness of it all.

Parents should know that this movie tries everything possible to be a scary horror movie but retain its PG-13 rating. Family members disappear violently, animals panic, children are strange, corpses lunge, lights frequently go out for no reason, there is an aural assault of haunting sounds, and no one believes the main character. A character watches as loved ones are tossed around and then taken from him, a child is shut in a closet as a cure for being scared, another child is separated from her family. There are references to sex and a character is naked (non-explicit). Characters drink to drunkenness at a party and there are references to drinking, as well as a jarring product placement.

Families who see this movie might want to talk about the legend of the boogeyman, who appears in many cultures as a warning to misbehaving children. The psychologist discusses how children might turn to supernatural explanations as a coping mechanisms for feelings of loss or powerlessness. How do modern stories use scary characters or the supernatural to guide behavior now? Urban legends often have an element of the supernatural, how might they derive from older tales, like those of the boogeyman?

Families who enjoy watching scary movies together might prefer to watch Poltergeist, The Grudge, The Sixth Sense, or The Shining.

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The Wedding Date

Posted on February 1, 2005 at 6:58 pm

C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: A lot of drinking (characters tipsy and hung over) and some smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense emotional scenes, some comic scuffling
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 2005

All the romantic comedy gloss in the world can’t save a script as stale as last week’s wedding cake. Despite a promising set-up and talented performers, it leaks air like a tire that ran over a tack.

Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”) is one of television’s all-time funniest women with impeccable timing, brilliant with both verbal and physical comedy. But she gets a lot of help on the show from the writers who created a terrifically appealing and witty character. Here, she plays Kat, an insecure and not especially interesting young woman who is in a panic over what she thinks of as two of the most terrifying words in the English language on her sister’s wedding invitation. They are: “and guest.”

Her younger sister Amy (Amy Adams) is getting married. And Kat’s ex-fiance is the best man. Kat needs a date to bring to the wedding so that “the ex-fiance will be sorry that he left you and your family will think we are in love.”

With $6000 from her retirement account, Kat hires Nick (Dermot Mulroney), a male escort she read about in the New York Times Magazine. Kat and Nick pretend to be in love to reassure the family and torture the ex. But there is an undeniable attraction between them as well.

So they tell us, anyway, which is one thing that is wrong with this movie. They describe, but they do not show. The movie wants us to find Kat adorable and endearing. She is just fluttery, self-centered, and insecure. The movie wants us to find Nick desirable. But we hear about it more than we feel it. Kat’s cousin is supposed to be delightfully outrageous. But raunchy is not the same thing as outrageous, even if a few supportive comments are tossed in, and it is especially not the same thing as delightfully outrageous. Give us something specific, people! That’s why they call it “writing.”

Then there is the troubling Pretty Woman problem of having a light romantic comedy with characters whose behavior is unsavory. This lends a sour tinge to the purported hijinks.

Most of the people behind this movie are women. They show some sensitivity to just what it is that someone like Kat would want from Nick, but, regrettably, they don’t show any more wit, insight, heart, or imagination than we find in the dozens of dull movies about female characters made by men.

Parents should know that the movie includes some strong material for a PG-13, including brief partial nudity, explicit sexual references (including prostitution, infidelity, a joke about an orgasm, the idea that “the best sex is make-up sex,” and a drunken sexual encounter that is supposed to be romantic), smoking and a lot of drinking (characters get drunk and hung over)

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it is true that people get the love life that they want. Why does it take courage to let someone love you?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Runaway Bride and French Kiss.

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