What Happens in Vegas…

Posted on August 25, 2008 at 6:00 pm

A romantic comedy needs to get us on the side of its couple as individuals and on the side of romance. This one fails by giving us characters so crude and unlikeable that even the star wattage of Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher cannot make us care. Most of the movie centers on their attempts to torture each other during a six-month court-ordered period of living together and marital counseling (from Queen Latifah, whose no-nonsense diagnosis of what is wrong should have been applied to the screenplay). The audience may feel that they are being tortured as Joy (Diaz) and Jack (Kutcher) battle over sweaty socks and whether the toilet seat is left up.

what-happens-in-vegas-photos-032408-10.jpgJoy is humiliatingly dumped by her fiancee (SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) in front of all of their friends. Jack is fired by his father (Treat Williams) for not taking the job seriously. They meet when they both take off for Vegas to get away from their disasters. So, of course, they create an even bigger one. They get completely drunk and wake up the next morning married. They quickly agree to an annulment until they win a $3 million jackpot. A judge (Dennis Miller) orders them to live together (“I sentence you to six months hard marriage”) to try to make the marriage work before he will decide how to allocate the money. And so Joy and Jack scheme to get each other to give up, then to give cause for divorce by cheating. And then, just as they begin to appreciate each other, there is time for one more setback.

Screenwriter Dana Fox was also responsible for “The Wedding Date,” which suffered from a similarly ugly premise. Romantic comedies can be sexy, even naughty, but they have to have a charm and buoyancy that is quickly deflated by crude, gross humor. It makes the main characters unlikeable. There is no reason to believe in either their enmity or their growing affection so we never connect to them or care about the outcome. It is supposed to be endearing that this couple gets blind drunk and gets married, that he pees on the dirty dishes in the sink and removes the bathroom door to annoy her, that she shows a cab driver one breast (she negotiates him down from two) to get a free ride. It is not. It is supposed to make sense that Jack’s vulgar jokes endear him to the executives at Joy’s company. It does not. We are supposed to see why Joy and Jack begin to care about each other. We don’t. It isn’t funny enough and it isn’t romantic enough. In other words, what should have stayed in Vegas is this movie.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Romance

The S.S. Minnow is Back in Shipshape

Posted on August 24, 2008 at 8:00 am

Anyone for a 3-hour tour? If you get on the S.S. Minnow and the other passengers are a movie star, a professor, a millionaire and his wife, not to mention Mary Ann, you might want to check to make sure you’ve packed enough to wear for a long vacation.
Yes, the S.S. Minnow from Gilligan’s Island is being restored and will be available for tours. More than one boat was used on the show, but this is the one in the opening credits.
I have special affection for this boat because it was named after my father, Newton Minow, whose famous speech to the broadcasters calling television a “vast wasteland” annoyed “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz. So Schwartz named the sinking boat after him! My dad got a huge kick out of it and later had a very cordial exchange of letters with Schwartz. It is a great point of pride for our family. cast-of-gilligans-island.jpg
Thanks to Zeke for bringing me up to date on this story!

Related Tags:

 

Television

List: Movies About Making Movies

Posted on August 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

Inspired by “Tropic Thunder,” Keith Demko of Reel Fanatic created a superb list from one of my favorite categories: movies about making movies. On his list: critic-turned-director Francois Truffaut’s bittersweet Day for Night, the trenchant satire Living in Oblivion, the documentary about Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to make a Don Quixote movie, Lost in La Mancha, Tim Burton’s black and white tribute to the man often named as the worst director ever with Johnny Depp as Ed Wood. Demko also includes some movies about television like the story of the Letterman/Leno battle, The Late Shift.

I’d add to his list a few more great films like the classic Hollywood movie about classic Hollywood, The Bad and the Beautiful, the hilarious saga of a Revolutionary War movie taking over a small college town, Sweet Liberty, David Mamet’s witty satire State and Main, and of course the all-time favorite about the beginning of the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain. Here Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor turn an elocution lesson into a dance number:

Related Tags:

 

For Your Netflix Queue Lists Rediscovered Classic

The Longshots

Posted on August 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor.
Profanity: Brief mild language.
Alcohol/ Drugs: Character drinks a lot
Violence/ Scariness: Sports violence, some tense confrontations and discussion of loss
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 23, 2008

A little bit of grittiness keeps this fact-based story of a girl who plays football from getting too sugary. The talented Keke Palmer of Akeelah and the Bee gives a beautifully understated, witty, and sincere performance as Jasmine, the first girl to play quarterback in the Pop Warner Super Bowl for middle school football teams. But the credit for the movie’s tone and depth goes to two men better known for provocative, even offensive music: director Fred Durst of metal band Limp Bizkit and rapper/actor/director/entrepreneur Ice Cube, serving here as co-producer and co-star.

Ice Cube plays Curtis, whose dream of playing football was wiped out with a knee injury and whose dream of escaping his small Illinois town to go to Miami was wiped out when the local factory closed down, all-but extinguishing the economy of the community. He spends his days drinking beer, hanging out to watch the middle school football team practice, and doing his best to forgo all human contact and forget that he ever dreamed of anything.

His sister-in-law Claire (Tasha Smith) offers him $5 an hour to watch her daughter Jasmine after school. Curtis and Jasmine stay as far away from each other as possible until one day he asks her to toss him his football and he realizes she has a gift for throwing a long spiral. And she realizes he has a gift for bringing the best out of her. The coach is utterly opposed to having her on the team — until he sees her throw. The team is utterly opposed to having her on the team — until they see her courage and quick thinking. A couple of training montages and a couple of overcome setbacks later, the town is energized behind the team and everyone is feeling like a winner.

Durst does a fine job in creating the atmosphere of the depressed town but most of all he is an actor’s director. He brings out the best in his talented cast, including Smith, Matt Craven as the coach, and the bleacher bums, kibbitzers, and classmates who make up the rest of the community in the struggling small town. But he knows the heart of the story and the heart of the movie is the relationship between Curtis and his niece. Palmer is an enormously gifted young actress, here for the first time playing a character who is for a significant part of the story largely internal. She shows us Jasmine’s sensitivity and strength even when she is just reading a book by herself at a lunch table, and her interactions with Ice Cube are natural and believable.

And under Durst’s direction, Ice Cube shows us again that he can be a first-rate actor. This is the Ice Cube of “Boyz N the Hood,” “Three Kings,” and Barbershop, not the condescending, superficial performances of Are We Done Yet and All About the Benjamins
. He gives a layered, subtle portrayal and it is a pleasure to watch him bloom along with Jasmine.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Drama Movies -- format Sports

The House Bunny

Posted on August 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Profanity: Crude and strong language including f-word, insults, and references to body parts and functions
Alcohol/ Drugs: A lot of party drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic slapstick violence
Diversity Issues: It is supposed to be empowering to dress in skimpy clothes and pretend to be dumb
Date Released to Theaters: August 23, 2008

Being a good sport is part of what makes Anna Faris such a gifted comic actress. She has never had any hesitation about doing whatever it takes to be funny, no matter how ridiculous, embarrassing, or dangerous. Through the “Scary Movie” series she allowed herself to be subject to all kinds of movie torture and humiliation but always maintained an open-hearted good humor that kept us laughing and kept us rooting for her. In “The House Bunny,” the screenplay inflicts a little more injury on Faris than it intends to by committing the very sins it half-heartedly attempts to parody. But even when the movie ignores her comic timing to focus on her lovely face and figure, Faris is an engaging performer.

She plays Shelley, a lonely girl who grew up in an orphanage and finally found the family she wanted when she became a Bunny and moved into the Playboy Mansion. It was a paradise of parties and girlfriends. But then she turned 27 — “That’s 59 in bunny years,” the bartender advises her, and is booted out. The closest thing she can find to the Playboy Mansion is a sorority house, and she is hired in desperation by a sorority on the brink of being shut down for failure to attract new members because its members are all socially inept. Cue the makeover montage.

Faris is every bit as adorable as the Goldie Hawn-ish role requires and there are funny moments that don’t even appear in the trailer. Colin Hanks looks appropriately disconcerted as the nursing home manager who likes Shelley but is not sure how to respond when she overdoes her concept of what makes her appealing and Emma Stone (“Superbad”) and Kat Dennings (“40 Year Old Virgin”) have some success in overcoming the one-dimensionality of their characters, especially in comparison to the tone-deaf line readings in the cameos from Hef and the bunnies. One of the sorority girls tries to talk with her mouth full and makes the mistake of letting boys know that she is smart! One has facial piercings and attitude! How hilarious! And guess what! Under those shlumpadinka clothes, they are all long-legged hotties!

There’s a moment when the girls realize that their success has gone to their heads and they must be reminded — after dishing on the looks of candidates — that it is what is inside that counts. But the message is undercut by the constant reiteration of the more important message that being a virgin is an embarrassment, you should never let a boy know that you know more than he does, and what matters is being really hot and really popular. There is no indication that anyone of these “students” has any interest in school or work, any curiosity, any ambition other than getting the most cute boys to come to their parties. No one is expecting a movie like “The House Bunny” to be profound, but it is fair to expect some integrity and consistency. The slight message about the importance of what is inside is lost amid the coarse humor and lingering, loving footage of Faris’ smooth belly and micro-miniskirts. Faris as co-producer should know better and Faris as performer should recognize — as Shelly does — that sometimes doing what is right is more important than being a good sport.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Movies -- format
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2023, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik