erik lundegaard

Movie Reviews - 2009 posts

Monday June 08, 2009

Review: “The Hangover” (2009)

WARNING: OUTRAGEOUS SPOILERS

“The Hangover” isn’t the funniest movie I’ve seen this year—“Up” is—but it’s got some laughs and a smart structure. Instead of showing us four guys partying wildly in Vegas for a night, it shows us three guys trying to figure out what happened—and where the fourth guy is—the morning after partying wildly in Vegas for a night. It has a purpose, in other words. It gives these guys a goal. It also makes them sympathetic. We see them confused and regretful (and concerned about their friend) rather than rowdy and asinine (and concerned about nothing).

The four friends are types. Stu (Ed Helms) is a henpecked dentist with a shrewish, girlfriend who cheats on him. Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a public school teacher still trying to get by on looks and charm, and still giving off whiffs of asshole. Doug (Justin Bartha) is the bland nice guy who goes missing, and who’s supposed to be married the next day in L.A., making it necessary to find him within a certain timeframe. These guys have been friends for a while, and, though they’re obviously different, they seem like they’ve been friends for a while. There’s a camaraderie there. The conversation and shit-giving during the car ride to Vegas feels comfortable and familiar.

The fourth guy is Alan, Doug’s future brother-in-law, played by comedian Zach Galifianakis, and he’s one of the reasons “Hangover” has such great buzz. He’s not a type. When we first see him—trying on tuxes with Doug—he seems a schlemiel. Then Doug asks him to come along to Vegas with his friends, and he slowly wraps Doug in a long, creepy hug...wearing no pants. He professes discomfort waiting in the car outside Phil’s workplace, because, he says, “I’m not supposed to be within 200 feet of a school.” At a gas station an old man admires his car. Alan tells him not to touch it. Then not to look at it. Then to walk away. Then he calls him out.

So who’s Alan? He’s the guy who does whatever’s necessary to make each situation more uncomfortable. He’s the envelope-pusher. Meaning he’s a lot like the actor playing him. From a profile on Galifianakis in the New York Times last week:

A typical hourlong set might meander from carefully composed, conceptual one-liners à la Steven Wright to profanity-drenched tirades against members of the audience to slapstick to solemnly tacky musical interludes (Galifianakis is an able pianist) to Andy Kaufman-esque attacks on the genre that seem less concerned with eliciting laughs from the crowd than with confounding its notions of what comedy or, for that matter, entertainment ought to be.

Some of the more memorable lines in the film are not only his but truly his. On the ride to Vegas, for example, he talks up card-counting, and, when told it’s illegal, he counters that it’s more frowned-upon than illegal. “Like masturbating on a plane,” he says. The others exchange glances and agree you can’t do that on a plane post-9/11. Alan pauses. “Thanks a lot, bin Laden,” he says.

That’s great, and, according to Bradley Cooper, it wasn’t in the script. It was all Galifianakis. So is: “I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust.” So is jerking off the baby. So is the blowjob shots at the end.

More and more comedies, particularly comedies about and for guys, rely on this brand of outrageousness. They’re designed to get buzz. You won’t believe what they did!, etc. Think of the naked scene in “Sarah Marshall,” the blackface and “Simple Jack” storylines in “Tropic Thunder,” almost anything Will Ferrell or Sacha Baron Cohen does. But it means Alan is less character than comedian. He doesn’t make sense.

So on the roof at Caesar’s Palace the four friends toast each other with jagermeister. “To a night the four of us will never forget,” they say. Then they forget. It’s morning, they’re lying on the floor of their suite, while the detritus of the evening’s debauchery is slowly revealed to them and us: a clucking chicken, a smoking chair, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet. They remember nothing. Stu, the dentist, is missing a tooth. Doug himself is missing.

Sorting it all out, things just get worse. When the valet brings their car it’s a police car. When clues lead them to a Vegas chapel they discover Stu married a stripper named Jade (Heather Graham). When they get their own car back and hear a rumbling in the trunk, they open it expecting Doug; instead they’re attacked by a naked Chinese man (Ken Jeong).

This is where a lot of the humor comes from. We’re watching fairly normal guys reacting to evidence of the outrageousness they, without remembering it, caused.

Unfortunately the filmmakers double down on outrageousness. Visiting a doctor, his patient is an old man with wrinkled, formless skin, and the punchline is his wrinkled, formless ass. Outrageous! The naked Chinese man turns out to be not just a gangster, and not just gay, but flaming. Outrageous! The wedding singer sings inappropriate songs with raunchy lyrics. Outrageous!

But not. Each of these moments stopped the movie cold for me. Maybe it’s necessary to have one designated envelope-pusher per film. Galifianakis here. Everyone else should underplay.

Adventure stories have often been about returning home, and so is this one. Our guys get to the wedding in the nick of time, changed men, their more pungent qualities tempered. Stu is no longer a doormat and Phil seems ready to embrace the role of father and husband. The wedding—the singer notwithstanding—is a sweet scene, as they sit back and reflect on their wild two days. Even if they don’t remember most of it.

Posted at 08:20 AM on Jun 08, 2009 in category Movie Reviews - 2009
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Saturday May 30, 2009

Review: “Up” (2009)

WARNING: MYRIAD, COLORFUL, FLOATING SPOILERS

“Have you seen ‘Burden of Dreams’?”

“Herzog?”

About Herzog. About the making of ‘Fitzcarraldo.’ At one point, Herzog, a little mad, directs locals in the Amazon rain forest to move a houseboat from one navigable river, over a mountain, to another navigable river. He didn’t need to do it that way but he did. And it becomes the heavy, physical representation of his dreams—and the price other people pay for them.”

“Your point?”

“I want to do the same with a house.”

“You want to move a house over a mountain?”

“I want a house to represent dreams. And the burden of dreams.”

“I thought we were talking about a cartoon.”

“We are. Initially it’ll be glorious. The house will rise up, powered by a mass of colorful balloons, out of an American city, because the owner of the house, an old man, doesn’t want to sell out to developers and this is his only way to escape.”

“Wait a minute. Old man? I thought we were talking about a cartoon. For kids.”

“He’ll have a stowaway. A kid. A boy scout. And together they’ll float all the way down to South America.”

“Like Herzog.”

“’Like America...but south!’ That’s a line we already have.”

“Good line.”

“They’ll land...but on the wrong side of Paradise Falls. And through a series of misadventures the old man will be tethered to the house, which will float slightly above them. And he’ll have to drag that floating house across this great expanse to Paradise Falls.”

“You want an old man. To drag a house. For hours.”

“Days.”

“Days?”

“Because he wants it in a certain spot. That’s his dream. And that’s the burden of his dreams.”

“I thought we were talking about a cartoon. For kids.”

“But he has to give up a lot to get the house in that spot. And once he does, once he realizes his dreams, he’ll realize his dreams weren’t worth it. That it was the other stuff that mattered more. So he starts throwing shit out of the house to get it light enough to fly again.”

“Please tell me you don’t say ‘shit’ in this movie.”

“Of course not. It’s a cartoon. For kids.”

“What happens in the end?”

“They live happily ever after.”

“I like that part.”

Or so I imagine the pitch for “Up.” Does Pixar even have to pitch anymore? To whom? Disney? Those losers? They’ve got a lousy recent track record, while no one’s recent track record is better than Pixar’s. The director of “Up,” Pete Docter, directed “Monsters, Inc.,” which made $250 million in the U.S. and over $500 million worldwide. The screenwriter of “Up,” Bob Peterson, wrote “Finding Nemo,” which made $339 million in the U.S. and $864 million worldwide. This decade, none of their movies has made less than $200 million in the U.S. and $400 million worldwide. Their movies have the added advantage of being spectacularly good.

“Up” is no different. It begins with a 1930s newsreel, “Movietone News,” focusing on an Errol Flynn-like adventurer named Charles Muntz who extols his young viewers, “Adventure is out there!,” and it ends with the notion that it’s not our adventures but the mundane things in life that matter.

On his way home from the “Movietone” theater, Carl Fredrickson, a young, would-be adventurer, hears a voice talking up the same kind of Charles Muntz-like adventures he’s imagining in his head. It’s a girl, a very talky, very tomboyish, almost Peppermint Patty-like girl named Ellie, and the two of them plan great adventures together, including following Charles Muntz down to Paradise Falls in South America. She has an adventure book, into which she’s pasted a few items; then she’s written STUFF I’M GOING TO DO. The rest of the pages are blank. There’s a life to be lived.

Then we see it lived. Carl and Ellie get married. They buy a house. She works at the zoo and he sells balloons at the zoo. They want kids but can’t have them. Then Ellie dies, and Carl is 79, alone, and living in the house they fixed up together, surrounded by a massive development project to which he refuses to sell out. After he accidentally attacks one of the construction workers, he’s declared a public menace and is scheduled to be put in a home. They come for him the next morning. At which point he releases the balloons, and the house, tearing itself from its moorings, soars away toward South America. It’s a great, glorious scene.

But he’s got a stowaway—a kind of modern update of who he used to be. Russell is a talkative, enthusiastic wilderness explorer in troop 54 who needs only to “assist the elderly” to become a senior-grade wilderness explorer. “The wilderness must be explored!” is his credo. He’s also hapless. Earlier Carl sent him on a snipe hunt, and stowing away was a mistake, and he’s got absentee-father issues. But now he’s along for the ride.

Let me just say that I laughed out loud a lot during this movie. I mean belly laughs. They weren’t cheap laughs, either, but imbedded in the small details of life. The way Russell, seeing pictures of young Carl and Ellie in their aviator/adventure gear, says “Goggles,” like he’s swallowing a laugh midway through. The way, post-storm, he pokes a sleeping Carl, then says, “Whew! I thought you were dead.” The way the rare South American bird, who is named “Kevin” by Russell even though it’s a girl, squawks at Carl.

Most modern cartoon franchises try to be hip. They ape the cheaper aspects of our culture by having animated animals shake their booty, or sing, or party, or try to be famous. It’s as if the entire world, even the animal world, is made up of dopey 14-year-old boys. Which, of course, is the studio executives’ worldview.

Pixar movies focus on cultural moments rather than pop-cultural moments: that early 1960s period when astronauts replaced cowboys as heroes for boys everywhere; the difference, and similarities, between 20th-century “adventurers” and 21st-century “wilderness explorers.” Pixar doesn’t need to point to a pop-cultural phenomenon (that has nothing to do with the film) to get laughs. Two of the moments mentioned above were funny to me simply because they reminded me of my cat: the way she pokes us, incessantly, to wake us up; the way she squawks at me when she doesn’t get her way. It’s funny when she does it and it’s funny when Russell and Kevin do it. The humor is part of life, not apart from it (i.e., on television). Put it this way: In “Up,” there’s a dog, a talking dog named Dug, and he’s more real than most live-action dogs on screen. What makes him funny isn’t that he’s not like a dog—that he stands on his hind legs and sings a rap song, for example, as he might in other animated features—but that he’s exactly like a dog. Pixar finds humor intrinsically within the object.

And drama. And sorrow. At Paradise Falls, Carl, burdened by his house, chooses the house, and what it represents, over Kevin, and Dug, and even Russell, and what they represent. Then he sits in it, alone, his longstanding dream finally realized, and he looks through Ellie’s old adventure book, and the unfulfilled promise of STUFF I’M GOING TO DO. But the pages beyond that page aren’t blank; he’s shocked to find they’re filled with the life he and Ellie lived together. This fact recalls something Russell said earlier about his father: “I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember most.” That’s what Ellie filled her pages with: the boring, everyday stuff we discount but that means the most. On the last page Ellie includes a note to Carl: “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one! Love, Ellie.” And as he does, as her words inspire him to throw out most of the stuff in his house to get it aloft again, to get back into the adventure, I sat there, a 46-year-old, tearing up.

Is it a lie? Pixar tells us an adventure story that tells us it’s not the adventures that matter.

I don’t think it’s a lie. I think they’re getting at one of the more profound things movies can say.

A good movie leaves us with a mood. Last week I left “L’Heure d’ete” feeling that life is sad, and the stuff we accumulate, that seems precious to us, is just a burden to others, even when it’s legitimately, aesthetically precious. Remember the last lines of “American Beauty”? Lester talks about how, now that he’s dead, he’s grateful for every single stupid moment of his life. But that’s not the mood the movie leaves us with. It leaves us with a wish for that feeling.

“Up” actually leaves us with that feeling. I left the theater grateful for every single, stupid, boring moment of my life.

Near the end of the movie, Russell says to Carl: “Sorry about your house, Mr. Fredrickson.”

“It’s just a house,” he responds.

Posted at 12:22 PM on May 30, 2009 in category Movie Reviews - 2009, Pixar
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Wednesday May 27, 2009

“On m’appelle Monsieur Tibbs!”

Watched “In the Heat of the Night” again after reading Mark Harris’ much-recommended book, “Pictures at a Revolution,” about the inspiration, gestation and production of, and subsequent reaction to, the five nominees for best picture at the 1967 Academy Awards.

When I first heard about the book I wondered why Harris chose ’67 and its mix of old Hollywood (“Dr. Doolittle”; “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”) and new (“Bonnie and Clyde”; “The Graduate”), with “In the Heat of the Night” coming down the middle to win. Seemed arbitrary. Seemed too close to the period John Gregory Dunne covers in “The Studio.” Why not pick, say, 1970, where the difference between old Hollywood (“Love Story”; “Airport”), and new (“M*A*S*H”; “Five Easy Pieces”), feels even starker? And with “Patton” still coming down the middle to win?

But it makes sense. The inspiration for these five movies began in 1963, or earlier, and the cultural difference between ’63 and ’67 is huge. Particularly in racial matters. Particularly in youth matters. Harris’ period also includes the heady influence of the nouvelle vague (when it was nouvelle) as well as the end of the production code. The influences are too fascinating to ignore.

(On the other hand: 1970 would’ve given you Altman and Nicholson, and an American culture in which the anti-war movie “M*A*S*H” outperformed the war biopic “Patton” at the box office. But still...)

At the moment I’m simply dealing with the difference between 2001 and now. Eight years ago I wrote a little something about “In the Heat of the Night,” and reading it over today, it lacks, let’s say, a largeness of spirit. But it’s not necessarily wrong.

My big problem with "Heat" this viewing? The dance is too extreme.

There’s a murder. Tibbs is pulled in and charged for it. He didn’t do it, and he can prove he didn’t do it, and he’s a homicide detective from Philly who knows more than these crackers ever will about police work. So how do you get him to stay in Mississippi to help, when he’s called “boy” and “nigger” and he’s arrested him for being black at the train station? In Mississippi? Hell, they filmed in Sparta, Illinois because Sidney Poitier didn’t want to set foot in Mississippi—and you can’t blame him. So how do you get Virgil Tibbs to stay there?

Here’s the dance:
1. You must stay! Tibbs is ordered to help by his Philadelphia superiors.
2. No, you must go! Gillespie captures suspect no. 1 (Harvey) and dismisses Tibbs. (Even, briefly, arrests him.)
3. No, you must stay! Colbert’s widow wants Tibbs on the case or she’ll move her factory elsewhere.
4. No, you must go! After Tibbs slaps Endicott (back).
5. Really, you must go! B-grade KKK chases Tibbs and Gillespie captures suspect no. 2 (Sam Wood).
6. Why are you still here? Gillespie and Tibbs learn of Purdy’s pregnancy, which leads to Tibbs solving the case.
Basically you have a two-hour dance between one intent and one reluctant partner. But they keep changing roles. There’s rarely a moment when both are reluctant—because that would end the dance—and, after a time, the lack of stability feels absurd.

I would’ve liked more of Tibbs in the black community, too—which they cut—as well as another scene between Tibbs and Endicott. Not sure what it would entail. “I know you didn’t do this. But I know what you did do. Everyone knows.” Something.

You could actually remake this movie today—without the racial element. Blue state vs. red state. It would work. There’s always a divide in this country. We’re too big not to have a divide.
Posted at 09:38 AM on May 27, 2009 in category Movie Reviews - 2009
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Saturday May 23, 2009

Review: “L’Heure d’ete” (2008)

WARNING: BEAUCOUP DE SPOILERS

“L’Heure d’ete,” pluralized to “Summer Hours” in the English translation, would make a good double-feature with “Rachel Getting Married.” Both films depict family tension surrounding a major event: a wedding for “Rachel,” a death for “Summer.” If someone thinks up a good birth movie, we’ve got our triple bill.

The film begins with kids and dogs racing through the woods, and into the backyard of a cottage house, on a treasure hunt. It becomes a story about giving up treasure.

The owner of the cottage house is Helene (Edith Scob), and everyone’s gathered for her 75th birthday. Along with Eloise, the housekeeper, we see five adults eating, drinking and smoking around the backyard table, and can surmise, without explicitly being told, which are Helene’s kids and which are in-laws. Maybe it’s the way Helene’s kids sit, or speak, or speak more, but we understand by merely observing who’s who. There’s Frederic (Charles Bering), the eldest, who has something weary about him; Adrienne (Juliet Binoche), the New Yorker, who has something hard about her; and Jeremie (Jeremie Renier), the youngest, who lives abroad in China, working for les baskets Puma.

Even as Helene enjoys the company, and the chaotic life the kids and grandkids bring, she’s preparing for her own death, and takes Frederic, the only child still living in France, through the house, detailing which precious object should go where. Every family has precious objects but these are truly, prestigiously precious: paintings by Corot,  a Hoffman armoire, vases by Bracquemond, and pieces of a sculpture by Degas, which, sometime in the past, Helene’s kids broke while playing. Her uncle, Paul Berthier, was a great artist (and, we find out later, her lover), and these are the remnants of the family’s artistic past. Helene counsels selling this, giving that to the Musee d’Orsay, but Frederic, who has trouble talking about the death of his mother with his mother, assumes everything will stay the same: the kids will keep the house and the works of art. She assumes otherwise. She counsels otherwise. Why have this weight on you? Start anew.

In cinematic time, her death comes swiftly and without drama. Frederic—a Parisian economist who’s written a book that’s not well-received—goes into an office building where someone expresses their condolences and they pick out a cemetery plot. And that's it. Driving to the cottage house, Frederic stops the car and cries, while Adrienne, with her American boyfriend, sheds a few tears in the hospital, but that’s the extent of the outward emotion. Everything else is inward. And business. And choices.

The mother was right: the kids vote to sell the place. Adrienne is getting married to the American and doesn’t know how often she’ll be back, while Jeremie has agreed to a five-year commitment with Puma in Beijing, and his family plans to summer in Bali. Frederic acquiesces to all of this, sadly, but without much of a struggle. There are no villains here, just life spreading out, going where it goes, and the rest of the movie is disillusion of the cottage and its precious artifacts. At one point, Eloise, the housekeeper, returns for a visit and sees strangers—art dealers, reps from the Musee d’Orsay—removing this painting, taking that exquisite desk. Basically messing up the place she cleaned up for decades. It’s a sad sight. “For the family, it must be sadder,” she adds, but one wonders. Eloise seems to have a deeper connection with the place, and with Helene. She has no kids of her own, just a nephew, a taxi driver who drives her around. He loves her, hugs her, then leaves her at the doorstep of her apartment—the same way Helene, earlier, was left at the steps of her house after the kids and grandkids left.

The grown-up siblings have both familiarity with, and distance from, one other. They assume they know each other but there’s also curiosity. I love you, but who are you again? Or now? When Adrienne rushes into a taxi after a meeting with their lawyer, the two brothers, walking to a cafe, comment on how she’s like their mother:

“She’s running from something,” one says.
(pause)
“Not us, I hope,” the other says, and both laugh.

So no villains here, but writer/director Olivier Assayas, who has made movies about global disconnect before (“demon lover”), seems to be commenting upon some aspect of specifically French dissolution. Two-thirds of Helene’s kids live abroad, the grandkids are “into America,” the artifacts wind up in museums. What aspect of French culture is still part of French daily life? Where and what is the treasure now?

“L’heure d’ete” is suffused with sadness but not nostalgia. Life expands, life contracts, life ends, life goes on. Assayas could’ve ended the film at the Musee d’Orsay, with the desk on display, looking “caged,” according to Frederic, but chose, instead, a more ambiguous end. He takes us back to the cottage house, where Frederic’s kids throw a huge, loud summer party. At first one is appalled that Helene’s place has been taken over in this fashion. But is this better? It's vibrant. It's life. The final shot is of the eldest daughter and her boyfriend, young and unburdened, running away from the camera and toward whatever it is they’ll create, and collect, and leave behind.

Posted at 03:57 PM on May 23, 2009 in category Movie Reviews - 2009, Movies - Foreign
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Saturday May 16, 2009

Review: “Angels & Demons” (2009)

WARNING: SPOILERS OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS

Once again director Ron Howard, adapting a Dan Brown novel, with Tom Hanks in the lead, tries to split the difference between the two great forces fighting for control of our world:

Movies and literature.

OK, it’s science and religion. But part of the absurdity of “Angels & Demons” is seeing Howard fit a literary mystery, with tons of exposition, into the storytelling technique of modern movies, which demands a rush of narrative in an increasingly short time-frame. Here it’s less than 24 hours. And here his protagonist is the bookish and scholarly Robert Langdon of Harvard. Which means we get a flurry of action and violence, and then... “Back to the library!”

The movie opens with a close-up of a ring, which a young Irish priest (Ewan McGregor), sadly destroys. It’s the ring of the fisherman, which means the Pope has died and we’re entering sede vacante, the time of the empty throne. McGregor, the progressive and beloved Pope’s favorite, is Camerlengo, or “Chamberlain,” and in charge until a new pope is selected.

Ah, but trouble’s brewing. In Sweden. A group of international scientists are trying to create anti-matter, and do, and in the excitement afterwards the lead scientist, looking grim, and aping Robert Oppenheimer, says, “We’re in God’s hands now.” His assistant, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer, last seen by me in “Munich,” and missed all the while), rushes down to his lab to celebrate, and as we watch her pass through the hallways one thought occurs: “Well, I guess he’s dead.” Otherwise why take the time to show her in the hallways? And he is dead. She enters his locked lab by having her eyes scanned but comes away with blood on her chin. It gets creepier. Inside she finds an eyeball on the floor, and, further in, she finds the scientist, with an empty eye socket, dead on the floor. Which raises the question: Why did the killer need the eyeball? If the scientist was already in the room then the killer must’ve already been in the room, too. And if the scientist had been outside the room, why cut out the eyeball in the first place? Couldn’t the killer have just held the scientist up to the scanner? The crowning touch is that, after all this, Howard’s camera drifts to and then holds on the spot where the anti-matter had been. To show us that it’s empty. To nudge us. I think he thinks we’re not that smart.

So. Prof. Robert Langdon (Hanks) is corralled from Harvard and brought to the Vatican because now trouble’s brewing there. Four cardinals, all preferati (i.e., possible popes), have been kidnapped by a group claiming to be Illuminati, or enlightened ones, the progressive, scientific Catholics of the 18th century who were supposedly brutally suppressed by the Church. Now they’re back for vengies. Plus they have the anti-matter, which, as Vittoria Vetra (also at the Vatican) explains, is known as The God Particle. “It’s what gives all matter mass,” she says. But if it’s allowed to... whatever (defrost?)...it’ll trigger a reaction that will destroy the Vatican. At exactly midnight. Which is like six hours away. Hurry!

Langdon listens to the tape the Illuminati sent and discerns, from an off-hand reference, that they’re alluding to a path the Illuminati created in Rome way back when, and more clues are searched for and found. It’s a treasure hunt! It’s basically “International Treasure.” So, for example, a “503” doesn’t mean 503. Think of it roman-numerically: DIII, or D3, or Book D, volume III of such-and-such a book. And off we go! See the way that Bernini statue is pointing? That’s the direction. And off we go! Earth, Air, Fire, Water: It all makes sense now! Life's a puzzle; you just need to find the pieces.

At the least we get to see Rome. Here’s the Pantheon (my favorite), here’s St. Peter’s Square, here’s the Piazza Navona. The four cardinals, representing the four elements, are to be killed on the hour every hour at one of these sites, until, at midnight, we get the big bang. Or re-bang. We see the killer at work and he seems a professional, which he is. There’s talk that the Illuminati have infiltrated the Vatican and we have, basically, three suspects: the young, progressive, good-looking Irish priest who’s friendly with the protagonist; and two grumpy, old, and old-European dudes who do everything they can to impede the investigation. One thought occurs: “Well, it would be nice if it was one of the obvious guys—i.e., the impeders of the investigation—for a change.” Two hours into the movie...it is! Well, that’s refreshing. Then, when the movie should be ending, Vetra begins poking around the desk of the now-dead head of the Swiss Guard. No, don’t do that. A computer pops up and Langdon has a key. No, don’t do that. And in a flash—and a flashback—everything unravels, and it turns out the culprit was the nice, unobvious one after all. Which, these days, means the obvious one. I didn’t say making movies wasn’t hard.

Alright, out with it. I am so tired of these last-minute reversals. Appearances can be misleading, yes, but usually they’re not. Put it this way: If the Bush administration were a movie, and with the camera continually panning between Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, we would have discovered that the true culprit of the Iraq War was... Colin Powell! But of course! The one man it couldn’t have been!

I like some of the early dialogue. The priest asks Langdon if he believes in God, and, after equivocating a bit, Langdon replies, humbly, “Faith is a gift...I have yet to receive.” That’s nice. In the Vatican library, which Langdon had been petitioning 10 years to get in, he tells Vetra, “A few days of this and I could’ve finished my book...and sold dozens of copies.” That made me laugh out loud. But it’s as if the screenwriters, Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, ran out of good lines and resorted to clichés. “God answers all prayers,” says one character near the end. “But sometimes the answer is no.” “And when you write of us,” another tells Langdon at the end, “and you will write of us, do so gently.”

I wish I could.

Posted at 09:10 AM on May 16, 2009 in category Movie Reviews - 2009
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