Reviews for November 25th, 2009
Directed by Walt Becker.
Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams), best friends since childhood, co-own a sports-marketing company located in New York City. Just as they’re in the process of negotiating a business deal with a company based in Japan, Dan’s second ex-wife, Vicki (Kelly Preston) arrives to inform Dan that he’s actually the father of her twins, Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta). She also lets him know that she’s about to serve a two-week jail term for trespassing during an environmental protest. Jenna (Rita Wilson), Vicki’s best friend, agrees babysit the kids, but when she ends up in the hospital after an accident, Dan and Charlie become the new parental guardians together for those entire two weeks. Seth Green plays Craig, an associate at the sports-marking company, and Bernie Mac briefly shows up as a puppeteer. The screenplay by co-writers David Diamond and David Weissman fails to generate any laughs with its lowbrow, juvenile and forced humor filled with cheap visual gags. For instance, while golfing with his potential Japanese business partners, Dan repeatedly hits them in the crotch with a golf ball each time he swings. Dan and Charlie take Zach and Emily to a diner where others assume they’re grandparents and one of them ends up with a drink accidentally spilled on his pants that gets confused for a urine stain. How funny is it to watch Charlie pigging out on food or smiling non-stop during a funeral after a mix-up of medications? The humor gets sillier and more preposterous as the plot progresses with not a single clever line of dialogue or sight gags. Director Walt Becker previously directed the comedy Wild Hogs which at least provided a modicum of humor that’s actually funny and well thought-out unlike the humor found here. Even Robin Williams, who once starred in the far superior comedy Father’s Day with Billy Crystal, can’t seem to rise above the lazy, asinine material. Old Dogs, at a running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, manages to be a painfully unfunny attempt at comedy filled with lazy, juvenile, forced humor that’s an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Number of times I checked my watch: 5 Released by Walt Disney Pictures. Opens nationwide.
The Princess and the Frog
Directed by Ron Clements and
Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) works as a waitress in New Orleans and dreams of opening her very own restaurant just like her father (voice of Terrence Howard) had dreamed of as well. One day, Naveen (Bruno Campos), a prince from the kingdom of Maldonia, shows up in town and falls in love with Charlotte (voice of Jennifer Cody), Tiana’s friend since childhood. Prince Naveen also meets Dr. Facilier (voice Keith David), a voodoo practitioner who ends up transforming into a frog against his will. Tiana attends a costume ball at Charlotte’s mansion dress as a princess. She meets Naveen the talking frog and, soon enough, he persuades her to kiss him in hopes of turning back into a human. Instead, because she’s not a real princess like he thought she is, she turns into a frog as well. Both of them go on a journey through the swamp to reach Mama Odie (voice of Jenifer Lewis) who might help them to reverse their curse. Along the way, they’re joined by Louis (voice of Michael-Leon Wooley), a friendly alligator who’s also an aspiring jazz musician, and Ray (voice Jim Cummings), a firefly. Co-writers/directors John Musker and Ron Clements combine action, adventure, comedy and drama with irresistibly entertaining results. Sometimes, animated films tend to suffer from a lazy, unimaginative story with a strong beginning, but a weak middle and end. The Princess and the Frog, fortunately, has a captivating story from beginning all the way through and never feels lazy. After a first act that sets up the basic conflicts of plot, the second act has Tiana and Naveen setting out on their journey as two frogs. That’s when the story’s momentum kicks into full gear and becomes consistently fun, thrilling and exciting with plenty of memorable characters. The real accomplishment here is the screenplay’s ability to keep older and younger audiences entertaining concurrently with plenty of sharp dialogue, witty humor and visual gags, none of which will be spoiled here. It’s also worth mentioning the terrific, lively, toe-tapping soundtrack that compliments many scenes quite well. There’s also breathtaking, hand-drawn 2D animation with vibrant colors that provide plenty of eye candy and awe inspiring moments. At a running time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, The Princess and the Frog manages to be a thoroughly fun, magical, thrilling and captivating adventure filled with stunning animation, a lively soundtrack, a big heart and plenty of laughs for everyone both young and old. Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by Walt Disney Pictures. Opens at the Ziegfeld Theater. Expands nationwide on December 11th.
Directed by John Hillcoat.
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. A father (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic America. Some kind of disaster has left every town and city throughout the country in ruins and looking very much like a ghost town. All the father and son need to survive is food, water, shelter and a means of defending themselves. A gang member (Garret Dillahunt) nearly kidnaps the son before the father comes to his rescue armed with a gun, so now the father and son must do their best to avoid that vicious gang who are involved in turning people into slaves. As the two wander through the barren landscape heading toward the sea, the father recalls moments from before the apocalypse when his beloved wife (Charlize Theron) was alive and well. He still hasn’t overcome that she had committed suicide during the start of the apocalypse. Robert Duvall, virtually unrecognizable here, briefly shows up as a blind old man whom the father and son decide to help along their treacherous journey toward the sea, which the son has never seen before. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Joe Penhall takes a premise that could have been riveting and engrossing and turns it into an experience that merely has a few harrowing moments, but, for the most part, feels dull and meandering. You’re never really given a chance to get to know the father and son enough so that you would care about whether or not they survive. Their interactions with one another simply fail to resonate on an emotional level. The same can be said for the numerous flashbacks where the father and his wife spend time together. Fortunately, Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee both give decent, somewhat heartfelt performances as the father and son, which help you to at least stay remotely engaged without drifting off to sleep. Out of all of the characters, the most interesting one happens to be the setting itself. Director John Hillcoat does a great job of creating a very sullen atmosphere through the very bleak settings that are filled with so many washed-out gray, brown and black colors that you almost feel like you’re watching a film shot in black-and-white; perhaps actually filming the post-apocalyptic scenes in black-and-white would have been wiser. Hillcoat maintains a slow pace that occasionally drags as you’re waiting for something—anything---to happen to the father and son that doesn’t involve them continuously walking on and on together. At a running time of 2 hours, The Road manages to be tedious, dull and anticlimactic despite decent performances and exquisite cinematography filled with bleak images. It’s ultimately an underwhelming experience that lacks emotional resonance. Number of times I checked my watch: 4 Released by Dimension Films. Opens nationwide.