Monday, April 7, 2008

Smart Movies


There's a bit of sluggishness at the cinema, and it's the movement of misconceived films unreeling. If I had to choose a couple of hours to idle by the day with a movie that entertains without losing track of its place in the pedigree of coolness I would be likely to choose Married Life or Nim's Island over Leatherheads, Run Fat Boy Run, Smart People and Snow Angels. Sure the nimster is a kid's film and Married Life a slow paced period piece, but like Geritol they do exactly what they set out to do. The others were hardly duds, they just failed to elevate the experience of going to the movies into something that cannot be duplicated in front of your television.
The failings of the films I dislike can be directly traced to their decision to divert from the reality they display. In other words when Smart People chooses to be a realistic dramedy dealing with human relations but then tries to make us believe Sarah Jessica Parker is playing a woman in her late 20s all bets are off. When Leatherheads trots at a screwball comedy pace but without the chuckles the game is over. Snow Angels revels in its depiction of regular people going through various spiritual and domestic crisis but the third act asks the audience to take a leap of faith above and beyond what the established characters would be capable of - you just know the shark has jumped. Run Fat Boy Run while providing some grins and a gross out blister gag to end all blister gags can't compare to Hot Fuzz the last film that Simon Pegg wowed us in. Of course, Hot Fuzz was directed by Edgar Wright a truly talented new director to watch, and Run Fat Boy Run was helmed by David Schwimmer a talent to be sure but one whose directorial leanings need more simmering.
However Nim's Island provides a lesson in staying the course. The film revolves around little girl fantasy fullfillment and unlike last year's The Game Plan actually stars a little girl (Abigail Breslin, destined for greatness) not an adult (Dwayne Johnson). From 20th Century Fox and Walden Media, an entity that's rapidly putting a face on quality kid's flicks (think Bridge to Terabithia), Nim's Island has a CGI lizard that sits on Breslin's shoulder and comments on the action by meowing lizard grunts. You can't ask for more than that amount of cuteness, and throw in Jodie Foster (better here than in Brave One of Flightplan) hamming it up as a wacky agoraphobic writer who travels to Breslin's tropical island and there's not much down time. For the record "nimrod" is defined as a great hunter and the phrase is used quite well by Bugs Bunny. Nim is a weird name to give a girl.
Married Life depicts aduldtry in upscale environments in post-WWII 1940s. Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams all turn in stunning performances. The film moves at its own pace, not unlike the unharried world the actors live in, but that's the milieu of a pre-internet, pre me-generation era. The feelings expressed are genuine. Married Life is like delicately putting on a coat that fits perfectly.

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