Monday, January 15, 2007

January's film reviews (so far)

Fittingly my 100th blog post on here is about films...

Night at the Museum
Ben Stiller is usually good value to watch. Owen Wilson is often funny teamed up with him (except in the dire Starsky & Hutch). Robin Williams reins in his usual hammy histrionics to remind you how good an actor he can be. Dick van Dyke does amiable villain pretty well. Steve Coogan as a Roman general with Imperialistic ambitions is very funny. Plus there are some marvelous special effects (like the dinosaur skeleton which comes to life to play ‘fetch’). But overall, this film fails as a whole to be as good as the sum of its parts.

The basic thrust of the story is that Ben Stiller takes a job as the night watchman in New York’s poshest museum, only to find that everything comes to life at night and tries to eat him, kill him, or, in the case of ‘Rexie’ trample him in an exuberant game of fetch the tyrannosaurus rib bone. The problem isn’t in the silliness of the storyline – how does a mummy learn English just by being in a museum in Cambridge anyway? – but in the serious sub-plot tacked on outside the museum. It was hard to care at all about the formulaic estranged partner, kid who’ll be disappointed in him, patronizing new stepdad etc. rigmarole. It’s all been done before (think The Santa Clause) and been done better.

Jongudmund’s rating: 5/10

Happy Feet
A computer animation about dancing penguins? Surely this would be the feel-good hit of the winter? But, no. Somewhere along the way, this story takes a dark turn to become possibly the most disturbingly depressing animated film since Dougal and the Blue Cat.

The penguins are cute, if a bit one-dimensional in character if not in animation. There are some funny gags. There’s also a very interesting cultural observation pitching the inflexible institutional worship of the ‘Great Guin’ against the young penguin, Mumble, who is what he is and can’t change. I’m not saying it’s a deliberate attempt to analogize the tension that exists between American fundamentalist moralism and those hurt by it because of their sexual orientation, but Mumble being told to ‘just try to act normal’ by his embarrassed devout dad could be read that way.

But then, as said, the film takes a turn. "Aliens" (ie humans) are to blame for the fish shortage, but Mumble’s dancing abilities win them over and they sort it all out. On the one hand it’s brave for a Hollywood movie to say that humans need to get their act together to sort the environmental degradation of the oceans. But on the other hand, this film implies those problems have been solved, which they haven’t. And the other message – that eventually salvation will come from above if we can just hang on is reminiscent of the argument that something will eventually be done to solve the problems. So, we don’t have to do anything ourselves.

And on a final point – why is Mumble still covered in juvenile feathers when every other penguin his age – including love interest Gloria – is proper penguin developed? Like the man cows with udders in Barnyard, this just makes no sense and started to really annoy me by the end.

Jongudmund’s rating: 4/10

Irony Boy’s choice of DVD, presumably because he likes looking at wrinkly naked men. Apparently he was surprised at the amount of full frontal nudity, even though he knew two of the main characters were naturists…

I have to say I’m not a big fan of Jimmy Carr. He’s always struck me as a supercilious, unfunny weasel. Here he plays a character who is meant to be a supercilious, unfunny weasel. But it was hard to tell he was acting. That’s strike one for the film.

The plot, if you can call it that, is three couples compete to have the most original wedding, helped along by the only likeable couple in the whole film – the gay wedding planners. And that’s about it. Jimmy Carr is supercilious, unfunny and a weasel, and the naturists are en naturelle most of the time. The only actor to come out of this with any credit is Martin Freeman – with a role not unlike Tim from The Office, but this isn’t his finest hour. The gal from Spaced, Jessica Stevenson, is likeable enough and does OK as well.

So to sum up: If you’ve never seen a scrotum this is the film to watch. Or if you like supercilious, unfunny weasels like Jimmy Carr. Otherwise avoid it.

Jongudmund’s rating: 2.5/10

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous21/1/07 20:23

    thx 4 these jon... all are on my list (or my kids' lists) as ones we want to see... do you think 'night at the museum' is too scary for a 7 and 9 year old? or for me?! (i'm a bit delicate when it comes to films!)

    hope all is well with you!