Saturday, November 29, 2008

To Thine Own Self

Good movies, like good people, tend to have a true sense of self. They know who, or what they are, and as long as they stay true to that, they'll do fine.

Take Role Models. It's subject is fairly juvenile, two guys who need to become big brothers and thereby avoid jail time. Of course, in the end, they will have matured through their sympathetic mentoring of two freaks. In weaker hands, it could go several ways. It can get too maudlin in the end and ring false. It can also be too raunchy and lose all sense of character and plot. But in the hands of Paul Rudd and others, Role Models achieves incredible laughs brought to you by real characters with real depth. Rudd and Seann William Scott are note perfect as two guys going nowhere, one happy about it, one less so. Their wards, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the awkward teen who embraces his Middle Age fantasies and Bobb'e J. Thompson as a foul-mouthed Gary Colemanesque tot with a serious boob and butt obsession are wonders. With Elizabeth Banks, who seems to be in every movie out and every preview, and Jane Lynch as the insane head of Sturdy Wings are perfect in limited roles. Lynch steals the show. Role Models is one of those movies that we are all conditioned to expect the worst from - smart-mouthed kids, nerds, man-children who need maturity, blah, blah, blah. But you'll leave smiling.

Hancock is like a trip to the bathroom that goes horribly wrong. It starts out solid but ends up all over the place. The first 45 minutes are very strong. Will Smith as a miserable superhero provides both action and humor in that Smithian way he does so well. Jason Bateman, is smart and funny as a PR consultant. Bateman has it all, cute kid and knockout wife (Charlize Theron). All is going well for the viewer until the three adults have dinner. It's a good scene. We get some background on Bateman and Smith and Theron cries. It's at this moment that it all falls apart. It's as if during the rushes some studio exec said, "Hey, there's no chemistry between Bateman and Theron. Let's get Smith and Theron connected somehow." I imagine a cigar sticking out of the corner of his mouth, but I don't think studio brass do that anymore.
Spoiler alert, although it's hard to spoil this piece of rotten fruit. Turns out Theron and Smith have spent eons together and the film goes for the next hour or so with a ridiculous plot line, hyperkinetic action, and the complete elimination of the humor that marked the first part of the movie. My wife and I kept looking at each other, stunned that things had taken such a terrible turn. In the end it was a quite awful experience and not even worth my average $1.57 per Netflix rental.

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