12.15.2006

Walter Chaw Cutting Down Holiday Movies

I mentioned recently that there was a dearth of quality films to see this holiday season. My favorite critic Walter Chaw has started validating this claim in his own manner: by writing hilariously scathing reviews.

With apologies to Beth and Tony, who actually 'liked' the film, here's an excerpt from the review for Holiday:
    See, high-maintenance Barbie bitch Amanda meets her match in a man who seems a lothario but, wait for it, is in fact a loving family man with a pair of doe-eyed moppets Meyers uses in exactly the same way she does a little dog. (The real magic of Diaz's performance is that if you close your eyes, you can distinguish her from neither the whining of the dog nor the keening of the toddlers.) Seeking escape in the aftermath of a break-up with her good-for-nothing boy-chick (Edward Burns, of course), she heads to Google™ on her VAIO™ laptop and, like all retarded people do in retarded movies like this, proceeds to recite aloud everything she does and everything she reads. Meanwhile, her counterpart across the pond, Iris (Winslet), fed up with pining for her evil boss (Rufus Sewell--reaching his nadir at last as the British Edward Burns), agrees to exchange domiciles on the principle that exhausted, derivative crap such as The Holiday will appear less so with an infantile high concept. Jack Black (50% eyebrows, 50% gut) makes for the worst kind of love interest in that he's both physically unattractive and obnoxious, even turned down to a low simmer as he is here. That said, a scene in Blockbuster™ where he does his Tenacious D™ shtick to movie themes is, by that time, no more upsetting than a dinner party of the damned that accidentally recalls the card game from Sunset Blvd., an entire subplot that has dinosaur-Jew Tuesdays with Morrie pathos scrawled all over it, and a two-second cameo by the once-promising Jena Malone as some girl her Cold Mountain co-star Jude Law is about to screw.
Sounds delish! But what about that inspiring Will Smith vehicle The Pursuit of Happyness? Not much better, I'm afraid:
    If we're honest, the only reason Chris isn't a villain is that we know the outcome. His wife is angry because her husband appears unwilling to get a job that actually pays a salary so she can stop working double-shifts at an industrial laundry, pay the rent and utilities, and keep their child in daycare--what a bitch! The Pursuit of Happyness is great for the minute or two it talks about how hard it sometimes is to come up with the pennies for a hot meal for your family in a single-income household--the rest of it's just such glad-handing garbage. The trailer-friendly tableau of father and son (real-life Smith-spawn Jaden), sleeping in subway can with Smith squeezing out the Denzel Washington-in-Glory Teardrop of Oscar Gold is the perfect counterpoint to its parade of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles anthems and is, again, so affected as to be a single-panel political cartoon. The final equation of The Pursuit of Happyness is that happiness is a job that can support your family, no matter what indignity one suffers in its pursuit and execution--a message that should bring tears to the eyes of The Man everywhere. What I left with is this idea that the three men positioned as Chris' superiors (after Chris goes through his unpaid internship as a boiler-room cold-caller) are each, in turn, shown to be officious, condescending, and racist, leading one to justifiably wonder whether the real message of the film isn't that smart, hard-working minorities should shut up and be grateful for whatever scraps the gentry deigns to toss out. Way to get your mind right, Will.
Well, perhaps I can take refuge in that fantasy vehicle Eragon. I mean, John Malkovich is in it, so it can't be a waste? Can it? Alas, poor Yorick...
    Fears that veteran F/X man Stefen Fangmeier's directorial debut Eragon, a feature-length adaptation of a fifteen-year-old trying on Anne McCaffrey's jodhpurs, would be the sequel to Dragonheart nobody wanted prove unwarranted, as Eragon is actually the sequel to BloodRayne that nobody wanted. It's ugly as sin, with the much-vaunted dragon at its centre (voiced by Rachel Weisz), designed by skilled craftspeople from both Peter Jackson's WETA workshop and Industrial Light and Magic, looking fatally inorganic to its environment. Not helping matters, the titular rider (Edward Speleers) resembles a younger, equally rubbery David Lee Roth and sports the acting chops of the same. Eragon is the towheaded farmboy who heeds a call to glory to save Sienna Guillory's beautiful Princess Arya ("Help me Eragon, you're my only hope") while gaining a mysterious old hermit mentor (Jeremy Irons--the poor sod should've learned his lesson with Dungeons & Dragons) who dies during a daring raid on the Death Star--er, on the castle keep of Darth Vader, er, King Galbatorix (John Malkovich). Alas, this Luke Skywalker also has an Uncle Owen (Uncle Garrow (Alun Armstrong)), and his Darth Vader has a henchman (Robert Carlyle) who at one point kills an underling general and declares the second-in-command "promoted." Eragon is a rip-off and a bad one, a carbon copy made on one of those old mimeograph machines: washed out, juvenile (even weighed against the not-exactly-mature example of Star Wars), and nigh unbearable for anyone so much as cursorily familiar with genre fare.
It's looking more like another showing of Casino Royale.

2 comments:

linguo said...

By the way, Daniel Craig = modern Steve Mcqueen? Methinks yes.

Evienne said...

Did I see Holiday?? I don't remember this..