8/26/2007

Thoughts on Three Recent Movies

Posted in Reviews at 2:13 pm by Stephen

I’ve been watching a lot of movies this summer, but I haven’t quite had a chance to comment on all of them. Below the jump are my jumbled thoughts on three recent flicks I’ve seen: Superbad, The Simpsons Movie, and Lucky You.

Superbad

The summer’s funniest movie. I remember first seeing the theatrical trailer earlier this year and thinking, huh, that almost looks funny. Then I saw the R-rated trailer (the so-called “red band” trailer) online and realized this was one I was going to have to see. Incredibly crude, ridiculously funny, and surprisingly true in a lot of important ways, this is just about the perfect teen sex comedy. There are some of you for whom the phrase “teen sex comedy” is kryptonite, and I can understand that, but if you don’t mind a good raunchfest then this is for you.

What’s surprising about the film is how much it rejects a lot of the current comedy trends. The humor is almost entirely verbal, with only one or two gross-out moments. It gets a lot of laughs from teenage awkwardness and the film’s young actors deliver long bits of dialogue with pitch-perfect timing. It reminds me a lot of Clerks, though younger and with less mannered dialogue.

The Simpsons Movie

I’ve been a fan of The Simpsons since its first season, 18 years ago. I’m 25, which means I’ve basically grown up watching the show. It’s amazing, then, how well the movie works. Most big-screen adaptations of TV shows are either revampings of old favorites that satirize the original (e.g. The Brady Bunch movies), or get bogged down trying to cover old ground for those who are not fans of the shows (e.g. The X-Files movie).

The Simpsons Movie is in a weird place — the characters are as universally known as those from old favorites, but the show is still running. It helps that the writers play fast and loose with continuity, but it’s nice that we don’t have to waste any time meeting the characters, etc. We get an upgrade in animation and a more epic story than would likely be featured in a single episode of the show, but there’s really nothing about the film that screams “this is a feature film!” which may not be a bad thing. It’s a testament to the quality of the better episodes of the show that I felt like I got my $10 worth watching what is essentially a slightly-prettier and longer version of what, as Homer points out, I can get for free every week.

On the other hand, you could watch any three episodes from season four and probably laugh twice as hard as you would during the movie. I’m not saying this to put the flick down — seasons three through five represent some of the best comedy of my generation — but it is kind of a bummer that the movie isn’t able to entirely recapture the best moments of the series.

Lucky You

Curtis Hanson, what happened? The guy who wrote and directed L.A. Confidential (and directed other strong movies like Wonder Boys) brought us one of the worst gambling movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a terrible mishmash of tone and style, containing at least three movies: a light romantic comedy with Eric Bana romancing Drew Barrymore in the wacky world of Las Vegas; a dark character study a la The Hustler about Eric Bana’s destructive, compulsive gambling; a story about a son (Eric Bana) coming to terms with his estranged father (Robert Duvall), even as the son attempts to live in his father’s shadow.

Any of these three movies might have been good. Instead we sort of cycle through them, and when one intersects with the other it’s trouble. In one scene, Bana seduces Barrymore and steals all of her money, which he promptly loses at the card table. That’s pretty dark. But then 20 minutes later they’re enjoying a wacky date as he attempts to win a bet that he can’t run five miles and play 18 holes of golf in less than three hours.

Oh yeah, and the last quarter of the movie is one long poker match. Because nothing is more cinematic than dudes playing cards (and I say this as somebody who loves poker). This isn’t the epic showdown from The Hustler, nor even the kind of goofy heads-up match from Rounders. No, this is incomprehensible and boring. Considering the pedigree of this flick, I’m so disappointed. There is enough material here for an interesting movie, but what we get is ultimately quite drab.

3 Comments »

  1. siochembio (82) said,

    August 26, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    re: Lucky You, one of my biggest pet peeves in cinema is movies that have identity crises. For example, that chef movie with Catherine Zeta Jones had three different ad campaigns for the type of movie it was (zany romantic comedy, serious romantic drama, coming-of-age feel-good film), which was a huge warning sign to me.

    I haven’t seen “Lucky You,” but it didn’t look all that great, which is too bad because I really like Eric Bana and I think he’s loaded with potential.

  2. Rifty (64) said,

    September 1, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Out of curiosity, do you have a date planned for the release of the “Look back over the summer” episode you mentioned back in Episode 31? I’ve been looking forward to that one all summer.

    -Rifty

  3. Sam (405) said,

    September 1, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Rifty: Did we say we were going to do that? Oops. Sorry about that. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen at all, now. Thing is, I haven’t seen many of this summer’s movies yet, and most of what Stephen has to say about what he’s seen has already been said in his reviews here on the site. So you’re probably not missing much anyway.

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