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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shrek the Third — Movie Review

How I’ve managed to watch all three Shrek movies is beyond me, but I can blame most of it on being an uncle of young kids. Heading out to Shrek the Third on its opening weekend had a lot more to do with keeping two little ones busy than anything else. That said, the movie still managed to disappoint.

Shrek and Fiona are knee-deep in marriage these days, with Shrek filling his ailing father-in-law’s ceremonial duties as king of Far, Far Away land. When his heinous croaks (hey, he’s a frog, I get one bad pun), Shrek, Donkey, and crew, head off to find the only heir that gets Shrek out of becoming king. Meanwhile, the evil Prince Charming is rounding up all of the characters doomed to be the bad guys of fairy tales to rebel.

If this seems a bit complicated for the apparent intended audience of the big green guy, I think so too. Worse, the humor almost always relies on pun and inuendo way over the heads of any one under 10 or 11, and wasn’t all that funny the third time around for the rest of us.

I’ll admit fairy tales weren’t a huge part of my life as the youngest of four boys, but they just had to reach too far for new jokes. Sleeping Beauty, Goldy Locks, and a transvestite-looking chick that I still don’t get were part of Fiona’s buds that end up having to fight off Charming, and the predictability runs rampant. Donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy, had a somewhat reduced role, which wasn’t helping things, either.

A strange side note for me was how much Charming and the King’s long lost relative looked alike. It was so obvious I thought for sure something would come of it, but it was never even mentioned. I guess coming up with what would have been only the third or fourth original looking character was too much to ask.

Sadly, the best part was the postscript to the story in which Fiona has given birth to several little Shreks. A few classic dad-taking-care-of-baby jokes were the best laughs of the night. I only say “sadly” because Shrek 4 seemed to be guaranteed in those final minutes.

The original Shrek was solid, but that was all I ever needed to see. Talk of an ongoing franchise should frieghten movie goers and young parents alike. Shrek the Third just wasn’t that good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bobby — DVD Review

Ten minutes into Bobby, the main thought I had was to wonder whether or not we really needed another period piece about the ‘60s. By the end of the film there was very little doubt that the answer to that question was a resounding no, at least not this one.

Bobby follows several individuals at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel on the night Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed while in the midst of his presidential campaign. From campaign workers having their first acid trip to hotel employees dealing with the racial tension of the day, the film gradually pulls together these disjointed stories intertwined forever by the tragic moment that many feel changed the course of our country’s history forever.

This film tries to do too much, and never allows the viewer too latch on to any of it. The closest thing to a story line that I cared about was the racially charged conversations and disputes among the kitchen staff working under a bigoted boss (Christian Slater) who won't give his employees time off to go vote. Another decent aspect was the young girl (Lindsay Lohan) who was marrying a guy she didn't love just to help him (Elijah Wood) avoid the draft and Vietnam War.

Emilio Estevez, the film’s creator who played a small part as the husband of an alcoholic lounge singer played by Demi Moore in a subplot that lost my interest early on, seemed to rely on nostalgia and star power to drive the film. William H. Macy plays a hotel manager cheating on his wife (Sharon Stone), a hotel beautician. Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte play a couple old pals who just play chess and offer wise observations.

Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen, and Ashton Kutcher, were involved in a few of the side stories that just never went anywhere for me. I kept wondering why Hunt gets matched up with co-stars that at least seem a lot older than she is and how Kutcher ended up in a serious period piece. His role as a hippie getting the scrub election workers high seemed like a weak attempt at humor, though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be.

I’ll admit this film quickly lost my strictest attention early on, and might take a slightly older viewer to appreciate. That said, Bobby just wasn’t that good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness — DVD Review

I looked forward to seeing The Pursuit of Happyness for quite a while, having been denied the chance to see it in theaters due to a sellout one night and being a fan of Will Smith. Unfortunately, while it was a decent story, I was fairly disappointed considering the hype the film received.

Smith played Chris Gardner, a down on his luck salesman fighting to keep his family afloat and together while seeking the American dream. His wife finally leaves him, but he insists that his son stay with him. Gardner takes a competitive internship at Dean Witter despite the offer of no pay, and on many nights literally scrounges to find a place for him and his son to sleep, while continuing to sell an alternative to X-ray machines he invested in.

My suspicion is that the disclaimer that comes on most films depicting true stories (as this one does) that some events were dramatized was more necessary than usual for this film. Every piece of bad luck that could befall a person nailed this guy right between the eyes. I’m not suggesting people don’t go through the things Gardner went through, but there was just so much “bad luck” packed into this film it became draining just to watch.

I also didn’t find Gardner to be an overly sympathetic character. It was admirable that he pursued his dream and that he wanted to be a real father to his son, but it just seemed like he chose the hardest route possible. For example, I wondered why he didn’t eat the loss on the bone density machines and take some sort of night job for steady cash.

I always find it hard to judge actors playing real people. They’re limited to what they can (or even should) do. Smith certainly never stepped out of character, and he was at least a guy you rooted for. Smith’s real-life son (Jaden) also played his son in the movie, Christopher, and was fine, but I don’t quite get what all the fuss was about over his performance.

The restraint Gardner showed in the face of some prejudice from his boss for the internship was interesting. I could see some wanting it to be explored more, but too much more may have distracted from the intended picture of this man’s determination. In fact, his restraint appeared based in that determination not to be deterred from his goal.

The Pursuit of Happyness gets a touch long, but won’t make you regret not doing something else with the two-and-a-half hours. That said, it’s just entertaining.