Friday, September 26, 2008

Auteur Watch - Bob Shaye

Don't worry, Bob. I'll go easier on you than The Village Voice did.
Seriously, though, you'd think a bigshot like the head of New Line Cinema Robert Shaye would take a bigger directorial risk than this. It's like he's Roger Corman, but with more money. Lord of the Rings-style money. His previous directorial effort was the not-too-outstanding coming of age period piece, 1990's Book of Love. I remember the TV spot for that one, 'cuz a dude's shirt gets ripped off by his truck engine. Man, that dude was ripped! But that's how the brain works sometimes, you know. You forget all the foreign language and computer science courses you ever took in your life, but that TV trailer for Book of Love is in there forever.
But, life goes on, and it's been 17 years, and this directorial cicada is feeling the magic. If I remember correctly, this time it's a film from one of the original producers of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, so naturally... another classic, right? I want to spare you my misery. I can't let you go through with it! Turn back now! Save yourselves!

Seriously, though, I'm really the wrong person to be reviewing this movie. It's really more of a kids movie. I could waste your time going over the holes in the plot, or the routine nature of the script (at about the two thirds mark we kept telling each other, "Just go with it.") At this point in my life though, I tend to focus on the scenery and locations. Ah, Seattle. I love Seattle movies. And having lived in Seattle apartments for the last ten years or so, I look at this middle class couple in their modest Queen Anne rambler and I say to myself, Damn! Am I looking in a mirror?

Oh but there I go again. I must of really hated this movie. I didn't even mention the plot yet! Now, I'm a Democrat, but seriously, this was left-wing claptrap. No wonder we can't get a majority in the House and Senate. Where's the school bully taunting the kid at the golf course? I mean, at the REI putting range? Now, to re-establish my Democrat left-wing bonafides, I did like An Inconvenient Truth, and I'm doing my part to get the CO2 ppm back below 350, but the film is an uneasy mix of politically correct meditation and plot holes. I was reminded of the parents in Little Buddha, who also lived in Seattle, but more importantly who also didn't believe their kids were so special that they were going to convert to Buddhism... close enough. Oh yeah, and there's a Jumanji-esque sci-fi toy package (the MacGuffin) that washed up on the Whidbey Island beachfront property right next door to mine! Damn, if I only did more beachcombing. The kids were cute, but honestly, not as cute as the kids in Click. I wasn't too impressed with the acting; on the other hand, the script didn't give the kids much to work with. But by God, they read their lines as convincingly as they could, and that's the sure hand of a stalwart director at work right there, that's what that is.

I know I'm forgetting something, but let me just mention one more thing, and I better put SPOILER ALERT for all those of you who are running off to rent this right now, but have decided to stick with me nonetheless. I did love the part where the kids take a van from the secret "Seattle Research Facility" where their family is being, uh, detained? The teacher (Rainn Wilson - awright! A local boy!) awakens from a fitful sleep and tells his wife that something in his dream is telling him to go to ... the Crab Shack on Highway 20? Something like that. But he doesn't know why. Now for a jaded sophisticate like me, I'm thinking, okay. In a script as taut as this one, how's the wife going to convince her hubby that they need to drive there right now? I did get a laugh out of the teacher saying he's going back to sleep. Again, we said aloud, "Just go with it." But that's the brilliant work of Alpha script dog and one-time director in his own right, one of them fancy three-name boys, Bruce Joel Rubin. I'll bet he was trying to usurp the director throne all through principal photography, right, Shaye? Email me the story later on.

Now, let's get down to ratings. As for the old, reliable star system that everyone hates, how to rate The Last Mimzy? Surely a letter grade would be more appropriate? Seeing as how school plays an integral part in the story? Maybe, but not from me. Here's how it works: three stars is for a passable studio film like The Client or Just Cause, entertaining enough the first time, but nothing particularly remarkable to warrant a second viewing. (On the other hand... oh, Scarlett. Were you ever that young?) Anything below three stars, and you're venturing into dark territory, where you don't know if you can make it all the way through one viewing. But like a couple other critics before me, I'm gonna go with two and a half stars. You know, not sorry I watched it, and it did look pretty great in HD, but please. Highway 20? No one in Seattle knows where the f.. where that is.

As for you, Bob Shaye, you look like you're getting on in years, so let's crank out another film before the next 17 year mark, huh? Maybe 2001 Maniacs part 3! Why not direct that?

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

Good double bill with: D.A.R.Y.L.

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