Monday, October 13, 2008

So! 'Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World' vs. 'The Kingdom': Which kicks more ass?

Well, there I go again. Two seemingly disparate movies: one an R-rated actioner, one a PG-13 rated comedy; must've been the drug use part. But they're similar in some respects: they're both about Americans foraying into the Muslim half of the world, both have trouble negotiating the various cultural barriers, and both kind of lose their way and don't know what to do with the material. Of course the Spike TV / Maxim / GQ - Details magazine crowd (Hey! Anybody remember Details magazine? Is it even in print anymore?) will tell you right away that, duh! It's a no-brainer, The Kingdom kicks more ass. What are you, gay? I of course, respectfully disagree, for I do not judge the kick-ass-edess of a movie based on its bullet count. Pink Cadillac is apparently a comedy, but it's sure got a lot of semi-automatic gunplay in it, but I digress. Let's take it one at a time...

Not being good enough for Mann to direct, he gets up-and-coming wunderkind Peter Berg to take over. Somehow I had a bad feeling when he was in the crucial scene at the beginning.
Like Lord of War slightly before it, does The Kingdom live up to its opening credit sequence? Here's how the star system broke down for me. As I started watching, three and a half stars. As the commercials portrayed it, could this be the Syriana of Saudi Arabia? And SPOILERS: the opening credits certainly looked like it, providing a brief history of the last 100 years or so in that country's history. Then the film proper begins. Then the questions started coming. Are they REALLY going to let FBI agents go into Saudi Arabia to investigate a bombing? Are they REALLY going to let Big Lips go over there? Is somebody REALLY going to use Saudi corruption hitting the papers as a bargaining chip to go over there a whole lot faster? The questions died off for a while. And then, the gunplay begins. Down to 3 stars. Then the WWE-style body slamming started happening. Down to 2 and a half stars. Then Bateman gets taken hostage. Two stars. I'll leave it at that.
First of all, Academy Award winner Chris Cooper is wasted in his role. But, a paycheck's a paycheck. Second, Saudi Arabia is not Iraq. Remember when Michael Moore stood in front of their embassy a little too long? Or maybe I'm just being ignorant. As for the American colony living over there in the shadow of Big Oil, I'm reminded of when Moe the bartender gives Homer a free beer and Barney says "Wow! You didn't give a free beer to those freed Iranian hostages!" to which Moe replies "Ah, they shouldn't have been over there in the first place." I didn't even see the ending. How does it end?

Well, it's been a while, but let me just say I'm a fan of Brooks' work. I'm torn between Mother and Defending Your Life in regards to which is his best work. Mother was pretty sweet, and Defending Your Life is arguably the seminal film of the new Spiritual age in film. So I know ol' Albert strives for quality work. I'll even forgive Fred Thompson being in the film. I know he tried hard here but the film kinda doesn't know where to go with the premise. His wide-eyed assistant, though. It's a breakthrough performance; maybe ... ah, forget it. She's American.
Hard to say if the film's healed the schism between our two cultures, but I must say that Albert's heading off into a dangerous direction. First he badmouths Adam Sandler. Then, there's this quote on his IMDb entry: "... We export films that are full of sleazy [penis] jokes and toilet humor - that's why we've earned the affectionate nickname of the Great Satan... " First of all, that's America's bread and butter you're talking about, my friend! In terms of countries, we're the loud frat boy party animal. The world looks to us for leadership in that domain. Guess it won't be long before Albert's whipping his wife for showing too much ankle. And if you're going to attack Adam Sandler, start with Rob Schneider, then work your way up.
By the way, John Carpenter called. He wants his font back.

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

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