Wednesday, February 08, 2006

One really wonderful film and one really bad one are featured in this week's DVD column.

Generally, many filmmakers know how to make romances. They know how to make comedies. They know how to make road movies. They know how to craft dramas.

Fables, though, are touchier propositions. With a fable, a writer is given a little leeway in the realism department in order to fulfill the point of the fable, which is to present a broad life lesson.

Successful fable moves include Frank Capra's it's a Wonderful Life and Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan.

Elizabethtown is not a good fable film and it fails as a romance, drama, comedy and road picture as well, although writer and director Cameron Crowe crams elements of those genres into the 123-minute running time.

Crowe's problem is that his script has so many self-consciously precious moments of cuteness or wisdom that the story and the characters never ring true. They remain caricatures from beginning to end.

Orlando Bloom is Drew Baylor, a shoe designer, whose new sneaker becomes a $1 billion disaster. He's fired and made to take the blame by his boss (who okayed the project) and is about to commit suicide when he learns his father has died unexpectedly of a heart attack. His wacky mom (Susan Sarandon) and sister (Judy Geer) ask him to go to the small Kentucky town (his dad's hometown) where he was visiting to escort the body back to Oregon.

On the flight to Kentucky he meets a beautiful, nosy flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst) who is not cute enough to overcome a torrent of bad dialogue that is supposed to paint her character as wise beyond her years.

We know that she and Drew are destined to be together and we quickly learn that every Drew meets is going to help him realize something significant about his life.

The film's two conclusions - yes, this thing could have ended earlier than it did - are among the most embarrassing things I've seen from a major talented filmmaker.

If I didn't have diabetes already, I would have developed it by the flood of sugar syrup this film represents.

If you must learn more about this movie, log onto www.paramount.cpm/homeentertainment.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Now here is a great movie that will entertain kids and adults alike. If you're a fan of the great series of short films starring Wallace, the absent-minded British inventor, and Gromit, his loyal dog, then you need to see this feature-length movie.

British animator Nick Park and his staff scored a hit with Chicken Run a few years back and now they are two for two. Their success comes from being able to build a successful feature-length narrative around characters that had previous only been seen in 30-minute presentations.

This is more difficult than it looks and film history is chock full of comedians in the 1920s ands '30s who could not make the transition from a two-reeler to a feature.

The feature follows the tried and true formula of our heroes coming up with an innovative invention that has won them acclaim. In this case, they operate an alarm service to prevent wildlife from eating the prize vegetables the town folks are growing for an annual contest.

While the team can handle the usual rabbits and squirrels, there is a bigger foe afoot and he or it is a....were-rabbit!
As a horror film fan, I loved the fact that this is a clear and affectionate send-up of the British-made Hammer horror films that starred actors such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. While there is a horror theme to the film, this should not be a deterrent to people sharing the movie with their younger children.

Funny, fast moving and clever, this film is a joy from start to finish.

1 comment:

SRBissette said...

One of the pleasures of the new WALLACE & GROMIT is how it works completely on all levels -- anyone missing the in-jokes (the overt CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF elements, right to the concluding climb of the monster on the tower; Gromit shaking his head at the radio playing Art Garfunkel singing "Bright Eyes" -- from the movie WATERSHIP DOWN -- while he waits in the parked car; etc.) isn't missing anything essential to enjoying the movie AS A MOVIE -- it's fun stem-to-stern, and if you're old/attentive/anal enough to catch these asides, it's all the richer, but missing them in no way diminishes the whole or its parts. Truly, one of the year's best films, and among the most fun!