Sunday 21 March 2010

Review: The Spy Next Door

Year: 2010
Director: Brian Levant
Screenplay: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Starring: Jackie Chan, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez

The plot Synopsis is here

If your a follower of this blog, you should know not only do I write reviews here but I also co-host a film podcast at Geek Planet Online. The show (Cinematic Dramatic) allows me to yell even more pompously and pretentiously than I do here. Due to my ranting, my Co-host Iain decided that followers of the podcast should suggest in the forums which "bad" flick I should watch this week to talk/rant about along side the main review I Love You Phillip Morris. The boards decided to inflict The Spy Next Door on me and in a bizarre turn of events; I found myself enjoying Jackie Chan's children adventure a lot more than the aforementioned ILYPM for the simple reason that it knew what it was and did what supposed to well enough.

What did it do? Well it had Jackie Chan despite being past his prime, pulling off nutty stunts. It had a cheesy script that made no sense but still had enough cheap shots to amuse a loser like myself. Expecting the film to be a life changing piece of cinema is like the kid that gets picked last at football to score the last minute cup-winning goal. But it works fine as a dumb piece of knock around fun.

Why did it work? I guess it was the physicality of it all, watching a Jackie Chan family film with stunts that are still done by the guy despite being in his mid-fifties is still ten time better than sitting down with The Pacifier or Are we there yet? Chan's grinning face and slightly less daring feats than before get us through the film. The film is sub-par but Chan's charm is still quite high with me and sometimes it's that alone that make certain scenes palatable.

The rest of the film? Pretty much tosh to be frank. There's some risible child acting, Billy Ray Cyrus shouldn't be allowed near anything to do with film and Brian Levant's direction and editing of the action seem to be trying it's hardest to ruin what ever excitement that is generated from the medium flying stunts (not really high flying as Chan is clearly not in his 20's anymore). Yet with these issues in tow the film is still just about passable. It's sweet but not too saccharine, its heart is in the right place and it does what it's supposed to; which is of course keep kids quiet for 90 minutes and hey presto it works! Of the all the naff films that come out for children these days, I'd rather sit through something like this than the next CGI filled, Pop-Culture clustered, Animal Yakking, Dreamworks nonsense. I'm sure my kids (when I get them) won't mind if I showed them this either...I think it could only be the once however.

Review: I Love you Phillip Morris

Year: 2009 (U.K release 2010)
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Screenplay: Glenn Ficarra John Requa
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

Plot synopsis is here

I was a little surprised that I Love You Phillip Morris has come out in England before the U.S. There was a strange moment of British smugness over the fact that we got a Jim Carrey movie first over the yanks. I don't know why but it felt like some sort of achievement. However I wasn't too surprised by the film itself. Despite some interesting elements, this "serious" Carrey venture is as bland as vanilla ice cream with cardboard sprinkles. Those who have their wits around them will have guessed the films ending in the first two seconds; this wouldn't be to much of a problem if the film didn't have such a meandering plot, uneven tone and in my opinion; not much laughs.

It's not so much the fault of the actors, as Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor do the best they can with the material given to them. Carrey's performance reminded me how strong his comic timing can be, while McGregor hasn't been this interesting in ages, playing up to the nativity of the character. The trouble seems to be in the films direction. The films play on standard Hollywood rom-coms is honorable but boring as we get scene after scene which do nothing to elevate the emotion we're supposed to feel about the two characters. The film isn't humorous enough to give us the connection we need and so when it suddenly flips on the audience and goes for it's serious moments, the lack the punch to make them effective.

It's a shame because co-directors (writers of Bad Santa) actually do a good job with the central romance, as the film does as much as possible to play the relationship as straight (heh) as possible. It would be be possible to re-write the film as a heterosexual rom-com with little or no issue at all and does well to say that gay people are just as nuts as straight people. Brokeback Mountain this is not, what we have are normal people in a supposedly extraordinary situation. Unfortunately it's way too ordinary to elicit any more than a passing interest.

The film appears to be in a constant struggle with itself, undecided if it wants to be a board comedy, a more subtle affair or something dramatic, annoyingly there are scenes that seem to suggest that this could have been a character study of sorts, but these virtually ignored from the start. The struggle leaves us with a stalemate, a Jekyll and Hyde of a tale with isolated moments of entertainment that are almost lost in the mediocrity that surrounds them

Looking at the IMDB I happen to be in the minority and that's fine, I can deal with that, it's happened before and as always I'm happy that others found something in a film that I didn't. However, I do find it quite surprising that so much got so much out of such a schizophrenic movie that tries far too hard to be loved by everyone but will not win over any Carrey haters let alone those with a casual interest to film. I have to say however the films view on homosexuals will no doubt infuriate some of the more insane followers of the bible belt...once again the smugness rises.