âMadagascar 3: Europeâs Most Wanted 3Dâ (PG) ***
It suddenly occurred to me why I was enjoying this film more than âhumanâ movies with a similar amount of special effects crammed into them. Unrestrained by the demands of minimal reality, the filmmakers can just have fun with the technology: The 3-D effects can tumble over each other; vast distances can be covered by the most elemental means; crashes can be immediately recovered from; and nobody wonders about the toll on the human body or how anyone could be expected to survive the mayhem.
You can even have a romance between a sea lion and a delectable bear named Sonya. Not only is the concept odd, but the fact that much of their love affair is conducted at a mad pace with one or both on a bicycle or motorcycle makes it even richer. Or the romance between a sultry leopard (Gia — Jessica Chastain) and a lion (Alex — Ben Stiller) in the middle of developing a trapeze act? You donât need to worry about the illogic of it. Just sit back and enjoy the rapid-fire dialogue, gags — both verbal and visual — and recognize the fact that, animated feature or not, this film was produced by top talents operating at a top professional level.
The cast of voicers includes, besides the ones mentioned, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Martin Short and Cedric the Entertainer. Special mention has to go to Frances McDormand who works with the most outrageous character of them all, Monocan Chief of Animal Control Chantel Dubois. While her animated character is hysterically funny, her vocal gymnastics provide the grace notes to a classic portrayal.
Did I mention there were lots of gags in this movie? Too many to keep track of, but a few favorites: The core of animals, escapees from the Central Park Zoo, want to go home, to âTimes Square with its corporate lack of character.â They leave Africa and are rescued by a âstinky, poopy circusâ that becomes their lives. They fall in love — âwhat really matters is what we smell like togetherâ — and eventually get home on their own terms. Dubois gets deported back to France, and on the ship carrying her are boxes of âFreedom Friesâ going back to France.
Most of the jokes are quick, subtly inserted and as a result very funny without stopping the rioting story line. They are also a reason adults will enjoy taking the kids to this one.
âPrometheusâ (R) **
In todayâs film world, I find the wise, active viewer has to finally ask one vital question and have an answer for it: Is the story worth all the special effects? In a day when it is rare to go to a theater and be able to hear the soundtrack of your movie because of the screeching, booming, howling, crunching score from two theaters down, this becomes more and more important.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the special effects and visual splendors of this film. Perhaps because of that, the question looms large early on in the two-hour running time.
There are clues of trouble ahead: âHow do you know?â âI donât. Thatâs why I choose to believe.â Facile and reasonable on the surface, but this from the one character who is supposed to a person of faith who quests, through science for answers to the riddles evolution and Creation. She yearns, finally, not to go back to Earth, but to wherever the creatures are who created the nightmare world she just visited. A land of creatures who invade her womb, kill her boyfriend, wipe out other crew members and eventually try to eliminate anything that looks earthly, including the unfortunate David (Michael Fassbender), who spends about half the movie being less than himself. One of the nasty Creators destroys everything but his head, which conveniently fits into a cloth bag.
There are strange scenes in the film such as the one in which two doofus engineers, off on their own (sign of their doofiness) start to get cuddly and cute with snakes. They get their just desserts (or more accurately, the snakes do) or the pilot, who, after being propositioned by a horny commander (Charlize Theron), asks if she is a robot.
Noomi Rapace, who stunned American audiences with her great performances as Lisbeth Salander in the Stig Larsen Trilogy, is excellent here, though her litheness post-robotic abortion that delivers an alien with even more gore than Sigourney Weaver did in âAlien,â strains not only credibility but believability.
Most of all, however, it comes down to film values. Is it fair to ask of a multi-million dollar production that it have some sort of plot integrity and that it does not insult the audience, even the adult audience for which it is not intended, with insipid dialogue, strained effects and abuse of rational human thought? I donât think so. Thatâs why I left the theater marveling at what a huge superstructure stood shakily on such an infirm foundation.
âSnow White and the Huntsmanâ (R) **
Seldom have I seen a film that so clearly wanted to be carried on its settings rather than its story. Perhaps because itâs a fairy tale (told with more wit and charm earlier this season with Julia Roberts in âMirror, Mirrorâ), the producers thought nobody would really pay attention to the story, which everybody knows, of course. Also, the producers chose to go as dark with the original Grimm material as they could, and Snow White is a dark story.
Whatever, they quickly allowed the scenery to dominate, from a brilliant opening scene in the snow, where drops of blood fall, to a lovely summer meadow and similar spectacular settings throughout the movie. Alas, the settings cannot remove the one outstanding weakness of this film: Kristen Stewart remains an actress who cannot act, who has no emotional range that is not easily replicated by a first-year drama student, and whose face registers emotions as glibly as does Mount Rushmore.
Contrast that with Charlize Theron (again), who overacts so shamelessly that one feels she might be trying to energize Stewart, and a phone-it-in action job by Australian Chris Hemsworth as the Hunstman and interesting (and controversial) performances by such great actors as Ian McShane as one of the seven dwarfs and Bob Hoskins as another dwarf are wasted. The performances have become controversial because they are computer alterations of full-sized actors rather than casting little people in the roles.
There is another controversial special effect featured in the film, controversial because it is over-used. It is, for lack of a more specific term, the âshatter effectâ in fight scenes in which enemies are struck with any object and immediately shatter into what appears to be shiny charcoal bits. There soon should be a name for it since it is so frequently seen in action films these days. I suppose itâs better than the gore of former battle scenes, but itâs so obviously an effect that it marks the film as unreal from the start and seems a waste of computer space.
But this film dies at the dirty-nailed fingers of a plain, far from âFairest of them Allâ Kristen Stewart who shows no wit, charm, sophistication or any other requisite of a princess whatsoever. She was cast for her celebrity, not her skills, and itâs a waste of really great scenery.
âRock of Agesâ (PG-13) **
Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx) is now officially âdoughy.â He looks ripped until you look beyond the tattoos and see the fact that heâs not Matthew McConaughey — not by a long shot. As a result, with his shirt off for most of the film, he alternates between repulsive and self-parodying. The same cannot be said for Catherine Zeta-Jones, who tears the place up in a rollicking version of âHit Me With Your Best Shotâ in which she is magnetic on screen and flashes some pretty great legs for her age. Sorry, but unlike Cruise, her legs are good for any age. His body is not.
Jaxx is a rock legend, the lead singer in a band called âArsenalâ but he keeps threatening to go solo. Maybe then he could keep his shirt on. Into the midst of his angst and his monkey-business comes the innocent Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) from Oklahoma (maybe thatâs why she wears boots in every scene — as a reminder?) and her new boyfriend, city boy Drew Boley (Diego Boneta). They are destined to hook up personally and musically by the rules of this genre and they follow the rules.
Alec Baldwin (Dennis Dupree) as the predictably down-on-his luck owner of the Bourbon Club, mortgage pending, follows the rules until love conquers him and he partners with Russell Brand (Lonny). No spoiler alert here. This relationship is telegraphed from the start, as is everything else in this formula movie, including Jaxxâs hooking up with Rolling Stone reporter Constance Stack (Malin Ackerman).
That may be what makes this film so uneven in pace — the musical numbers race along but the dialogue, being predictable anyway, moves like a clam at low tide. For fans of â80s rock who like their rock movies weird and poorly paced, this may be your cup of tea.
âThatâs My Boyâ (R) *
This movie reminded me of a pornographic version of âScrabble:â the entire cast has a board full of the âF-word,â and their only requirement is to use them all up by the end. Mission accomplished in a true piece of trash movie that further degrades the Sandler franchise.
This is supposed to be a comedy, but it is angry from start to finish. Even the priest, embarrassedly played by James Caan, is filthy and angry, as is the sweet grandmother, a Chinese couple, the bride and groom and the parents.
The premise is made maximum-smutty from the first reel: Sandler fathered a child with a teacher when he was 13 and has been celebrated for it and nothing else ever since. The son, named Han Solo Burger, wisely changes his name and has a fairly normal life. Engaged to Leighton Meester, another plastic Hollywood goddess-in-waiting, Han is appalled to see Donny Burger come back to mess up the wedding while trying to avoid jail.
Using a combination of accents, none of which have any comic effect, Sandler mauls his character for all the beer and uselessly filthy dialogue he can get. The profanity is so relentless that it loses all effect except to irritate impatient members of the audience.
There is only one joke that approaches humor. Castigated for giving Han a snake, only to see it die after eight days âafter eating all your Quaaludes,â Donny replies: âThatâs the first time anybody saw a king cobra smile.â Thatâs as clean and as funny as it gets, folks.
You would be doing Sandler a favor if you rejected this movie. Nothing else but a few bombs from pulling this kind of trash on audiences will teach him to stop it — if he can be stopped.
Enjoy more of Mikeâs movie reviews at www.towncourier.com.