Movie Review: The Change-Up

God help us, we’re all the way down to the ‘switched bodies’ plot getting a raunchy makeover, as if anyone asked for that. To be fair, “The Change-Up” had the potential to be much better than it is, but the filmmakers clearly mistook raunchiness for a complete lack of restraint. Fools. The best raunch-coms are the ones that know those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) have been friends since childhood, which might explain why there’s still a connection, if a bit tenuous, as they reach their late 30s. Dave is a successful lawyer with lovely wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) and three kids, while foul-mouthed Mitch gets baked all day and auditions for roles in bad movies. Dave envies Mitch’s freedom, while Mitch wants Dave’s success. After a night a booze-fueled fun, the two relieve themselves in a fountain, each wishing to be the other. The next morning, they get their wish, and quickly realize just how difficult each other’s life is. The more difficult aspect of the switcheroo, though, is finding out how their loved ones truly feel about them, not to mention how each honestly feels about the other.

This whole raunch-com thing has been fun, hasn’t it? The problem is that six years into the movement (we’re counting 2005’s “Wedding Crashers” as the one that started this), it’s all been done, and now everyone’s stooping to embarrassing lows to come up with something that no one else has done yet, without considering whether or not it’s a good idea. Like, say, having a baby shit directly into someone’s mouth….in the opening scene. The other problem with the humor is that it just doesn’t make sense. At one point, Mitch and Dave try to convince a skeptical Jamie of the switch, so Dave (as Mitch) tells a story that only he would know, only he chooses a story so embarrassing to Jamie that she slaps Mitch (as Dave) for betraying her trust. (Any husband will tell you that this would never happen.) Also, don’t you think it would occur to Mitch to tell Dave that the girl coming to screw his brains out is ten months pregnant? And is any grown-up so dense that they’d put infants on a kitchen counter next to the knife block? Lazy, lazy, lazy.

And that’s a pity, because the two leads are having a field day with the material. Jason Bateman, the hardest working straight man in show business, lets it all hang out here, and while Reynolds sells the Mitch character much better, it’s fun to see Bateman step outside of his comfort zone and act like, well, a douche. Reynolds, however, has the better role, because he gets the quick laughs up front as himbo Mitch and then inherits the far better character arc as trapped Dave. Leslie Mann plays the shrill harpy far too often for someone with her comedic abilities, and while Jamie spends most of the movie veering between ill-tempered and heartbroken, she gets a couple of chances to show her stuff (and breasts, which was surprising). Olivia Wilde arguably has the most fun, though, getting to play both business professional and bad girl while being herself the entire time.

David Fincher’s “Se7en” is one of the most disturbing thrillers of all time, and the main reason for that is because of what it doesn’t show; the movie knows that the audience will come up with something far worse than anything they could put on screen. “The Change-Up” would have greatly benefited from that mindset. Instead of showing everything, how about teasing the audience a little? To paraphrase Patton Oswalt, the majority of the present-day raunch-coms all about coulda, not shoulda (again, see: baby shitting in someone’s mouth). “The Change-Up” could have used a whole lot more shoulda.

(2.5 / 5)
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Movie Review: The Cave

It’s easy to tell when a second unit director or director of photography is making his directorial debut – Bruce Hunt, DP on the “Matrix” movies, please step forward – because everything looks fantastic, but it doesn’t mean anything. “The Cave” is such a movie. It was clearly a costly shoot, with a majority of the action taking place underwater, and James Cameron will tell you all about shooting underwater. To its credit, the underwater shots look nice. In fact, they’re stunning. But thanks to a script that looks like no human hands touched it at any point, those elegant diving shots are wasted. Thrillers aren’t terribly thrilling when you’re actually rooting for the monsters to knock the humans off.

The setup: a group of the prettiest divers you’ll ever meet are commissioned to explore a cave in the mountains of Romania that sits beneath the ruins of a church. It’s a deep drop, combined with a long tunnel, and no one is expecting to hear from them for twelve days. The divers are simply trying to graph the tunnels for research purposes, but soon discover that they have company in the form of a nasty bat/Alien hybrid. Their leader, Jack (Cole Hauser), survives an attack from one of the creatures, but the parasites in its blood stream infect Jack, giving him the acute sense of hearing the creatures have. The group is unsure whether they can trust him, and a group that was already having trouble standing up to these baddies now has to face off against each other as well.

None of this, of course, will matter to you, because it clearly didn’t matter to the filmmakers to create any characters worth giving a damn about. The character development, as it were, is laughable; the actors did not need to ask themselves what their character’s motives were, because it went no deeper than, “I’m a scientist,” “I’m arrogant,” or “I’m still trying to earn my brother’s respect, even if he’s turning into an Alien bat.” There are also a series of blind drops into rapids and ice caves (the hills of Romania, it appears, are both boiling hot and ice cold) that should have turned the group into bags of bones. Remarkably, few sustain lingering injuries.

It’s maddening to think that movies like this continue to get made these days. How does this get past the pitch phase, especially when there is not a single original idea in the premise? This has all been done before, and better, in “Alien,” “Predator,” “Pitch Black,” and even “Anaconda.” If Hollywood is truly eager to find out why they’re suffering such a horrible slump, this would be a good place to start.

(1 / 5)
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Quick Take: Catfish

It’s shocking that this movie didn’t find a larger audience, given that it’s the “Facebook movie” that its users can best relate to. A New York photographer begins to receive correspondence from a young girl in Michigan, and soon is in tight with her family on Facebook. It is here that he meets the girl’s older sister, and…well, we really can’t say anything more than that, but let’s just say that roughly two dozen “Wow” moments follow. Unfortunately, in this post-“I’m Still Here” world, the nagging question of whether the movie’s events are real lingers over everything that happens after the 25-minute mark. (The filmmakers and its star admit that it looks a little too perfect, but insist that they simply got lucky and the story is 100% true.) This does not distract from what is a truly fascinating story, even if it does play its hand a bit too early (again, at the 25-minute mark). We’d say more, but really, this is one you just have to experience for yourself.

(3.5 / 5)
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Movie Review: Casanova

This was an interesting one to re-read 12 years after I wrote it. I was embracing the whole ‘writing for a men’s site’ thing (Bullz-Eye), and the ending is the sort of thing I would never write today. I still stand by the sentiment, though.

“Casanova” is absolutely better than I expected. It’s funny, clever, charming, sweet, and just screwball enough to be plausibly zany without being ridiculous. Well, okay, until the third act, where it just goes batshit crazy, but up to that point, the movie is everything that well done romantic comedies should be, and then some. Comparisons to “Shakespeare in Love” are inevitable, and while it isn’t better than that, it’s not exactly trying to be, regardless of the myriad of similar themes.

Heath Ledger plays the title character, the infamous libertine who bedded more damsels than both Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons at a time when the Inquisition ruled Europe (the action takes place in Italy), and Casanova’s crimes were punishable by death. After a narrow escape from the Inquisition, Casanova is advised to put on a front that he has reformed, and seeks out Victoria (Natalie Dormer), the renowned virgin of Venice, as his pretend fiancé to be. This greatly offends Giovanni Bruni (Charlie Cox), Victoria’s neighbor and secret admirer, and Giovanni challenges Casanova to a duel. This is where things get tricky.

Casanova assumes an alias in his encounter with Giovanni, and after the duel reaches its conclusion, Casanova meets Giovanni’s sister Francesca (Sienna Miller), who’s betrothed to marry Paprizzio (Oliver Platt), a wealthy lard magnate from Genoa. Francesca is uncommonly smart (she pulls a stunt earlier in the movie that is considered an act of witchcraft), and is impervious to Casanova’s charms, which of course makes her all the more desirable to him. Her mother, Andrea (Lena Olin), however, will not allow her to back out of her arranged marriage – they’re broke, and Paprizzio is loaded – so Casanova, with the help of his servant Lupo (Omid Djalili), pulls a scheme to hide Paprizzio away in his apartment, under the guise that Casanova is Paprizzio. Hilarity ensues, along with a fair share of chaos.

The best example that you will ever find of just how Puritanical we are as a society is the fact that this movie carries an R rating. There is no foul language, and there is no nudity. There is, however, an abundance of adult situations, as they used to call them in the old HBO days. Okay, there’s one brief, non-nude sex scene and an implied blowjob scene, but so what? “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” had a blowjob scene more overt than the one in this movie. Jeez Louise. Let’s not get hysterical here, people.

Ledger’s job here is actually quite simple; he just has to flash that devilish grin. Miller’s job is simple, too; she just has to read her lines in such a way that she comes off as inquisitive and intriguing, but not arrogant. She doesn’t even need to be the most attractive love interest (that job is Dormer’s), so talk about coasting on personality. The supporting characters are the money roles here, where Djalili makes a star turn as Casanova’s servant, and the luscious Dormer is a pitch-perfect blend of virtuosity and billy goat horniness. Jeremy Irons has a little fun as the Grand Pooh Bah inquisitor Pucci, but plays the buffoon before too long. And God love Oliver Platt, whose Paprizzio would normally be a villain, but wisely is spun into something far better than you would expect.

So yeah, that third act: it’s just nutty. How nutty, I unfortunately can’t say without revealing too much, but the whole thing smacks of a rewrite. The jokes are a little easier (read: dumber), and the situations are downright cartoonish. It doesn’t sink the movie the way, say, “War of the Worlds” fell on its sword in its third act, but for a movie that was delivering big time goods, its ending was less than stellar.

Your girlfriend/wife/mistress is going to beg you to go see “Casanova.” And you’ll be really, really glad you went along. Sure, the ending of the movie isn’t “The Usual Suspects,” but the ending of your evening will likely be something out of “Debbie Does Dallas.” Any questions?

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Movie Review: Cars 2

“Cars 2” is more entertaining than the 2006 original, but it damn well better be. “Cars” is the weakest movie in Pixar history, and this movie, when compared to the rest of Pixar’s titles, still ranks no higher than the second-weakest or third-weakest movie in Pixar history. It looks fantastic, and contains some nifty action sequences, but the story, quite frankly, is beneath them.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is looking forward to taking some time away from the racing circuit to hang out with his friends in Radiator Springs, but he is goaded into joining a three-stage, bi-continental race by energy magnate Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) and hotshot Formula One driver Francesco Bernoulli (a very funny John Turturro). Lightning decides to take his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) with him, and during the Tokyo stage, Mater embarrasses Lightning in front of his more refined racer friends, while being mistaken for an undercover American spy by British secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine). Soon Mater is off assisting Finn and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) on a secret mission, and before long they discover that their mission involves McQueen and the other drivers in the World Grand Prix, and a plot to destroy them.

Here is the most important thing you need to know about this movie: Larry the Cable Guy has top billing. Larry actually turned in a nice performance as a supporting character in the original, but making him top banana…oh, how do we put this delicately…it makes for a dumber movie. They can put all of the spy gadgets and gearhead talk – and they supply plenty of both – as they want, but in the end, this is a slightly smarter version of one of Larry the Cable Guy’s live action movies, which is to say, still not terribly smart. The kids will love it. Grown-ups’ results will definitely vary.

Caine and Mortimer do a good job keeping the spy element interesting (even if the mystery itself would make Scooby Doo blush), and the Toyko sequence contains some great bits, especially the Japanese game show clip. That story, though, is death. Between the boatloads of exposition and the entire spy plot hanging on the four words Mater doesn’t say (you know what they are), there are few of Pixar’s trademark story elements in play. If anything, it’s a lot like “Megamind” or DreamWorks’ other non-“Kung Fu Panda” movies – it’s noisier than it is fun. And if you must see this film, for God’s sake do not under any circumstances see it in 3D. There is hardly anything 3D about it.

You can’t help but feel sorry for John Lasseter and the Pixar crew. They surely know that “Cars” is their worst movie, but from a merchandising standpoint, it’s just under “Toy Story” on the cash cow scale. They had to make a second “Cars” movie, and it must have killed them to know that they could never inject “Cars 2” with the emotional depth of “Up” or “WALL·E” or the smarts of “The Incredibles.” Transforming it from a road movie to a spy movie was a good idea, though. Making Mater the star, however, was not.

(3 / 5)
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Movie Review: Cars

For the first time in their history, Pixar blinked. “Cars,” the last movie in the original distribution deal between Disney and Pixar and the first to be directed by John Lasseter since 1999’s “Toy Story 2,” certainly looks like a Pixar movie, but it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like one of Pixar’s less imaginative rivals trying to make a Pixar movie, but falling into the tired trappings that Pixar, up to this point, has deftly avoided. It is also two hours long, which is about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be.

The movie begins with the souped up Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a fan favorite on the racing circuit, blowing a lead in his latest race because he refused, once again, to listen to his pit crew chief. The race ends in a three-way tie between Lightning, the obnoxious Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) and racing legend “The King” (real life racing legend Richard Petty), and they must all travel to California for a tiebreaker. Lightning insists that his carrier, a semi truck named Mack (John Ratzenberger, of course), drive straight through to California, which results in Mack falling asleep at the wheel, and Lightning sliding out of the back of the truck, finding himself in run-down Radiator Springs. After a mishap wrecks the town’s main road, the local judge Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) orders Lightning to repave the road. While performing his community service, he befriends tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and falls for the local attorney and motel operator Sally (Bonnie Hunt).

There’s a sweet story in here, one that teaches children the importance of being a good person over being a famous or important one, and reminds them to take in the surroundings rather than spending your life racing from point A to point B. The execution of it, however, is deliberate and tedious. In fact, nearly every Pixar taboo is violated here, from the marketing of the voice talent – something Brad Bird, director of “The Incredibles,” denounced in an interview with “Entertainment Weekly” – to the use of a pop soundtrack instead of a score (no one, repeat, no one asked for Rascal Flatts to cover “Life Is a Highway”). Lastly, there’s the casting of the voice talent, which brings new meaning to the terms ‘old school’ and ‘stereotypical.’ George Carlin is a hippie VW van who sells organic fuel. Cheech Marin’s Ramone runs a detail shop and has a new paint job in every scene. I’m sure these characters were created as amusement for the grownups as they take their tykes to see the movie, but it feels lazy this time, like they didn’t really put much thought into, well, anything. Not only is it overlong, but “Cars” is sorely missing the comedic punch and energy that makes Pixar movies hold up to repeat viewings. And I won’t even discuss the ending, where the movie becomes surprisingly self-referential and takes some painfully easy jokes.

The one thing they did get right, though, is the voice direction. The performances from the leads are all great, with even Larry the Cable Guy showing some dramatic chops. Paul Newman, however, sounds less like himself and more like Lawrence Tierney (a.k.a. Joe, the guy who assigned the names in “Reservoir Dogs”). The movie looks fantastic, too, with a couple stunning shots during Sally and Lightning’s trip into the countryside. But Pixar has always been a story-first studio; it is expected of them that things will look great. Where they excel is how their movies make you feel, and this one didn’t make me feel much of anything.

It is an interesting turn of events that “Cars,” with its top-heavy voice talent, pop soundtrack, and half-hearted in-jokes, plays out more like a DreamWorks Animation movie, while “Over the Hedge,” the most recent (and far superior) movie released by DreamWorks, has the spirit and energy of a Pixar movie. Looks like your secret’s out, Pixar. Now quit fretting about it and start making good movies again. –

(2.5 / 5)
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Movie Review: Caddyshack

There are a million reasons to like “Caddyshack.” It’s pound for pound the most quotable movie of all time, and it features a scene-stealing performance from Rodney Dangerfield, not to mention the perfect breasts of Cindy Morgan. But here’s the catch: as funny as it is, “Caddyshack” is not a great movie. The story is seriously lacking in focus, plot devices appear and disappear without a word, and many of the supporting characters simply can’t act. (Ahem, Spalding) This is why the movie was so poorly received by critics upon its release in 1980, and they were not wrong. Missing the point, perhaps, but not wrong.

Set at the stuffy Bushwood Country Club, young caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) needs to make some money, or he’s doomed to a life at the lumberyard. When he discovers that the annual caddy scholarship is up for grabs, Danny reluctantly subjects himself to its benefactor, the boorish Judge Smalls (Ted Knight), even though he’d rather spend time with the younger and mysteriously rich Zen golfer Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Smalls, meanwhile, is annoyed by the presence of garish real estate magnate Al Czervik (Dangerfield), and ultimately a class war erupts at the club, with Danny torn on which side to choose.

The above paragraph describes next to nothing about the movie itself, but that goes back to the earlier comment about the story. Most of the characters interact around the other characters, but rarely with them. Heck, Danny’s girlfriend Maggie (Sarah Holcomb) might be a figment of Danny’s imagination for all we know, since she doesn’t interact with anyone else in the movie. The story also dangles preppy slut Lacey Underall (Morgan) for roughly an hour, at which point she vanishes without helping advance a single story line. Likewise, there is one scene between Chase and Bill Murray’s spacey greens keeper Carl, and its sole purpose is to get the two in the same room together. Granted, the scene is funny, as is Chase’s scene with Morgan, but both are superfluous. Most of the movie is superfluous, if we’re being honest.

But man, is there some comic gold in those pointless scenes. Chase does here what he’s always done best, which is playing straight man to the insanity around him, though his blindfolded putting sound will live on golf courses forever. Dangerfield is, well, Dangerfield, and that’s just what the part needs. O’Keefe is very likable as Danny, but ultimately the movie belongs to the late, great Ted Knight. His portrayal of Smalls is the textbook definition of pomposity, making him the perfect foil for everyone else in the movie. Murray’s Carl comes a close second for laughs, though one wonders how much better his role would have been if he spent more time interacting with human actors rather than the animatronic gopher. Everyone remembers the lines from his speech about golfing with the Dali Lama, but does anyone remember that he’s carelessly holding a pitchfork to a caddy’s neck the entire time?

So yes, “Caddyshack” is a far from perfect movie, but it works, and as a bonus, the movie’s contributed more quality quotes per minute to the pop culture lexicon than any other movie. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.

(4 / 5)
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Movie Review: Burn After Reading

One gets the sense that Joel and Ethan Coen tried as hard as they could to steer clear of writing or adapting anything that had the faintest whiff of “Fargo” to it, and that’s understandable. After all, we are a here-today-gone-yesterday society when it comes to entertainment, and despite the Coens’ near-immaculate track record before the breakout success of “Fargo,” had they done another similarly-themed project shortly afterward, they would risk getting moved to the One Trick Pony column. Again, the facts clearly state that they are anything but a one-trick pony, but ask any agent and they’ll tell you: facts have nothing on perception.

Thank goodness, then, that the statute of limitations on re-entering “Fargo” appears to have expired, because no one does bumbling criminals better than the Coens. (See this year’s “Married Life” for an example of how not to do bumbling criminals. Or better yet, don’t see it.) “Burn After Reading” takes the hare-brained scheming of Jerry Lundegaard and adds one dose of government conspiracy and a whole lot of infidelity to the mix. It’s equally ridiculous and real, funny and sad.

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst whose drinking leads to a humiliating demotion, and Ozzie quits rather than accept the new position. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with paranoid Treasury employee Harry (George Clooney), and plans to divorce Ozzie. Harry is married too, though he’s reluctant to lower the boom on his unsuspecting wife. Katie’s divorce attorney suggests that she plunge into Ozzie’s financial records, so Katie burns a bunch of financial data from Ozzie’s computer onto a CD, along with the notes for the tell-all memoir he plans to write. The CD is later found in the locker room of a nearby gym, where employees Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDormand) hatch the brilliant plan to return the CD in hopes of a reward. The reward accidentally turns into a blackmail scheme, and Ozzie is having none of it. In order to raise the stakes, Chad and Linda contact the Russian embassy, to see if they would pay for the data on the CD, unaware that they have gone from engaging in blackmail to committing treason.

First off, Carter Burwell gets huge props for his fantastic score. The Coens went minimalist on “No Country for Old Men” – the score didn’t kick in until the credits – but Burwell’s work here is relentless and deathly serious, something worthy of “In the Line of Fire.” Its genius is in the paradox; as we match Linda, Chad, Ozzie and Harry make one stupid decision after another, the music ramps up the tension as if the fate of the Western world hangs in the balance. Very clever.

Malkovich has the money part here. His Ozzie can barely finish a sentence without throwing at least one ‘fuck’ in it, and his exchanges with the dim-witted Pitt (whose word of choice is ‘shit’) are priceless. McDormand’s Linda is a strange little bird; her life is full of bad decisions because she’s too busy talking to allow anyone else to knock some sense into her. In the hands of a lesser actress, she would be insufferable, but McDormand makes her more difficult and sad than obnoxious. Pitt is a little too good at playing dumb, but while we’re talking about typecasting, Tilda Swinton plays the stone-cold bitch like no other. She is pitch-perfect for the role of Katie, and in fact might be too good at it. By the time the movie ends, one wonders what Ozzie and Harry ever saw in her in the first place.

Much like “No Country,” the ending of “Burn After Reading” is a tad off. You get the sense that the Coens actually had the characters spinning even more wildly out of control, but instead brought in J.K. Simmons’ CIA character (Simmons makes everything better) to tie everything together with a neat little bow. Still, this is one of those movies where the journey is far more important than the destination, and “Burn After Reading” is one loopy journey.

(4 / 5)
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Movie Review: Bull Durham

It takes a special kind of baseball fan to write about the minor leagues. In “Bull Durham,” Writer/director Ron Shelton, who spent five years in the Baltimore Orioles farm system, has put together the snappiest, funniest, and most poignant love letter to baseball ever written, though its ultimate moral deals with matters of the heart.

Based in the Carolina leagues, veteran catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is signed by the Durham Bulls to act as mentor for pitching prospect Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), who has “a million dollar arm and a five cent head.” Crash has his work cut out for him. Nuke is a flamethrower, but has almost no accuracy (one box score shows 18 strikeouts and 18 walks). Outside a bar, Crash dares Nuke to hit him in the chest with a pitch. Nuke shatters a window ten feet away.

To make matters worse, Nuke has a new girlfriend, Durham Bulls groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). Annie picks one player per year to be her boy toy, with the hopes of making them better players and more well rounded individuals. (She reads Walt Whitman to Nuke while he’s tied to her bed. A flustered Nuke asks, “Hey, are we gonna fuck or what?”) This bothers Crash for two reasons. He thinks she’s distracting Nuke, but more importantly Crash knows that he is a much better match for Annie than Nuke is. Let the games begin.

The Bulls actually start winning games, but that is barely a plot point, which goes to show how different Bull Durham is from other baseball movies. Its characters play baseball, it takes place around baseball, but in the end the movie is about self-respect and following your heart. Surrounding that moral are invaluable tips about fighting (never lead with your pitching hand), shaking off your catcher (he’ll tell the batter what you’re about to throw), and what those meetings on the pitcher’s mound are really about (wedding gift ideas). Costner has never been better, and Sarandon was the pitch perfect choice for the well read-yet-naïve Annie. “Bull Durham” is for people who love baseball, but it’s mainly for people who love love.

(5 / 5)
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Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm

It’s said that there are things in life that are so beautiful that men would go to war for them. “The Brothers Grimm,” on the other hand, is so bad that it will start riots. Indeed, three of the fellow viewers at the screening I attended were actually angry when they left, frustrated beyond belief that someone as talented as Terry Gilliam could make something so spectacularly awful. “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” were bad too, but there was no chance that they would be anything but bad. Anytime Terry Gilliam is behind the camera, however, there’s the chance you might see something magical. Which makes it all the more frustrating when a Gilliam makes a movie that turns out to be complete and utter dogshit.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger star as Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, two brothers in French occupied Germany who make a living battling ghosts and demons, which is easier than it sounds, since the ghosts and demons are just elaborate parlor tricks staged by the brothers and a couple of henchmen. (Jacob himself was swindled as a child by someone who sold him magic beans that would allegedly cure his ailing sister, who of course died. The seed, as they say, was planted.) The French ruler knows about them, and rather than merely put them to death, he decides to torture them a little bit first. He has heard rumblings about a village bordering a forest that truly appears to be enchanted, and young girls from the village are disappearing. The brothers Grimm are sent there to “solve” their problem, which the ruler expects will end with them getting burned alive by the townsfolk.

Will thinks that the woods are just the work of someone who’s performing an even more elaborate ruse than the ones that he and Jacob perform. But Jacob knows better; he notices that the trees are indeed moving, and he’s read all the fairy tales that Will dismisses, and recognizes a similarity to a story about a queen (Monica Belluci) who loved to gaze upon her reflection. They enlist the reluctant help of a tracker named Angelika (Lena Headey) to get them out of the woods alive.

It’s difficult to tell where to begin with what is wrong with this movie. It doesn’t seem to have any idea what it wants to be. Is it a comedic thriller? Is it a thrilling comedy? Actually, it’s neither, since the comedic bits aren’t funny and the movie is entirely thrill-free. Ledger didn’t even bother to switch his accent from Australian to English. Ehren Kruger’s script is insufferable, leaving nothing whatsoever to the imagination. Take the scene where Angelika stands face to face with the big bad wolf that prowls the forest (the same wolf that, yes, snagged Greta, sister of Hans, and a girl in a red hood). It’s clear she notices something in the wolf’s eyes, as they show her staring deeply into them while the wolf’s eyes seem to glow at the sight of Angelika. But they decide to go one step further; after the wolf runs away, Angelika says, “His eyes,” just in case anyone may have missed the sledgehammer subtlety of the moment.

And then, they make her say it again. “His eyes.”

Are, you, kidding me? Was there anyone who needed her to say it a first time, never mind a second time? It’s clear that the filmmakers had no idea how the movie was going to turn out, and therefore covered all bases to make sure it wasn’t too obtuse. In other words, they knew they were making a turkey.

The love triangle between the brothers and Angelika is woefully mishandled. Her feelings for them are so unclear, she winds up looking like she’s trying to bed both of them. Kruger wrote the script for “The Skeleton Key” as well, which is a beacon of timing and subtlety compared to this. He’s not the best screenwriter in the world, but he’s absolutely better than this, which suggests that someone else tried to punch the script up after Kruger was involved with the production, but left his name on it. Poor bastard.

Harvey Weinstein is almost as well known for the movies he doesn’t release as he is for the movies he does release; the vaults at Miramax/Dimension allegedly hold hundreds and hundreds of movies that will never see the light of day. I’m not sure if releasing “The Brothers Grimm,” after missing multiple deadlines, was one of Weinstein’s last missives or the act of the new regime, but they would have been wise to shelve this one for all eternity.

(0.5 / 5)
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