I took a temporary leave of absence to get rested over the change in the new year, but I’m back, and ready to jump into this. A few mini-reviews, then on to the main ones for the week.
Leap Year – 3 stars – A paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, but a cut above the rest due to the wonderful chemistry between leads Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
Daybreakers – 3.5 stars – (Real) vampires return to form with a fun, scary flick highlighted by an always interesting Willem Dafoe. Bonus: They don’t fuckin’ glitter.
Youth In Revolt – 1.5 stars – Michael Cera does what he does (awkward), and his schtick is growing old. The supporting players keep it afloat. Barely.
The Book of Eli – 3.5 stars – Go for the post-apocalyptic action, stay for the top-notch performances from Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.
The mythos of a religion is something that fascinates me, from a pure story telling perspective, so I dug the premise of Legion. But writer/director Scott Stewart exudes a complete lack in caring for it and boils down what could have been a great metaphor for faith into a dumb action flick.
Fed up with humanity, god orders an extermination, this time no chance of redemption, just wipe the slate clean. The angel Michael (Paul Bettany) defies his orders, and descends from heaven to save the unborn baby of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a desert diner waitress. As he swoops down to save the day, the rest of the angels, having taken possession of the “weak willed” descend upon the diner to destroy the child any one protecting it, including the staff (Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Charles S. Dutton and Kate Walsh, Tyrese Gibson, Willa Holland, respectively). What ensues is a battle to survive, and redeem humanity.
Sounds cool, right? Sounds epic, right? It turns out to be exactly what you’d expect if someone took the script for Dogma and the script for Dawn of the Dead and shuffled it together like a deck of cards, and then made it not funny and infinitely less compelling, then took it way too seriously.
When reviewing a film so heavily religiously influenced, it’s tough to be secular. But my disdain for the flick doesn’t come from any particular feelings towards religion. It’s not a preachy kind of movie. It just uses the mythos as a backdrop for the story.
And I think that’s the primary problem. It’s used simply as a backdrop and a thin metaphor. But it never really fully realizes what it could have been. When I see the two angels, Michael and Gabriel (Kevin Durand), it’s not the epic battle it should have been. It’s just two dudes fighting. And it should have been bigger, and more integral to the plot.
Something as heavy and deep and personal as faith and religion, no matter how important or ridiculous one views it, should still be treated with care. And Stewart doesn’t do that. He never finds that balance. It’s basically a standard zombie flick, only the zombies are angels. I say, if you’re going throw religion into the mix, start a discussion. Don’t awkward juxtapose it into the story for the sake of doing it.
This doesn’t even touch on the predictable over acting from all involved. Even the reliable and usually much better Bettany seemed to phone this one in. Only Durand as Gabriel brought any sort of life to his character. The rest, even the ones I’m supposed to care about, I just couldn’t.
Avoid this flick like any one of the 10 plagues. Not even worth a rent.
The Tooth Fairy
All the charm in Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s cocked eyebrow and toothy (no pun intended) grin couldn’t save this film from being utter drek, though it does help, as does Stephan Merchant’s brilliant knack for comedy.
Johnson stars as Derek Thompson, an aging minor league hockey goon, who has grown disenfranchised with having dreams and goals and developed a harsher world view (harsh by PG standards). After telling his girlfriend’s 6-year-old daughter that the tooth fairy isn’t real, Thompson is sentenced to hard time as a tooth fairy by the tooth fairy Queen Lily (Julie Andrews) so he can learn the true meaning of childlike innocence. Or something like that. It’s The Rock in another kids flick, this time with fairy wings and a tutu.
Calling these kinds of films, “family films” is just insulting to families. Most kids could see through the crap, and parents won’t have much to enjoy. I couldn’t even imagine a scenario where I’d want to subject my family to see this. They had to have known going in that this was going to be a terrible movie.
It follows a near perfect trajectory to land exactly where you expect it to. Thompson messes up, gets in trouble, almost redeems himself, gets in huge trouble, then finally fully redeems himself, with plenty of cheap gags to move the plot along.
But I’ll be damned if Johnson doesn’t have such a naturally unnatural charisma. You can’t help but like him. Even in schlock like this.
But what really keeps it afloat, and like I said earlier, barely afloat, is the back and forth the charming Johnson and hilarious Merchant have. Brit audiences are more familiar with Merchant and his extensive work with Ricky Gervais. It’s good to see him start to gain some notice state-side, as he is a very funny man in his own right. It’s just too bad that it had to be in The Tooth Fairy.
If you must see it, you’ll enjoy Johnson and Merchant, but their joint efforts aren’t enough to keep this from being garbage. So again, I recommend you avoid this one.