Monday, August 06, 2007

The "Jackass" of romantic comedies?

Now, I can't take credit for that analogy, but I mention it as a defense of film critics, who are certainly a dying breed. Without it, I never would have given any time to "Hot Rod," and my weekend would have been all the worse for it.

The weekend box office, of course, was all about "Bourne," and why not? Greengrass' movie is a visceral experience and moviemaking much smarter than we usually get when the temperature hits 100 degrees (as it will today here in Macon.) I especially enjoyed the first big set piece in which he meets with the reporter played by Paddy Considine, but I have to confess, as it went on, I grew tired of Greengrass' constant need to shake the camera to boost his action sequences, simply leaving me with a headache.

But I'm not here to talk about Jason Bourne, who, with his record-setting $70 million opening certainly doesn't need my help. Instead, I'd like to do my small part to pitch Andy Samberg's thoroughly goofy "Hot Rod," which barely managed to beat out those "Bratz" to finish at ninth. As silly as this flick is, it certainly deserves better than this.

Now, I'm not saying this is a great movie. However, when we went to see it at 10:15 Sunday morning and ended up being the only two people there, we were able to laugh as loud as we wanted to, and often did.

I'm not sure because I can't find it now, but I think the critic who nailed the "Jackass" analogy was Colin Covert of McClatchy Newspapers. If so, he was dead right, and the movie never strives to be any more than that.

And, since apparently nobody saw this last weekend, I guess a bit of plot would be helpful. Samberg plays our hero, Rod Kimble, a goofball who just wants to be a stuntman, and his many disastrous attempts to become one give the movie most of its visual gags (even if, unlike the "Jackass" guys, he didn't do his own stunts.) In a plot twist that can kindly be called contrived, Rod's stepfather, played by the always-welcome Ian McShane, needs a heart transplant to stay alive, so Rod sets out to jump 15 buses and raise the $50,000 needed. Like I said, this movie had better be funny, because the premise is just about as dumb as it gets.

And how can I sell you on the funny? Well, most of the music is by Trevor Rabin, who with no apparent irony delivers the most gloriously bad Euro-metal you've heard in many years. Ian McShane, quickly becoming one of my favorite actors as I make my way through the first season of "Deadwood," is a bundle of beadied-eyed intensity as the stepfather who constantly batters our hero, to prove his love of course. And that scene in the commercial where the simply adorable Isla Fisher appears to eat Samberg's face also turns out to be as funny as it is sweet.

It's certainly uneven in stretches, but smartly keeping to 90 minutes, it manages to accomplish something few "Saturday Night Live" movies since the first "Wayne's World" have: It sustains its gag throughout the movie, and doesn't wear out its welcome. Samberg and his buds are more than a little geeky, and Akiva Shaffer directs the movie with little to no style at all. That's not a criticism, really. It gives the flick a deceptively raw appeal, pretty much the antithesis of Greengrass' flash.

In short, though this movie doesn't deserve much more than a rental, I'm hoping against hope for a week-two rebound. After all, it's got to be better than Ratboy's "Rush Hour 3" or, God forbid, "Daddy Day Camp" (which, by the way, was somehow directed by Fred Savage ... sheesh!)

A long-overdue tribute to Siskel

I wouldn't use the word hate, because that would imply I've actually thought about it enough to feel that strongly, but I just can't stand that dingbat Roeper (his first name escapes me at the moment) who has tried with no success to fill the big shoes of Gene Siskel. And now Ebert has finally offered proof of that to all who may have forgotten just how great his late partner in film criticism really was.

By visiting this site, you can find a video archive of Siskel and Ebert's best TV reviews, including "Hoop Dreams" and "Pulp Fiction," and if you really want to, watch some Ebert and Roeper too. This is a great tribute to one of my favorite critics, so please take some time out of your Monday to waste some time with this. Peace out.


Splotchy said...

The dingbat's name is Richard. Richard Roeper.

I remember when I was working a crappy job in a picture frame store, where in the morning I'd have the radio tuned into some marginally-interesting program on a local Chicago station (I think it was WLS?).

If I wasn't paying attention, before I knew it I would be sliding into a Richard Roeper talk-radio program, where, from what I could gather of what little I heard, basically consisted of him whining about doing a talk-radio program.

Truly awful.

His ongoing column for the Chicago Sun-Times is similarly crappy.

While no one would confuse me with a huge fan of Gene Siskel, you might find it nice to know that a few years ago, the Art Institute of Chicago named their new, wonderful movie theater in downtown Chicago the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Reel Fanatic said...

That is indeed good to know, Splotchy ... I think my fondness for Gene Siskel comes from he and Roger being on TV every Saturday morning when I was in high school ... I don't think I missed many of their shows at all

Mercurie said...

I think what made Gene Siskel so good as a critic (and the same is true of Roger Ebert as well) is that it was clear he loved movies. This is not blatantly obvious with a lot of critics, whose reason for choosing their vocation remains a bit of mystery (if you don't like ANY movie you see, why become a film critic?). I rather suspect that is why so many people still miss him.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're definitely onto something there, Mercurie, about both Gene Siskel and film critics in general ... It's an awfully fine balance to strike between liking too many movies and hating too many, and too many critics just fail to find it

Divinity said...

Good to know that Hot Rod isn't as bad as it had the potential to be. I think I'll hold out and wait since I know that between Judd Apatow's two summer offerings, HR couldn't possibly stand up to the comp. Maybe on DVD.
Bourne was fun but I got a little motion-sick. Matt Damon, on The Daily Show quote a review where the main critique was something along the lines of,"Someone get this man a f**king SteadyCam!"

Reel Fanatic said...

He certainly could use one .. I know it's part of Greengrass' signature, and it didn't bother me nearly as much with "Bloody Sunday" or even "United 93," but here it was more than a bit much to me

Annie in Austin said...

Thanks for the link to the archive site, Keith. Back when Siskel butted heads with Ebert the combination of their personalities resulted in a show we tried not to miss.

Now, I seldom remember that it exists.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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