Scream 4

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Scream 4

This review is going to piss some of you off.  It should be stated up front that I am a fan of the Scream franchise.  I love its blend of meta-fiction and real scares, its formula-bending obedience to and rejection of horror movie clichés.  I love that these movies have an increasingly Ourobouros-like tendency toward self-awareness while never abandoning an actual narrative.  I love that the women characters are actually strong people, unlike the objectified faux-strong gals in the Joss Whedon adventures.  Halloween scared the crap out of me because it was just a guy who went nuts and started killing people.  All the folks who have donned the Ghostface mask for the Scream adventures have been real — and smart — people who went bonkers.  Yikes!

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Easy A

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Easy A

Emma Stone finally gets the lead in a movie, as she has clearly deserved since she appeared in Superbad. Lucky her, this movie is a tremendous vehicle for her. How can one teen girl be so impossibly cool, sexy, erudite, and funny? Any child of the on-screen union of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson would be — and thus any “she’s too prodigal” complaint goes right out the window.

The premise is simple — a sweet but invisible girl gets caught up in society’s terrible Puritanical double standard about women and sex when she lies about having had sex, and soon her life and reputation is in tatters. The very folks who pressured her to be cool and Do It now vilify her (and/or try and engage her services) for doing so.

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The Invention of Lying

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Ricky Gervais was himself reason enough to see the Invention of Lying, but I was also interested by the premise.  Without having given it much thought before entering the theatre, while watching, I was perpetually reminded of the fruitful nature of what seems so simple: In a world where no one is capable of uttering anything that isn’t true, one man (co-writer/co-director/star Gervais) suddenly develops the capacity to lie.  Mayhem ensues, right?  The preview implies that he rushes out to take advantage of everyone else, which wouldn’t actually be funny enough to sustain a movie.  Gervais is not that kind of guy.  He writes screenplays for movies — but in a world without untruth, there is no fiction, no fables, no tall tales, no myths, no icons, no legends.

Not one of us (eg lie-enabled) could be brought up in a universe of pure truths without sustaining some serious psychological damage.  The undistilled credulity of his fellow man is too much to take.  Not only can no one utter an untruth, it seems that they are also incapable of keeping their thoughts to themselves.  It’s a carnival of blunt remorselessness — why be remorseful, it is just the truth?   If someone finds you repellant they will go ahead and volunteer that information and you know it is the truth. What must self-esteem be like as a person in that world?  Anyone who finds you stupid or ugly or threatening or intimidating will tell you so.  It’s all so simplistic and straightforward — no one need delve below the surface of a person since no one can prevaricate or self-aggrandize or even have an unspoken agenda.  His new power, discovered by accident at a happily fortuitous moment, is mighty indeed.  Perhaps he took his ultimate plan a step too far by the end, but imagine the impossible position he finds himself in.

The pre-lie part of the movie at first seems to go on for too long — we know what’s coming, and are greedily awaiting the plundering of these innocently rude and heartless, non-introspective people.  Really, they are like three year olds — what they see is what exists and they believe everything you tell them and blurt out things not realizing the consequences.  However, it’s very important to establish how profound this truth-telling is and establish Gervais’ innate altruism before he’s tempted by the knowledge of truth and untruth.

From here, the movie becomes dizzyingly hilarious, mixed with genuine sympathy, while an amusing and subversive element grows slowly, beginning as fascinating and then stumbling into inevitability.  Where there can be only truth is also a basic assumption of best intentions — Gervais has a lovely scene with his mother that sets the ball rolling — but in this superficial universe, where the words are so often painful but endured, you tend to protect yourself by choosing to only hear what you want to hear.  This matters.  Oh just for the ability just to hold one’s tongue!  These people are toddler-like also in that they are barely able to lead their own lives once their responsibility is taken away from them by Gervais’ web of storytelling.  Their implicit reliance on the infallibility of everyone is crippling. [Message!]  Invention ends up being very sweet, very funny, and definitely winking about what is required in order to live in a world such as that to which we are accustomed.   I’ll let you discover this particular conundrum for yourself.  This movie is definitely not Ghost Town — it’s philosophically titillating.

The entire cast from top to bottom is stuffed with great comic actors and comedians — but it is not a wacky woo hoo zany fest.  The comic performer’s sense of timing and absurdity, no matter how large or small the part, is vital.  Gervais’ particular popular acerbic persona is restrained, but still retains that wonderful sense of impatient impotence — he’s lovable and treads that fine line to keep himself sympathetic even when he may be bending our moral code somewhat.  The Invention of Lying is very enjoyable, do go see it.  Discuss it with friends of different backgrounds than yourself for a fun evening.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 10/2/09
Time in minutes 100
Director Ricky Gervais / Matthew Robinson
Studio  Warner Brothers

In The Loop

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Ah, politics.  On the world stage, all the players seem larger than life, and we kind of hope that they live up to that.  Their decisions, whether you agree with them or not, have such import, we need them to have come as a result of either careful deliberation or at the very least, strong emotional convictions.  In The Loop is a delicious, quick-witted but gently paced comedy about two countries who get entangled together in a sticky situation because of what amounts to a slip of the tongue that snowballs into a sort of cliff dive of the tongue.

I found it difficult to parse out the ranks among the various government wags, but a British Minister (the perfect Tom Hollander) says on camera that war, in general, is unforeseeable.  The resulting internal poopstorm leads to meetings with Americans, which leads to misunderstandings, yelling, back deals, reinforcement, and farcical clusterfraks.  Look, if you can’t take my cleaned up language here, you won’t make it through the movie; no one can cuss out someone like the Scottish.  The plot evolves like a crazy keeping up with the Joneses, only the Jones are wearing the Emperor’s new clothes.  No one wants to be left out or left behind, but business has to continue as usual, and freedom and spin and wagging and so forth.  It’s very funny, but god help you if you can’t enjoy a profane Scottish tonguelashing.

The low-key giggles and dry throwaway wit belie the manic one-up-manship and saber-rattling.  War may be hell, but at least you know who’s on whose side.  These world stage actors are just people after all, feeding their allies information to get information, bluffing and leaking and trying not to get fired.  Security is tight yet humanity-permeable, and there’s so much dick-swinging it’s like a Maypole of machismo.  The CYA dance is funnier at a distance; imagining this might go on for real somewhere is quite sobering.  Not long ago, we Americans had a leader who (even his fans would agree) was less than precise in his speeches — I confess this movie gains a lot of funny for American audiences when the joke isn’t on us.

Director Armando Iannucci has a lot of great British television under his belt, as do his screenwriters.  This may explain the kind of weird pacing — it’s subdued and a little slow, like the British Office, but it also feels like it isn’t sure how to stretch out into 106 minutes.  Keep your ears on though — the speech outstrips the scene tempos handily.  Hollander is small and nervous and clearly in over his head as a Minister.  His — boss? — Peter Capaldi (as Malcolm) is excessively hilarious.  The whole cast is great, Anna Chlumsky (yes, My Girl!), Steve Coogan, Chris Addison, Mimi Kennedy — they are all racing to the finish line that none of them can see, and work as a tight ensemble.  It’s funny, reward the studios for a political comedy without any politics.

MPAA Rating  Not rated but seriously, R for language
Release date 7/24/09
Time in minutes  106
Director  Armando Iannucci
Studio BBC Films/IFC Films

Alien Trespass

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Billed as a real film from 1957 (with excellent lobby cards and generally good print advertising), one that was lost to studio politics and the vagaries of time, Alien Trespass is a love letter to the ’50’s sci-fi films of yesteryear. They even go so far as to justify their recognizable lead actor as M. Eric McCormack, grandfather of (and dead ringer to) Eric McCormack. The tone, style, design, script, sets and props, acting style, and some of the lighting is dead on. The accidental triumph of homage is also that most or all of the comedy is unintentional, or at least accidental. We laugh at the skewering-through-mimicry of a character archetype, or the poor science knowledge of that generation’s moviemakers, or the reactions to the alien castaway; the humor is “oh yeah those movies really did that,” and not so much “what a great satire/spoof.” Unlike other movies lampooning a whole film style (Young Frankenstein being a timeless example), Alien Trespass is relying on our recognition and acknowledgement of their mastery of the style to win our hearts. This does not carry a 90-minute feature.

Many sci-fi/horror movies of the McCarthy era were thinly veiled allegories of the fears of the enormous white Boomer families of the time, from Communism to the Bomb, with xenophobia and nervousness of technology thrown in. Alien Trespass forgets to imbue the movie with that layer (Showtime’s musical Reefer Madness is a good counter-example) and so we’re left with a perfectly accurate reproduction of a mediocre old movie that we might only see on MST3K. Sure, we have a smart gal who’s held back by cultural expectations find her inner woman. Granted, we get to enjoy all the best elements of the original The Day The Earth Stood Still and It Came From Outer Space and This Island Earth in one slow paced film, in Color! They do it all – teensy “outdoor” sets on cramped soundstages, projecting backgrounds while in vehicles, shooting heavily filtered day for night, you name it.

However, it’s not really clear why this movie was necessary – it does not reinvent the 50’s movie so much as do a highly faithful cover version of it (Gus Van Sandt’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho is a similar pointless academic exercise.). Fido took the genre and dropped in a zombie apocalypse and social commentary. Reefer Madness mocked the overblown marijuana panic and dropped in a raunchy musical. Alien Trespass made another one just like the rest, complete with wonderful newsreels explaining its disappearance from the cinema firmament. It’s so painfully earnest, so faithful, and reproduces the flavor so well, it ends up being less fun than its aged low-tech counterparts. The remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, while not fabulous by any means, tried to tell the story from a modern perspective and jazz it up with awesome, state-of-the-art effects (proving that that alone does not justify a movie either). Alien Trespass, with its brilliant posters and deadpan duplication, desn’t even give us the vicarious pleasure of “back when they just put a little person in a papier mache suit” appreciation. As always, story is all. Everything here has literally been done before, purposefully of course, but it gave us no hook to hang the hat of the recreation on. I was disappointed. If you’re into design work though, definitely make the effort to see it.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/2/09
Time in minutes 90
Director R. W. Goodwin
Studio Roadside Attractions

What Just Happened?

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Hollywood loves making movies about Hollywood. To be fair, this business we call show is packed to the rafters with drama, sex, absurdity, double dealing, divas, and sordid glamour — who wouldn’t be tempted? Often as not, the movie is either too inside to be comprehended by the audience at large (Burn, Hollywood, Burn) or too broad and false to be enjoyable (Get Shorty). Like aspiring starlets, some (The Player, The TV Set) make it. Some (What Just Happened?) do not.

Robert DeNiro plays a Big Hollywood Producer ™ (while producing this film!) who has a typical? Atypical? Certainly stressful week, bookended by the tedious drudgery of being featured in a Vanity Fair photo shoot of Hollywood’s most powerful. He’s juggling a film in post-production called Fiercely, angling for a new unshootable script written by Stanley Tucci, and trying to get a new Bruce Willis film off the ground, all while reeling from the surprise suicide of a colleague and dealing with his two post-divorce families. He is pulled in all directions and ends up going in none. The apparent result is a disaster, I think. This movie has no sense of beginning or end or arc, with a small exception I will note later. A film has not been this aptly titled since Paycheck.

Our leading man is a shark, but he’s perpetually capitulating power to the stronger forces in his life, like his cold, sharp boss Catherine Keener or his most recent ex-wife, Robin Wright Penn. He juggles industry divas like Fiercely’s director (Michael Wincott, a high note in this otherwise flat film) and SuperStar™ Bruce Willis (humorously self-parodic) and agents like the chronically weird John Turturro. He can’t seem to deal with anyone on a truly human level, and we can’t connect to him. It’s hard to empathize with a super rich man whose high stakes are both superficial (audience response to a movie) or inappropriate (after 2 post-divorce years, still proprietary of Wright Penn).

DeNiro plays the energy of this character well, the lying and twisted sincerity, but the story lacks a connection for us with the characters, the comedy, or the drama. It’s a pretty decent snapshot of a day in this absurd, unreal life and job, but it’s remoteness and aimlessness makes it difficult to engage with. A standoff over a beard and the squabbles over a film’s ending sequence provide the only throughline of story to link together this mish mosh of events too abstract to appreciate.

Shot in a super-artsy way, with pleasurable and pointless footage of the freeways and hallways DeNiro haunts, What Just Happened? looks like an art film trying to bag on Big Hollywood — except it has nearly all pretty big stars in it (I neglected to mention Sean Penn, Kristen Stewart, and the Cannes Film Festival).

Directed by Barry Levinson, whose career has no doubt slalomed as much as the week he depicts here, the film succeeds in giving us plebes a peek at what the Hollywood Elite suffer to entertain us, but it does nothing to atone for the results (I’m looking at you, Made of Honor!). Use your best discretion.

MPAA Rating R -language,violent images, sexual content, drug material.

Release date 11/13/08

Time in minutes 104

Director Barry Levinson

Studio Magnolia Pictures

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Hamlet 2

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After Romeo + Juliet (not the Zeffirelli, the DiCaprio one), it seemed as though tough urban moroseness would be a sly way to reinvent the Bard’s classics, or at least not the musical way. I sincerely did not want to see this one, because, I mean, come on, Ethan Hawke? I do believe the real Hamlet would behave much as Hawke does in his private life (minus Uma) – hang out at Lovejoy’s with punk front-men and write superficially deep novels. To his credit, Hawke is the youngest Hamlet on film and therefore (on paper) the most age appropriate to take on the vaunted role of angry youth. But, I mean, come on, Ethan Hawke?

The language is the same, though clearly in its 112 minute brevity has cut some stuff. “Alas poor Yorick” and gravedigger fans, go rent Branagh’s 1996 version (the one with Robin Williams). I have to give this interpretation some credit – I better understood all the relationships and internal goings-on than in any other viewing, filmic or stage (sorry, M.D.). I’ve never been a huge fan of this play, but at least this time I could really follow it. And not a Branagh in sight! The Americans handled the tongue twisting poetry with aplomb, and, in the best cases, made it sound natural. Hold on to your Guatemalan Angst Caps, kids – Bill Murray is a brilliant Polonius. Did I see that coming? Heavens no. He managed to give Ophelia’s dad a while new twist, and I totally got it.

The film is plagued by overly natural camera work – actors blocking each other, etc., and some genuinely kick ass locations. It’s not so sly and artsy as Romeo + Juliet, but it somehow works better with a literal sword fight at the end. Oh, did I give anything away? Liev Schreiber as Laertes gave the role something I’d never noticed before: presence. However, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are truly dead. Steve Zahn is hysterically out of place as Rosie and Guidie is Uma Thurman’s heroin-chic brother. Sigh. Imagine Wayne Wayne Wayne, Jr. from Happy, Texas as he quoth: “He does confess he feels himself distracted/But from what cause he will by no means speak.” (It certainly is handy having the screenplay lying around the house.)

So, you’re asking, how did they do the play within the play, The Mouse-trap? This was very funny, worth seeing on its own – perhaps if the whole movie had been made like this, it would have been more mind-blowing. A small, accidental “quote” of the Sixth Sense pervades Hawke’s Hamlet – everything emotionally significant (I presume specifically for Hamlet but it didn’t seem to really be all that precise) is red. Considering the rest of the movie is a chilly Coltrane blue/black, it’s got to be on purpose.

When doing a classic, one must never reveal its tragic flaw – and the tragic flaw of Hamlet is what a big deal everyone makes about Hamlet being upset, when he damn well should be! Unfortunately, in this update, it just seems even more ludicrous that anyone would think the boy certifiable just because he’s depressed – never mind Ophelia drown herself because he’s too bummed to give her a lot of quality time.

Music by Carter Burwell: I noticed the music, but it’s the unfortunate “sucking up to the Academy” Burwell and not the glorious Coen Brothers scoremeister. For another example of this unseemly trend, see Exhibit A: Danny Elfman’s generic-yet-nominated score for Good Will Hunting.

So, why watch it on HBO? The Cliff’s Notes often help you appreciate the full work when you watch it again, so let this film be your Cliff’s Notes to the Branagh film. My companions and I were not in total agreement, but I found the presentation of the famous soliloquies mostly interestingly done – and a great deal of social commentary lurks (perhaps unwittingly) in the staging of “To be or not to be.” One word: “Action.” Cracks me up. Frankly, Bill Murray deserves your viewership, despite his wee role. But Miramax should not be fiscally encouraged to do more work along these lines by you watching it anywhere but in the comfort of your own home. Double feature it with Strange Brew and see if anything looks familiar. Do NOT watch it to avoid watching the full version!

Funny side detail: Hamlet and Ophelia have a Danish beer in one scene. If more of the movie had been like that, I would have really appreciated it.

MPAA Rating R-language inc. sexual references, brief nudity & drug content
Release date 8/27/08
Time in minutes 92
Director Andrew Fleming
Studio Focus Features

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Be Kind, Rewind

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Yes, it’s a Jack Black movie, with Mos Def costarring. However, it is more than that – it’s a film by Michel Gondry, who tamed Jim Carrey for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Jack’s unique brand of mania works for this film, but it does not turn into School of Rock. Instead, it is a surprisingly quiet and whimsical comedy about a ridiculous and unlikely series of events that turns into a nearly-as-likely miracle. Gondry directs it in his trademark, dreamlike fashion, adding to the charming je ne sais quoi. The opening act is the Big Ideas portion of the film, with Black spouting conspiracy theories and Danny Glover launching into reverent reminiscence about Fats Waller.

Be Kind Rewind is a failing VHS-only video store, anchoring a crumbling building in a crumbling neighborhood in our crumbling society, owned by Glover. Def and Black accidentally erase all their stock (don’t ask how). A jumbled sequence of events leads them into the Big Comedy portion of the movie, wherein they reshoot the Hollywood movies for pennies onto the blanked tapes so that they have something to rent. This could have turned into a one-joke movie, but for Gondry’s visualization skills. We get laughs more of delight than actual hilarity as our boys employ creative, low tech artifice to reproduce million of dollars of Hollywood magic. It’s a bit like the silent era, cobbling together effects like 1902’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune, using manual, simple tricks and trompe l’oeil (well, Gondry is French after all). We are awash in charm to see the spaceship from Kubrick’s 2001 created inside the drum of a broken old clothes dryer; the Lion King backdropped by corny 1970’s bedspreads, etc. Iconic movie moments flow past the camera, made of cardboard, tinsel, and the panicked good hearts of our leads.

As production of these “Sweded” films increase (to meet an unlikely but adorable demand), it becomes a parade of the film’s whimsical innovation and affectionately simplistic restaging of salient movie moments. The plot flags. The comedy is abandoned in favor of this terrific movie-lover’s experience, and we segue into the Big Heart portion of the film. Glover inevitably returns to catch our boys Sweding, and the film turns into a heartwarming yet not treacly love song to community, cooperation, neighborhood pride, Fats Waller, history, and the joys of watching a movie with other people.

Obstacles are met and overcome, delicate humor drifts down like dandelion seeds, building an emotional foundation for the climax, but the movie feels flatter than it should, considering everything. Too French? I enjoyed it like an art film more than as a comedy. After you see it, hop onto the movie’s website and see a Sweded version of the preview for Be Kind Rewind – a delicious, metafictional experience in its own right, but one that demands you see the movie first.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 2/22/08
Time in minutes 101
Director Michel Gondry
Studio New Line Cinema

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The Producers

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Susan Strohman brought this musical stage adaptation of the 1968 Mel Brooks film to Broadway in 2001 and the entire universe simply had to have it. Now Strohman brings exactly that show (but with a few more locations) to the big screen. It’s like the fanciest A&E/BBC presentation of a stage hit ever made. When I say exactly that show (I did only see the touring production but still), I mean, the stage show, complete with head-turning poses for reaction shots, follow spot operators during a gooey love number, and (I swear) pauses for laughter. Well, to be honest, it had a lot of classic 1940s and 1950s movie musical look to it as well. (Think Singing In The Rain.) Robin Wagner designed the show and took those sets right to the film studio, but he did contribute to the additions as well. The cameras are stationary, gazing upon two walls of any given room, never passing through doorways or panning more than 90 degrees to one side. The lights are colorful, rich, full, and all over the place (but invisible). The actors are enormously hammy, in the way that audiences have creamed their jeans over and hocked their jewels in order to enjoy since the show opened.

So, does that mean it’s a good movie? If you have never seen musical theatre performed live, or if the old Hollywood musicals are surreal confections of horror to you, then you should not, repeat NOT see this movie. The 2005 film version of the 2001 stage version of the 1968 film of the Producers is so incredibly self-reflexive at this point, so purposefully nodding at the legacy that brought it to the screen, that unless you have a dial in your aesthetic for this kind of entertainment, it will turn you right off. That said, if you are any kind of self-respecting theatre or movie musical geek, you will love it (so bump it up to Matinee for you folks).

I actually liked it better than the touring show that I saw; this could be the inimitable Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick chemistry, and it could also be a reason related to the supporting cast (I’ll get to them in a minute). When I saw the stage show, I knew that the actors, bless them (and they weren’t the ones LA got to see either) were trying to fill some big shoes, but I had heard all the songs before and so those jokes had already shot their wad on me. All that was left was brilliant set pieces and hilarious staging, which that production had like crazy. This film, however, somehow made the big numbers fresh again. Whether that was through the extended freedom of having two million chorus members instead of 10, or having great locations like the fountain from the 1968 film, or the “new” supporting cast, whatever happened, I liked it.

Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell replace the original cast members from the show (including, controversially, Tony nominee Brad Oscar as Franz Liepkind). Initially I balked at such blatant studio interference, disgusted with their dismissal of cast members who had performed so admirably onstage when making a film version. They kept the Tony winner Gary Beach (Roger DeBris) and nominee Roger Bart (Carmen Ghia) (and they are delightful). However, Uma and Will brought something new and exciting to the table: their newness and enthusiasm. Consummate professionals Lane and Broderick may be, and experienced film actors as well, but they felt more as if they were being bronzed by the making of this film, whereas Uma and Will approached it like they were getting their first big break. They were a splash of color in a well-staged, well-directed, but strangely flat splashy movie musical. I was even disappointed in the onscreen production of “Springtime for Hitler” which was nowhere near as gaudy and decadent as the touring company’s version, and focused more on DeBris’ embarrassing fey swishiness. Mel Brooks knows what makes people laugh (and knew even better back before the Reagan era) but when you have two movie studios footing the bill and an impeccable staff, can’t you make the pivotal comedic scene in a classic, crass, racist, avaricious, lascivious, campy, satirical story more than being about how hilariously gay people walk?

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/25/05
Time in minutes 134
Director Susan Stroman
Studio Universal/Columbia

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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Despite being based on a beloved and pythonianly (I challenge someone to find a more appropriate adverb) random book, despite having a beyond-perfect cast, fantastic book animations, and superb production design, this latest adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is just not very enjoyable. It pains me to say it, really. I went and reread the book (reminding myself of the terrible narrative challenge screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and author Adams had) and hoped against hope that the tremendous talents of the cast would drag it out of oblivion.

In a way they did; Sam Rockwell’s performance (as Zaphod Beeblebrox) is enough to make the film watchable on cable -The Office’s (BBC) Martin Freeman (as Arthur Dent) brings it all the way up to Rental. Stephen Fry narrates far too infrequently the tremendously entertaining book graphics, which are innovative and delightful. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop’s Vogons are truly spectacular. Alan Rickman: very nice. The film gets bogged down by its dreadful pacing, cartoonish and condescending music stings, and (ahem) the source material’s lack of focus. Kirkpatrick and Adams brought in some minor plot elements to give the storyline some heft and interest, and it does succeed in besting the written form on that point, but the film delights so much in trying to be a cult classic before its even viewed that it deflates and drags everything that does work to the ground. Perhaps the problem is that when you have the author of a focusless book, you are going to get a focusless screenplay out of him.

Take this as an example: if the filmmakers of the Rocky Horror Picture Show had intended for it to be a crazy midnight movie with people dressing up and quoting the lines and making “classic quotes” out of a throwaway line like “Does anybody know how to do the Madison?” the movie would have lost its anarchic glee. Hitchhiker thinks that we the audience are already so tickled by the idea that a towel is the most important item a space-traveler could ever need, it leaves that fact hanging there without even really saying why. I know why, I read the book, but it’s still not exactly funny, is it? Ditto names like Slartibartfast. In junior high, getting introduced to delicious syllabic feasts like Zaphod Beeblebrox and Slartibartfast and so on is delicious fun. In the movie theatre, a door making a creepy sighing sound loses the snide charm for the reason it does so. And so on. It happens a lot.

The pacing also worked against them – something funny sits like a turd in a punchbowl in the middle of a long scene where nothing happens. I don’t mean I need the Friends-style episodic set-up-zing, set-up-zing form of joke telling, but they spend a lot of time showing people walking and dolphins departing musically (try getting that out of your head) and kind of just being arbitrary. It makes you feel like you missed something, and you didn’t. It’s cuddly and it’s diverting but don’t spend too much money on it.

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 4/29/05
Time in minutes 110
Director Garth Jennings
Studio Touchstone Pictures