Film Clips

BASEKETBALL. South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone have teamed up with Naked Gun creator David Zucker for another exercise in gag-a-minute filmmaking. While the requisite boobie and pee-pee jokes are very much in evidence, Parker and Stone breathe new life into the enterprise with their subversively cloying brand of comedic acting. Like Zucker, they'll do anything for a laugh, even if that means French-kissing each other or nakedly standing around wearing the kinds of prosthetic devices that would make Mark Wahlberg cry. Their willingness to humiliate themselves makes everyone else's humiliation a lot more forgivable. The premise, too, is fresh: Instead of yet another by-the-numbers genre parody, the movie invents a new sport that's so absurd, non-sports fans may enjoy it more than aficionados. Though the film doesn't exactly reinvent the lowbrow comedy, it's cute enough to place it a cut above its recent competitors. With cameo appearances by Bob Costas, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Jackson and Jenny McCarthy. --Woodruff

Film Clips DÉJÀ VU. Director Henry Jaglom skates down the border between profundity and hokum in this exploration of true love versus compromise. Stephen Dillane and Victoria Foyt (Jaglom's watery-eyed, appealingly emotive wife, who co-wrote the screenplay with him) star as a Brit and a Los Angelean who seem to be natural soulmates, cosmically fated to be together, and all that jazz. Too bad they're already entrenched in long-term relationships. Though Jaglom's loose, cinema-verité style is very much in evidence, he tries hard to make every step of the romance follow a logical, understandable progression, which gets to be a problem--he keeps using a nail gun on the kinds of details where a thumbtack would suffice. (At a key point, Dillane and Foyt actually exclaim to each other, "You're married!," "You have a fiancée!," "You're married!," "You have a fiancee!," revealing an embarrassingly wide rift between cinema-verité and realism.) Then there's the mystical "surprise" ending, which plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone, as directed by Fabio. Jaglom may be an old friend of Orson Welles (in fact, Déjà Vu appears to be based on a memorable line of dialogue from Citizen Kane), but an auteur he's not. On the plus side, it's refreshing how the two jilted characters are rendered so sympathetically (unlike in Sleepless in Seattle and similar films), and the charmingly well-aged Vanessa Redgrave livens up her every scene as a veteran free spirit. --Woodruff

EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY. Here's a welcome revision: a Cinderella that kicks butt. Sure, Drew Barrymore's character is neglected and mistreated, but she's no helpless little waif: In a pinch, she won't hesitate to deck her wicked stepsister (Megan Dodds) or throw the prince (Dougray Scott) over her shoulders and carry him away from danger. These sorts of touches, smartly handled by director Andy Tennant, make Ever After a delight--even for those of us who never thought we could thoroughly enjoy a Cinderella movie. I'm not sure how Tennant got it out of her, but Barrymore's performance is winningly effective, and surprisingly well-rounded. A political idealist with passion to spare, she earns the prince's respect until he realizes he needs to earn hers in return. Better still is Anjelica Huston, who plays the bitchy stepmother with a trace of complexity--you get the sense she's evil because it hurts to be nice, and you keep watching her face for signs of pain. Everything else about the movie turns out a shade more entertainingly than you'd expect, from the fate of the chubby stepsister (played by Heavenly Creatures' Melanie Lynskey) to the whimsical way Leonardo Da Vinci is integrated into the story. Battle on, Cinderella. --Woodruff

JANE AUSTEN'S MAFIA! This latest venture from writer/director Jim Abrahams, one of those responsible for bringing us Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988), fails to achieve the level of satire present in these past successes. This film probably makes sense if you're 9 years old, when the mere presence of bodily functions and breasts actually provided some kind of cultural commentary. Otherwise, Mafia! is but a lame parody consisting largely of uncritical references to Casino, Showgirls, and Forrest Gump, among others. A plot was difficult to discern through the dizzying haze of flatulence, but it seemed to follow a father (the late Lloyd Bridges) and son (Jay Mohr) through their involvement with the mob, boobies, and pull-my-finger jokes. The ending is surprisingly abrupt, but certainly the alternative (a second puke montage?) is far worse.--Higgins

LETHAL WEAPON 4. The idealized masculinity initially presented in the first Lethal Weapon is finally called into question in the fourth installment in the series. This makes for an overall engaging action film, especially as the genre tends most often to present clichéd, unsympathetic, hypermasculine fighting machines. The former polarization of the nihilistic Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) collapses into the middle, resulting in numerous references to the aging bodies of the characters (and, by extension, the actors) and their inability to live up to former expectations of themselves. This reconfiguration of masculinity is perhaps an attempt to update a series which began over a decade ago, though it still offers a rather narrow definition of manhood. The story itself is standard cop-chase-villain fare, largely an excuse to showcase the fine-tuned banter of Riggs and Murtaugh. Rene Russo and Joe Pesci return in supporting roles; and though the addition of Chris Rock is an obvious attempt to attract younger viewers, he's nevertheless enjoyable as Murtaugh's son-in-law. The generic convention of foreign adversaries is forced and outright offensive at times, as the jokes often poke fun at the ethnicity of the Chinese bad guys (to wit, the tired "flied lice" dig). Though we can expect to find such stereotypes in other incarnations of the genre, it appears that this film closes the book on the series as the lethal weapon of the title, Riggs, concludes his inner struggle by becoming a family man. --Higgins

THE MASK OF ZORRO. An action-adventure movie in the classic mold, The Mask of Zorro aims for the kind of grand, sweeping cinematics that lead to elaborate sword fights, robust dance scenes and 100-percent computer-enhancement-free stuntwork. It's meant to be an old-fashioned crowd pleaser, and it succeeds in a generic, unchallenging way. If you're looking for nuance or extra bite, sorry, wrong movie. Antonio Banderas, a man so sexy that even Southern Baptist truck drivers with extra Y chromosomes admit to considering him "hot," plays an eager Zorro-in-training; while Anthony Hopkins, an actor so well-respected that people fall over themselves with praise even when he turns in hackwork (as he does here), plays a vengeful, veteran Zorro. Hopkins teaches Banderas the ropes--or the whips, actually--while Catherine Zeta-Jones pretties up the screen with her Spanish cat eyes and huge Cheshire cat grin. Meow. For summer entertainment that's mindless without being mind-numbing, you could do a lot worse. --Woodruff

THE NEGOTIATOR. Less gunplay! More wordplay! At least, that's the intention behind this talkative action picture starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Jackson plays a hostage negotiator who, framed after his buddy discovers a police embezzlement ring, takes his own hostages in hopes they'll buy him time to prove his innocence. Spacey plays a negotiator from another district, chosen by Jackson because he's unlikely to be corrupt. Needless to say, there's a lot of negotiating going on, and at times the theme is pushed so hard that the film feels strained; the uncleverly clever climax, in particular, begs for a rewrite. The law-enforcement clichés pile up, too, and director F. Gary Gray doles them out with no sense of irony--we're even subjected to close-ups of Jackson's badge. But Jackson and Spacey can brighten up the dimmest of screenplays, and they're well-supported by some of the bit players--especially a comic-relieving criminal played by Paul Giamatti, who looks like Rob Schneider after a holiday eating binge. The late J.T. Walsh supplies his trademark sad-eyed villainy, which leads to some very uncomfortable moments when art imitates death. --Woodruff

OUT OF SIGHT. In the hierarchy of adaptations based on Elmore Leonard books, this one ranks up there with Get Shorty. The direction (by Steven Soderbergh, of Sex, Lies and Videotape fame) expresses the Leonard style perfectly, nudging humor out of naturalistic dialogue and displaying a whimsically carefree attitude about matters of life and death without letting all the steam out of the story. George Clooney, as a bank robber, and Jennifer Lopez, as his police pursuer, make an extremely good-looking couple; and their two verbal tennis matches (one in a car's trunk, the other in a hotel) are the film's sexual-spark-filled highlights. The smoothly developing romantic mood begins in sunny Miami and ends in snowy nighttime Detroit, so even if you see Out of Sight during the middle of the day you might walk out expecting a cool, dark sky. A standout supporting cast includes Albert Brooks, Catherine Keener, Ving Rhames, Get Shorty alumnus Dennis Farina, and a couple of uncredited surprises. --Woodruff

SMALL SOLDIERS. Director Joe Dante and a team of five writers have given the Child's Play concept a military spin: Now instead of an evil spirit inside a plastic moppet, a super-destructive munitions chip has been mistakenly installed in the latest line of military action figures. The result is a bunch of wisecracking, pop-culture-quoting commandos who proceed to tear up part of a suburban neighborhood. Their mission: to destroy a similarly intelligent set of pacifist dolls, the leader of whose whiskered face literally implies "underdog." The movie contains loads of talent, including the late Phil Hartman and vocalizations by the primary leads from both The Dirty Dozen and This Is Spinal Tap. Copious special effects blend seamlessly with the live action, and the ideas are overflowing--the creators have even thrown in the kitchen sink (complete with garbage disposal). But unlike Dante's similar Gremlins movies, the anarchy becomes too chaotic for its own good. The satiric sensibility has no focus, and the human characters have less personality than the dolls. Though there are clever minds behind the screenplay, the hypocrisy is overwhelming: a mind-numbingly violent criticism of military figures? Which, by the way, are for sale at your local toy store? Talk about self-contradiction. Twelve-year-old boys will love it; everyone else can expect a headache. --Woodruff

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. The brothers Farrelly, known for their gross but weirdly compelling comedies (Dumb and Dumber; Kingpin) have tried to show a little taste in their latest romantic comedy. The result is cute and evokes the occasional giggle, but this movie just isn't as funny as their previous ventures. Cameron Diaz plays Mary, an all-around nice girl who somehow attracts more than her fair share of psychos. Ben Stiller plays Ted, the modest nice guy who's been in love with her since high school, when he once walked her home. Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, and Chris Elliott are among her numerous lovers/tormentors. Adorable musical interludes from Jonathan Richman help give this movie pep, but how funny is it really to watch a woman being stalked? --Richter

 Page Back  Last Issue  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth