Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Alllrighty then! We all know a little bit of Jim Carrey goes a long way, so let's cut to the chase. If you think you'll hate Ace Ventura, you will. No need to test the theory. The unfathomable lot of you who don't know what to expect from this movie can count on reporting for jury duty real soon. For the rest of you, this is vintage Ace: Speaker of the Arse, Master of Mugs, the relentlessly goofy gumshoe that cracks so many jokes it's statistically impossible not to laugh at least once. Thankfully, this incarnation goes straight for the younger audience: They've nixed the "mature" subject matter and succumbed to unadulterated juvenile humor, one truly harrowing racoon rescue possibly excepted. Carrey is in his element in this unholy hybrid of Wild Kingdom, The Nutty Professor and Wayne's World. Let's not get too critical--it's not as if Carrey's the only Hollywood celebrity known for speaking out of his butt. But at least when he does it, it's intentional.
The American President. Here's a film that aims to prove the adage that behind every successful man is a woman, with an emphasis on the behind. This jauntily sexist vision of America serves up images of men with political power and women with sexual power as the President of the United States (Michael Douglas) braves the perils of dating. Annette Benning plays the smart, high-paid lobbyist who's reduced to blushes and stammers when the guy walks in the room. Benning is ebullient in the role, which makes it even more inexcusable that her character should have no life and no past. She's a beautiful, mature woman without friends, lovers or children--she's simply available. You can see the filmmakers struggling to paint an optimistic, politically liberal picture of what America can be, but they get all tripped up on gender and paint instead a politically conservative world where men make decisions and women wait in the wings, clutching bouquets of flowers. If you can crowd the sexism out of your consciousness, The American President has some funny moments, though much of the humor is of the I'm-the-Commander-in-Chief-and-you're-not variety. Not for the impressionable.
Home For The Holidays. Jodie Foster proves herself once again with this delightful glimpse into the "every-home" holiday experience. All dysfunctions being equal, Home for the Holidays paints a single-family portrait with an eye for the universal: sibling rivalry, clownish overcompensation, overbearing mothers and unwelcome confessions wrought by advancing age. These are heavy labels for the light-hearted chapters of Home for the Holidays, cracked open story-fashion in a series of vignettes with warm and (literally) hysterical performances by Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Charles Durning, Anne Bancroft and Cynthia Stevenson (a sort of alter-ego of her character Hope on the TV series Hope and Glory). Dermot Mulroney also stars, but is clearly "not part of the family": While the rest of the cast manages a truly familial chemistry, Mulroney as the friend-who-came-to-dinner remains a wooden outsider. All in all, Home For The Holidays offers a great way to nurse that post-prandial Thanksgiving hangover.
Mighty Aphrodite. Woody Allen continues the dramatization of his mid-life crisis in his latest film; and this time around, it works. Mira Sorvino is the hooker with a heart of gold who drags Woody out of his bourgeois complacency as he drags her, kicking and screaming, into a respectable life. A Greek chorus lurks around the edges of the action, dispensing wry commentary and unwanted advice like the quintessential Jewish mother. All the standard Woody Allen gags, with their comforting familiarity, return with delightful freshness in this sweetly comic movie.
Powder. Writer/director Victor Salva may be a social pariah, but his latest filmic effort certainly proves that talent isn't selective. Mind you, Powder is no groundbreaking cinematic effort; but it is entertaining sci-fi, with the optimistic twist that the highly evolved and intelligent "alien" life form is actually from our own planet. Meanwhile, we less-evolved beings find it impossible not to wonder about the connection between the writer and his creation, considering Salva had plenty of time to formulate his next screenplay while serving a sentence for child molestation. Promotional copy reads: "Alienated from society, he tries to fit in but only finds intolerance. Despite the cruelty inflicted upon him, Powder's extraordinary compassion helps him to persist, and people begin to understand that their harsh judgment is more a reflection of their own ignorance and fear." You may not want to spend any length of time in Salva's head, but spending a couple of hours with Powder may be slightly more uplifting. While none of the characters seem particularly challenging, Sean Patrick Flanery, Mary Steenburgen and Jeff Goldblum deliver engaging performances. In fact, Powder is so successful at fitting a compelling subject into a tepid screenplay it will undoubtedly earn the dubious achievement of an academy award nomination.
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