The Chronicles of a Witty Observer

Movies

Self-Created Drama and the Numbnuts Who Film It: A Review of St. Elmo’s Fire

It’s sure nice to know that the miserable trend of preconceiving the stereotype that young people are all members of the selfish idiot archetype isn’t new for Generation Y. St. Elmo’s Fire is proof positive that such portrayals have their own unique manifestations in each generation. This is the GenX version we have before us today.

Starring the Brat Pack actor’s brigade of the mid-80s (who are known more for the more substance-laden films The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles). Now, most of the Brat Pack movies to date had featured some-but-not-all of the Pack. This was supposed to be The Big One. The One That Brought Them All Together (except for Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, who were too young for this one). But what this movie turned out to be is a pile of incoherent subplots that, for all I can tell, were MEANT to come together into some big moral solution towards the end of the film, but didn’t. What you see when you view the film is six different vignettes about eight friends who went to college together and recently graduated….each one more selfish and melodramatic than the last.

Thus, I find I cannot review this in one piece. I find it more effective that I should review the film and criticize it in parts: one review for each subplot. Then you’ll get a better understanding for how painfully fragmented this movie it. Let us begin…

Subplot #1: The Stalker and Andie MacDowell. Possibly the most straight-forward creepy member of the post-college ensemble cast is Kirby (played by Emilio Estevez). He gets back in touch with an old flame (Andie MacDowell) who he took out on a grand total of ONE DATE in college, and decides that she’s still hot in spite of her horse mouth and frizzy hair, and stalks her senseless. He spends the entire movie either stalking her, harassing her when she CLEARLY doesn’t want to be around him, and trying to impress her by riding his bike to her house in the rain, renting limousines, and even house-sitting for rich people so he can throw a huge mansion party for her (which she doesn’t even attend…ouch). While Kirby’s one of the more optimistic characters, and for that I have to admit he’s not as insufferable as some of the others, he just gets more and more obsessed with Andie MacDowell as the movie goes on, and by the end, you pretty much hate him as much as everyone else.

I do get some laughs at how Andie MacDowell’s character CLEARLY does not want this runt hanging off her elbow anymore and the awkwardness that ensues as a result.

Subplot #2: Mr. ScrewUp’s Many, Many Failures (and blonde girls). Rob Lowe (already so much promise for a quality performance) plays a frat boy who can’t hold down a job because he gets drunk all the time and sleeps around with a large amount of nameless blonde girls. He’s the one who has the hardest time cutting ties with college, because now that he has to stop partying and get a job, life suddenly sucks. He has a baby with a bratty woman who wants to leave him because he refuses to grow the hell up and be a father. And….that’s pretty much it. I’m not kidding.

Subplot #3: Granny’s Break Out. This subplot takes the least amount of screen time to present and resolve, as it’s central character, Wendi (Mare Winningham) is probably the most mature and sensible of the cast, and therefore, you can’t get the stupid melodrama that is this movie to stick to her. Instead, she spends the movie dressing up like Granny from Looney Tunes, confessing her crush on Rob Lowe’s character Billy, and breaking away from her helicopter parents who expect her to marry and have babies as soon as she moves out of their house. Again, that’s essentially it. Her subplot does help contribute to Rob Lowe’s a bit in that she’s the catalyst that helps him grow up by the end.

I have to say, if the movie wanted to take a much more effective approach to creating a story, instead of giving Wendi her own milquetoast subplot that takes up no more than one tenth of the film, make her the go-between for all of the other idiots’ stories instead. She’s probably the most relatable character and the most realistic to boot, so instead of adding melodrama to melodrama, make her the glue that brings the film together! I guess that would make her de facto lead in a Brat Pack ensemble drama, and that might not work out for the 80s audience that came to see Rob Lowe and Demi Moore to begin with.

Subplot #4: The Insufferable Duo. This one is probably the most painful-to-watch subplot of them all. It also takes up most of the movie. Here we have Yuppie Couple Leslie (Ally Sheedy) and Alec (Judd Nelson) who have just moved in together. Leslie wants to be a career girl, and Alec  wants to get the fuck married. When Leslie puts him off, he decides the best way to get Leslie to accept his proposal is to…sleep with other girls.

I am not shitting you.

I mean, who WOULDN’T go after these nostrils? You could shove quarters up there and have room for more!

When Leslie finds out, all hell breaks loose, Alec kicks her out, and she sleeps with Alec’s best friend (see Subplot #5 below). For the last act of the movie, Alec keeps trying to win her back, but fails thanks to his own dominant piss-poor attitude. Leslie is a fairly likeable character, but Alec is, quite frankly, the biggest dick in the entire movie. He’s a selfish brat who falls apart when things don’t go his way, he throws temper tantrums a four-year-old would think was unreasonable, and he is completely oblivious to other people, including his girlfriend.

Leslie’s flaw is she’s a bit of a contradiction. She wants to be independent, make her own choices, and be a career woman, yet she becomes an emotional wreck when Alec cheats on her and immediately flies to someone else for comfort instead of standing on her own two feet. She does get a little bit of redemption for this when she finally calls Alec a shithead to his face at the end, but she’s a bit of a flip-flopper character, so you can’t really tell if she’s worth rooting for or not. Standing next to Alec, she certainly is, but as a solo character, she’s a bit of a passive moper. But she’s still nothing compared to…

Subplot #5: Emo Writer Smokes A Lot of Cigarettes and Pretends To Be Straight. Andrew McCarthy plays Kevin, a chain-smoking neo-beatnik who’s easily the most emotional character in the film, as well as the most pessimistic. He spends most of the movie walking and moping in dark alleys, brushing off suggestions that he’s gay (to little avail), and hinting that he’s in love with someone unrequitedly. His plot doesn’t really fall into place until the last act of the movie when he reveals to a mourning Leslie that he is in love with her, they get drunk, and screw until the break of dawn. When Alec finds out, he beats Kevin repeatedly, and Kevin essentially sticks it to him because he won…until Leslie dumps him too. Then he goes back to being depressed…and that’s the end of his subplot.

Kevin’s a whiny little prick who single-handedly destroyed his best friend’s chance of getting the girl of his dreams back. I don’t like him or his plot. Fun fact: it took Andrew McCarthy fifteen years to kick the cigarette addiction he developed while filming this. Hope it was worth the lung cancer, buddy.

Subplot#6: Demi Moore Does Drugs. And Her Boss. Demi Moore’s subplot is the closest thing we have to a glue for this pile of puzzle pieces. She basically does a ton of crack, sleeps with her boss, waits impatiently for the impending death of her abusive stepmother, and everyone else from all of the other subplots worry about her. At the end of the film, all of the subplots make a sad attempt at uniting as Demi Moore’s character Jules gets fired and has a freak out in front of an open window.

“Hey! You’ve been evicted! Might as well torch the joint!”

She’s the one that has the most growing up to do, aside from Rob Lowe. At the same time, you can kind of tell that she was meant to represent the quarter-life crisis, and therefore, is the characterization of the ‘moral’ of the film.

Some moral. She ends the film jobless, homeless, and loveless. Whoopie.

I guess, all in all, if you’re in it for the nostalgic element, this movie is worth a watch, but I would probably only pop the DVD in again if I needed background noise. Too much arguing, too much melodrama, not enough for me to actually like any of the characters. This movie lacks the substance The Breakfast Club had, the sensitivity Pretty in Pink had, and the staying power that both of the aforementioned flicks had.

I guess leaving Molly Ringwald out wasn’t such a great idea after all.


It seems so hard to imagine…

So….Facebook is a wonderland of good topics to rant about, yes? Let us spin the Topic-Of-The-Day-O-Lever and see what comes up!

*Spins*

“As much as I hate to admit it, there is a bias against Christianity in this country. [Soul Surfer] A movie about a girl using faith in Jesus to rebuild her self confidence causes controversy but a movie like ‘Easy A’ which portrays Christians as stupid over zealous pricks gets critical acclaim.” –Anonymous On FB

*Sighs*

For the record, I believe the person who wrote this to be decent man, and considering I’ve derived this from how little I know him, that’s a pretty hard thing to say with confidence, but I do.

Soul Surfer, which comes out this week, I believe, is an autobiographical story about that girl several years ago who’s arm became a Lean Cuisine meal for a shark, and her journey through recovery, tested faith, and overcoming all to continue her passion, which is surfing.

The ‘faith,’ as you probably have already deduced, is that delightful little acceptable-excuse-for-everything-in-this-country: Christianity.

Now, let me make my peace quickly with Christianity here and now. I have my little gripes about the faith itself, but that is why I do not believe in it. I can let our differences go and move on with my life. What I loathe is not the church, but the choir and their evangelical Song of Hell that’s directed at everyone but the mirror. It’s those who brainwash kids to spread the word and the fundies who will use violence in the name of Jesus who anger me so much. Oh, and the politicians who use it as an excuse to take away my rights and my friends’ rights.  They can go to hell.

Back to my point. Yes, I agree, in many, many cases in American media, Christianity is treated like crap. While I DID like ‘Easy A’ I liked it  for it’s satirical nature…not it’s antagonistic usage of conservative people. Christianity, for the most part, does not deserve such portrayals in more serious media, which it still sometimes gets.

However, I must interject on behalf of my neopagan breathren and sister-en (?) and say that Christians shouldn’t bitch about films like ‘Easy A’ or ‘Saved!’ These films, at least, are flaming satires and don’t hide it. There are some cases in pop media where Christianity is given a positive spin. Like Soul Surfer, yes. But also in the multitude of openly Christian singers, country and mainstream pop (annoying as they are *coughcoughDISNEYCHANNELcough*) who are portrayed as honest people who trust in Jesus.

Try slapping the old Wiccan label an on honest musician, and what do you get images of? That ‘honest’ just seems to disappear, doesn’t it?

Pagans get SHIT when it comes to media portrayal nowadays. Or…ever…days. The archetypical teenager goth/emo punk who lives at Hot Topic and is borderline-sociopath is all you’re going to see. Ever. Not only is it not an accurate depiction, but it’s consistent across the board and completely embarrassing.

Just look at The Craft, which came out almost twenty years ago. You have a group of…well…teenage goth chicks who are borderline sociopath as the main characters. And they’re Wiccan. Surprise!

Fun fact, the film’s star, Fairuza Balk, who played the Craziest of Them All is, in fact, Wiccan in real life.

Blessed Be…now DIIIIEEEEEE!!!!

See? At least Christianity gets a good fighting chance not to make a negative name for themselves. We neopagans never had the chance. It started way back in the Roman times when Catholics became the kings and pagans became lion food. Thanks, Pope WhatHisNuts XVI, thanks a shit ton.

I guess, historically, that’s a case of turnabout, as the Roman pagans weren’t so nice to the Christians first (yes,again with the lion food). But didn’t Mr. Jesus preach that whole ‘turn the other cheek’ thing?

The whole idea of evil heathens never changed, I guess, because here we are, 2011, and the only good portrayal of pagans I’ve seen is a girl-power version of Morte D’Arthur that didn’t even get a theatrical release. It’s called Mists of Avalon and it remains to this day among my Top 5 Favorite Films Ever Made.

See it. Now. What are you still reading this blog for?!?

Unfortunately, Mists isn’t even contemporary in terms of time frame.

At the end of it all, the secret word for the whole thing, is discomfort. Religion is not a very graceful topic to bring up in private or public, let alone in popular media. It’s hard to relate to because if you do have common ground with one religion, you may inadvertently be insulting someone of another faith who happens to be in the same room. Hell, just for being neopagan,  every citizen of Utah has a genetically inborn thirst for my blood. The only way one can successfully remove the awkward is to insert humor up it’s butt instead. Then at least the uncomfortable laughter can be masked by genuine laughter.

I don’t see why people need to get so defensive over it all. We Wiccans take these dumbass versions of ourselves with a grain of salt for the most part anyway. Why? Because we know it’s all stupid.

My question now is, why are so many Christians so testy? Compared to Wiccans and other minorities, you really don’t have all that much to complain about. So just sit back for once, and enjoy your new pro-Christian movie.

Oh, and the next time you steal one of our holidays, take the sex out of it, and turn it into an excuse to pig out and then pray for forgiveness for it, might I suggest Litha? Lots of bonfires, lots of dancing, lots of food. Funtimes.


What do you call a Hollywood writer with half a brain?

I was rather distressed to learn this afternoon that Hollywood, which is one of only two centers for mass media culture this country has (the other being, of course, New York City) finally has reached, in it’s senility, a state of dementia. True dementia.

What do I mean? I mean, of course, that Hollywood is producing two different movies at the same time…THAT ARE THE EXACT SAME THING.

There are currently TWO major re-vamps of the classic fairy-tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the works. Two separate casts, two separate directors, both boasting the same ‘edgy twist’ and both carrying about as much originality as a musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

One, called Snow White and the Huntsman, has Kristen Stewart, who we all know for her exquisite acting ability (for those of you who can’t catch on to the sarcasm there, you can go die now, please) attached to the titular role. No, stupid, as much as I’d be inclined to consider it, I mean, of course the role of the princess as oppose to the role of the huntsman. Directors of this one had been chasing after Stewart for the part for weeks. While I have no doubt they’re directors for a reason, I also have no doubt they AREN’T casting directors for a reason as well. Seriously, I wish I could be offered a Hollywood contract for blinking my eyes and looking like a heroin junkie.

In my high school she would’ve been told to put the razor down and get a boyfriend.

But sadly, my list of infinitive reasons for calling Kristen Stewart the Worst Professional Actress in Cinematic History is worthy of a post of it’s own. Let’s not stray from the topic at hand…

The other, called ‘The Brothers Grimm: Snow White’ has just casts Lily Collins as Snow White, and Julia Roberts has been cast as the Evil Queen since the project was basically conceived. Yeah, same deal. I’m not a Julia Roberts fan aside from Pretty Woman. She dyed her hair red for the part, so I HAD to support her on that one anyway.

*A-HEM…anywho…*

The past eight-or-so years, Hollywood has seemed to have this strange obsession with updating/re-vamping classic fairy-tales. Since 2003, we’ve had Cinderella, Snow White (yes, already), Cinderella (again), Hansel and Gretel, Beauty & and the Beast, and most recently, Little Red Riding Hood (shitty, just so you know. Don’t waste ten bucks and wait for the *legal* downloads to flood Pirate Bay).  Most of these got the teen melodrama-flick treatment, and those that didn’t got the teen-goth treatment.

All of them sucked. And not just by my standards, but by most. The only movie I sort of approved of was Sydney White, because there’s always been something about that quirky Amanda Bynes that’s charmed me.

Then there’s the sub-genre of fairy tales-gone-awry that thrives on pushy prior-knowledge jokes that makes the skeptics roll their eyes. The only ones of this type that ever worked were Shrek and Shrek 2.

But in all honesty, this has got to stop. Truly, if Hollywood is relying on extremely formulaic re-done-to-death Cinderella stories starring tween stars (yeah, Stewart’s 22, but her fanbase sure ain’t), then frankly, it’s time for Hollywood to lay down and die quietly. Long gone are the days of Casablanca and Citizen Kane.

And if there is a God or Goddess, no one will even CONSIDER touching those.

I also don’t see the appeal of these remakes. We all know the stories. We were fed the spoilers for these movies from our highchairs.  How many times must one remake Cinderella before it gets through our thick heads that the shoe fits and the poor waif and the rich prince get married? You can use highly-stylized editing techniques to make the film look impressive, and hell, you can even make clever modern-day conversions for the core details of the fable (i.e. poisoned apple = Apple laptop with a hacker’s virus installed). But at the end of the day, you still have a movie with a shitty, unoriginal concept. Therefore, you still are sub par.

I suppose the point of a movie isn’t necessarily to be given an original story to enjoy. If that were true, books would be obsolete (and yours truly would have committed suicide years ago). At the end of the day, anything goes with the crowd, as long as it’s entertaining and keeping you from cleaning the house for another two hours.

Not you. Get back in the kitchen and make me a chicken sammich and some waffle fries.

But still, it’s depressing to think that a whole industry has fallen so far as to resorting to the exact same movie being made twice in the same year. What, do they expect people to leave one theater and crave more of Miss White, and be motivated to theater-hop one door over to see the other movie? Is this some sort of conspiracy in an attempt to double-up on the cash intake?

If it is, then it’s stupid as hell.

In all seriousness, this wave of pretentiousness has to end. Hollywood isn’t fooling anyone with this, just like Kristen Stewart isn’t fooling anyone with that oh-so-talented lip-bite she calls ‘method acting.’  At the end of the day, I’d rather spend my $12.50 at Barnes & Noble to get the hardcover version of Grimm’s Fairytales instead. Yeah, I sound like a hipster saying this, but it’s the best bang for my buck and I’m not paying it to look at awful actors turning a classic story into a lame story about werewolf love.

I’m looking at YOU, whore.

Oy vey, I need to do a review soon. These pop culture-based rants are getting to be the same thing…any ideas?


My Date with The President’s Daughter (A Review)

Disney just isn’t the same anymore.

I blame High School Musical for single-handedly bringing the once-glorious Disney Channel spiraling into awful tween-actors, cheesy sitcoms, and…geh…Miley Cyrus. It was really the first formulaic mind-numbingly  awful film/show that basically had the eternal message of Life can’t go wrong when you’re in high school! High school equals time of your life and don’t you forget it!’

Look at any DCM from the past five years and tell me all you see are obnoxious twentysomethings playing teensomethings having good old Christian fun ALL THE DAMN TIME! Apparently nowadays you can’t cram in any depth without losing the entirety of the bubblicious atmosphere Disney is famous for. That ruined a lot, and that’s why I am convinced it is the brainchild of Beelzebub.

That and the fact that I narrowly made it past the target demographic age for HSM when it came out. Luckiest break since I missed out on Zoey 101.

Believe it or not, in the late 1990s, Disney found a small, microscopic little niche where some depth CAN be added to the smiling WASP childrens’ silly antics and still earn a DC Seal of Approval. This was the era where such films as Smart House, Luck of the Irish, and, one of my favorites, My Date With the President’s Daughter, were born.

Let’s make an example of My Date, for instance.

The plot is highly simplistic, but then again, Disney’s gotten away with that for decades. Hallie Richmond is the titular daughter, a painfully-naïve sheltered girl (natural considering her circumstances) who just wants to go on a date. Her father seems to be loosely-based on George Bush Sr, and therefore, is highly conservative. Finally, he lets her go on a date with Duncan, a sweet but awkward dork she met while sneaking away from a stop on her father’s re-election campaign.  Duncan steals his father’s BMW, sneaks away from the Secret Service with her, and the hijinks ensue, which include-but-are-not-limited-to: getting into a brawl at a club, putting on a magic show at a biker bar, showing up on TV, having the BMW stolen, running from Secret Service, having a romantic dance on a rooftop overlooking the city, and rescuing Hallie from some college biker douche who only pops up in the second act of the movie.

For it’s clichés and seizure-inducing late-90s artifacts (neon-light clubs, young guys thinking that dressing in 80lbs of leather is hot, fuzzy pink butterfly jewelry, etc.), the film has a lot that post-2005 Disney Channel doesn’t.

So dated it hurts. Stop it, 1998!

For one, the teen actors can act. Will Freidle as Duncan (Boys Meets World, anyone? *yes please!*) is just enough dork to be believable and lovably awkward, but has just enough hero/macho in him to make me feel tingly in certain places. Elisabeth Harnois plays Hallie, and gets the character just right enough so that I’m interested, but not annoyed with her naivety. Hallie is actually a typical teenage girl with as much intelligence as charisma, and while she isn’t a source for much of the humor, she’s still likeable.

Nowadays, you’d either get a gorgeous ‘insecure nerd’ like Vanessa Hudgens (who, for the record, I would gladly run over in my Park Avenue for free if the opportunity arose) or some stupid naïve girl who’s played solely for laughs like Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana.

The secondary characters are great too. I’m especially fond of Dabney Coleman’s President Richmond who can be just as adorable as he is intimidating.

Secondly, the teen characters aren’t fucking morons who are high on high school life. Duncan and Hallie both have their shallow hang-ups, but both are clearly aware of the world outside their minds. One scene that I consider to be the pivotal scene is where they meet a protest against Hallie’s father on the street, and Hallie stands up for her father, expressing that being the President doesn’t just mean spending taxpayer’s money. It’s more than smiling to the cameras all the time like a celebrity.

Political awareness in a sixteen year old? Madness! Blasphemy, I say!

You don’t count. You’re a whole different level of madness.

Thirdly, while the bulk of the movie does rely heavily on how much trouble can befall the poor, bumbling Duncan on his first date, it doesn’t depend on sight gags, prat falls, and childish jokes. The movie recognizes it’s audience as teenagers as opposed to eight-year-olds. And this makes sense, seeing as the main characters ARE, in fact, supposed to be teenagers.

In HSM, the main characters are the same age, but the insipid antics of the HSM crowd lead me to think Disney is assuming that teenagers are drooling idiots as opposed to young adults. They must, unless the key demographic is specifically stated to be ages 2-10 (in which case, why aren’t the main characters FUCKING EIGHT YEAR OLDS!?!?)

*Taking a deep breath* Okay, I’m back.

I’ll admit that the media is changing, attempting to fit the needs and wants of the youngest generation. But apparently Disney Channel takes that to mean ‘dumb down.’ My Date is a cute, intelligent, yet entirely innocent movie. It’s no Beauty and the Beast for sure, but it’s not supposed to be. There’s a fine line between innocence and idiocy that Disney has long since fallen out of touch with.

The Disney Renaissance is over, and there’s really no way of it coming back. *Le woeful sigh*


A (Very, Very, Extremely, Painfully) Reluctant Review

I am not reviewing this of my own free will. An unnamed source, who WILL be receiving a lovely little package filled with rabid ferrets from me at a later date, insisted I review this film and compare it to the book.

Blasphemy, I say. It was in only one case in my entire life I enjoyed a film version better than a book, and both were bland enough I hardly remember either of them (The Princess Diaries). However, I accept this challenge halfway…seeing as I have NOT read the book version of Cheaper by the Dozen. I did, however, watch the film version for this very purpose, and after I finished, I cried a little, realizing I could’ve been watching Torchwood instead. Or even just reading a book. It would’ve been guaranteed to be an hour and a half better spent.

I honestly believe that she who wants me to review this is attempting to get a third-wave-feminist/Nostalgia-Critic-esque rant out of me. And by the Goddess, is she going to get one hell of a rant.

This movie managed to take the sentimentality out a family film, and replace it with more kid-humor and more evidence that Steve Martin needs to apologize to Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Madeline Kahn for sinking so far from his glory days on SNL. You know, back when he was genuinely funny and didn’t have a string of forced physical humor to vomit onto a camera lens.

Not to mention, for a film that is supposed to appeal to all ages, the stereotypes are as thick as Sarah Palin’s skull, the portrayal of female characters are either derivative of 1950s feminism (aka ANTI-feminism), or 1980’s Shes-A-Yuppie-Ergo-She’s-a-Bitch mentality. Take either one, they’re both abundant in this flick and both are equally as insulting.

I haven’t even gotten into detail regarding this review.

A brief synopsis for those of you who are stupid enough not to guess it from the title and genre of the film itself: Steven Martin and Bonnie Hunt meet in college, both want big families regardless of living in middle-class America during the age of overpopulation and orphans in Asia being more abundant than water rats (disclaimer: I don’t know if this is really true) so they start popping ‘em out and move to the country. The wife, having the vagina, quits her job as an editor for The Chicago Tribune to be a full-time Stepford Wife/Mother, and the husband gets a job as a high school football coach to support their growing collection of brats.

Okay, first big problem: wouldn’t being a goddamned editor for the famous Tribune make more money than being a high school football coach? Can you even support a family of 14 in the huge house they live in on that kind of salary!?
Maybe they use food stamps or send the kids out to panhandle on weekends, I don’t know.

Anyways, the husband gets an even better job as a college football coach (closer, but I’m still not seeing where it could work, guys) and moves the family back to suburbia, where they somehow find a house that rivals a castle in size, can somehow afford it, and move in. Suddenly, the wife, who’s been writing this book about why she should’ve had the tubes ties after two her large, silly family, gets it published and must leave the husband alone with the kids while she goes on a book tour.

So, the vagina-bearing authority figure has a career again, guys. That means chaos and frozen dinners will ensue until further notice.

And that essentially takes up the hour of film we have left at this point.  Seriously, the father has NO parental skills whatsoever. As befitting a Nickelodeon-endorsed movie, kids are hanging off the rooftops, attempts to cook result in explosions, loads of butt/toilet humor, and very little in the way of sanity to stop them are all we see.

So, where to begin?

First off, you get to know NONE of the children beyond their shells and stereotypes, and each child has one. You have the yuppie oldest daughter who’s more interested in her boyfriend than her family, the moody teenager, the pretentious teenager, the tomboy/criminal mastermind, the shy nerd who doesn’t fit in with everyone else, the skater, the dumbass, the smart-ass, the puh-wecious pair of twins, and then the rest don’t do or say much other than stand/run around in the background. None of minors have souls, personalities, depth, or motivation.

I cannot stand this and you know it (ref: my reviews of Battle Royale/The Hunger Games). I may in the minority, but I still like to believe that one doesn’t have to be 18 to have depth. I hate how American media assumes that children and teenagers are essentially whiny, mopey brats with no worldly awareness whatsoever. They days of John Hughes, Home Alone, and The Breakfast Club really are over, and it saddens me to think that forevermore children will be played out to be the imbeciles you see in Cheaper By the Dozen.

Secondly, Steve Martin. I loved him in SNL and such films as The Jerk and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But you just want to weep at the lows he sinks to in this movie. He sinks to potty humor, for Christ’s sake. Steve Martin is a wit. His Christmas Wish from SNL is still one of my favorite monologues. Why is he tripping over bad child actors and getting to say such masterful lines as ‘Why did you soak his underwear in meat?’ I can’t go on with this, it makes me depressed.

Probably the worst thing of all in this movie, beyond the bad writing, sub-par acting, and the annoying premise, is the message. It is possibly the most backwards message I’ve seen since I watched that documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church. The message of the movie is: the woman’s place is in the home as a mother and live-in sammich maker.

Seriously, watch the damn thing. It’s about as obvious as Tim Curry playing a villain. Bonnie Hunt quits her job to have lots of babies, loves it to death, gets a career, hates the career, and things at home fall apart because the father/husband is so painfully incompetent as raising a family, large as it is.

I mean, yes, 12 kids is a lot. I don’t think I could do a good job either. But it isn’t an impossible task to control twelve kids. The average teacher, male or female, can keep twice that many in line on any given day and be just fine. But nope. The mother has to come home and realize her place, and life goes back to normal. In this day and age, such a message in a family-friendly film, or in any film is just not acceptable…unless you’re Kirk Cameron. Then you can blame Jesus-induced zealous stupidity.

This film basically assumes children are animals to be tamed, women are meant to be in the kitchen, and men are just idiots in general. This is low even for a children’s movie.

There, I want my twenty bucks, You-Know-Who-You-Are!


Hairs to A New Classic: A Review of Disney’s Tangled


**WARNING: Here be Spoilers for a Film Still in Theaters**

Rapunzel is the latest legend/fairytale of old to get the Disney treatment. And, unfortunately, it got the musical treatment as well. As with The Princess and the Frog, Disney decided to give the classic story a not-so-classic twist, attempted to make the female lead a more feminist-pleasing independent character, add music, and pawn it off as the potential beginning of a new Disney Renaissance. The Princess and the Frog failed to do so, and while Tangled (because keeping the original name wouldn’t attract that much-needed-to-succeed male demographic) was a fun little piece of Disney ingenuity, I feel that ultimately, it will go the same route as its predecessor.

This is not at all to say that Tangled was bad or forgettable by any means. It is due more to the fact that Tangled follows a by-now very standard Disney formula that has long since run its course (which is the reason the Disney Renaissance ended in the first place). The Alan Menken-penned musical numbers were relatively forgettable and arraigned in an astoundingly predictable way. You could predict where the love duet would occur, the silly song would pop up, and where the ‘I Want More’ song’s reprise comes in. Disney certainly isn’t one to make too much of a stretch in that department.

And, of course, we have our very, VERY standard death-fakeout towards the end and our deus-ex-machina pulled out of the writer’s touchas that saves the victim (I, for spoilers’ sake, won’t say who it is) followed by the town rejoicing and the lead couple exchanging vows. I have to admit I rolled my eyes and asked whether or not Disney really expected us of the original Renaissance-era to fall for that one for the…um…ninth (?) time.  Again, it was clear Disney spent more time attempting to resurrect a bygone era with this film instead of creating a new one.

But…I’m not calling this one a failure. And here’s why:

Again, as with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled made a major effort to make its female heroine an actual self-sufficient, I-don’t-need-rescuing, not-Cinderella-esque archetype. And I feel that Tangled’s effort paid off. Rapunzel was enjoyable, and actually pretty real. I found the typical Disney-sue characteristics in her pretty easily, but they were present in fewer quantities than most of the others in recent past (like, for instance, both of her parents are alive, well, and mentally-sound).

She even reminded me, both physically and in some bits of personality, of my Dungeons and Dragons character J, who has long blonde hair, doesn’t wear shoes, and has a hobby of hitting people over the head (in J’s case, with a mandolin).

*Seriously, do you think I have a chance at a successful lawsuit?*

But, for the record, J is a lot darker and much less plucky than Rapunzel. And she’s in love with a mindflayer.

Also, props for not making the animal sidekicks talk. The little chameleon had spunk without a vocal portrayal, and he had a perfect amount of said spunk, not so little that he was irrelevant and not so much that he was as annoying as Meeko from Pocahontas. Though, the horse named Maximus did give me a rather suspicious memory flashback to Altivo from The Road to El Dorado, and anyone who’s seen both movies are probably nodding their heads in agreement with me right now.

Many of the other characters hold their own as well. The male hero Eugene aka ‘Flynn’ (yes, probably as in ‘Errol Flynn’) is the Disney-standard jerk-at-the-beginning who is reformed upon falling in love with our heroine, but there was still something about him that made me not totally hate him. I loved the little running joke with his ‘WANTED’ posters getting his nose wrong.

The villainess, Mother Gothel, seemed like an, again, less-dark version of the already-established Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Their stories, according to Disney, at least, did evolve and happen very similarly, and hell, both of them end up dying the same way (I DID say spoilers, after all). Gothel, however, lacked the creative-spins many of the other characters got, and while The Princess and the Frog’s Dr. Facilier made my list of ‘successful’ Disney villains easily, Mother Gothel fell short.

And I will explain my rubric for what makes a successful villain another day.

The story was moderately formulaic, but the little details and jokes made me forget it, and I guess that’s what Disney was going for, so I’ll let it slide this time. Animation was, as usual, impressive. Let’s just pray this one doesn’t fall victim to one of Disney’s infamous make-money-quick, direct-to-video, half-assed sequels written by people commissioned from fanfiction.net.

Tangled is a plucky, cute film to add to the Disney canon. However, don’t expect it to rise to the standards of Beauty and the Beast. If they want to get the edge over Dreamworks again, they’re really going to have to go big or go home. And Tangled wasn’t quite big enough.

But for now, that’ll do, Disney. That’ll do. I’ll give you a B, and I’m a damn tough film critic.