Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Resident Evil of adventure comedies

This post contains more photos of Anne Hathaway than you can shake a stick at (and I wouldn't do that, if I were you). I even threw in Milla Jovovich and Natalie Portman, just 'cause I'm like that.

My standard line for the Resident Evil films is that they are either just below or just above average action movies, depending upon how much you like Milla Jovovich.
Photobucket I think she's a beautiful dream girl, so I like them.

Starring anyone else but Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin, Get Smart might still be mindless fun. With them playing off each other, it achieves a kind of sweet silliness that more than rewards time spent.

Carell, like his friend and onetime Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert, has a way of signaling from within, without ever quite breaking character, that there is a refreshingly real person underneath that character's quirks.

In this way he resembles another actor with a strong connection to original Smart co-creator (with Buck Henry) Mel Brooks: Gene Wilder.

(Speaking of Henry and Brooks, I just had a thought: Why didn't they play the President and Vice-President, respectively, in this movie? That they didn't does not ruin it by any means, but it seems like a good idea. Oh well.)

Oh by the way, geeky moment: At one point when he and 99 have to enter a villain’s lair via a rat-infested sewer, Max complains that he's never seen James Bond with a rat. As those of us who are suckers for a Bond film smugly mutter "Diamonds Are Forever" (in which Connery actually banters with one), sotto voice...

Johnson--"the artist formerly known as The Rock"--does a lot of action movies, but he's got a certain way with physical comedy. I'd compare it to Moe Howard, except that I'm one of the few men who have never found the Three Stooges funny.

(Jay Leno used to say that was the real difference twixt men and women...just another way in which I'm a big girl).

(I also thought the trailer for Mamma Mia! before the film made it look like good fun, which is probably another very bad sign)

Johnson may have been aided in the comedy way by his director, Peter Segal, who knows how to shoot a joke. Even if his previous credits don't exactly fill one with confidence (The Klumps? Explains why they had to get Carell into a fat suit for this one).

Arkin injects a bit of substance to his role, and gets to punch someone out (and be funny doing it, harder than I think people think).

Of the main stars, only Terence Stamp lets the side down a bit. He's an unforgettable actor of powerful emotion, but one thing he's not, at least not here, that he should be here, is goofy. (Even in the Superman movies he's a bit of a stone-face, but there it's why his lines are funny).

Now let me see...Carell...Johnson...Arkin...Stamp...have I left anyone out?

Oh yes.

Anne Hathaway.

My near-religious faith in Anne Hathaway's beauty is well known to you, my vast reading audience. So all I really need to tell you is that, not counting a trailer or two, this was my first time actually seeing her on a big screen (her other films I've seen on video or television).

So yes, as you would expect, I spent most of the time quivering with awe.

She wears one dress on which, in my opinion, they could have focused for the rest of the movie (Plot? What plot?)

When I wasn't so quivering, I was sending angry psychic messages to characters that put her in jeopardy onscreen: Hands off my wife!

(At one point she distracts an assassin by kissing him, before he falls to what she thinks is his death. That sound heard at the back of the theater was me saying "Totally worth it.")

But (all feet-falling aside) I honestly believe Hathaway is, to coin a phrase, "more than just a pretty face." If she can just solve the "no roles" problem of actresses from time immortal, she's got good work ahead of her.

(Watching Hathaway in this movie I began to wonder if she could've made more of Natalie Portman's Star Wars role than Portman did.)


(but upon reflection, I doubt an Oscar-winning actress could've done much with a Lucas written-and-directed woman's part.)

(But I digress.)

There's heart to Hathaway's character-of course, she already has mine-and she stacks up an impressive list of butts kicked--but not as many laughs gotten. In a sense, this is in keeping with the original series--99 was always a bit of a businesslike "straight man" for Max.

And in 2008, one of the partners' 1960's running gags just wouldn't work from a hero.

99 coming up with an idea, Max dismissing it, then coming up with it himself to be greeted with a loyal "Good thinking, Max!" from her.

The movie wisely doesn't even have them try it but unfortunately, it doesn't come up with much to replace it with, either. Hathaway's funniest moment comes during a fight with an ex-boyfriend, who mockingly tells her,

"See, this is your problem. Some men like women to be a little more...feminine."

Outraged, she cries, "I'm not feminine?" Punctuated, IIRC, with a kick to the face.

I actually thought the third in the RE trilogy was the best yet (admittedly a minority opinion). I wouldn't mind seeing "Get More Smart," or whatever they want to call it.

And I may have that chance, based on early reports the movie seems to be winning at the box office, which I'm happy to see.

The showing I saw was sparsely attended (granted it was the middle of the day). And though I did laugh a lot, it did not escape my notice that more often than not I was the only one.

I walked home with the theme in my head.


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