April 4, 2008, - 2:13 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I wasn’t particularly thrilled by any of the new releases at the box office, this weekend, but a kids’ movie seems to be the best of them. I did not review the Martin Scorsese Rolling Stones documentary, “Shine a Light,” because I am not a Stones fan and am tired of films glorifying aging stoner hacks. A guy who snorts up his father (Keith Richards snorted his father’s cremated ashes) doesn’t need my review. Also, below are a couple of movies, “Run, Fat Boy, Run,” and “Married Life,” which I was unable to review, last week.
* “Leatherheads“: If you’re a football fan, and you’re looking for a football movie, go rent “Brian’s Song.” This isn’t it. The movie is barely about football. In fact, contrary to the deceptive trailers and TV marketing of this film, there’s only one major scene showcasing any extended moves on the field. And that one’s amid muddy chaos, so you can’t tell the teams apart.
What’s more, the movie–co-written by Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly–isn’t even accurate. A major part of the story is the machinations of the agent of a star NFL football player in 1925. But, in those days, there were no agents in pro football. The NFL wasn’t popular, and playing in it was a mere side hobby of working class American men. Contrary to the movie’s portrayal, NFL players didn’t get endorsement deals or make major money. The emergence of sports agents in the NFL is largely a phenomenon of the late 1960s and early ’70s when the players union became a force, negotiated a collective bargaining agreement and certified “player agents.”
Then, there’s the NFL Commissioner, appointed by Congress in the movie. But Congress never appointed an NFL Commissioner. And while this movie takes place in the mid-1920s, there wasn’t an NFL Commissioner until 1941 (Elmer Layden). And he didn’t have the power, as the fictional commissioner does in this movie, to order a major Chicago newspaper to retract a story.
Since this Clooney-directed vehicle contained so many factual deceptions, what does that say about his other “work”? “Syriana,” anyone?
Rather than football, “Leatherheads” is really about romance and corny 1920s- or ’30s-style comedy. And the fare is very light and thin. I found the movie to be very boring and even fell asleep. It’s slow, and the plot is barely a plot at all.
The story: It’s 1925, and George Clooney plays an aging NFL player. The league struggles to survive and his Duluth, Minnesota team disbands. But he discovers a star Princeton football player who is also a war hero and very popular. He convinces the player–via his agent–to leave Princeton and join his team. At the time, college football is far more popular than pro football, which goes begging for fans. But an ambitious Chicago newspaper reporter (Rene Zellweger) is promised a promotion by her editor if she reports on the phony war hero story and takes the new star player down.
I thought the movie was silly and tired of it early on. But, like I said, it’s light. And there’s nothing objectionable about it. It’s just not a great movie. Just fair . . . and mostly dull. Oh, and again, historically inaccurate.
* “Nim’s Island“: This is a charming kid’s movie that–while not fantastic–was not bad. I liked the way it portrayed science and the study of it as an adventure and exciting. That’s well needed in today’s America, where science is seen as “nerdy” and unimportant, and we are well behind the other Western nations in that discipline.
Abigail Breslin is Nim, a young girl who lives with her scientist father alone on a secret, secluded island near Tuvalu in the South Pacific. Her father studies aquatic microbes and they live in a cool jungle-style house, sharing the island with friendly wildlife and a volcano. With self-generated power, I was wondering who their Internet Service Provider was–they have a very fast online connection.
While Nim’s father studies the water, she reads the adventures of her favorite swashbuckling explorer, Alex Rover, who fights off pirate Arabs in Arabia (PC groups are upset by this, which is a reason you should support this movie and take your kids to see it) and other cretins elsewhere. Little does Nim know, Alex is really Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster)–a strange, neurotic, psychosomatic, cloistered author in San Francisco with agoraphobia and a million other phobias which prevent her from leaving her home for months. The explorer, “Alex” Rover, is just her alter ego and imaginary muse.
Nim’s father gets lost at sea, during one of his scientific expeditions to find new microbes. In the meantime, Alex–struggling to finish her latest adventure–e-mails Nim’s father for information on an article he wrote about the volcano. Nim responds, and with her father missing and upon getting an injury, gets Alex Rover to overcome her phobia and come to the island. But, as we see, Nim, is actually the true swashbuckling adventurer, not the fictional one she reads and fantasizes about.
The story is more exciting and charming than I’m telling it here. And the movie’s great–and not too scary–for kids. It wasn’t a GREAT movie. But it was good enough. And very entertaining. A kid’s adventure, slightly lite.
* “The Ruins“: This movie was not “officially” screened for critics, and after seeing it, last night, I know why. Supposedly a horror/thriller flick, it was more hilarious than it was scary (thought it tries hard to gross you out–a man’s legs are cut off, lots of blood, etc.). The plot is preposterous and not at all believable. Four 20-somethings and a German guy (with a horridly fake accent that spanned the range of various points in Scandinavia to podunk Iowa) they meet while on vacation in Mexico, go to Mayan ruins and find themselves atop a pyramid. Soon they are being enticed by flesh-eating vines, whose flowers emultate human voices and cellphone rings.
One by one, as they try to survive, they are eaten by the plants, which grow inside them. This was like “Little Shop of Horrors” trying to be serious and get us to believe it’s real. Hilarious (though unintended). I kept waiting for a vine to shout, “Feed me, Seymour, Feed Me.” Entertaining enough for escapism and light amusement. But not a great horror flick by any stretch.
* “Run, Fat Boy, Run“: Directed by “Friends” star David Schwimmer, this movie was highly predictable, but funny and entertaining enough. An English loser leaves his beautiful bride–pregnant with his child–at the alter. Five years later, she’s about to marry an American man who’s rich, smart, better-looking, etc. But the loser realizes the mistake he made on his wedding day and wants her back. He decides to train for and run a marathon to prove his love and newfound maturity. Amusing.
* “Married Life“: I enjoyed this psychological thriller set in the 1950s. A wealthy businessman (Chris Cooper) is tired of his wife because she only wants sex and isn’t into love and romance. He decides he wants a woman who will love and adore him, and he’s having an affair with that (younger) woman (Rachel McAdams). He wants to marry his mistress, but doesn’t want to hurt his wife, whom he loves. So, he plots to murder her. But Cooper’s friend–Pierce Brosnan–wants the mistress, too. And he gets in the way of it all. The intrigue and “Telltale Heart”-esque thoughts and suspense made this period piece timeless and enjoyable. Light and entertaining.
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