April 11, 2008, - 3:09 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
This weekend, there’s really nothing new at the box office worth seeing. Best to rent something like “Idiocracy,” or to see “21” or “Flawless“–two great movies still at theaters. “Prom Night” was not screened for critics, a sure sign it’s a bomb. And while “The Visitor” is out in limited release in New York and L.A., this weekend, I’m saving my complete review of this propaganda flick for a column, separate from this rundown of this weekend’s new features, and am giving you only a brief note on that film.
* “Street Kings“: I really wanted to like this Keanu Reeves vehicle because I like movies about cops and street gangs. But this film was preposterous. Extremely violent and bloody for no reason, the plot was confusing, silly, and so completely convoluted and cockamamie, it was simply not to be believed. A total mess.
Although it’s supposed to be about a cop fighting bad cops, “Serpico” it ain’t. Al Pacino is turning over in his . . . Oh, wait. He’s sort of still alive, and hopefully, for his continued health, he doesn’t go see this “Serpico Way, Way, Way Lite.”
Reeves plays a bad cop who is played as a hero in the media because his commanding officer (Forest Whittaker) and fellow cops cover for him. But the members of his unit tell him that his former partner is telling Internal Affairs everything.
Soon, he finds himself implicated in the gang shooting of his former partner, and it’s up to him to lobby the IA officer to see things “his way.” But, soon, after he wins ove the IA guy, he suddenly becomes the good bad cop fighting really bad, bad cops. Make sense? It didn’t to me, either. Scenes, in which the IA detective is going with him on crime busts did not bear any resemblance to reality in a major city police department, where IA men are separate and don’t mix in this stuff.
If lots of shooting at close range, bloody shot up bodies and faces, and decaying heads wearing grills a/k/a “gryllz”, is your thing, then this movie is for you. But if you’re looking for any sort of exciting plot–actually any plot–keep looking.
Aside from that, any movie with the annoyingly silly Jay Mohr playing a cop with a mustache and trying to play it seriously, is simply unconvincing. I laughed each time I saw his mug onscreen. Ditto for Sarah Jessica Parker’s former “Sex & the City” love, John Corbett, trying to play a rough cop. He needs to go back to Carrie and her gazillion pairs of stiletto-heeled shoes, because the badge and gun ill fit him. Double ditto for Hugh Laurie of FOX’s “House.” I’ve never thought he carried off the fake American accent well, and his Internal Affairs position is a caricature, if anything.
The only highlight is Cedric the Entertainer playing a drug user and low-level dealer. That should be a hint about the caliber of this flick. (Rappers Common and The Game are also in minor roles.)
There’s no street (and very little king) in Street Kings. It’s the king of stinkers. Skip this utter disappointment whose sole point is to shoot ’em up on screen.
* “Smart People“: Since I’m a big fan of Dennis Quaid, I wanted to like this movie, but just couldn’t. Quaid, who dons a beard and a fatsuit to play a washed up, bitter college professor and widower, has a chance meeting in the hospital with a doctor who used to be one of his students. The doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker) used to have a crush on her professor, and upon learning about it, he asks her out. But being the pompous, full-of-himself Victorian lit prof that he is, she has to tell him off to get him to change. Soon, they are dating, but can it work? And do we care? I didn’t.
In the meantime, his annoying “Young Republican” daughter (aren’t all Young Republicans “annoying” in Hollywood? And by the way, if you’re still in high school, it’s “Teen-Age Republican”; “Young Republicans” are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s) is trying for a perfect SAT score and makes all the perfect gourmet dinners for her dad. She has no life, and is way too snarky and smart for her own good. The prof’s adopted, druggie, loser brother (Thomas Haden Church, who steals the show in this movie) comes to stay with them, and he’s the most normal. And very funny. The end.
It figures that critics would rave over this depressing, pointless movie. And that, once again, they’d rave over the most over-rated actress in Hollywood, Ellen Page (from “Juno“), who plays the Young Republican daughter. She always plays the same annoying role–the young Janeane Garofalo. That’s what she sounds and looks like. And she’s equally annoying. Picture Garofalo 20 years ago playing a caricature of a high school Republican. That’s this movie. Or at least enough of the movie to make my mind keep saying to me, “Please, make it stop.”
Pointless and a waste of 1.5 hours and ten bucks. Smart People will avoid “Smart People.” It’s simply a dumb idea. Sorry, Dennis.
* “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation“: It’s 1970, Pele is Brazil’s soccer star on the verge of winning the cup. And a young Brazilian boy’s leftists parents are on the run from the junta that takes power.
The boy is dropped off to stay with his grandfather in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Sao Paolo. But his grandfather died of a heart attack, and together the Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivor senior citizens take care of this boy, whom they learn is not a Jew (he is uncircumcized and his mother was not Jewish). We watch the Orthodox men, in beards and black suits, and their women watching and cheering on Brazil’s soccer team on TV, along with the young boy–a huge soccer fan.
While it has it’s charm–the Jewish neighborhood’s warmth and appreciation for this boy, whom they treat like one of the family–it’s also schlocky. And it’s kind of pointless and not really worthy of 2 hours and $10. And as a religious Jew, I can tell you, they got a lot of technical stuff wrong (such as a decorative, lacquered coffin at the Orthodox funeral of the grandfather; Orthodox Jews use plain, unvarnished wood caskets, so they will disintegrate into the earth as quickly as possible–“ashes to ashes, dust to dust”). But, hey, why would Hollywood be interested in accuracy? (Technically, this foreign language film wasn’t made by Hollywood, but it’s promoted by them, and you get the point.)
* “The Visitor“: Stay tuned for my complete review column on this movie. In the meantime, I can tell you that it must be Washed-up-pompous-White-male-widower-college-professor-with-no-meaning-in-life Week at the movies. Like Dennis Quaid’s character in “Smart People,” the lead in this film is a washed up college prof and widower who is sleepwalking through life, but as in “Smart People,” he’s woken up and his life given meaning–not by an attractive young female doctor, but by two Muslim illegal aliens squatting in his apartment, who give him joy and culture and life. Yup, I have a lot more to say about this inaccurate propaganda film. Like I said, stay tuned.
Tags: actress, Al Pacino, Brazil, college professor, commanding officer, Debbie Schlussel, Dennis Quaid, Flawless, Forest Whittaker, heart attack, House, Hugh Laurie, IA detective, IA officer, Idiocracy, Janeane Garofalo, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Juno, Keanu Reeves, King, L.A., New York, Professor, Sao Paolo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Serpico, sleepwalking, Smart People, soccer, Technically, The Visitor, Thomas Haden Church, USD