I have a friend who recently went to the dentist for the first time in over a year. Unaware of just how often she had been indulging in sweets, she was shocked to find out that she had five cavities. That’s the way sweets are, thoughirresistibly addictive, but corrosive as hell. The same thing goes for the summer movie season. After being subjected to a succession of mindless explosions and stupid fart jokes, three months later you’ll find that your brain has turned to worthless mush.
Though the summer season has traditionally begun on Memorial Day weekend, things have changed in recent years. As event films designed to overload your senses have become more and more expensive to make, studios have had to expand the films’ marketing as well. Thus last year, biggies like Gladiator and Mission Impossible 2 were hyped for months and then opened before Memorial Day to get a jump on the summer dollar. The Mummy Returns’ nearly $70 million opening weekend two weeks ago proves that the tactic continues to pay off.
From now on, summer starts whenever someone gets there first. So I’m going to go ahead and spend the next two columns handing out awards of distinction to the onslaught of thinly disguised junk we’ll suffer through for the next three months.
“But Ben,” you say, “how can you evaluate these movies? You haven’t seen them.” Look, I know a dog when I see it, and I have neither the desire nor the temperament to sit through most of this dreck. We pay Jim Ridley for that.
Most embarrassing simplification of one of U.S. history’s pivotal events: Pearl Harbor This sure-to-be-a-blockbuster exemplifies everything worthless about summer movies. Essentially Titanic 2, the movie uses proficient technical director Michael Bay (Armageddon) to re-create the terrifying attack on Pearl Harbor while couching the plot in a cheesy love story and painful dialogue. Early reports note predictably jaw-dropping special effects alongside corny, tear-jerking moments, such as a tattered American flag being pulled out of the water.
I’m sure the complex political background leading up to the attack will be ignored, meaning that the film won’t even serve as a decent history lesson for the millions of teenage boys rushing out to see it. And by rendering the American characters two-dimensional while making the explosions the main attraction, the filmmakers will basically turn the Japanese into the heroesafter all, the Japanese are the ones who unleashed all the fireworks we’ll be paying 8 bucks to see.
There is one nice bit of irony, though: Alec Baldwin, a man who swore he’d leave the country if George W. Bush was elected president, is starring in a movie that revels in Bush’s brand of airheaded jingoism.
The lamest characterizations you’ll see all summer: Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy If Pearl Harbor disguises its cheap thrills in patriotism and melodrama, Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy work hard just to make their one-dimensional characters seem human. I say one-dimensional because the characters in these films don’t even have the benefit of dialogue or personality development that you’d find in a comic book: They’re both based on video-game characters, so essentially any traits they have are given to them by the player moving them. Oh sure, both games have plots and backgrounds, but nobody ever pays attention to that stuff when they’re playing a video game.
What’s even funnier about these two movies is that fans are waiting breathlessly to see whether the characters are depicted believably. Buxom, pouty-lipped Angelina Jolie’s challenge in Tomb Raider was basically seeing if she could fit into the tight shirts and shorts of her ludicrously proportioned video-game character. Final Fantasy, which is entirely digitally animated, touts just how real its human characters look. The lead female is even featured in the current Maxim, as if she were one of the current crop of hotties on the scene. It’s good to know that decades of advances in special effects and technology have finally brought Hollywood to its ultimate goal: making women hotter and erasing those pesky, willful personalities.
Movies most likely to make you mourn for Eddie Murphy’s career: Shrek and Dr. Doolittle 2 At one time in the ’80s, Eddie Murphy was as big as Jim Carrey would be in the ’90s, and deservedly so. Besides being incredibly funny, he had charisma and acting chops that allowed him to do more than just comedy. Then in the ’90s, he slowly killed his career with a slew of terrible movies (The Distinguished Gentleman, Beverly Hills Cop III, Vampire in Brooklyn).
Murphy bounced back in ’96 with his fantastic work in The Nutty Professor, but unfortunately he seems to think it’s the special effects in that movie that led to his career resurgence. Ever since then, he has largely relied on gimmicky movies like the cutesy Dr. Doolittle, in which he was largely upstaged by animals, or he has contributed the occasional voiceover to animated films such as Mulan. We’ll see more of the same in Dr. Doolittle 2 and in Shrek, where most likely he’ll be upstaged by Mike Myers’ Scottish ogre. (Note to Mike: This is the third film where you’ve used the goofy Scottish accent. It’s getting very, very tired.)
Murphy’s finest moment in the past few years was in Steve Martin’s Bowfinger, in which he played a parody of himself and also starred as the character’s nerdy younger brother. Both roles were hysterical and sharply observed, with no special effects and little makeup. Someone please give Murphy some roles equivalent to his talent so he can quit wasting his time, and ours, playing second fiddle to CGI work.
Movie that makes you wish bad things would happen to Adam Sandler: The Animal I thought it would be impossible to have a less promising tag for a trailer than, “From the producers of Deuce Bigalow” (as was the case with The Adventures of Joe Dirt). I was wrong. The Animal contains the even less enticing, “From the producers of Big Daddy.”
What’s the connection here? Adam frickin’ Sandler. If Jim Carrey was the Eddie Murphy of the ’90s, then Adam Sandler is the Steve Guttenbergan inexplicably popular actor responsible for some of the worst comedies every recorded onto celluloid (in this case, Little Nicky, The Waterboy, and Billy Madison). But Sandler has the edge on Guttenberg. Not content just to star in these things, he has now graduated to funding films that propagate his unfunny, puerile humor.
That’s how we ended up with The Animal, a movie in which somehowand I’m not going to bother explaining thisRob Schneider ends up with animal organs in his body. This leads to scenes of Schneider humping a mailbox and looking lustfully at a goat. Be careful, you might get suffocated by wit that potent.
I will never, for the life of me, understand the appeal of Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, or the increasingly insufferable David Spade. But Sandler in particular is utterly unbearable. His fake voices are grating, his acting ability is nonexistent, and his sense of humor is suitable only for those who wish Married With Children had never been canceled. For the good of humanity, he should be drugged and locked in a cage.
Tune in next week as I continue to evaluate the coming summer movie season by sticking a white-hot poker to Steven Spielberg, Ed Burns, and Marlon Brando. Man, I’ve got balls.
“I ain’t no goddamned son of a bitch! You’d better think about it baby!”
Be the first to e-mail the origin of this useless bit of trivia to poplife the shame of your name printed in the paper and some free useless crap from the Nashville Scene!
Previous week’s answer: “Elliot, do I look like a blond with big tits and an ass that tastes like French vanilla ice cream?”Christian Slater as Clarence Worley in True Romance.
Winner: Christy O’Flaherty.
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