Saturday, November 29, 2008

Paragraph Movie Reviews: In-Flight Triple Feature

The first and third of these were viewed on flights to and from Newark, New Jersey to Las Vegas, Nevada. The second I just watched at a theater in Vegas, but "Paragraph Movie Reviews: In-Flight Double Feature Plus a Movie I Saw in Vegas" was overly long.

Mamma Mia!
A mixed bag, this one. The musical scenes are wonderful. ABBA's songs are undoubtedly infectious and the folks belting 'em out have some great pipes on them (except Pierce Brosnan, but he's so earnest about trying anyways that it's endearing). However, on the other hand, the scenes without singing range from ok to awful. I don't blame the cast or even the writers, really, it's just a case where this traditional stage show was not translated (or could not be translated well) to film. So much of the comedy and pathos relies on over the top physicality which works when you're playing to an auditorium but comes off ridiculous on camera, and no real effort seemed made to curb that problem (unlike Chicago or other more successful translations). As for the cast, Meryl Streep is exquisite, but that's kinda a given. The male trio of Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard are probably the best non-singing actors of the group, but the trio suffers a bit after Pierce goes off to do more dramatic stuff. Julie Walters is ok and Christine Baranski is irritating and unfortunately they were on the hook for most of the "funny" scenes. Amanda Seyfried is adorable and wowed me here as she has in everything I've seen her in; and what a voice! Overall entertaining, but not one I'd watch again and again.

Four Christmases
Very disappointing, particularly considering the wealth of talented people in the cast. The movie has to live or die on the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon and while they make for a quick-witted pair in the comedic scenes, when it comes to the serious stuff, Vaughn checks out and leaves his partner hanging. Witherspoon pours all her earnest likeability into giving the plot some weight, but Vaughn is seriously just a walking punchline, doing his usual improv routines and one-liners but never once making you want to root for him. The rest is just formulaic "meet the family" junk; all the best bits were in the previews. And of the impressive supporting ensemble, only Kristen Chenoweth is able to use her meager screen time to make any sort of impression. Vince Vaughn should stick to being the kooky best friends, because romantic comedies ain't his thing. And why was everybody but the two main characters southern when they lived in California?

Journey to the Center of the Earth
What could have been (and sometimes is) a very by the numbers bit of family fare is elevated quite nicely by a fun but intelligent story and the presence of Brendan Fraser. It's been said before, but Fraser really possesses the perfect goofy charm and expertise at not taking himself seriously that makes him right for this type of movie. Josh Hutcherson is also quite a poised and witty young actor who has a great chemistry with Fraser (the scenes they're not onscreen together in are the weakest by far). Anita Briem rounds out a very sympathetic trio to guide us through neat special effects and cool stunts. I also liked that while there were the usual little "issues with my parents" subplots, they weren't hammered too hard. Not something I'd go too out of my way to see, but if you get it as your in-flight movie, a decent way to spend an hour and a half.


Chris Ayers said...

I've always thought Warner Brothers missed the boat by not casting Brendan Fraser as Superman. He would have been perfect.

Ben Morse said...

Interesting. I could buy him as everyman Clark Kent, but I'm not sure he projects the air of infallibility needed to play Superman.