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Monthly Archives: December 2007

It’s been a rough year for Judd Apatow – named Entertainment Weekly’s smartest man in Hollywood – with two hit summer comedies in Knocked Up and Superbad, the former being much more satisfying, and a promising December release in Walk Hard. However, what must be considered is that Apatow only directed the first of these films, offering assistance on producing and writing the second two, respectively. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Walk Hard, along with the aforementioned unfunny Jonah Hill and hilarious Michael Cera vehicle, is discouragingly less gut-busting than Apatow’s directorial efforts.

Walk Hard hosts one of the best performances of the year in John C. Reilly, the long under-appreciated character actor whose best turn remains that in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic Magnolia. In this Jake Kasdan directed send up of musical biopics, Walk the Line most obvious among them, Reilly plays Dewey Cox, a versatile musician followed from birth to death (of course) who loves both his tunes and his wives. The premise alone made it one of the most promising releases of the winter, but, sadly, beyond the first ten minutes, the film is just like the pictures it is spoofing – it comes alive when Dewey is on stage, and falls apart when he is off it.

Dewey, who sets up the film by recalling the events of his entire life before a performance, is a sensitive, loving, but misguided man who goes off the deep end in a world of drugs and promiscuous sex. Still, any wrong turns on the road of life can’t keep him from his true passions – music and exotic animals. This is promising stuff, right? Well, I sure thought so, until I was relentlessly beat over the head with repetitive situations involving the decade’s newest drugs, his wives’ newest concerns, and his songs’ newest style. It’s a arduous journey for both those dearest to Dewey and the audience, and I just couldn’t go along for the ride after countless images of giraffes on the front lawn, babies screaming, and sinks being destroyed, all of which were hilarious the first time.

Walk Hard
of course provided enough laughs to justify its existence, but was ultimately lacking the same substance as Superbad. The most atrocious of all conclusions that must be made is that it resembles most other spoofs – no better than the target films themselves. C+

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Thanks to a trailer for the upcoming Pixar film Wall·E and a ten-minute short featuring Goofy trying to put together a home theater system, I was filled with all sorts of Disney nostalgia when the updated, digitized logo appeared as the lights in the theater dimmed. Even as the title came across the big screen and the credentials of the filmmakers came across the screen in my mind, I was ready to find something to like in Jon Turteltaub’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Sadly, the only hope for the film was the possibility that it would recognize its inherent campiness and run with it, much in the way of Indiana Jones. Instead, the film left me wondering if Turteltaub and the Wibberleys had any clue what kind of film they were making, let alone the cast.

Though the first film was fun enough to sit through, the only thing each of the all-star actors is working for is a paycheck; none of them make any attempt to convince you that there may be a treasure beneath some historical monument, the clues to which are found in nonexistent relics and diaries. Excluded from the above statement are Justin Bartha and Diane Kruger, who play sidekick and girlfriend Diane Kruger, respectively. This exclusion is not because of their drive as performers, but rather because they do not fit the all-star qualification in any sense. Even Bartha, who was somewhat witty in the original, mostly falls flat here. About 20% of his lines actually arouses a laugh, and even four out of five dentists couldn’t get America to start chewing Trident, so he is rendered essentially worthless.

What is there to like in this seasonally misplaced sequel? I have yet to completely decide, but there was a twenty-minute segment about half-way through the film during which I was prepared to wipe my self-important critic slate clean and believe that it was finally accepting its unavoidable cheesiness and incredibility. Then, Nicholas Cage single-handedly manipulated the location of the president’s birthday party, snuck in without a sweat, and inexplicably got the head of state alone, in a cave, completely sober, but still willing to disclose the location of the nation’s secrets. To say the film lost me here is mildly understated, since I had never really been with it and, afterwards, I was longing for nothing but the closing credits and the opening of Paul Thomas Anderon’s There Will Be Blood.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets has no place in summer or winter, but, at best, as a February release at a selection of dollar theaters. Above all else, it saddens me most that it couldn’t live up to the majesty and spectacle of the beloved Disney logo. C