Wednesday, December 3, 2008

QUICK WRAPS: Monkeys, Will Smith, Jamie Bell & Guillaume Canet

Just the sort of movie you'd be happy to watch with your pre-teens (or seniors with their grand-kids), SPACE CHIMPS, though not very successful theatrically, should do a lot better on DVD. It's fast, funny and buoyant -- and provides a surprising amount of clever lines that will tickle adults, while the bright, 2-D animation -- complete with spacecraft, aliens, and interplanetary adventure -- will satisfy the youngins'. We are not talking the great shakes of a Ratatouille here, by any means, but as a throw-away 80 minutes, director/co-writer Kirk De Micco delivers -- and painlessly for adults. Very young kids, I should think, will want to watch again.

HANCOCK is weird, and in fact, really does not work all that well. Yet this very weirdness makes it consistently interesting. That -- plus Will Smith, who is indeed a superstar, Charlize Theron, who continues to do good work, and Jason Bateman who, in some ways, slyly steals this movie. (As a public relations maven in my day job, I admit to having a soft spot for any movie that presents its PR person as a decent human being.) Peter Berg's brawny, straight-ahead direction does a service to the film by keeping it on course -- despite that course's being more than a bit nonsensical. Does anyone else out there wish, as I do, that Mr. Smith would again try something as challenging and important (except for the money factor, of course) as he did with the Schepisi/Guare rendition of Six Degrees of Separation. Bruce Willis does/did a lot of this back-and-forth travel between blockbusters and independents. It can be done, Will. And what's the good of a superstar who never takes a risk?

David Mackenzie moves another step forward and up with MR. FOE (real name/title: Hallam Foe), a coming-of-age story with a few nice twists that gives Jamie Bell his best role since Billy Elliot. Expertly cast and acted by Bell, Sophia Myles, Ciarán Hinds, Jamie Sives, Ewen Bremner and Claire Forlani, and well written and directed by Mackenzie (who adapted from Peter Jinks' novel), the movie has very little mainstream leanings -- as witnessed by the seduction scene in which Hallam and his "girl" refer to each other's "privates" in a competing string of delightfully dirty epithets. Most coming-of-age films are limited by their very subject and how many times we've seen this done. Here, it's handled with both a little more edge and -- oddly enough, despite its heady dose of sexuality -- more class. While the resolution seems a bit pat, the denouement is very nice, very real and very satisfying.

Guillaume Canet's first full-length film Mon Idol has recently come to DVD (here in the USA, under the title Whatever You Say) and it's about time. If you're a Tell No One fan (the actor/director's second film), you'll probably want to catch his first. But even if you were not so hot for Tell No One, try Mon Idol anyway, for it's a lot of fun -- and so very different from Canet's second outing. My more complete review of this dark charmer (in which the lovely Diane Kruger, above right, co-stars) appears on GreenCine's Guru site....

No comments: