Monday, December 1, 2008

Reversals: MEET DAVE and WANTED

Given its reviews (17 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and the dismal box-office, MEET DAVE may have already primed you for an it-can't-be-that-bad viewing experience. You'd be right, too. No classic, the movie is still surprisingly entertaining and also quite sweet in a genuine, uncloying way. The marketing of the film was very poorly done. Granted, the concept did not lend itself to the kind of overlong, we're-showing-you-all-the-good-parts trailer they turn out today. But Eddie Murphy, an actor seldom known for subtlety, has a great role here: an alien trying hard to mimic earthlings. He gives it his best shot and gets considerable support from Gabrielle Union, Elizabeth Banks, Scott Caan, Marc Blucas, Pat Kilbane and others.

While I would not credit the movie with quite the depth that did Armond White in his New York Press review, I am still grateful for having read Mr. White, who has turned me on to a number of worthwhile films passed up by mainstream critics. Meet Dave is such an easy film to enjoy and offers some truly funny and pointed sequences (pix from two of these are shown above, the second of which makes a simply brilliant image/idea) that I admit amazement as to its shoddy treatment by press and public. The current DVD release should in part remedy this. I suspect kids will have a lot of fun with the film, too.

WANTED, on the other hand is fascist movie-making from the get-go, though it tries to manage a seeming change of heart (as if!) toward the finale. Since its director (Timur Bekmambetov: Night Watch/Day Watch is a product of the new Russia, should we be surprised? If nothing else, Wanted might put the final nail in the coffin of the slow-motion bullet. God, how many more of these boring, lengthy "non-speeding-bullet" moments must we endure?

Jolie aims, McAvoy cringes -- and this constitutes the "good" part.

The movie, by the by, is also among the most stupid of this past summer. I will give one example only, and there may be a spoiler ahead for those who have not endured this "treasure": If Wesley's father had wanted to warn his kid about anything, the guy had only to send an email, snail mail or maybe make a quick phone call. Or, since their paths actually cross a number of times during the film, maybe he could just -- as adults have been known to tell very young children -- use words. But no, that might make some sense and would of course prevent the entire plot from taking place. Please: will someone take the schlockmeisters who write this "blockbuster" drivel (three of them were involved here, with their story/screenplay based on a -- surprise! -- comic book series) out to a deep lake and pull a Monty Clift/Shelley Winters number. That said, I admit to finding the first couple of action sequences so riveting that I could not tear my eyes off the screen. Now, if only movie-makers offered something for the mind, as well. And no -- don't pretend that The Dark Knight managed much brain-food, either.

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