CELEBRATING TEN YEARS AND NO LAWSUITS
This Week: The Curiously Boring and Tedious Case of Benjamin Buttocks:
The curious part of all of this is that this movie is actually getting a lot of Oscar Best Picture buzz. I guess it all comes down to the fact that the competition this year isn't exactly what one would call "fierce." Take a mediocre and almost forgotten story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, bring it somewhat into modern times and, there you have it...Best Picture material. Or so, at least compared to just about everything else.
This movie is told in flashback, a cinematic device that screams "bad movie" like a hamburger wrapped in the McDonalds logo cries, "awful food, consume at your own risk." If you have tastebuds older than 7, you know what you are getting is neither nutritious or tasty. In fact, some serious consideration always has to be given to simply eating the wrapper, which is arguably healthier, more nutritious and probably doesn't taste a whole lot worse.
We open the story watching an old lady (Daisy) die in the hospital as Hurricane Katrina bears down on New Orleans. That isn't really any sort of plot spoiler because as it turns out, the hurricane really doesn't have jack squat to do with anything. Allow me to be somewhat clear on one point. Almost nothing I can say about this movie is really going to constitute a plot spoiler. If you know the basic premise, there really isn't any plot to spoil.
The dying old lady wants her daughter to read to her from an old diary. The tale therein begins with a side story about an old clock, which also doesn't have jack squat to do with the plot. I think the whole thing was just thrown in because back in the days of Fitzgerald, writers were typically paid by the word for serialized stories, and that took up space and made them money. It also made this movie a good 15 minutes longer than it really needed to be and for that, it is difficult to excuse the production team.
Then we move on to the story of the birth of a baby. This one, however, isn't new born baby ugly. This is a wildly ugly baby that is born resembling about a 90-year old man...except newborn baby size. The mother dies in childbirth, probably from the shock of seeing the incredibly ugly baby. Meanwhile, dad is in such shock from the death of the mother and the butt-ugly baby that he grabs it, runs off and prepares to dump it in the Mississippi River.
Had he succeeded, we might have been spared another 2 hours and 45 minutes of unbearable gabfest. Or, at the very least, maybe penguins would have saved the baby from drowning and he would have grown up to be an super-villain. Then at least we might have had an entertaining holiday Batman movie. Instead, a policeman deters dad at the last moment, and he dumps baby Benjamin (Played throughout by Bradd Pitt) off an old folks home. He is taken in by the kindly caretakers who don't expect him to live very long.
But little Benjamin surprises everyone not just by surviving, but getting healthier and slowly younger. That is the basis of the entire plot of this movie. As Benjamin gets older, he actually ages in reverse. At about age 7, he meets a young girl who becomes the love of his life, although we have to get two hours into this story before they actually end up getting together.
Meanwhile, we have to endure the unbelievably dull story of Ben's life, which mostly involves him working on a tugboat and hanging out in Russia. While there, he has an affair with a married British lady. That wasn't even very exciting. The highlight of that entire subplot was a lecture by the British lady on proper methods of brewing tea. I was wishing I had a pot of boiling water handy to pour on my testicles in order to take my mind off of the throbbingly painful ennui up on the screen.
Most of the rest of the story is filled with similar subplots that really don't contribute to anything along the lines of advancing the plot. This movie simply drifts along lazily and in a tedious manner almost forever until Benjamin and his childhood sweetheart, Daisy (Kate Blanchett) finally get together. Even that isn't all that interesting. In the first place, it's not as if we particularly like either one of them. In the second place, we are already so bored by the time this all comes together we just want the film to find a landing somewhere.
Utimately we find out that the whole point of Daisy having her daughter read the diary was to permit the daughter to know that Benjamin was her real father. He abandoned them out of fears that as he grew older, he'd force Daisy to end up caring for two children. At that point, what little empathy we might have had left for Benjamin vanished entirely. But we still had to drag through about another 20 minutes summarizing the events that led to the end of Benjamins life. For awhile, I was pretty worried that sheer boredom might bring me to the end of mine first.
Oh...btw...this movie automatically incurred the K.A.W. penalty of being lowered one notch in the ratings when we were forced to endure the vision of old man butt.
Also This Week: Marley and Me:
Chances are, a lot of you are already well acquainted with this story. Many of you who read the book club page became acquainted with the book if you weren't already, and I've received some feedback on it.
Ernest Hemmingway once wrote, "All true stories end in death." John Grogan's book Marley and Me
is a true story. It is an account the Grogan family's life with "the world's worst dog", although there is really no such thing. All pets can be a problem now and again, but they generally give us so much more than they take in terms of the occasional chewed up piece of furniture or some treasured item falling off of a shelf.
Admittedly, there is something patently sadistic about this movie. The entire purpose of the exercise is to rip our hearts out and beat us senseless with them. We start out watching the Grogan family adopt a cute little dog, then feel their pain as the adorable puppy morphs into 100 pounds of furniture destroying machine. The whole question here is, do we sympathize with the Grogans, who, on a daily basis, have to watch their home being dismantled, chewed up and deposited in the backyard?
Or do we sympathize with Marley, the overly enthusiastic pooch who is not only sent to Earth to punish the Grogans, depicted here as the whiniest, most insufferable couple to come to life on the silver screen in years, but also two actors none of us like. You see, making that point all the more delicious is the fact that the Grogans are portrayed by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, two actors who most definitely have a slice of hell coming.
Owen Wilson has been responsible for so much cinematic suffering that it is difficult not to derive some pleasure watching this rambunctous mutt destroy his house. In reality, we didn't want to watch Marley chew up all his stuff...we wanted Marley to eat Wilson. Now, there is a movie we'd all go see.
Then we have Ms. Aniston, who's emotional range in every film covers the wide spectrum between bewildered and utterly bewildered, but the full course unconvincingly. Aniston gets to do exactly two things in this film. First, she gets to shout "MARLEY!" every 30 seconds. Second, she gets to tell John Grogan (Wilson) what a pain in the ass he is every 90 seconds. Both get a little tedious.
Then we have Marley, who is portrayed at various stages of his life by a series of different dogs. About all the filmmakers got right in the progression was keeping the collection of dogs in the same breed. Marley was a yellow lab, and so were all the dogs that portrayed him. However, as older dogs are used throughout the film, it is painfully obvious that we are not watching the same dog actor throughout. That would have been difficult, of course, since it would have taken a decade and a half to film this movie.
The thing that is going to annoy fans of the book the most is the general sense that we are watching a choppy highlight film. The movie is two hours long as it is, so many of the incidents that lend charm to the book are glossed over in brief images or ignored entirely. Obviously that is necessary to bring the movie in under 8 hours, but it lessens the overall impact quite a bit.
It also doesn't help that the movie is being used as a vehicle to peddle Purina Dog Chow. Not only is the brand quite conspicious throughout the movie, but everytime I turn on the TV these days, there is a Purina Commerical pimping the film. What is the lesson here? If you want an overly energetic dog who'll destroy your home, feed him Purina? That doesn't seem like the brightest marketing strategy I've come across in awhile.
So ultimately, here we are in the holiday season and if you choose to go to a movie, there is a pretty good chance you are going to walk out depressed. You might wander into Seven Pounds,
a movie that is a much more aggressive assault on its audience than this one, or Marley
which is guaranteed to get the tears flowing. Come to think on it, Hollywood has become a massive factory for insulting the intelligence of its audiences by giving them endings in films that they already know are coming.
The biggest movie in box-office history (a point arguable by the way such matters are calculated) is Titanic.
Remember how shocked we all were at the end when that boat sank? You could have knocked me over with a feather. In this movie, Marley dies at the end. If you read the book, you knew that one was coming. A couple of doors down you can watch Tom Cruise, well known advocate of a nutball religion that worships Martians, playing a character who leads a plot to kill Hitler. Surprise! The plot fails! A couple of months ago you could have gone to see W
a movie about a meglomanic who ends up being a failed President. A lot of us knew the outcome of that one 8 years before the film was released.
Last Week: Seven Pounds:
Give this movie credit for one thing. It single handedly cured about two months' worth of writer's block. Between all the crap that has been released this year as the result of the writer's strike, and a little burnout on my part, reviews have been pretty scant this year, especially the past few months. But I am feeling back in the spirit now, and this movie had a lot to do with it.
This may well be the single ickiest movie I've ever reviewed. Not the worst; just the ickiest. I don't mean that in the sense of being overly violent or grotesquely graphic or anything like that. It was just a creepy story. This movie was kind of like getting a wedgy from a young Arnold Swartznegger. It was kind of like french-kissing a girl in the dark at a party and realizing it is your sister (especially if you are a female with no bi or lesbian inclinations). It was kind of like getting a hickey from your grandmother. It was kind of like watching an Adam Sandler movie...all rolled up into one.
We spend about 45 minutes of this movie trying to figure out what the hell is going on. We spend the last hour and 15 minutes wishing we didn't know. Now, that might be relative. Some slower members of the audience may not figure it out quite that quickly. But even the slowest members of the audience are eventually going to catch the drift, and wish they had gone to see the movie about that mouse with big ears.
Without giving away too much, and it's impossible to say anything about this movie without giving away a little, this movie is about a guy who wants to commit suicide. Surprise! An hour into this movie, we get the urge to beat him to it. Hey, aren't movies ultimately about love and sacrifice supposed to make you feel uplifted? This movie was about as inspiring as being run over by a Sherman Tank.
I have a question for the writers of this movie...again, I don't think I'm giving away too much...but just where in the hell did the main character, Ben (Will Smith) manage to get ahold of a jellyfish that is supposedly the deadliest animal on the planet. The bet here is that you can't pick one of those up at your average Pet's Mart. Here is a challenge for the Kexkateers...start making some phone calls to pet stores and see if you can find one that will sell you a King Cobra. If you happen to find one, let me know...just don't send it to me, okay?
The single biggest problem with this movie is that I didn't like Ben very much. In fact, I thought he was a jerk. I also didn't like the last scene in this movie which involved the first meeting of two principle characters. In fact, that scene just might have been the weirdest moment I've ever seen in a movie. The punchline is that it was supposed to be touching. It touched me alright. I came home and took a DiGel.
The absolute worst thing about this movie is that it is about a character who really could have achieved honest redemption through the employment of his considerable talents, as opposed to turning himself into a human meat market...that is probably giving away too much, but the more I write, the less I care. This movie is almost enough to make me wish that Smith would refocus his personal talents on rap music.
Actually, this is the second week in a row that I've watched a Smith movie. Last week, I rented Hancock
with every intention of reviewing it. I didn't because I couldn't think of very much to say. Now I can. It wasn't all that good, but at least at the end, I didn't feel like I needed a shower. Hancock may have, but I sort of liked him. Any guy who can fling a whale into the ocean and take out a yacht is okay in my book. He saved a whale and probably cleansed the planet of half a dozen Republicans in one selfless act.
So, why you may ask, was this movie titled Seven Pounds
? Because it was seven pounds of crap in a four pound bag. Three pounds is the average weight of the human brain. The Writers of this film were about 2 short. The British pound is currently worth about a buck and a half in American dollars, so 7 pounds is about what you'd waste to see this film....apart from the two hours of your life you'll never get back. Actually, I do know what the title means, but if I explain it, I pretty much have to give away the entire plot. I can do that in one sentence, which pretty much sums up how shallow this movie is.
Now, some of you may be asking yourselves, Kex's hashing not withstanding, should I go see this movie? No. You are going to come away feeling crappy, and this just isn't the time of year for that. Perhaps the people who made it are hoping for some Oscar nominations, but don't expect that. After an initially good opening weekend, this movie is going to tank so completely due to bad word of mouth that it might still be released on DVD before Christmas...and that comes next week.
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