|KEX'S AMAZING WORLD|
|Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken|
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
This Week: A Kex Classic: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind:
We can now examine this film from the safe distance of nearly a quarter of a century, and there are many conclusions to be drawn. Perhaps the single most amazing aspect of this film is that it represents one of the first screen appearances by a young Terri Garr, and somehow she managed to avoid having her career strangled in the craddle. This film might well have done it. If you have ever wondered how a world full of devout UFO nuts came about their Whitman's Sampler of odd beliefs on the matter of ET visitation, this film is the absolute, unfettered bible of flying saucer fiction.
It has always seemed to me that if earth is being visited by ET's as imagined by the modern crop of devotees, our visitors are behaving much more like mischevious adolescents than an advanced spacefaring race. That would explain their apparent fascination with loney, sexually frustrated women. In the film Close Encounters, the very first location our ET visitors drop in on just happens to be the remote home of a young, single female parent (Melinda Dillon)....hmmm. Undoubtedly they are there with the intent to kidnap her, remove a few of her eggs, probe her navel extensively and maybe even make a hybrid baby. Aliens do a lot of that sort of thing. Fortunately for her, they become interested in her son's toys and the contents of her refrigerator and she is spared alien degradation.
The next thing that we learn is that aliens like to freak out blue-color workers in remote settings whenever they get the chance. I guess that explains why they spend so much time buzzing drunk fishermen in Arkansas. In Close Encounters the aliens spend the early portion of the movie messing with the mind of a lineman (Richard Dreyfuss). At the time he is neither drunk or fishing, but the aliens implant a psychic vision in his mind which nearly drives him mad until he decodes it.
Aliens are really talented. Not only can they overcome the enormous distances between the stars, but they are apparently also capable of communicating with humans telepathically. I guess it makes things a lot easier for them when they are psychologically brow-beating their kidnap victims during egg or sperm stealing operations and probing navels. Its as if having sharp instruments rammed into our navels isn't humiliating enough, they apparently also get off on making us feel like slime in the process.
Next this movie teaches us that the big bad gummint knows a lot about ET visitation but they aren't sharing the knowledge with the rubes, like electrical linemen, fishermen and frustrated housewives. We get to see technicians in a secret government installation, under the direction of a French scientist, who are listening to alien transmissions. Fortunately the aliens are broadcasting their signals on some frequency that any rube ham radio enthusiast couldn't stumble upon, which is clever planning.
We also learn, at least if we happen to have the opportunity to view a very early edition of the film, that the government really sucks when it comes to interpretting numbers. There is a real shock. Okay, I won't go there this week. But in the first release of this film, the aliens broadcast a list of map coordinates to the government listening post. The government people trace the coordinates to Devil's Tower in Wyoming, but the actual numbers represent an area near a small lake close to Estes Park, Colorado. Presumably, when the aliens arrived for the rendezvous and found no one waiting, they frantically flew all over the Rocky Mountain west until they spotted the government hosts.
Steven Spielberg spared no opportunity to delight UFO buffs in this movie. He even arranged a cameo appearance for the biggest name in UFO research back in the 70's, the legendary Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Once upon a time, Hynek was an astronomy professor at a very respected midwestern university. He was known for being gifted politically, so much so that he managed to raise enough funds to build a brand new state-of-the art planetarium on campus. Everyone liked Hynek. He was a great guy. I met him in 1977, and I thought he was a great guy too. However, as a scientist and teacher, he was generally regarded as, well, a great guy.
If you watch carefully near the end of the film, there is a brief shot of Hynek, a white-haired, gouteed gentleman standing in the crowd contendly smoking his trademark Baby Wellington pipe. He is wearing the ugliest blue-colored leisure suit in the entire history of the universe. Wait, I have to confess something. It was the second ugliest leisure suit in the history of the universe: I had one just like it that was an even more hidious green color. I was wearing it the night I met him, and he politely asked me where I got it. What guilt I have to live with: This man's legacy is hazy enough given that he spent the latter two decades of his life chasing Martians, but his most famous and enduring public appearance came wearing a bad leisure suit he probably went out an bought after he was infected by my lousy taste in clothes.
Okay Kexkateers: Take a moment to sit back, close your eyes, and imagine what an alien looks like. The picture that came to your mind looked like this: didn't it? You know why? Because you either saw this movie, or live on the same planet with millions of other people who saw this movie and are now convinced that aliens probably look like that. Spielberg supposedly designed the alien based upon composites he drew up after discussions with Hynek. B.S. by my way of thinking: I think they look like stylized 70's happy faces.
There was one other important thing that came out of this movie: Tourism rose to astonishing proportions at the previously ignored Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Prior to this film, it was a place climbers were in love with, and several Native American tribes considered it a holy sanctuary, but tourists largely passed it by. In the wake of this film, the place was absolutely besieged; almost none of the newcomers went to look at a beautiful volcanic plug either. Most of them just waited for aliens to come. Even to this day, the place is second only to Roswell, New Mexico as the preferred vacation destination for your average UFO devotee.
No one really came close to summarizing this film as well as fantasy writer Harlan Ellison. He preached that any movie is bad if you can summarize the entire plot in one line. To prove his point, he used this movie, and I quote, "A crystal chandelier lands on Devil's Tower, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy jumps out and says, 'I'm gonna save your ass.'" Gotta love Harlan.
Last Week: Vanilla Sky:
MAJOR PLOT SPOILER CONTAINED IN THIS REVIEW!
I'M NOT KIDDING!
READING THIS REVIEW WILL SPOIL THE ENDING OF THIS FILM!
Okay, I think you have been adequately warned. There are essentially two key points I want to make about this film right off the top. First, if you have seen any previews for this movie whatsoever, I think you need to be prepared for the fact that it is a significantly different movie than you will probably expect based on what you have seen from the trailers. In fact, for quite awhile, I sort of wondered if I had accidently gone into the wrong auditorim.
The second thing that you need to know is that the trailers say that this movie contains secrets no reviewer should ever give away. I'm going to give away all those secrets, but the very first one I'm going to give away is the most important one: This movie sucks canal water. Its utterly sensless and idiotic. It was written by someone obviously on a really nasty drug trip. The same drugs were used to convince the studio execs that it should be made. If Hollywood wasn't about serious drug use these days, this piece of trash would have hit the bottom of the garbage can, not your neighborhood theater.
Lets take a moment to review the recent filmography of Tom Cruise: He made Jerry McGuire with Cameron Crowe directing. This film is sort of a reunion of the duo. He has also made to insanely crappy Mission Impossible films. In the first Mission Impossible film the I.M.F. team tried in vain to do something worthy of the old TV show. In the second, they attempted to hunt down all the people guilty of making the first one. Then Cruise made the unbelievably awful Eyes Wide Shut followed by Magnolia which bored us to death for 2 hours, then pounded us down with the worst ending in movie history (debatable after this film). Now Cruise has stared in Vanilla Sky.
Maybe Cruise is attempting to compete with Kevin Costner to see who can unleash the longest string of unspeakable cinematic trash in a ten year period. One thing is certain: If any actor less reputable or visually appealing than Cruise had unleashed a string of bombs this potent in such a short period of time, the actor's next entertainment related occupation would be standing behind a counter and renting movies, not making them. Does anyone else get the impression that maybe it was Kidman, and not Cruise that wanted the divorce?
Another secret revealed by this movie is what everyone has suspected, and what has been rumored for a very long time in Hollywood: Tom Cruise really is gay. I'm not saying that in any sense to put him down, or make light of gay people. I'm just saying that this movie proves it. How? His character is bagging Cameron Diaz every night, and she is madly in love with him. She offers herself to him like a mink O.D.'d on viagra nightly. And what does Cruise do about it? He tosses her over for Penelope Cruz.
Now, Penelope Cruz looks like a bean pole. We get to see her naked in this movie, and if you accept my word for nothing else, trust me on this one: Bean poles don't look good naked, and neither does Penelope Cruz. The biggest thing on her chest is a mole. Really. Cruise has a better figure than she does. And is it just a coincidence that his other love interest has the same first name as the director? In fact, you can go a little crazy trying to keep the real names straight of the people who appear in this film. Cameron Crowe, director; Cameron Diaz, actress. Tom Cruise, actor. Penelope Cruz, actress.
Tom Cruise plays the role of a young, rich guy who is in charge of some sort of publishing house. He doesn't seem all that interested in publishing anything, mostly he just wants to have fun being a rich guy. This film is a lot like Arthur except that Cruise's character isn't drunk quite as much. His main goal in life is to boink as many women as possible, although his main squeeze as the movie begins, Cameron Diaz, just wants him to boink her as often as possible.
The publishing house has a board which oversees Cruises operations. He is convinced that they are plotting against him. So he reacts by stealing his best friend's (Jason Lee) new love interest, Penelope Cruz. We haven't clue one what Cruise sees in her. She looks like a broomstick and has the largest mouth I've seen since Julia Roberts last week.
Diaz gets jealous of Cruise's interest in Cruz, leading her to attempt a murder-suicide with him in her car. She is killed, but he is only badly maimed and facially disfigured. But Cruise continues to pursue Cruz, and seek plastic surgery to make him look like he did before.
Most of the story is told through flashbacks, and we find out that Cruise has apparently ended up murdering Cruz somehow. Throughout the film, he is discussing the matter with a psychiatrist (Kurt Russell).
FINAL PLOT SPOILER WARNING: As it turns out, Cruise really died about half-way through the film, and his body has been kept in deep freeze, and his brain activity preserved through a lucid dreaming program. But the dream goes bad, and the entire plot of the movie has been a nightmare for Cruise's character...and the audience. About the only interesting aspect of the entire movie is that its filmed in New York, and unlike other recent films done there, no real effort was made to brush out scenes showing the World Trade Center in the background. At best, a lame effort was made to obscure them somewhat by blurring the scenes a little.
In reality, the entire movie is a sort of intellectual blur, and an overpowering waste of our time. Everyone associated with this barrel of hippo dung should be sent to live in a cave in Afganistan, next door to the people that probably sold them the drugs that inspired it. At the very least, someone should be immediately hired to review any future script of any movie Tom Cruise decides to appear in, just to make sure its at least marginally lucid. Eighteen chimpanzees randomly pounding away at a keyboard could have come up with something superior to Vanilla Sky.
Last Week: The Emperor's Club:
Don't get me wrong; its not that this movie wasn't entertaining. It's just that it would have been more entertaining if corporal punishment hadn't more or less gone out of vogue by the mid 70's. Then we would have had the pleasure of watching Mr. Hundert (Kevin Kline) beat the stuffing out of junior Republican Segdwick Bell.
Mr. Hundert is basically an overly dedicated teacher of ancient history who seems committed to the notion that the character of young men can be aptly molded with sufficent knowledge of Roman and Greek civilization. Sedgewick Bell is a spoiled brat son of a Senator who apparently likes to act up because dear old dad doesn't pay any attention to him. Thus we have the classic movie confrontation between serious teacher and deliquent student.
But old Hundert believes in young Sedgwick, and takes special interest in his academic development. He pushes the lad to excel in his studies, and win a place in a prestigious school contest, the "Mr. Julius Caesar Competition." This is sort of a history bee, featuring three students who have survived a grueling competition of several tests.
Hundert is so desperate to mold Sedgwick that he places the precarious student in the finals ahead of a more qualified candidate. Thus young Sedgwick repays the faith of his dedicated teacher by cheating to attempt to win. When Hundert realizes what is going on, he throws Sedgwick a curve by tossing out an unexpected question. Naturally he stumbles, and a more deserving student wins.
Sedgwick returns to his old ways, and skates by the remainder of his time as a C and D student. Then he goes on to Harvard and Yale, thanks to his father's influence. He is a C and D student there too. He probably also gets into the Air National Guard thanks to family influence, where he skips out for a year and a half without getting his ass sent to prison for desertion, like anyone else would.
Then after failing at several failed business ventures provided him by the family fortune (originally garned by laundering money for the Nazis) he goes into politics, and becomes govenor of his state. From there, its a simple step onto the Presidency, which he wins because his brother, also a govenor in a key state, rigs the election.
Wait, the last couple of paragraphs describes another guy. We aren't discussing reality here, this is just a movie....
Sedgwick does return to his unruly ways, but goes on to become a captain of industry. Twenty-five years later, he invites all of his old classmates back to reinact the Caesar contest. Naturally, he selects old Hundert to be the moderator. Guess what? Sedgwick cheats again...once a Republican, always a Republican. But Hundert figures it out, and foils Sedgwick's plan to redeem the loss in his youth.
It all ends with Hundert rueing his inability to mold Sedgwick's character, but realizing he has a lot of victories to his credit. That doesn't stop Sedgwick and his lot from flushing everything important in the country down the toilet of course, but at least Hundert feels better about himself. Aaah, the movies can make us feel so good.
Actually I did like this movie quite a bit, mostly because of the performance of Kevin Kline. There isn't a more versatile actor in Hollywood, and one who has received fewer accolades for so many outstanding performances. I hope this one isn't forgotten next spring, when they hand out gold statues again. Kline's enshrinement in the exclusive club of Best Actor winners is very long overdue.
Last Week: Bad Santa:
Worse movie. In fact, this one is going to define a whole new class of filmmaking degeneracy. I didn't need to see another movie in which Billy Bob Thorton horks. I didn't need to see another movie in which Billy Bob Thorton has sex, especially with a woman half his age. I really didn't need to see a movie in which Billy Bob Thorton beats up a teenage boy, even if the boy in question was a bully. But none of these lowlights even defined the movie's coup de grace of wretchedness.
The utter low moment in this film came just seconds before the final credits rolled. At that point, a title screen appeared dedicating the film to the late John Ritter. Ritter had a bit role in this film, although I doubt he was terribly proud of the fact. I'd guess that right now his corpse is spinning so fast that he may strike oil any second.
Its not bad enough that somebody actually had the complete lack of compassion to dedicate this cesspool of vulgarity to Ritter. The poor guy isn't even around to apologize for any association with it. If anyone really wanted to do something positive in memory of Ritter, they'd have burned every copy of this film, reburned the ashes in the hottest oven they could find, then buried any residue remaining inside an impenetrable concrete vault 40 feet thick in the pit of the deepest salt mine on the planet. Then they'd have sealed off the mine with a nuclear explosion, cordoned off the sealed entrance with an electric fence, and posted Marine guards at the gate 24 hours a day.
This is, without question, the worst holiday film ever made. It just might be the movie film ever made, period. If Ed Wood had directed this film, he'd have erased his name from the credits and blamed it on Roger Corman. If Roger Corman had directed this film, it would have been better. Hell, this film would have been better with Adam Sandler playing the lead and Corman directing.
Having already mentioned several glaringly offensive aspects to this film, it is almost pumping bullets into a dead horse to note how utterly despicable the constant use of wildly vulgar language was. Billy Bob Thorton lashes out every offensive word in the English language within the first 53 seconds. The constant use of blue language by his character in this film could send waves of revulsion through Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith.
Thorton stars as an alcoholic loser who earns money by portraying a department store Santa at Christmas. Aside from being an obnoxious, womanizing drunk, he also hates children. But since being a Santa isn't really a particularly lucrative way to make a living, he teams with a dwarf sidekick and steals money from his employers by cracking their safes on Christmas eve.
Bernie Mac co-stars as a department store detective who figures out the scam. Instead of having their fannies arrested, he decides to muscle in on the scam. I want to take a time out at this moment to send a personal message to Bernie: "Yo! Homes! I dig your style dude! You are one funny guy! But geez louise, ice your agent, like now, okay? The parts he is finding for you are crap on a lollipop. One more role like this and you won't be able to get the shit Michael Jackson turns down.
An overweight boy befriends Thorton, and lets BB stay at his house. The boy's mom is dead, his dad is in jail, and he is cared for by a barely living grandmother. She was as close to death as most of the audience 10 minutes into the film. The boy is a pretty pathetic loser who believes that BB really is Santa, despite the fact that he is about 6 years too old to be entertaining such fantasies. He is also about 6 years to old too be wanting a pink stuffed elephant for Christmas, but I think the entire film audience was beyond rationality by the time these plot elements were tossed out.
The boy conjures up a dose of humanity in BB, which inspires him to attempt suicide. When he failed, I was disappointed enough to consider it myself. But during the course of the failed attempt to take his life by carbon monoxide inhalation, BB gives the boy a letter with instructions to deliver it to the police. That is an important plotpoint at the end, unfortunately I missed it and had to have Joyce explain it to me. It apparently happened while I was trying to break into the projection booth by ramming my head through the wall. Alas, I failed as miserably as BB, or one fewer copy of this film would exist tonight. I probably would have received some kind of medal.
It all ends with the police breaking up the attempt to rob the store, and BB surviving 8 gunshot wounds. That had to be the most disappointing ending in cinematic history. Not only does BB survive, but since he confessed to the entire matter, he isn't punished for his crimes. It is the kind of ending that truly brings tears to your eyes. I lost count of the number of people who left the theater sobbing uncontrollably, and muttering, "I can't believe they didn't shoot that sonovabitch 10 more times!"
This film is being marketed "for adults only." The problem is, it isn't suitable for adults with IQ's higher than the present residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That, of course, is pretty much every adult in America. Don't go see Bad Santa. Don't rent it when its released on video. Don't watch it when it appears on The Crappy Thursday night Movie on Fox a couple of weeks from now. You'll be much happier if you take my advice on this one.
Last Week: Flight of the Phoenix:
There are a lot of really stupid mistakes that can be made in the course of making a movie. In Flight of the Phoenix, director John Moore amply demonstrates the point by making nearly all of them.
His first, and possibly most profound mistake, was choice of subject material. The basic story line is good, no argument there. The problem is that it was so good that somebody else already made this movie 40 years ago. In fact, the original presentation of this film is one of the enduring classics of film history.
Just look at the cast of the first effort: Jimmy Stewart, Sir Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, and a few others of reasonable note. With a cast like that, you probably could have made a tolerable version of Big Top Peewee.
So the most immediate question becomes, how did Moore ever think he was going to pull off something even remotely comparable to the original with the likes of Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi and Miranda Otto?
It should be also noted that the cast contains an actor who goes by the name of Sticky Fingaz. I looked up his filmography, and found that he has 22 credits on his resume. Believe it or not, they were all films that I've either never heard of, or were just plain bad. Since Sticky was once a member of a rap group known as Onyx, I think on my long standing claim that no good movie will ever be made that casts a rapper, I stand once again vindicated.
The second problem with this film is that it is misrepresented in some of its advertising promotions. I saw one ad that contained the tagline, "They were on their way home for the holidays, when..."
The only thing this movie has to do with the holidays is its release date. There isn't even a mention of the holiday season anywhere in the movie. Even when the characters are whining about the overwhelming likelyhood that they were all going to die, nobody once mentioned how sad they were that they wouldn't experience another Christmas.
This movie also failed miserably in the critical effort to enlist the sympathies of the audience for the characters. I didn't particularly like any of them, which left me more or less indifferent to whether or not they survived, or ended up under 80 tons of sand. Hey, one less guy named Sticky Fingas in the world would suit me just great.
Finally, if you are going to make a film in which the title more or less gives away the ending of the film, there better be some sort of tension along the way to leave the audience with some level of suspense as to whether or not they are simply being jerked around.
So this film suffers a terrible double failure. Not only are we pretty certain all along how the movie is going to end, but we don't care much one way or another if it actually gets there.
The plot of this film is only modified very slightly from the original. A team from an American oil company is searching for oil somewhere in Mongolia, and accomplishing nothing more than dry hole drilling. Apparently they work for George W. Bush. Anyway, the company finally decides to pull the plug, and sends Dennis Quaid in to bring everyone home.
Dennis Quaid is an asshole, Miranda Otto, playing the head of the drilling team is a whiny bitch, and all of her crew members are basically lazy good for nothings.
But also with the crew, for reasons we never are privilaged to learn, is an aeronautical engineer who is so obnoxious that he probably got beat up everyday on his way to school by Quakers. His character dragged this movie so deep into the crapper that we were bowled over from the attending stench wafting off the screen.
Anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to see the original might find something redeeming in this unnecessary remake. But you could save yourself a film admission, and have a more enjoyable experience by renting it instead of going to see this.
Last Week: Glory Road:
It really seems that there is nothing Hollywood more enjoys than demonstrating its outright contempt for movie audiences. Well, perhaps it isn't so much that they enjoy it, but they certainly consider it necessary to dumb their scripts down sufficiently that we are all able to see the plot in distinct parameters of black and white.
Okay. Admittedly, where Glory Road is concerned that is something of a bad pun. This is, afterall, the story of how the first NCAA basketball team with an all black starting line up whipped Adolph Rupp's heavily favored, lily white Kentucky team to win the national championship. The problem is, that the true story was plenty good enough in itself. But the folks in Hollywood, and specifically Disney Studios, had to twist the reality like a Gumby to make sure that no button would be left unpushed, or no apt cliche left unexpressed.
If we are to take this movie at face value, coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) arrived at Texas Western College and took over a struggling program, using an ingenious strategy to revive it. He went out and recruited 7 talented black players, and the rest is history. The reality isn't quite that simple. Haskins did bring in 4 new black players. The other three were already there.
The contention stated in the film that Texas Western was a "football school" in those days and basketball an afterthought doesn't withstand research. In the 11 seasons prior to the 1965-1966 championship run, TWC had 9 winning seasons, one .500 season and 1 losing season. They were coming off a 18-9 campaign the year prior, and were 25-3 the year before that. In fact, they had made 3 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament prior to Haskins arrival.
That isn't bad for a comparatively small mining school in Texas, particularly given the fact that El Paso is a shit hole even by Texas standards. One of the most amazing things to me in this life is how disproportionatley proud of their state people from Texas are. The rest of us are fully aware that the only thing preventing Texas from being the uncontested ass hole of America is a stretch of real estate commonly known as Nebraska.
So, as this story goes, Haskins takes over the TWC program, brings in a bunch of black players, and they all endure overpowering prejudice and racism on their way to an improbable NCAA championship. That much is probably true, but some other disservices were done in the course of telling the story.
For one thing, legendary Kentucky coach, Adolph Rupp, might as well have shown up at courtside for the big game regailed in the full costume of the Grand Dragon of the Ku Kux Klan. For all I know, Rupp very well might have kept his white sheets in the wardrobe rather than the linen closet. But I'd say the odds are against it. Rupp was the product of his times and circumstances.
It's not exactly like Rupp could have kept his job, perhaps even his head on his neck, if he had defied the biases and prejudices of his financial supporters and fan base by actively recruiting black players to come to the University of Kentucky in 1965. It sure didn't take him long to start bringing them to Kentucky after that loss, when both he and his fans were able to see that the future was arriving, and it defied conventions that had poisoned the minds of people living in the south for two centuries.
Legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant found himself in a similar situation around the same time. The people keeping his football program afloat and healthy financially didn't want black players on his team, or even at the university, but they sure wanted to keep winning. And one early season night when UCLA came to town, with several black players, notably fullback Sam "Bam" Cunningham and beat the Crimson Tides butts' several shades of crimson, the future arrived in Tuscaloosa as well.
These objections aside, Glory Road is a worthwhile, even uplifting film that accurately captures a distasteful flavor of life in America, circa mid-sixties. Happily things have improved, a little, but we still have so far to go to level the playing field. And very sadly, there are still far too many among us who are not capable of letting go of their prejudices.
I hope this movie does very well at the box-office, and I hope that someday, we can watch this movie and think about how far we have come, rather than how far we still have to go. And hats off to Don Haskins, and all the courageous men who played for Texas Western college (now the University of Texas at El Paso) for the contribution they made in helping to set America on the road to a better tomorrow.
Last Week: Wild Hogs:
I can tell you absolutely everything you need to know about this movie by offering one simple observation: Tim Allen wasn't the worst thing in it. That is a pretty signficant revelation. There is no performer on the silver screen today that can single-handedly sink a movie more effectively, and completely than Allen.
The Golden Raspberry voters (of which, Kex is a proud member), nominated Allen as Worst Actor last year for his appearances in 3 different films; The Shaggy Dog, Zoom and The Santa Clause. If the Razzie voters didn't routinely lump all of an actors efforts together, Allen probably would have received 3 of the 5 nominations in that category. It took the combined anti-star power of two of the Wayans brothers to knock him out, and it was still regarded as the biggest upset at this year's awards presentation.
This is a worn out, cliche of a buddy film about 4 middle-aged men who don't seem to share much of anything in common apart from getting together and riding their motorcycles every now and then. We might pause to note here that the underlying theme of this film seems to be that there is something sad and pathetic about reaching middle age, achieving a degree of success in life, being happily married and raising a family. It's the kind of crime against humanity that makes you wish the writers could be sentenced to a good smack in the gonads with a shovel by everyone who carries an AARP card. But since Kex is only a couple weeks away from officially qualifying for his, let's hope sentencing is differed until mid-April.
The aforementioned Allen plays Doug, who is a dentist. We gather that he was once the consumate wild-child in college, but lost touch with that part of his character and became a successful professional and family man. Somehow, we are asked to believe that his comfortable station in life is inferior to having spent the intervening years in and out of Attica. I'm not buying into that one.
Then we have Woody (John Travolta), who's comfortable middle-aged world is unraveling. His apparently young, swimsuit model, trophy wife is dumping him, and his financial status is in the toilet. So he decides to get his friends together to go on this ill-fated road trip. Too bad he didn't just take off on his own, and spare us the dreadful fate of being dragged along.
Bobby (Martin Lawrence) is being forced by his wife to give up an unsuccessful attempt at a writing career and go back to being a plumber. It's not as if a guy couldn't do both until the writing takes off, but Bobby is kind of an idiot. He is also so pussy-whipped that we long for Burt Reynold to make a cameo just to kick his ass and give him a good man-up speech, Either that was the only cliche that didn't occur to the writers, or the producers couldn't afford it.
Finally, we have Dudley (William H. Macy) who is a bumbling computer geek and a total failure with women. Everytime he boards his motorcycle, there is a cartoon style slapstick event just over the horizon. Once again we drag out the completely worn out gag involving a middle-aged guy getting trapped on a porn site while attempting to access the internet. Here is a note to Hollywood writers: Most 50-something guys can navigate the net quite proficiently these days, thank you. And if we choose to end up at a porn site, it's not ALWAYS by accident.
I want to offer a bit of insight to the folks who made this film as well: You made one serious casting faux-pas. Startling as it was that you could even get Macy in this film, you wasted his talents appallingly. He would have been pretty good in the role of Doug, where Allen would have been more credible in the role of Dudley. Maybe that would have been a bit obvious, but hell, everything in this film was obvious.
So, our intrepid band sets out on a cross-country journey, and the film actually looks like it might not suck too badly. Then everything goes south, adventure and film plot when the group runs afoul of a real, criminal-nasty motorcycle gang ripped right out of The Wild Bunch. It is led by Jack (Ray Liotta in a role he will regret for decades) who hates wannabe cyclists like our group. At this point, the film turns into Every Which Way But Loose without the charms of Clyde.
About 5 minutes into this film I began wondering how long it would take to drag Peter Fonda in somewhere for a cameo. The answer was, unfortunately, 94 minutes. This is a 99 minute movie. Incidentally, the original script of this film had the bad-guy motorcycle gang as none other than Hell's Angels, but the real riders got pissed off and sued Disney, so the name was changed to Del Fuegos. If only the paying audience could get their chance at a lawsuit now.
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