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Really Short Movie Reviews, Part 2

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This is Part 2 of 2. Part 1 of this article featured The Good and The Bad parts of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Ugly
My wife rented Jack Frost over the holidays. She should have rented the horror movie with the same name. I haven’t seen it, but it could hardly be worse. Why must holiday movies be so awful? Why are all of the decent holiday movies so old? My favorite holiday movie stars Bruce Willis.

In 1971, Silent Running must have seemed like a good idea. With a couple of songs sung by Joan Baez, it must have seemed truly goovy. The plot would have made a good nine-minute movie, which was unfortunately stretched into 90 minutes. It’s the same old story really: Earth is devoid of plant life, and the poor picked-upon plant-nerd is ordered by a disembodied voice to destroy the last samples of plant life in outer space, so instead he kills his human shipmates and trains a little robot to take care of the plants forever in deep space. Sigh. I fast-forwarded through parts of this one, and didn’t miss anything. Someone should have fast-forwarded in the editing room and saved me the trouble.

The Should-Have-Been-Better

I love Nothing To Lose. It’s hilarious, and Martin Lawrence is hilarious in it. So why wasn’t Blue Streak funny? Wait, I take that back. It was funny. It was even laugh-out-loud funny. But it was also slow and laborious. Where Martin and Tim kept the movie moving from start to finish, Martin alone juggled and juggled and sometimes dropped the ball. I know, I shouldn’t expect comedies to have consistent plots. Maybe I just got tired of hearing Martin say “believe that” pronounced “buh-lee dat.” I’m not sure what would have made this movie better, but it needed whatever it was missing.

Speaking of funny people, Bowfinger had at least two of them. Maybe it was the very-unfunny and very-untalented Heather Graham that hurt the film, or maybe it was something else, but Bowfinger just barely missed being truly bad. How do Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy make a movie that isn’t funny from the opening title to the end credits? I don’t know, but they managed it somehow. The concept seems like a home run, and maybe the problem is that Steven Martin figured the concept would sell the movie. Unfortunately, the execution of the concept didn’t quite work. Or maybe there were just too many movie industry in-jokes that didn’t make me laugh like they made the studio executives laugh. I think this movie would have been much better with another plot twist thrown in, because a movie star that doesn’t know he’s in a movie just wasn’t enough by itself.

I might be tempted to give up on Eddie Murphy, especially after watching Holy Man. Again, a funny idea does not an entire movie make. A few more funny ideas mixed in would have helped the whole thing move. This film wasted a $60 million budget by trying to cover too many bases, the exact opposite problem of Blue Streak. Eddie makes this movie worth watching, but it should have been hilarious from start to finish. Fortunately, Eddie went on to make the very good movie Life, so I forgive him.

Plenty of people that are smarter than I am have tried to figure out what was wrong with Wild Wild West. I don’t know either. For an action movie, there wasn’t a lot of action. For a comedy, it wasn’t extremely funny. For a, well, you get the idea. It might have been a jack of all trades, master of none. Kevin Kline can be funny (as in Dave or In & Out) and so can Will Smith (as in Men In Black or his long-running TV show). Kenneth Branagh can certainly be a nasty bad guy. Selma Hayek is all that and a bag of chips. Add the four together and what do you get? Not what you’d expect.

Call it fate, call it a quirk of scheduling, or simply face up to the fact that the movie was a pretty good movie pitched to an audience that tends to demand excellence. eXistenz premiered barely two weeks after The Matrix, which might have hurt it a little though the similarities are mostly cosmetic. Then again, The Thirteenth Floor premiered roughly six weeks later, and I liked it much better. eXistenz probably looked great on a punch-list for studio execs. Virtual reality? Check. Cute male and female leads? Check. Can we hire someone to help us pretend we know anything about technology? Check. How about a major plot twist to make people want to see it again? Check. The problem is, I bought both The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor on DVD, but I didn’t even watch eXistenz twice. I was tempted a little, but I resisted. It just wasn’t that complex. It tried to be, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was too clever by half.

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