Sunday, May 21, 2006

Movie Log: Nanny McPhee, Shopgirl, The Producers, Keeping Up With the Steins, Over the Hedge

I'm getting behind again...

The Wife and I saw Nanny McPhee a week ago Thursday. As revealed on previous episodes of Antick Musings, we have two sons, aged eight and five. Because of that, we see a lot of kids' movies, but the odd thing is that the ones we want to see are often movies that the boys won't like or appreciate (or that we're not sure if they will). So she and I have seen a batch of kids' movies without them over the past six months or so (mostly British, as we're horrible Anglophiles): Millions (which is wonderful, moving and a Real Movie for audiences who aren't eight years old), Five Children and It (which I liked somewhat better than the book, but then I hated the book), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which was awfully slow, and the kids don't really do much of anything), A Series of Unfortunate Events (in the theater, even: and I liked it quite a bit), and now Nanny McPhee.

Nanny McPhee is a bit generic as a kid's movie (magical person comes into the lives of damaged family, heals them, and moves on), but the performances are all good, and the kids are amazingly rotten at the beginning. I suspect it's a bit more of a girls' movie than a boys' movie, and my guys probably wouldn't like it the way I did.

Shopgirl we saw last weekend; it has a lot of the pieces of an excellent movie, but it doesn't handle them as well as it should. The main characters -- Claire Daines as a young woman who doesn't know where her life is going, Jason Schwartzman as the young man who is utterly clueless when he meets her, and Steve Martin as the charming but emotionally controlled older man she has an obviously-doomed relationship with -- are all interesting, and well-acted. But Martin, for whatever reason, also stuck himself in as a narrator for a few passages of windy piffle that over-explain the movie's themes; they wouldn't be so bad, though, if it was anyone else but Steve Martin (who is a character in the movie, remember, and whose voice is distinctive) reading them to explain everything to us. And I really wanted to see more of the guitarist of the band Schwartzman's character goes out on the road with -- a lot, lately, I'm watching a movie and thinking, "No, I want to turn this movie off and switch to that guy's movie," but I never get my wish.

The Producers tires to do everything the 1968 classic did, plus musical numbers. Unfortunately, the musical stuff looks very stagey, and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, fine actors though they may be, can't help but continually remind us that they are not Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Lane comes off a bit better than Broderick, since he's doing a slightly different schtick than Mostel did, but they both have a lot of the same lines and don't manage to make them their own. It's a pleasant piece of entertainment, but it can't touch the original.

Last night we bundled the kids off to separate grandmothers, so we could have a night out. Unfortunately, the movie I most wanted to see (Thank You for Smoking) was looked at askance by The Wife and wasn't playing anywhere nearby, either. Friends With Money was similarly kiboshed, and also isn't looking as good as I'd hoped, anyway. So we ended up going to see Keeping Up With the Steins with an audience of mostly older people who I suspect were also mostly Jewish (we went to the Clairidge in Montclair, where we've consistently been the youngest people in the room for about fifteen years now). One woman directly behind me began the movie by laughing very loudly at nearly every line of dialogue or Yiddish word, but, thankfully, she settled down.

The movie itself? Eh. All of the reviews are exactly right: it starts off looking like a biting satire, and then turns into a mushy afterschool special. Mush straight along wouldn't have been too bad, but mush after hopes for something more bracing is disappointing. Again, there were two alternative movies I would have loved to have seen instead: firstly, the Jeremy Piven-Larry Miller movie, about two agents and their seemingly-friendly relationship (this, of course, would have been the satire I was promised). The other probably would have turned to mush as well, but I still would have liked to have seen a movie focused on the four young people: Daryl Sabara as the boy being bar mitzvah-ed, his father's rival's son (who seems to be his best friend) and the two girls they're interested in.

There must be some curse on indie comedies with the name "Stein" in them: Kissing Jessica Stein also started off well (a few years back) and fell apart at the end.

And then today, for complicated getting-the-kids-back-from-grandparents reasons of scheduling and promises, we all saw Over the Hedge with my wife's mother. It has a "celebrity" voice cast, which is generally a very bad sign for an animated movie, and it also has a heartwarming message about family, but it manages to keep itself from becoming completely stupid. But the songs are horribly intrusive, and it's never as funny as I hoped it would be. The CGI animals are wonderfully emotive and believable, but the humans fall smack into the Uncanny Valley and look very weird. If you have kids who want to see it, go -- you'll enjoy it enough. But it's not a movie they or you will remember long afterwards; it's not a Finding Nemo, not even an Ice Age.

Now, tomorrow night we'll probably watch Kronk's New Groove, which was supposed to have gotten here for Boys' Movie Saturday yesterday, but will probably be in tomorrow's mail...


Anonymous said...

We saw Over the Hedge yesterday. I really enjoyed Shatner spoofing himself. And every time Eugene Levy and Catharine O'Hara spoke I heard echoes of A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. Those two were made to work together.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed "Over the Hedge" much more than I thought I would. The voice work by Levy, Haden and Carell was wonderful.

I couldn't really tell you anything about the music. It didn't really intrude for me.

My guess is that I'll remember more about "Over the Hedge" than about "Ice Age."

And my word verification to post this is ipzits, which makes me think of a computer skin disorder.

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