Minutes into Jurassic Park III, the movie I'd planned to review, I lost it. It was obvious we'd all seen this movie before, only in better-written, more vivid and original form. The bottom line is that dinosaurs keep getting smarter, while screenwriters are getting dumber. Anybody dumb enough to get on that island again deserves what he gets. The raptors are getting as familiar and menacing as Mickey Mouse. So I bolited, skipped illegally across the hallways of the megaplex to write a weekly wrap-up instead. I saw Legally Blonde, Score, and the big romantic comedy of the summer, America's Sweethearts. The latter, despite the great cast, is a near-total disaster. What can you say about a week in which the most entertaining movie was Legally Blonde? Hang on for Planet of the Apes next Friday.
We are deep into the summer doldrums, and to what is shaping up as a sub-par movie summer. Score (Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando) is a stylish, genial, high-end crime saga, one of those old-style movies in which the good guys are classy, harm no one, have high ethical standards, and have the neatest tools in the world. The movie is a bit flat and predictable. There is the by-now standard deranged computer hacker who screams at his mom while stuffing junk food into his mouth and hacking into the most sophisticated computer systems in the world in nano-seconds to find out anything anybody wants to know. DeNiro plays an aging burglar who is depressed about having to do one more big score so he can get out of the game and shack up with Angela Bassett. But in this movie, DeNiro is a little too depressed. Norton, a young wannabe, takes him on. Norton does a great job of playing a pseudo-psychotic who keeps you guessing right up to the end precisely what he is capable of. The movie is worth seeing, if only to see these good actors, atmospheric scenes of Montreal, and an aging Brando do one or two neat scenes that suggest the great actor still has it.
Legally Blonde (Reese Witherspoon) suggests another dumb teen movie, but manages to transcend the genre. Witherspoon plays a seemingly brainless but good-hearted Malibu-Barbie type who applies to Harvard Law School to pursue her snotty boyfriend (who dumps her once he's admitted because he needs someone more serious) and who, in the name of diversity, gets admitted. The twist is that this airhead is a sympathetic victim, turned on by snotty peers, jeering classmates, and insulting professors. You know the plot without seeing the movie, but one interesting thing about this film, which goes against expectations, is the way Witherspoon's (who was great in Clueless) character [note: Actually, that was Alicia Silverstone, but who can tell? -T] hangs on to her odd values. If movies are a barometer of anything, this one may be telling us it's okay to obsess on manicures and how you look again. There are, of course, all of the familiar cliches about elitist kids and Harvard. Hollywood needs some new targets. But still, this is the most enjoyable movie I saw all week, which says something.
America's Sweethearts is the summer's most ballyhooed romantic comedy. This should have been a knockout movie. It has a great cast -- Billy Crystal, John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christopher Walken, and a great target to feast on -- Hollywood hype, studio culture, and press junkets. Who better than Billy Crystal to write and star in this kind of a movie?
But America's Sweethearts is a shockingly awful movie. The truth is, when push comes to shove, any film is often simply about the writing, something that did in Final Fantasy, and the writing in this one is just terrible. The movie is crammed with slapstick gags that aren't funny, a plethora of masturbation and penis jokes (the Farrelly Brothers do this a lot better), and just crummy dialogue. It's a major disappointment, given the talent involved, maybe one of the biggest of the summer. This movie has about five laughs in its nearly two long and arduous hours.
Personally, the movie I've been waiting for all summer is coming out next week -- the re-make of Planet Of The Apes. According to the movie mags, they were re-shooting the end of this movie as recently as last week, a bad sign. But there's always hope, even this summer.