MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS: The Film Babble Blog Review

MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (Dir. Mark Waters, 2011)

Isn’t Jim Carrey too old to be doing this kind of movie?

A decade ago it seemed like Carrey was moving towards a more thoughtful phase in his career based on work based on work in such fine films as THE TRUMAN SHOW, MAN ON THE MOON, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. However at the same time the man still had, and still has, a fondness for doing broad commercial crap, which is exactly what MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS is.

In what must be screenwriting leading man character archetype #1, Carrey plays a divorced corporate big wig, who loves his kids (also still loves his ex-wife), but is too business-minded to be in touch with his soul. So a crate coming from his recently deceased globe-trotting father containing a penguin in it will, of course, melt his cold heart, right?

Carrey comically protests the penguin and calls everyone he can think of (Antarctica, animal control, the zoo, etc.), but then another crate containing more penguins arrives, and his kids (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell 

Perry Cotton) love them so the put-upon protagonist makes his Park Avenue pad into a winter wonderland.

Carrey’s shtick is always giving everybody hip snappy nicknames as he glides though films, so it comes in handy naming the penguins: Captain, Lovey, Bitey, Nimrod, Stinky and Loudy. The birds can be fun to watch, but as a large percentage of their antics are via CGI it’s more and more cringe inducing than cute.  

Angela Lansbury is in the thankless role of the potential client Carrey is trying to score for a big real estate deal, and guess what? The penguins get in the way, particularly in a silly set-piece that turns the Guggenheim into a massive seabird slide.

That’s actually one of the better scenes, as the film is bogged down in schmaltz and poop jokes. And I mean, a lot of poop jokes. Enough to make the “poop picnic” in JUDY MOODY seem positively understated.

Clark Gregg as the movie’s villain – a creepy animal control guy who wants to take the penguins for his own supposedly evil purposes is a considerably contrived element, but in this fluffy formula he fits right in. Entourage‘s Carla Gugino as Carrey’s ex-wife basically just shows up on time for her standard issue lines.

With it’s icy subject matter, I wondered why MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS wasn’t earmarked for a Christmas season release, but maybe since it’s really all about the air-conditioning people seek during the heat of summer, it’s probably a great marketing move.

Carrey, who’s pushing 50, apparently sees himself as a post-modern Don Knotts – that is, a family friendly funny man caught in outlandishly wacky situations – and that’s fine, but he’s got the chops to shape his career better.

This at least proves that he’s a good actor, because you’ve got to have talent to act like bland cash-in kid’s crap like this isn’t beneath you.

More later… 

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS: The Film Babble Blog Review

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (Dirs. Glenn Ficcara & John Requa, 2010)

“This really happened. It really did.”

So says the lower case white block letters floating in the blue sky and clouds at the beginning of this quirky unconventional rom com.

Unconventional because it centers on slick conman Jim Carrey courting a demure Ewan McGregor from the first moment they meet in a Texas prison.

Carrey tells us early on in his pithy narration that he’s “gay, gay, gay, gay, gay” after introducing his wife (Leslie Mann) and baby girl and the film never lets us forget it mostly by way of countless blowjob jokes.

Doing time for insurance fraud, Carrey falls hard for McGregor (doing a fairly convincing Southern accent that echoes of BIG FISH) and does what he can to be with him including among various escapes faking his death from AIDs.

The first half of the film is relatively entertaining and breezy but the second half loses its already shaky focus. Carrey puts in a fairly typical performance exercising his facial expressions and smarm, but McGregor fairs better as he shows less self conscious effort.

Unfortunately the story, “based on certain facts”, isn’t really that compelling. It’s kind of amusing to see Carrey execute cons such as charmingly bluff his way into a corporate job but the film blurs into repetition as our protagonist keeps getting apprehended by police scheme after scheme.

Not sure what the film wants us to take away from this story. It feels almost homophobic in its humor but I truly don’t think directors and screenwriters Ficarra and Requa meant to craft a hate piece.

When Carrey’s ex-wife Leslie Mann asks with concern if stealing and being gay are connected – it’s meant as a joke about her naive character, but its a question that sadly lingers over this undercooked material.

If we’re supposed to laugh at Carrey as he lies his way through life we’re not given much to laugh at for I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS isn’t as clever and funny as it pretends to be.

It’s a forgettable little lark of a film – a frothy throwaway that has its moments but this season a movie-goer could do way better.

More later…

The Film Babble Blog Top 10 Worst Movies Of 2007

Oscar season is now officially over and we’ve basked in the glory of a great year for film for long enough so now it’s time to look at the not so great movies of 2007. Actually “not so great” is being too kind – these were wretched evil slabs of celluloid sent from Hell to taint our collective unconscious and will make us all pay a higher psychic price than we can possibly imagine (as the late great comedian Bill Hicks would say). So let’s warm our hands on the fire as we throw these movies back to from where they came one by one:

1. WILD HOGS (Dir. Walt Becker)

Hard to believe this was one of the biggest box office hits of the year. It’s a CITY SLICKERS-ish mid-life crisis tale with motorcycles instead of horses padded out with bathroom humour, gay-panic jokes, and tired stupid sitcom plotting. We’re used to seeing Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and even John Travolta slumming it in such unfunny cinematic crap but why did William H. Macy and Marissa Tomei have to be dragged down with them? Read my original review here.

2. REDACTED (Dir. Brian DePalma)

This has been a really bad year for films about the Iraq war with audiences staying away from both documentaries like NO END IN SIGHT and dramas like LIONS FOR LAMBS. Of course it doesn’t help the cause when the movie is actually really bad like DePalma’s misguided horribly named unaffecting mess REDACTED. Through the conceit that the fictional (though based on a real incident) tale of a troop in Samarra who are involved with the rape and murder of an innocent 14 year old Iraqi girl and the killing of her family is told by one of the soldier’s hand held videocams, fake cable TV footage, and simulated YouTube clips we just get the same old bottom line: War Is Hell. Worse yet this obnoxious exercise comes across like it’s more down on the troops than the war.

3. Tie: GHOST RIDER (Dir. Mark Steven Johnson) / NEXT (Dir. Lee Tamhori) A Nicholas Cage double whammy! Actually if I had seen the sequel to the awful NATIONAL TREASURE that came out last December this may have been a triple whammy. In NEXT a clever Philip K. Dick short story is awfully adapted into a boring by-the-numbers action movie formula while GHOST RIDER takes its comic book source and well…also awfully adapts it into an equally lame action movie. Come on Cage! We all know you have another ADAPTATION or WILD AT HEART in you, so why do you have to keep giving us this pap? Read my original review of GHOST RIDER here.

4. THE NUMBER 23 (Dir. Joel Schumacher) This is the stupidest film in Jim Carrey’s entire career and with a filmography that includes the ACE VENTURA movies and especially DUMB AND DUMBER that is really saying something. As a wise-cracking dogcatcher who starts seeing the number of the title everywhere and they start piling up as clues to a long unresolved murder. Wait! It gets stupider – read my original review here.

5. FACTORY GIRL (Dir. George Hickenlooper) A vicious disapointment in the department of biopics of C-List celebrities. Sure, model and 60’s “It girl” Edie Sedgewick (played by Sienna Miller) was a wasted vapid Warhol groupie but she deserved better than this putrid portrait. My review is of course, right here.

6. 1408 (Mikael Håfström) John Cusack in a hotel room from Hell. That’s pretty much it. Want more of a description of the Stephen King derived suckitude contained within? Click on this.

7. SHOOT ‘EM UP (Dir. Michael Davis) At one point Clive Owen says: “You know what I hate? I hate those lame action movies where the good guy calls just one person who ends up betraying him.” Me? I hate lame action movies like this. Even one in which ace actor Paul Giamatti (talk about slumming it!) plays the bad guy. After CHILDREN OF MEN Owen must have hesitated to do another ‘save an important baby from evil forces’ movie but maybe he just decided that the price was right. I never reviewed this bombastic blockbuster wannabe for good reason.

8. YEAR OF THE DOG (Dir. Mike White) I like former SNL cast member turned film lead actress Molly Shannon. I like the supporting cast including Regina King, Peter Scaarsgard, John C. Reilly, and Laura Dern. I like screenwriter/director Mike White. Also I like dogs. But I really didn’t like this awkward indie comedy and by the end of it wanted to put it to sleep. Read about how it rubbed me the wrong way here.

9. BUG (Dir. William Friedkin) A ridiculous conspiracy minded thriller with hammy overacting and silly twists. Normally I love ridiculous conspiracy minded thrillers with hammy overacting and silly twists but Friedkin really doesn’t bring it here. Read my review of the DVD here.

10. THE TEN (Dir. David Wain) A sketch comedy film without a single laugh. Paul Rudd, whose smug detachment helps him walk off unscathed from this dreck, is the presenter of 10 vignettes ostensibly based on the morals of the 10 commandments featuring the usually reliable members of comic ensembles from the TV cult favorites The State and Stella who have all done good funny work before. WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER this ain’t. My original review? Never wrote one – in fact this is the most I ever want to write about this mean minded offensive unfunny doggerel. Next time I won’t mince words.

More later…

Keepin’ Cool With The AC Breeze & New Release DVDs

“Doing da ying and yang, da flip and flop, da hippy and hoppy (yodels) Yo da lay he hoo! I have today’s forecast.
(yells)
HOT!
– MR.SEÑOR LOVE DADDY (Samuel L. Jackson)
DO THE RIGHT THING (Dir. Spike Lee, 1989)

He said it! It was been unbearably hot this week so the best thing to do is to get the air cranking, tear open a few Netflix envelopes, and devour some DVDs. Here’s some I’ve seen lately and while for the most part they are a dire lot they did provide some diversion from the sweltering Summer sun. Let’s start with :

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (Dir. Shawn Levy, 2006) From the trailers I saw for this last Christmas (sorry Holiday season) it looked to me like yet another Ben Stiller as punching bag enterprise but this time aimed at kids with lots of CGI. Well, that’s pretty much what it is but it’s better than I expected with more than few really funny moments and a great supporting cast. Abundant back and forths (some improvised) between Stiller as a hapless failed inventor turned security guard and Robin Williams dominates the lively proceedings. Williams plays a life sized Teddy Roosevelt in battle mode mannequin, who as I’m sure you know if you’ve even glanced in the direction of this movie, comes to life with everything else in the museum at night. Not so life size are the miniatures cowboy Jebediah (Owen Wilson – uncredited for some odd reason) and Roman warrior Octavius (Steve Coogan) who make good with their bit parts – sorry for that lame ass pun. Wait – lame ass puns dominate this movie so I’ll leave that in.

Anyway Ricky Gervais somehow pulls off some amusing walk-throughs without having a single genuinely funny line while oldtimers Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs pull no punches (literally) but the real shining player here? 3 words – Dick. Van. Dyke. Nice to see the man atone for years of bland TV and forgettable cameos by sinking his teeth into his role as Stiller’s smooth retiring night guard mentor. Lots of critics have dumped on NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (it has a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and I agree with the consensus that the CGI doesn’t impress like it used to and that the humor may be way too broad at times but I still think it’s a decent family film. Even if that’s all that it is.

THE NUMBER 23 (Dir. Joel Schumacher, 2007) Sometimes I watch movies that I know are going to be horrible. It’s that I want to know just how and in how many ways they are horrible. I guess the genre here is psychological suspense though there’s nothing either psychological or suspenseful in this convoluted Jim Carrey vehicle. For the first 10 minutes or so Carrey is his usual glide through life wisecracking self until his wife (Virginia Madsen) gives him a book about the supposedly mystical number of the title. He of course becomes obsessed with 23 seeing it everywhere – in his birthday, address, social security #, etc. He cites examples (as does the opening credit sequence does to drive home the meaningless point) like “Ted Bundy was executed on the 23rd of January” * and even writes “9,11, 2001 – 9+11+2+1=23″ in pen on his arm. Before long he makes the connection to not only the saxophone (the saxophone has 23 keys!!!) playing detective of the book to some murdered girl and others who have had similar deadly numerical obsessions helping the movie make its red herring quota. Schumacher’s films all have an overly glossy look – something he perfected in the era of high impact rock videos and magazine ads – and this is no exception. Nothing resembling real life here. This time he tried to disguise the stylized emptiness with the contrived “depth” of a cultish pseudo-intellectual theory. Consider it an extremely dumbed down Pi (which cinematographer Mattthew Latique worked on too!). How many ways is this movie horrible? I’m think-ing of a number…

* Actually he wasn’t! Bundy was sent to the electric chair on January 24th, 1989. Ah-ha!

DISTURBIA (D.J. Caruso, 2007) So I feel old and unhip because it took until his hosting of Saturday Night Light earlier this year for me to take note of Shia Lebeouf. I mean the kid is apparently really hot these days – magazine covers, TRANSFORMERS, and he’s even going to be the son of Indiana Jones next Summer. Lebouf was called by Vanity Fair the next Tom Hanks (who was called the next Jimmy Stewart in the 80’s) has here what was billed as REAR WINDOW for a new generation. Uh, okay. Well, underneath the teen angst veneer the premise of Hitchcock’s classic is just a clothesline to hang cliche after cliche on. Under house arrest instead of being wheelchair bound Lebeouf out of boredom spies on his neighbors – mostly Sarah Roemer – the cliched perfect girl next door until his binoculars wander to the cliched suspicious activities of…oh you know the plot!

It’s not really so odd how it’s not that we can guess everything that happens way before it happens – it’s that it seems like the film makers knew we could guess them and still made no attempt to actually trigger true suspense. The house of the serial killer is one of those that only exists in the movies – so full of secret compartments, passageways, shrines, and a well lit sanitized freezer room – he must have gotten the Murder Maniac special at the local real estate office! I shouldn’t be so hard on this movie though – it’s just another PG-13 thriller throw-away for the weekend multiplex crowd. I’ll also admit though that Lebeouf is talented – he rises above this dreck at every unsurprising turn. Now let’s just see how he handles that bullwhip.

SOME RANDOM BABBLE :

Isn’t it funny how Eddie Murphy who reportedly walked out of the Academy Awards last March because he didn’t get the statue for DREAMGIRLS turned down the sequel to DADDY DAY CARE and actual Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. stepped in to play the same role in DADDY DAY CAMP? Isn’t that funny? Isn’t It?!!? Oh, nevermind.

Don’t ask me what’s funny about UNDERDOG – because I got nothing.

If they ever make one of those VH1 biopics about The Kids In The Hall they really ought get that guy who’s supposed to represent Verizon (or is it AT&T? Cingular?) in those damn Alltel commercials to play Dave Foley. I mean the guy – Scott Halberstadt – would nail it I bet.

The new celebrity-reality show The Two Coreys featuring the present day antics of former teen movie stars Corey Feldman and Corey Haim is airing now on A&E – The Arts & Entertainment Channel. This is definitely ironic because The Two Coreys is neither art nor entertainment. Discuss…

If it seems like the Coen Brothers are overdue for a movie and it sure does to me – their all too brief Buscemi bit in PARIS, JE T’AIME was such a tease – well, soon (November) we’ve got – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. It’s got Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Kelly McDonald, and Josh Brolin. Despite the fact it has been a while since the Coens have done a film based on their original screenplay this seems promising.

More later…