Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

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July 20, 2006

'You, Me and Dupree'
2 out of 5
We've hit a bad spot in the summer movie blockbuster season. Of the four major local releases last weekend, two were independent films that had already opened in other "selected cities." The third was one I previously announced that I refused to see ("Little Man"). And the fourth was a wolf in sheep's clothing, a tedious effort disguised as a light-hearted comedy. I can't say that I would recommend any of them.
There haven't been very many comedies so far this summer. In advance, "You, Me and Dupree" appeared to scratch an itch that "Nacho Libre" didn't satisfy for very many people. The trailers were funny enough, and it offered a likable cast (Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson). However, during its way-too-long, 108-minute running time, the laughs were few and far between.
The problem is it's actually less about the hilarious houseguest (Wilson) who won't leave than it is about the marital problems between newlyweds Dillon and Hudson, inflicted primarily by the powerful man who hates his new son-in-law. Michael Douglas, a normally interesting actor who phones in his performance here, plays him. He's just not funny to me unless he's playing completely over-the-top, which he is not in this instance.
I have to give "You, Me and Dupree" credit, though, because it is oddly geared toward a neglected target market, the mid-30s crowd. I mean, Matt Dillon is my age, and I've passed that demographic. So he's playing younger here, and age is an issue at one point in the movie. But what a dull group that generation must be. According to first time screenwriter Mike LeSieur, marriage puts an end to any fun or freedom a man can expect to have. I thought that was sort of an old-fashioned notion these days.

'Strangers With Candy'
2 out of 5
Even less funny is the big screen adaptation of the Comedy Central television series, "Strangers with Candy." I've never seen the series, so I don't know how well it made the transition. I remember its hook being that it was a spoof of the old "ABC After-School Specials," with Amy Sedaris as a grown woman/drug addict who returns to high school. In the movie, she's fresh from prison and on a quest to pull her father out of a coma by doing something to make him proud.
I love Amy Sedaris, but apparently her hilarious appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman" better suit her wacky personality than a structured, full-length movie. As Jerri Blank, she's just plain bizarre. Crossed-eyes, facial tics and uncut toenails should be funny, but they soon wear out their welcome.
Stephen Colbert ("The Colbert Report") steals the show and plays the only consistently funny character; I didn't know he could act.
I want to point out that David Letterman produced "Strangers with Candy." He is certainly loyal to the comedians he likes. He keeps Chris Elliott, Bonnie Hunt, Jim Gaffigan and now Amy Sedaris busy with television and film work. It's unlikely any of them would maintain employment without his support; their projects are just too far off the beaten path.
Remember "Cabin Boy?" Maybe someday it will be considered a classic.

'A Scanner Darkly'
3 out of 5
The closest thing to a recommendation I can give is for "A Scanner Darkly," an odd mixture of genres that could have been brilliant, but is instead inconsistent, with a really long and boring stretch just past its middle. It will probably be recognized (and avoided) for the technique used in its making. As he pioneered with 2001's "Waking Life," director Richard Linklater shot the entire movie then went back and animated over the live action film.
It's a fascinating visual style that held my attention ... for a short time. And it was actually perfectly suited for the subject matter of drug use and paranoia. The beginning sequence (with music by Graham Reynolds) was terrifying and terrific, but the mood could not be sustained throughout. Long, rambling scenes while the characters were on the futuristic drug "Substance D" were quite funny, but the main plot was more than a little confusing.
"A Scanner Darkly" would probably have worked better as an hourlong episode of a television show like "The Twilight Zone." It's got a couple of nifty surprises and pulls everything together at the end. But it just wanders too much in the middle. The actors (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane) seem suited for their animated counterparts, but it's a disappointment for Winona Ryder's return to movies to be as a cartoon.
Jeff Owens is co-owner of Couch Potato Video in De Soto and an avowed movie buff.

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