Miley Cyrus shows us how her reach exceeds her grasp in “The Last Song,” an attempt to move past Hannah Montana. She has become Disney’s most valuable property through the force of her personality, comic timing, and way with a pop song. But pop princesses grow up, though usually not quite as quickly as they want to. And valuable properties are hard to turn down. So when one of the world’s biggest superstars-turned-brand wants to make a grown-up movie, she gets her way.
That is why “The Last Song” plays like a check-list of everything a 17-year old would like to make as an antidote to the perpetually sunny Hannah Montana rather than a movie that works. After the sugary Disney Channel hijinks, she gets to play something a tiny bit edgy, a sulky teenager with a pierced nose, sent to live with her estranged father for the summer. Nicholas Sparks, for the first time adapting one of his own books, supplies his brand of synthetic syrup — broken hearts must find love amidst devastating losses, preferably through some exchanges of mail, all of this near a body of water with a beach.
Cyrus plays Veronica (Ronnie), a recent high school graduate who is so angry at just about everything and everyone that she is refusing to go to Julliard in the fall even though she is so talented that they accepted despite her refusal to play the piano. They just knew how great she was and accepted her anyway. Her mother (Kelly Preston) drops her off with her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman in the film’s most natural performance) at their dad’s beach house. Jonah is thrilled to be there but Ronnie is still angry with their father (Greg Kinnear as Steve) for leaving them and refuses to have anything to do with him as she had refused to read his letters.
Ronnie meets a cute guy named Will (Liam Hemsworth) and they bond over protecting a nest of sea turtle eggs. A falling-in-love montage is quickly followed by a trying-on-clothes-in-the-vintage-shop montage, which at least has the advantage of giving us a break from the dialogue and plot developments. But before long, the screen is littered with complications as Will and Ronnie have to cope with divided loyalties and then with something much more serious.
It’s all pretty enough, and Sparks is an expert at manipulative melodrama. Cyrus has a likable, unforced screen presence but does not have the training or focus to make Ronnie real or show us any change more significant than the switch from black to pastels and the disappearance of the nose stud. The screenplay feels episodic and scattered, like a collection of discount greeting cards. And the movie feels like a very expensive screen test for a star who needs to learn that sitcom skills are not enough to make a movie drama work.
Some movies are content to settle for the lowest common denominator, combining trashy ethnic stereotypes, bathroom humor and cheesy slapstick jokes in the hope of luring audiences for a cheap laugh.
But some movies aspire to go even lower. “Furry Vengeance” is that movie.
Keep your children far away from this odious film about an unscrupulous developer who is bulldozing a forest to make room for houses and ultimately, “a shopping mall with a forest theme.” Brendan Fraser plays the local manager for the developer. He has moved his
wife Tammy (played by Brooke Shields) and his son Tyler (played by Matt Prokop) from Chicago to the small town of Rocky Springs to supervise the construction of a few homes, not realizing that the master plan is to demolish the entire forest. The woodland creatures
(led by a wily raccoon) have figured out the sinister plot and launch an insurrection against Frazer and his company to protect their forest.
The movie “Idiocracy” imagines a future day when our society will be so dumbed down that we will be entertained by TV shows consisting of nothing but jokes about a man being hit in the crotch. Well, gentle readers, that day is here. Brendan Fraser not only suffers the predictable “I-landed- on the peak of a roof and it went right into my crotch” pratfall, but also the “a raccoon is biting me the crotch and won’t let go” and even some new ones: after he has been submerged in the pond Fraser announces, “I need to remove a leech from my no-no zone.” Then there’s the time his woodland foes adjust his lawn sprinkler to spray him in the crotch and the embarrassed Frazer announces ” look at Mr. Pee-Pee pants.”
It’s hard to think of who might not be offended by this wretched movie. Frazer’s ruthless Asian boss from the home office talks in a screechy sing-song voice, relies on calculators, electronic gadgets and hand sanitizers. The equally unscrupulous money men from India fare no better (“If my Indian investors wanted to be reminded of pollution they would stay home in Calcutta. Stinko!”) And of course, the movie doesn’t miss the opportunity to make fun of the difference between American Indians and citizens of India (“Wigwam? Teepee? Squaw?”) Then there’s the stereotyped Mexican laborer at the construction site, or the elderly teacher who is senile and annoys everybody with her slow pace and long lapses.
The entire movie is speckled with excrement, both literally and figuratively. Brendan Fraser gets trapped in a port-a-potty which rolls over and over and gets turned upside down. Birds with extreme digestive problems dive-bomb their enemies and spatter them with bird poop. When the Indian financier is about to sign the contract, a big wad of excrement spatters on the document and a discussion ensues about who is going to clean it off. And when it seems the prop department might have run out of excrement, skunks spew thick clouds of noxious fumes and animals spray other bodily fluids on their beleaguered foes.
Gender is treated in an equally appalling way. Fraser, with soap in his eyes, reaches out for a towel and ends up drying his face with his wife’s bra, which then unaccountably slips onto his arms so that it looks like he has been wearing it. At this moment, the woodland creatures raise the curtains so that the construction workers outside believe Frazer is a cross-dresser. The animals further cement this idea when they trick Fraser into wearing his wife’s pink exercise outfit (with the words “yum yum” written on the butt) out in public.
Normally, I try to find something good to say about each movie I review. Dear readers, I am speechless.
The international blockbuster trilogy by the late Steig Larsson has already been brought to the screen in three award-winning Swedish films starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. They’re now set for big-budget American remakes starring Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as the title character, Lisbeth Salander. No word as yet about whether they will move the location of the story to the US.
Thanks for the great questions!An American romantic film in which a female high school principal falls for a Mexican handyman working at the school. In a whirlwind romance she goes to Mexico with him where(I think) she gets married on impulse. Back at the school she goes through a period of self doubt but, in the end, true love prevails. Any clues?? Many thanks for your help. That is “Crazy from the Heart” with Reuben Blades and Christine Lahti.I am trying to find the name of an old black&white comedy movie that has a genie in it i can’t remember a lot about it. I think the movie started off with 3 or 4 men trying to start a small band playing music in the streets for money. They eventually enlisted in to the military services to get some money, there was a genie lamp that was thrown out in the rubbish that one of the men owned and was eventually melted down and was turned into a button which was stiched on to a military uniform. That’s “Alf’s Button.” There’s also a sequel, “Alf’s Button Afloat.” There was a family movie from the early 80’s where the daughter had some medical condition (heart or lungs??) so the family, consisting of the parents and the 2 children (boy and girl) moved into the wilderness mountains and encountered and battled wilderness hazards like raccoons and bears. It was a great movie I would love to watch with my niece. My friend and fellow critic Dustin Putman reminds me that is “The Adventures of the Wilderness Family.” I believe it was a 1980’s movie. A couple that lives under high tension wires has new neighbors move in. The new neighbors are “swingers”. This is a COMEDY movie. The “straight” neighbor ends up putting the “swingers” airplane (or fancy car) in the swamp. I am thinking it may have been one of the Saturday Night Live people that starred in the movie. Just can’t remember any of the stars at all. Been driving us crazy for 3 days! You have a good memory! That’s “Neighbors” with Dan Ackroyd.I don’t have much info at all. so this will be tricky. I remember seeing it somewhere in the late 70’s early 80’s maybe and I thought the name of the movie had the word NOVEMBER in it. It was a love story. It was on the late, late movie. I know this is a tough one. I am pretty sure you are thinking of the bittersweet Sandy Dennis love story called “Sweet November” (remade with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron), about a woman who takes a lover for just one month and then moves on to another one the following month. Looking for the name of an old movie, maybe even a black and white. Starred a famous man and women about some sort of love affair, maybe forbidden, but in the end he comes to her and she is on the couch, hiding the fact that she can no longer walk. That’s a classic! “An Affair to Remember” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. There are also earlier and later versions (“Love Affair” with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer, and “Love Affair” again with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening), but the one with Cary Grant is the best known.Help! I saw a movie (not “Forever Young”) but it was about two brothers running from the police, sometime in the 40’s or 50’s, one guy had kidney disease, they were frozen and defrosted some 40 years later. one of the guys was getting married and he looks up his wife. it is so much like “Forever Young” but it is not. I cant remember any of the actors. Any clue? I love that movie! It’s “Late for Dinner” with Peter Berg and Marcia Gay Harden. They are actually brothers-in-law. Enjoy!No idea of who was in it. I think it was an 80’s B SciFi movie. The “scientists” developed a computer/recorder that could “tape” thoughts. The key to identify it was that one of the characters made a loop of the tape to experience repeated sexual experiences and died. That is “Brainstorm” with Natalie Wood (her last film) and Christopher Walken.The film is based in the US is in black and white. It is in the 1930’s and a group of men have a still to make illegal whisky. There is a raid by agents and an agent gets killed by one of the group. I am not sure but I think the lead was James Stewart. He is arrested, sent to prison and more or less spends the rest of his life there but during his later years he comes up with a new design for a light-weight rifle. The rifle gets produced, he eventually gets out of prison and they all live happily ever after. Corny but a good film and I can’t remember the name of it. You have a good memory! That movie is “Carbine Williams” with Jimmy Stewart, based on a true story.I saw this movie and only remember bits and pieces and I am trying to find the title. I can’t remember any big star names. The male lead might be the most famous. I’d guess it was made 2000-2005, or maybe a few years on either side.The best part of the movie was the main male character hitting on some attractive blonde (who I have never seen elsewhere – maybe an Australian actress) on an airplane near the beginning of the movie. The blonde replies something to the effect that “I am out of your league. I am so far out of your league that when someone in your league turns on a light bulb, my league doesn’t see it for 3 days.” Something like that. Of course, they two get together by the end of the movie.The movie is like a cross between Indiana Jones, American Treasure and League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The male lead is some kind of expert in arcane something. He has been chosen by some secret society to help find something and somehow save the world from the evil doers before they find it. The blonde is there to protect him, although he doesn’t know it at the start. You are thinking of “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear.” She says, “I am out of your league, I’m so out of your league, that if your league exploded, I wouldn’t hear about it for three days. So let us go on in a companionable silence shall we?”What is the name of the movie with a teenage girl that sees a white owl all of the time, and then her baby sibling gets taken and she has to go to this foreign land to get him back, and there are clocks everywhere like she’s running out of time? That is “Labyrinth” (1986) with Jennifer Connelly. Great film!What’s the name of that movie, that was made in the 80’s where this little boy mixed up peanut butter and cobwebs and put it in his hair and the next day his hair was really long? That’s “The Peanut Butter Solution,” made in 1985.Old b/w movie about a pair of candle sticks and the saying “life is to give and not to take.” “Les Miserables”A guy comes out of his house and starts to sing about being in love and the whole time he is singing he is jumping up and down like a rabbit all over town. He never stops jumping, even meeting people in the town, shaking their hand and still singing about being in love. Jumping non-stop for over 3 minutes. It has always stuck with me. But I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the movie. The actor may be Donald O’Connor, but I’m not sure. Please help. That’s Bobby Van in the unforgettable “Take Me to Broadway” number from “Small Town Girl.” Enjoy!I saw this movie several years ago on either HBO, Showtime, etc. It was about a single mother who was overly obsessed with her teenage son but she ends up sneaking around with her neighbor who was a little person. I think it has “neighbor” somewhere in the title. Thanks for any help you can give. That is one of the stories in “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” with Kathy Baker. Great film.I watched a Japanese animation movie 10 years ago. I’m trying to find it now, unfortunately I can’t remember the title. It was a children’s movie (for maybe a 5 to 10 year old?). If I remember correctly, there was no speech. The soundtrack consisted of only classical music. The main character was a boy who played a flute and lived in a sort of magical world. It reminds me of “Fantasia.” If you could help me find it, I would be very grateful! My fellow critic and friend Mark Jenkins says he thinks you are remembering a Chinese film called “The Cowboy’s Flute.” I am trying to find the name of a movie where a father takes his family from their home to the Amazon to start a new life. He creates a incredible home, garden and ice machine which gets destroyed by natives. That’s “The Mosquito Coast” with Harrison Ford.What was the name of the movie starring Kirk Douglas that involved a trapped miner named “Leo?” That is “Ace in the Hole” (sometimes known as “The Big Carnival”). Terrific film directed by Billy Wilder.