The New York Times has a rare behind the scenes look at Pixar:
A new version of the classic book by Charlotte Bronte is coming to the screen. “Jane Eyre,” the story of the shy governess who loves her brooding employer, a man with a dark secret.
It has been filmed many times, with some of the best versions starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles (with a brief appearance by a very young Elizabeth Taylor), Susannah York and George C. Scott, and Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt, and Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds.
Here is an exclusive glimpse of the upcoming version with Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Dame Judi Dench, and Sally Hawkins. It opens in select theaters on March 11.
The good news: no one in this movie has sex with an old lady or gets stabbed in the foot. So Adam Sandler is making some progress. And Jennifer Aniston continues to be a lovely screen presence, with sublime comic timing and underrated acting skills. There’s a surprise appearance by an Oscar-winning star who gives the much-too-long-time-in-coming third act a boost.
Now for the bad news: just about everything else. Adam Sandler and director Dennis Dugan have taken the delightful 1969 comedy “Cactus Flower” and dumbed it down, grossed it up, and draaaaaagggggged it out. It wastes its premise, insults its characters, and shows an attitude toward the audience somewhere between neglect and contempt, sometimes both.
Sandler plays Danny Macabee, a plastic surgeon who discovers on his wedding day in 1988 that his bride was a gold-digging tramp. He also discovers that pity and unavailability is a sure recipe for getting what I will politely call “dates” with beautiful ladies. And he spends the next 23 years using a fake wedding ring and even faker tales of marital woe to sleep with an entire generation of women who are beautiful and compassionate but not very smart.
And then he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a sweet, smart, schoolteacher with the body of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue supermodel. But she discovers his ring and is hurt and angry. Rather than tell her the truth, that he is a hopeless cad who uses and exploits women, he decides to tell her he is getting divorced. She insists on meeting the wife to verify his story, and he enlists his office assistant Katherine (Aniston), a single mother, to act the part. Eventually, her children get caught up in the deception, and just as Katherine is fed up and about to tell Palmer the truth, she runs into an old friend and has her own reasons for wanting to appear happily married.
Following in the dishonorable tradition of “Couples Retreat,” this movie seems to have been generated by Sandler’s sole priority: a free trip to Hawaii. Side benefits: a reason for two of the world’s most beautiful women to gaze at him adoringly, walk around in bikinis, and kiss him; and doing as little work as possible. It’s one thing for a young man to be an immature slacker. Sandler is far too old for this. Both the actor and his character come across as doughy, louche, and charmless.
Bizarrely, Sandler seems to have no idea of how odious the behavior of his characters is, perhaps because audiences have been acting as enablers by continuing to buy tickets, failing to notice that he ran out of comic steam a long time ago. There is a disagreeable misogynistic and materialistic ugliness to the film. Macabee is a plastic surgeon just so there can be jokes about grotesque mishaps — Rachel Dratch as a woman with one eyebrow much higher than the other, Kevin Nealon as man with a face numb and paralyzed from Botox, some poor woman as the victim of a deflated breast implant who has to suffer an excruciating scene with Aniston and Sandler rubbing numbing cream on her nipples. The good guys in the movie, Katherine and her children, gouge Macabee out of tens of thousands of dollars of things with no sense of responsibility. Katherine is supposed to be devoted to her children but does not seem to care that she leaves her children with a negligent sitter. And then her worth is proven when she, too, turns out to look fabulous in a bikini, hardly a big reveal to anyone who has passed by People Magazine at the check-out counter. And everyone lies to and manipulates the perfectly nice Palmer. What is this supposed to show us? How are we supposed to care about these people?Not one but two characters assume idiotic accents for no reason. There is a scene involving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of a sheep. There are many jokes about male body parts and many, many, many jokes about poop, a subject of much more fascination to the characters in the movie than anything else, followed distantly by jealousy, competition, acquisitiveness, bikinis, being contemptuous of anyone who is old or overweight or unattractive (except for Sandler), and being resentful toward people who look good in bikinis and thus make us feel acquisitive or jealous. Oh, and homophobia. Please, don’t go with it.
What’s in a gnome?
Shakespeare’s tragic romance about the children of warring families has been adapted countless times (a high point: “West Side Story;” a low point: a recent Twitter version), as acknowledged in a cheeky opening monologue to this charming retelling set in the world of garden gnomes and set to the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Adjoining homes on Verona Drive have lovingly tended gardens, one with a blue color scheme, the other red. Both are populated with ceramic garden gnomes who come to life when humans are not around and like their owners, the two groups are in a bitter feud, led by Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine).
When Lady Bluebury’s son Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy) and his red rival Tybalt (voice of Jason Statham) compete in a lawnmower race, the hotheaded Tybalt cheats to win. Gnomeo decides to cross over into the red side for revenge.
Meanwhile, Lord Redbrick’s daughter Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) defies her father to disguise herself and cross over to the blue territory to capture a captivating flower. She meets Gnomeo and soon parting will be sweet sorrow and a weed by any other name is still a weed.
They have one perfect date far from home, where they befriend another garden fixture, a long-abandoned plastic pink flamingo (voice of Jim Cummings), and hear his story of the pain of lost love.
Gnomeo and Juliet want to be together, but they do not want to hurt their parents. Lord Redbrick wants Juliet to marry the suitable but dull Paris (voice of Stephen Merchant). Tensions become even more heated between the reds and the blues, especially when one side brings in a monster truck of a lawnmower called the Terrafirminator. Even William Shakespeare’s statue (voice of Patrick Stewart) tries to explain that the story is not supposed to have a happy ending.
But Shakespeare didn’t know about garden gnomes, 3D computer animation, or G ratings, all of which combine to make sure that all’s well that ends well.
The gnomes are nicely weathered-looking, with chips and cracks, and there’s an evocatively gentle ceramic clink when they move or touch each other.
There’s plenty of silly but warm-hearted humor as the characters struggle with the big feelings inside their brittle terra-cotta bodies. Juliet frees a little ceramic fish from a gnome’s fishing pole, and he manages quick grateful appreciation before he sinks straight to the bottom of the pond. The gnomes have to freeze whenever a human comes by, in positions only slightly more absurd than the ones they were originally designed for.
Pop culture references, unavoidable these days in an animated film, are oddly chosen (The “Tiki Room” theme song? “Brokeback Mountain?” Really?) but thankfully brief. And there is much to delight lovers of English literature, with sly references to the bard. We see like a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern moving van and the street address numbers are 2B and not 2B.
The eclectic voice cast works very well. McAvoy and Blunt show all the tenderness, courage, and spirit one could hope for in the young lovers. It is disarming to see how well Ozzie Osborne’s Fawn and Hulk Hogan’s Terrraforminator announcer share the screen with Dame Maggie and Sir Michael.
But what makes the film most endearing is its unabashed eccentricity. These days, so much entertainment is focus-grouped into safe institutional blandness. It is a rare pleasure to see a film, especially one with eight credited authors including William Shakespeare, with such a singularly loopy sensibility. If you are in the mood for an off-beat take on a classic love story to the sound of the Rocket Man, you will find this one is just as you like it.