Anyone old enough to see this movie is way too old to enjoy it. And having co-writer and star Mike Myers wink at the audience after some lame pun or potty joke doesn’t up the hilarity factor. The fact that he is willing to acknowledge how cheesy this material is does not mitigate damages.
In his last live action movie Mike Myers played three characters and two of them, the grossly obese and just plain gross Fat Bastard and even the title character, ever-ready-to-party Austin Powers, were one-joke concepts. Myers and the film were best when the focus was on the villainous Dr. Evil. In his latest film, “The Love Guru,” Myers only plays one character but he is the least interesting figure in the movie, or at least the least interesting male. The wonderfully talented Meagan Good and the appealing Jessica Alba have nothing to do but gaze adoringly at whichever male the script asks them to, which they do reasonably well, and look very, very fetching, which they do extremely well. Meanwhile, Myers’ character, the Guru Pitka, has a beard that obscures much of his face and a storyline that underneath all of the gross-out humor is just dull.
Pitka is an American raised in an ashram who always came in second to his rival — Deepak Chopra. Their teacher was cross-eyed Guru Tugginmypudha, played by a slumming Sir Ben Kingsley, whose Indian ancestors are revoking their reincarnation options at this moment. That character name is one of many, many examples of the non-stop naughty-body-part-references. The level of humor would be more appropriate on a 4th grade bathroom wall than a Hollywood screenplay.
Pitka is a best-selling author and popular spiritual leader but still second to Chopra. His chance to move into first place comes when the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team (Jessica Alba) hires him to treat the star player (Romany Malco, please, please someone give this handsome and talented actor a part worthy of him) who is distraught because his wide (Meagan Good) has left him for another team’s goalie, Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake). The nickname, in case it isn’t clear, is another achingly un-subtle body-part reference and refers to his most impressive physical attribute. With a running time of less than 90 minutes, the movie still finds time to repeat jokes about the size of that attribute but it never gets funny. Ever. This movie has the timing of chilled molasses.
The movie also includes elephant poop, a sort of ashram dodgeball played with pee-soaked mops, a chastity belt (and when he is aroused there’s a clang sound, get it?), references to a little person (“Austin Powers'” Verne Troyer) as a Kebler elf, a gnome, and a hobbit, crotch hits, random musical numbers, and meaningless cameos by embarrassed-looking semi-stars.
Even in a silly comedy the audience has to be able to connect to the characters and care about the story and that never happens here. Myers could have made fun of American susceptibility to spiritual leaders who appear on “Oprah” and write best-sellers filled with gimmicky aphorisms supposedly based on ancient wisdom. But it is evident that he has been genuinely touched by Chopra (they appear together on the Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts series). This is lovely for him but a real buzzkill for the movie. It is also a mistake to make the task assigned to him the reconciliation of a couple who split up without having us invest in any way in either of the characters or their feelings for each other. Good’s character loses our sympathy immediately for leaving her husband for no particular reason for a man who is completely obnoxious (though Timberlake is very funny in the movie’s only bright spot). And the movie is creepily misogynistic, with Malco’s problems all coming down to his faithless wife and his harridan of a mother (played by Telma Hopkins of Tony Orlando and Dawn!). The movie seems like one long regression therapy session for Myers, who seems to have taken the guru’s messages about how everything he does is wonderful a little too much to heart.
Andy and Larry Wachowski, the folks behind the Matrix trilogy, have taken the iconic but decidedly low-tech 1960’s Japanese cartoon character and put the pedal to the metal with dazzling effects and electrifying action. Do what Speed Racer does — put on your red socks and GO!
Even as a child, Speed Racer could only think of one thing, making cars go as fast as possible. Not surprising — he was surrounded by racing. The family business was race cars. His father (John Goodman) built them and his older brother drove them. When his brother is killed in a crash, Speed (Emile Hirsch) takes over. On and off the race track he battles the competition, even when they do not fight fairly. By his side are his parents, his little brother, his and his girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci, looking like a real-life version of an anime heroine with her enormous eyes).
The plot is pretty much the same as the cartoon series, meaning light-weight and a little incoherent. Basically, evil forces are trying to stop Speed from winning the race. The sections with the kid brother and his chimp are slow points for everyone over age 9 but it is all great fun, with a hero to believe in and visuals that are both reassuringly retro and stunningly innovative. Every wallpaper and fabric, each car, helmet, and racetrack is meticulously designed to evoke a mash-up between Speed’s Norman Rockwell-style, solidly heartland home and the souped-up super space age world outside. The Wachowskis re-invent the color wheel with reds and yellows that make fire engines and school buses seem pale.
The dialogue is pared down to essentials: “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work like that!” “Maybe not, but it’s the only thing I know how to do and I gotta do something.” The plot is no more significant (or confusing) than in the cartoon originals. All we need to know is that in the world of Speed Racer you can drive a car and change the world — if you drive it very, very fast.
“Made of Honor” has gloss and bounce and some of the core elements of a mainstream chick flick/date movie. Sexiest Man Alive runner-up in lead role? Yep, Dr. McDreamy himself. I’ve been a Patrick Dempsey fan since he did the African anteater dance in Can’t Buy Me Love. Does he get his comeuppance? In a romantic comedy, it’s always a good thing if someone gets a comeuppance. Yes, that’s here, too. And much of the movie concerns wedding plans, usually a reliable plot line. Consistent with wedding custom, it has something old (boy meets girl, boy loses girl…), something new (we’ll get back to that later), something borrowed (the plots of “The Wedding Planner,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” half a dozen “Friends” episodes featuring Ross and Rachel, etc. etc.), and something blue (some of the humor pushes the PG-13 limits to the edge). But it leaves out a few other essentials.
Ten years after college, Tom still sleeps with as many beautiful women as possible, not-so-gently informing each of them that he has “rules” — no one gets him two nights in a row, no one gets to visit his apartment, no one meets his family, etc. etc. The one constant in his life is his weekly time with college pal Hannah (Michelle Monaghan of “Gone Baby Gone”), his best friend. When she returns from a six-week business trip to Scotland engaged to a bonny broth of a Mr. Right (think the Laird of Right), Tom suddenly realizes that it is Hannah he truly loves. She wants him to be her Maid of Honor and he accepts because he thinks it will help him stop the wedding and prove to Hannah that he’s the one.
Despite Dempsey’s charm and charisma, the character he plays is hard to root for, more a male fantasy than a female one. The screenwriters and director seem mystified by women and sometimes even downright misogynistic, never a good thing in a chick flick. Women all take one look at tom and sigh, endlessly willing to do anything from write their phone numbers on Starbucks coffee cups to jump into (or back into) bed with him, one even yelling “Service me!” Three different times, the movie makes fun of an elderly lady who mistakes a sex toy (glow in the dark!) for a necklace. Not funny even once. Tom is immature and self-centered. He has no job, no interest in anything but hanging out with his basketball-playing buddies, having sex with many different girls, and his weekly date with Hannah, which is primarily about making him feel good. Even when she gets engaged, it never occurs to him to think about what would make her happy. The movie avoids the usual formula of making the designated loser in the marriage sweepstakes obviously wrong for Hannah but forgets to substitute some other reason to root for Tom. As happens too often these days, the movie relies on vulgarity instead of wit, insults instead of banter, and recycled ideas instead of anything fresh. It is so sloppy it does not know the difference between a blog and a post or between a museum conservator and a curator and has homophobic (literally) locker-room humor that would be considered childish by 14-year-olds. When the highlights of the movie are seeing Dempsey juggle china and a wedding video featuring Elizabeth Hasselbeck, you know the script is a couple of bridesmaids short of a wedding party.
The Washington Post has a great photo of my friend Ally Burguieres playing video games with her mother and sister. The article says: Women and girls make up 40 percent of the gamer population, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry’s trade group. And with game software sales at $9.5 billion last year, companies are paying closer attention to the titles women seek out… For years, the video game industry spent its marketing dollars on trying to get guys excited about the latest sports or shoot-‘em-up title. It was generally assumed that women and girls weren’t interested. But that started to change in 2004, says industry analyst Michael Pachter, when Nintendo launched its DS portable game system, named for its dual screens. Its features stretched the notion of what a video game is — and who might want to play.
Women gamers even have their own website. And this is a delightful Amazon list of games for “women with lives.” It wasn’t that long ago that it was assumed that women would not be interested in games. Sheri Graner Ray, who says she got into the game industry in the first place “Because it was the only industry where I could list 15 years of running “Dungeons and Dragons” games on my resume as valid job experience!” She wrote a book about “gender inclusive game design.” Microsoft’s xBox brochure tells its buyers “Here are some things you might want to tell your wife this thing does.” Maybe with the next upgrade they will remember that women like Ally Burguieres, currently studying for her PhD in linguistics, don’t need anyone to explain it to them. Women are not just playing, they are entering tournaments.
Late last year, Nancy Davies, an 84-year-old woman living in a retirement community, defeated a real-life bowling champion in a Wii Sports tournament. She had been playing for only one year.
Trailer: The Little Prince The beloved book The Little Prince has been gorgeously animated, with voices including Jeff Bridges, James Franco, and Rachel McAdams. I love this trailer.
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