This thriller about a multi-national bank with innumerable tentacles and immeasurable power has two problems and the worst is bad timing. It’s just a little bit more difficult these days to feel pleasurably shaken up while watching a story about a couple of brave souls from law enforcement fighting a big, bad, bank when recent developments have made it clear that not only are the banks less powerful than we thought, they are not even competent enough to stay in business much less plot total world domination.
If we can put reality aside for a moment, it begins as a fairly serviceable if standard thriller, some tough talk, a murder, a determined if overmatched international investigator (Clive Owen as Louis Salinger), and that all-powerful corporation that thwarts him through a combination of muscle and corruption. There are hints and echoes of a story worth exploring about the ability of large corporations to transcend and evade the rules of any jurisdiction. But it all descends into the same old bang-bang and director, in a couple of awkwardly inserted scenes reportedly added due to lukewarm responses to an earlier version. Director Tom Twyker seems much more interested in the architecture of the various world capitols the characters chase through than he is in having anything of much interest happen there.
There is a lot of urgent rushing around from city to city, always helpfully identified with official-looking titles in the corner of the screen. And there are a lot of meaningful glances with narrowed eyes as people try to convey urgency and threats and counter-threats. And then there is a big out of nowhere shoot-out in the Guggenheim Museum that goes on forever but apparently not long enough for law enforcement to stop the survivors from walking away from it before any police cars arrive.
The Hangover and Land of the Lost opened on the same day. Other than that, they have little in common. The Hangover is a raunchy comedy about the aftermath of a Las Vegas bachelor party that would have been unforgettable if any of the attendees could remember any of it. The movie has male and female nudity, substance abuse, and many different kinds of very bad behavior. The movie is rated R, just barely (no pun intended). The still photos over the closing credits merit an NC-17.
Land of the Lost is based on a classic — if cheesy — 1970’s children’s television show. It has dinosaurs and time travel but it is “rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference.”
Both movies are silly comedies with no aspiration to be anything else, but I would argue that it is the superficially raunchier film, “The Hangover,” that is more moral and a more entertaining film as a result. “Land of the Lost” treats its female character (played by the talented and beautiful Anna Friel) as a prop. She is there to provide exposition, to be literally pawed by an ape-boy, and to gaze adoringly at Will Ferrell. Although she is the only intelligent and capable person in the film, she is treated as an afterthought. The other characters behave badly and treat her badly and there are no consequences of any kind.
“The Hangover,” on the other hand, is a movie entirely about consequences. The bachelor party guests spend the whole film piecing together the bad choices they made the night before and paying for them financially, emotionally, and even spiritually. They all learn something important and we leave confident that they will be unlikely to repeat their mistakes (except that they have already agreed to a sequel). Furthermore, legally and morally they are not completely responsible for the worst of their behavior because they were drugged, two of them inadvertently.
No one is arguing that either of these films is any kind of morality tale. They are both helium-weight comedies. But I think “The Hangover” is a better film because it fits the innate audience desire for justice and lessons learned. The vicarious thrill of the transgressive behavior is not nearly as satisfying as seeing the characters learn some painful lessons and pay for their mistakes.
For a little more insight into the MPAA’s approach to ratings, take a look at what they have to say.
Last night, “Billy Elliot” and its three young stars won Tony awards. Now is a good time to watch the movie about the boy who wants to dance that inspired it all (rated R for constant very bad language but otherwise suitable for mature teens).
The latest Shaun the Sheep movie is “Sheep on the Loose” The people who created “Wallace and Gromit” are behind this wonderful new series about a sheep who does not follow the flock — but sometimes gets the flock to follow him. And you never know who and what will turn out to be animated. Witty and imaginative, these DVDs are a delight for the whole family.
The first person to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Sheep” in the subject line will get a new Shaun DVD. Good luck!