This Week's New Releases
dir. Robert Luketic
Opens Fri May 13.
Here's the deal. The beginning of this movie is so horrible, so bland, so curdled, so… well, typical, as romantic comedies go, that once the prospective mother-in-law (Jane Fonda) digs her claws into the bride-to-be (Jennifer Lopez), you can't help cheering wildly. It's like watching a bad movie eat itself.
J.Lo plays a happy-go-lucky receptionist/ caterer/dog walker/fashion designer, and she wrinkles her little J.Lo nose, and she giggles her little J.Lo laugh, and she speaks in her girlish J.Lo voice. Then her horoscope predicts she'll meet a man, and so the most boring medical doctor in the world (Michael Vartan) materializes on the beach, and then in a coffee shop, and then at a party. She administers a love test, and Vartan launches into a long description of J.Lo's eyes, culminating in: "Right around the iris they're pure honey. And when you look in the sun, they almost look green." (Bleecchh.)
The two promptly get engaged, but then mommy dearest--who was a Barbara Walters clone but then goes batty and gets herself fired--attempts to ruin their lives. Now, I'm not claiming the second half of Monster-in-Law will keep you from feeling ashamed of yourself. For example, there are not one but two walking-stereotype sidekicks: a sass-talking black assistant, played by Wanda Sykes, and a compliment-doling gay best friend, played by Adam Scott. But the thing is, it's extremely satisfying to watch someone try to poison Jennifer Lopez.
And if that someone is a scene-digesting Jane Fonda, so much the better. It is a little discomforting that the giveaway sign Fonda has gone off the deep end is that she asks a Britney-esque pop star for her thoughts on Roe v. Wade. But not everything Robert Luketic directs can be another Legally Blonde. ANNIE WAGNER
Kicking & Screaming
dir. Jesse Dylan
Opens Fri May 13.
Ah, the curse of being Will Ferrell. For every offer like Old School, you've got to cut the crusts off your already tenuous reputation with crap for the PG crowd like Kicking & Screaming. On a scale of, say, Eddie Murphy to Tom Hanks, Ferrell still places a little better than a Jim Carrey--his wholesome characters aren't yet sickening enough to give you the heaves--but he's inching closer to ipecac with every feel-good film he makes.
Kicking & Screaming stars Ferrell as Phil Weston, a grown man cowering in the shadow of his competitive father, Buck (Robert Duvall, doing his best Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents). Everything Phil does, Buck has to do one better; when Phil has his first child, Buck becomes a dad again the same day. But Phil gets backed into a corner when his dad coaches the local 10-year-olds' soccer team, and with father and son's kids on the same team, it's Phil's boy who stays a benchwarmer. So Phil decides to coach the opposing team (with his kid on it) and slap-your-forehead humor and Mike Ditka cameos ensue. Although some of the jokes are subtle enough to elicit snickering (i.e., Phil's fumbling for words with the hot lesbian soccer moms), Kicking is really a kids' movie with nothing for adults but the hope that Ferrell moves back into R country sooner rather than one more dumb coffee joke later. JENNIFER MAERZ
dir. Renny Harlin
Opens Fri May 13.
There is this little island that is owned by the Navy and loaned to the FBI so that its top agents can train to become profilers of serial killers. Val Kilmer is the trainer, but his methods are considered controversial; the orthodox higher-ups are not at all pleased with Kilmer's extreme dedication to erasing, during exercises, the line between reality and simulation. The FBI agents and a guest (numbering seven) arrive at the island by helicopter, receive their assignment, and are left to solve a crime that Kilmer's genius has designed. Soon, simulation ends and reality begins.
The first agent to die is Christian Slater, who is the leader of the group. His murder is quickly followed by the murder of another agent. There are now five souls left and the big question is, who amongst them is the killer? The first suspect is LL Cool J, not because he is black but because he's not an FBI agent. He is a detective from Philadelphia who is there to observe/study Kilmer's controversial methods. Eventually, everyone becomes a suspect, as everyone has a good psychological reason to find pleasure in killing fellow FBI agents on a remote island.
Directed by Renny Harlin, this slasher-thriller contributes absolutely nothing to its genre, to cinema, or to humanity in general. The only reason why you should enter a theater screening this film is if you are being pursued by the cops and need a dark place to elude them. As you sink into your seat, always keeping one eye on the entrance, the other eye might chance to see LL Cool J getting knocked on the head by a propane tank. Mama said knock you out indeed. CHARLES MUDEDE
dir. Q. Allan Brocka
Opens Fri May 13.
According to interviews, Q. Allan Brocka's low-budget feature-length debut Eating Out was initially inspired by memories of the hetero trash classic Porky's. While the filmmaker's ambition to give queer cinema a dopey sex comedy of its own is laudable, the results, unfortunately, fail on a base level. It just isn't very funny. Shot on grimy DV, writer/director Brocka's would-be farce centers on one of those irritating cinematic misunderstandings--straight guy pretends to be gay to get to hot female, runs afoul of proudly out roommate--that could be settled with a single brief conversation in the real world. Save for a nonstop slew of trash-talk and a fairly novel and admirably extended bout of three-way, phone-aided sex, there's nothing here that hasn't been done to death in the past by the likes of the WB. What's worse, the mostly newbie cast (including former American Idol contestant Jim Verraros and current Desperate Housewives gardener Ryan Carnes) breathlessly spout off their rapid-fire, too-glib-by-half dialogue as if anticipating thunderous roars from a phantom laff track. Without the presence of a (Lord forgive the pun) straight man to ground the jokes, their efforts come off as a mightily self-satisfied, unpleasantly amateurish mess. To give Brocka (previously responsible for the genuinely funny sick and twisted LEGO short Rick & Steve, the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World) the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he mistakenly recalled Porky's II: The Next Day. ANDREW WRIGHT
It's All Gone Pete Tong
dir. Michael Dowse
Opens Fri May 13.
It's All Gone Pete Tong is a hopelessly mixed-up movie. It's a fictitious biopic about Frankie Wilde (played with abandon by British comedian Paul Kaye), who is a superstar DJ at raves in Ibiza. The film takes its name from cockney slang for "it's all gone wrong." That the title happens to play on the name of the famous DJ who also produced the film (and who appears in one of the excruciatingly dumb talking-heads segments) lends it another level of vanity and confusion.
Frankie is supposed to be somewhat lovable in a fucked-up way, but instead he's repugnant. He spends all his time boozing, doing blow, getting blown, and spinning triumphantly mindless music for the masses vacationing on the Spanish island. Frankie's life is one nonstop party, which he bankrolls for his conniving wife, indifferent stepson, and greedy producer. Then he slowly discovers he is going deaf from exposure to constant noise in the clubs, and his world crumbles.
The tone of the film is jarringly erratic--a Christopher Guest-like mockumentary with dippy talking-head interviews one moment, a screwball (with a very loose screw) comedy the next, and then a thudding redemption story in its third act as Frankie falls in love with a beautiful deaf woman who teaches him how to read lips (that is not a euphemism). In one of the film's weirder tangents, Frankie hallucinates that his drug addiction is embodied by a Coke Badger, which is an ugly mascot costumed in a pink dress. At one point Frankie wrestles with the Coke Badger, beating it into submission and revealing in the skirmish what I have suspected all along: Drug addiction wears pink panties.
Kaye throws himself into the role, but there isn't much there; Frankie is a one-note joke. We mostly watch him fall down, guzzle alcohol with multiple spit-takes, do mountains of cocaine, walk around with snot coming out of his nose, and collapse bleeding from the ears. Hilarity. NATE LIPPENS