Andy Bockelman: Summer 2008: Ups, downs at the movies
August 30, 2008
As the summer ends, we look back on the past few months of movie magic and either fondly reminisce or gag in disgust. Summer 2008 gave us a number of examples in each category, some of which still are in theaters, some already on DVD.
1. “Made of Honor” – A strict bachelor (Patrick Dempsey) only has a serious relationship with one woman (Michelle Monaghan), but he realizes he wants more. Just as he is about to express his love, she announces her engagement, and, even worse, requests that he serve as her maid of honor. Emasculating premise aside, this chick flick is baffling in its dual portrayal of Dempsey, never fully resolving his true nature.
2. “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” – The Pevensie children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) return to the fantasy land Narnia, assisting ousted royal heir Caspian (Ben Barnes) in reclaiming his throne. The follow-up to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is just as enlightening as its predecessor, with battle scenes that are much more visceral.
3. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” – The adventuring archaeologist (Harrison Ford) finds himself in a new situation in 1957 involving the Soviets, a mouthy juvenile (Shia LaBeouf) and the mysterious title artifact. Some notable inconsistencies in character development keep Indy’s latest escapade from being a total success, but with nostalgic touches both subtle and broad, director Steven Spielberg accomplishes what the franchise set out to do when originally created: capture the spirit of classic movie serials. Still, the latest installment is more for movie lovers than “Indiana Jones” purists.
4. “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” – Israeli commando Zohan (Adam Sandler) tires of military life, fakes his own death and moves to the States to become a hair stylist. The usual body humor apparent in Sandler’s movies is as present as ever, but it is neither his worst nor his best work.
5. “The Happening” – A high school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and everyone else on the Eastern seaboard are trying to escape an invisible force that causes them to kill themselves. This confusing and exhausting “thriller” from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan gives the actors nothing to work with, and it contains a preposterous ulterior motive. Shyamalan lacks a cohesive element to link all the good ideas here together.
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6. “Get Smart” – Inept espionage analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is promoted to agent status in the undercover organization CONTROL, and he is immediately thrown into the fray against the forces of KAOS, with legendary Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) holding his hand along the way. Carell is a dead ringer for Don Adams in this remake of the classic ’60s spy spoof. But the needlessly extensive action scenes bog down the humor. As the catchphrase goes, “missed it by that much :”
7. “The Love Guru” – Maurice Pitka (Mike Myers), a relationship guru whose fame is second only to that of Deepak Chopra, is hired by the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jessica Alba) to help the team’s star player (Romany Malco) regain his composure. An endless barrage of tasteless jokes completely hamper Myers’ return to live action comedy.
10. “Wanted” – A disillusioned nerd (James McAvoy) learns he is destined to become the world’s greatest assassin. This tepid action movie is done in by a thoroughly predictable narrative – a total disappointment, considering the greatness of the graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones.
11. “Hancock” – A self-loathing superhero (Will Smith), who is hated by his community, receives advice from a public relations expert (Jason Bateman), only to find out his unusual origin. Funny at first, this not-so-super comedy becomes drastically dramatic with the introduction of Charlize Theron as Bateman’s wife. If it had stuck to its original idea of “The Adventures of Superjerk,” it might have been more solid.
12. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (voice of Matt Lanter) takes on an over-eager apprentice (Ashley Eckstein) as he and mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) work for the cause of galactic peace. Video game style animation and dialogue only make matters worse in this pathetic attempt to further bridge Episodes II and III of the “Star Wars” saga, which already was done (better) in the Cartoon Network miniseries of the same name.