Saturday, June 13, 2009

Movie Review: The Proposal

We got there early for the sneak peak at the insistence of the Goose. The theatre was filling fast and I said in mild surprise, "I am surprised this many people want to see this train wreck."
"Train wreck? What do you mean? It looks good!"
I smiled. "Well, yeah, it is a rom-com, but it breaks too many rules. Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock don't get to play their normal characters, it is the girl who gets rid of the guy only to realize he was what she is a tough sell."

Time to eat my words.

Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) is the same character Reynolds pretty much always plays. He is the suave, sophisticated, egotistical jackass who has just enough charm to get the girls to swoon.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock), on the other hand, is a different character for recent vintage Sandra Bullock. Gone is the clumsy, sweet, slightly overwhelmed charm girl and in its place is the Ice Princess, a callback to Meryl Streep's wench in The Devil Wears Prada.

The story line is one you have seen before a bunch of times; dominating personality and talented but soul-crushed partner are forced into close proximity, think they hate each other, end up falling in love and getting married.

The contrived plot is unfortunate, because there are several elements in the background that, if explored more deeply, would add depth and texture to what ultimately becomes a mildly touching romp through the normal points a rom-com genre movie should hit.

I would love to see more time spent on the tension between Andrew and his dad Joe, ably played by Joe T. Nelson. They have great chemistry and you definitely believe there is a story and history there. Sometimes those "we have history" scenes are brutal and transparent and can ruin what might otherwise be a watchable movie (for example, the "fireman prank" and "stories of past events together" scenes in the execrable Ladder 49 combined with the horrific acting of Joaquin Phoenix combined to make it a movie that hopefully you don't recognize). In this case, the scenes felt very real and drew you in.

The movie is very well placed, has several hysterically awesome scenes that had people laughing loud enough that you could not catch all the dialogue. That is an excellent sign.

It also shows that Anne Fletcher is an excellent director. She is obviously well versed in the uses of the Kuleshov effect, and her excellent reaction shots bring the movie from predictable and serviceable to extremely enjoyable and worth seeing again should opportunity arise.

Overall, this movie delivered with gorgeous scenery, plentiful laughs, a fun story, and a satisfying conclusion. If you enjoy romantic comedies, go see it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movie Review:Up

Up has been heavily marketed for quite some time. The early pictures of a house flying on balloons coupled with more recent commercials showing some funny moments from the movie made it quite clear what this was; a light-hearted, fun, funny movie mostly targeted at the younger demographic.

And so it starts out to be. The sequences of young Carl Fredricksen (Jeremy Leary) worshipping his adventuresome idol Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and meeting the equally star-struck and hysterical Ellie (Elie Docter) are everything you were expecting.

You are quickly drawn into the story. The plot is fast-moving, the jokes plentiful, and the classic Disney heart/charm fully in place.

Spoiler Alert
Then, something funny happens. There is a sequence that is quite heart-breaking. With schmaltzy music, they do a montage of Carl and Ellie growing up, getting married, getting ready to have a baby...and then the baby dying, probably a miscarriage. Then Ellie dies.

What? Seriously? It is not that death has not entered feel-good animation Finding Nemo the mother fish and all but one egg are killed. But that was off-screen and by implication. 

Okay, so technically it is off-screen and by implication here, too, but it is much more heavy-handed and with tremendous impact. Not a few snuffles were heard in the theatre, and rightfully so.

On the one hand, that is a very good thing. It means you care about the lead characters. On the other just did not feel right for a movie targeted at the younger set.

End of Spoiler
Now in his retirement years, Carl (Edward Asner) is ready to move on. He decides to complete his childhood promise to Ellie to go to Paradise Falls where Muntz disappeared. This is where the famous house on balloons scenes come in.

Along with young do-gooder Russell (Jordan Nagai) who stows away unintentionally, he flies to South America. The rest of the movie is primarily his struggle to get the house to the dream location.

Problems crop up when a mysterious bird and several dogs get involved, leading Carl to get involved in the fight to protect the bird, Kevin, from a mysterious pack of dogs with collars that allow them to talk.

Eventually he meets the villain, changes his mind, helps Russell and Kevin battle the villains and brings it all home to a satisfying conclusion.

This movie works on many levels. It has a solid message about realizing that the dream you thought you had may not be the one you get, but that does not mean you should be disappointed. It also carried a nice message about not being so caught up in your own wants that you forget to care for and help others.

It also provided plenty of humor and had a nice story line that was quite entertaining while also being full of heart. The animation was well done, the characters fun and engaging and, most importantly, likable.

If you like good animation and/or soft comedy, this movie is an excellent choice and I highly recommend it.