Friday, June 23, 2000

Big Momma's House / * (2000)

“Big Momma’s House” makes a severe error in judgment by assuming that, when slim men dress in drag in comedies, playing overweight women in their twilight years is the compulsory approach. This plunge has already seen more than its fair share of interpretations in the cinema, and as such, has become a tired and clich├ęd instrument of movie making. The idea was most recently milked to death by comedies such as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Nutty Professor,” but those films, at least, are ambitious in certain ways. The filmmakers behind “Big Momma’s House” seem to only have one desire in mind: to trap an actor in an oversized body suit, have him wander around and, ever so often, shout out insipid dialogue to see if moviegoers’ interest will last long in the less-than-amusing transformation.

Fantasia 2000 / **** (2000)

Like most prominent filmmakers, Walt Disney was a pioneer of cinematic innovation, and when the success of animation marked a new turning point in filmmaking in 1937 with “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,” the idea of blending classical music and detailed hand drawings in the movies was an experiment too promising to ignore. Over half a century after that test, his endeavors are proudly recognized across the globe; the now-legendary production of “Fantasia,” originally dubbed by Disney “The Concert Feature,” remains the benchmark for the continuing growth of animation and the imaginative minds that help bring it to life. Few people are able to see the picture (or rather, the event) and not remember the beautiful, colorful images that visually represent the brilliant musical compositions of composers such as Beethoven and Bach. In most respects, the perception of Mickey Mouse wearing the magician’s hat has become the perennial Disney trademark.

Gone In Sixty Seconds / *1/2 (2000)

Movies like “Gone In Sixty Seconds” are the least-difficult to sit through during the summer because they follow such simple-minded and routine formulas that theaters might as well provide checklists. It opens with the assumption that experienced car thieves have the audacity to cease all their illegal activities if it means that younger siblings would not follow in their footsteps. How noble of them. Then the movie prepares an obligatory backfire by having the younger sibling get mistakenly involved with a powerful local criminal, who will instigate the revival of these illegalities so that he will wind up with 50 rare stolen cars, and the thieves will save the life of the innocent bystander. Once all of these conditions are absorbed, only one question remains: how many times have we seen all of this before, only in different moods and premises? Those who flock to theaters at the mere mention of a film associated with Jerry Bruckheimer could give you a direct answer.

The Last Broadcast / *** (1997)

In order to get novel but low-key movies noticed, it’s essential for someone to bring the idea into the mainstream. Such is the scenario which brought us the sleeper hit “The Blair Witch Project” last year, the low budget, unconventional thriller that documented the descent of three filmmakers into Maryland woods who were in search of a legend, but found something more terrifying than anyone could have imagined. Like so many new ideas, the “mockumentary” approach of the film has generated massive interest in moviegoers, who have sifted through countless formulaic horror movies in the recent past while in search of successful thrills. Inevitable, it seems, that two sequels to the Blair Witch saga are in the works, along with various clones.

Mission: Impossible 2 / *1/2 (2000)

When it comes to in-your-face action flicks, director John Woo is a force to be reckoned with. Peering into his past, we see a body of work overflowing with wondrous drive—works like “Face/Off” and “Broken Arrow,” which are plagued by shortcomings as narratives, but are guaranteed show-stoppers in regards to the involved action sequences. He approaches them in a way few blockbuster directors do, using unique camera angles and swift but precise editing to ensure the stunts look both inventive and plausible. If only he were given a decent script to go along with these ambitious convictions, though.

Road Trip / **1/2 (2000)

Teen comedy has a history of skirting the line between plausible and pretentious, and with the ambitious “Road Trip,” laughs fly off the screen so fast and consistently that, eventually, the movie shifts into overdrive and practically commits suicide. One can easily smile at the endless supply of quirks offered here: crude sexual undertones, jolting irony and biting one-liners, just to name a few. And yet the picture loses its push just when things are heating up; it assumes that audiences have been manipulated enough to be amused by an oncoming chain of breast shots and banalities of the elderly and the obese. Most will sense something terribly wrong once the film gets so desperate for plausible laughs that a characters winds up holding a mouse in his hands to imitate a snake on the verge of devouring its next meal.

Titan A.E. / **** (2000)

With theater ticket prices on the hike again, many a moviegoer are beginning to utilize foresight in the choices they make regarding what movies to see. Since no one wants to regret losing all that money on something dismal and unrewarding, their approach to most films is weary, and understandably so, given the fact that 2000 is already one of the worst years for movies in ages. Few pictures have offered a significant and rewarding experience (the best exceptions being “American Psycho” and “Gladiator”), while most have given us reason to question the existence of God (the evident choices being “Battlefield Earth” and “Next Friday.”). Now that the summer season is underway at the cinema, hope for is rising for something more stable than the typical junk of previous months.