WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 52

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 52nd WWW:

1) xXx: State of the Union:
Sometimes I like to watch a bad movie, if only for the fact that they're more fun to review. This is less of a sequel to the original xXx and more of a spoof, and while that may not have been the film makers' intent, watching it with that mindset made it infinitely more enjoyable. More than once I had to pause and go back after I was done laughing at some outlandish line or sequence. In the original, Vin Diesel is an extreme sports expert tapped by the government to be a special agent. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as a caricature of himself, a shouting government agent in charge of a top secret program that's literally underground. He needs a new xXx, someone more extreme, when their operation is compromised, and turns to an old member of his military unit currently serving time. Rapper turned actor Ice Cube definitely has presence on film, and has turned out some likable roles. Here, he's a walking cliché, all attitude, scowls, and catch phrases. The soundtrack frequently blasts rap because, you know, stereotype. Sometimes it can be hilariously distracting, and at least one lyrical “YEAH!” on a scene change seemed to be in response to a question asked by a character at the end of the previous scene. Cube really doesn't bring anything more to the table than Diesel, or show what special skills he has that Jackson requires. He's a “master of disguise” because he'll sometimes put on glasses and wear a suit or tuxedo, because who would expect that from a black guy? Did I mention stereotype? He quotes Tupac more than once, and eventually even has the president of the United States doing the same thing because, well you get the idea. Treated as a serious contribution to the action genre, an American James Bond, this movie is absurdly bad. Viewed as satire, it borders on brilliant. Cube's action hero status is wholly manufactured. He drives a boat up a crane and lands it on a police cruiser. As everyone in the background runs around screaming, he strolls in slow motion, looking around with a badass squint, and calmly gets in the car with the nerdy white tech guy he's rescuing. Then they drive off with no further interference from the law. There's also a scene where he shoots water after leaping off a moving train, because I guess displacing it would keep him from breaking his neck. A burning train car is falling right on his heels, just to make it interesting. “Welcome to the first tank-jackin' in history.” he says during one of the sequences in which he gets to drive a tank, and he even manages to throw one tank at another. In one scene he's saved by editing, since at one camera angle he's falling short of catching the skid of a helicopter, while at another he's much closer. He fools thermal detectors by heating up TV dinners. The list of ridiculous things is almost endless. Jackson is adept at self-parody yelling things like “I told you you shoulda killed that b*tch!” The ending leaves the possibility of a sequel open, with perhaps yet another xXx agent, but they'd really have a hard time topping this. I like Cube, and this might be his best comedy since Friday, but it's definitely a franchise killer for a movie that shouldn't have spawned a franchise to begin with. To paraphrase Tupac, bad movies come and go, but bad sequels are eternal.

2) The Benchwarmers:
Yes, the humor is very sophomoric, and there are a few too many gross-out scenes, from bullies breaking wind in nerd's faces to projectile vomiting and worse. The acting won't win anyone any awards. And there's something very telling in an ensemble when Rob Schneider is the normal one. Schneider plays it fairly straight for a change, as a good-natured landscaper who takes pity on some kids facing bullies on a ball field. He teams up with his two misfit friends, David Spade, as a lonely video store clerk and Jon Heder, as the world's oldest paper boy, and challenges the mean kids to a game. As expected, Heder and Spade suck at baseball, but Schneider is actually pretty good. He consistently cracks home runs and seems to know what he's doing. The film paints nerds and jocks with broad strokes, but touches on the theme of how these things get passed down from generation to generation. The “cool” kid's dad is clearly his role model, and picked on Heder and Spade when they were kids. Schneider didn't grow up in the area, and there's an interesting twist about his childhood toward the end of the film. Jon Lovitz(remember him?) shows up as the father of the kid they defended, and as a nerd who grew up to be a successful billionaire, he gets to drive around in cool cars like the original KITT(complete with William Daniels' voice) or the 1960s Batmobile. He sponsors these three losers in a competition which begins to draw more and more attention(while Schneider manages to hide it from his wife, who wants to conceive a child with him). The film slowly segues from gross-out comedy to feel good humor, giving hope to underdogs everywhere. It's formulaic Happy Madison, with a definite “aww” moment or two near the end as it becomes less about revenge and more about changing attitudes. We're all people; we all have the right to enjoy the same things. Sometimes it isn't about winning or losing, but how you enjoy the game.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Post a Comment

<< Home