Moments of stunning awesomeness carefully dotted within an otherwise entirely bland structure.
Ordinary guy Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) starts dating shy, neurotic Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman), only to discover that she is actually the superheroine G-Girl. Jenny/G-Girl’s neuroses prove too much for Matt (she is especially jealous of his friendship with his co-worker Hannah) and he breaks up with her. A decision Jenny doesn’t take too well.
For the most part this is a funny, clever riff on the everyday life of a superhero. The humour is mature and sometimes crude, and much less silly than you might expect. Although Uma Thurman takes things a bit over-the-top, Rainn Wilson as Matt’s dorky buddy, and Eddie Izzard as the mild-mannered supervillain provide excellent support, and the cast spark off each other in a very engaging way.
In fact, right up until the closing scenes I was thoroughly enjoying myself. But OMG the ending is a mess. It shakes off any pretense of subtlety and intelligence, and dives into to a poorly shot and appallingly special-effected girly cat fight, followed by a “let’s all be friends” wrap-up in which all enmities are quickly forgiven and forgotten. Given the imagination and decent screenwriting apparent in the rest of the film, it’s a lapse of creativity that led to me shaking my head in disappointment as I walked out of the cinema.
Cheaper By The Dozen had a strong story about shifting parental responsibilities in the modern world, while at the same time being a chaotic comedy about a household with twelve kids. This sequel is structured around an old rivalry between Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and rich over-achiever Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy), and a conflict over how they raise their kids. Whereas the first story felt relevant, and had original things to say, this one feels frivolous and absurdly obvious in its message. The funny bits aren’t quite as clever or as well observed. Overall, it just feels like a poor reflection of the first film. Amusing, but unnecessary.
Mildly amusing, but mostly bland. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know how it goes.
The best way I can sum up this film is in cinematographical terms: it feels like a wide shot, when it should have been in close-up. The story of Veronica Guerin, an Irish crime reporter who was shot to death by the drugs dealers she exposed, is a powerful one. But despite it being a serious film, it didn’t feel serious or weighty enough. It’s a big studio production (Jerry Bruckheimer/Joel Schumacher), with all of the baggage that entails: a certain familiarity of mise-en-scene, a certain blandness of dialogue, a certain melodrama to the inevitable ending. Meh.
It’s an undeniably beautiful film, lovingly shot with some extraordinary fight and battle scenes. But…
I’m getting tired of Tom Cruise’s earnest, indefatigable, one-man-who-pulls-through-in-the-end schtick. This was one performance too many for me. Also, I found the film’s constant heavy hammering on the themes of honour and loyalty really tiresome. By the end of the film I was longing to see more of the everyday lives of the rebel villagers, and less of their warriors’ desire to die a glorious death in battle. There are more subtle ways to tell a story about honour.
Finally, the race thing bothered me: the fact that it’s a white man who eventually redeems the honour of the Samurai. I understand why the characters were chosen to work that way, in order to make it fly as a big-budget Hollywood epic, but I found it ugly and patronising nevertheless. I would much rather thave watched this film if it had been a Japanese production, with the focus on Ken Watanabe’s character Katsumoto instead. In fact, you could remove the Tom Cruise character altogether, and you’d end up with a stronger story. The tragedy would be greater, and the emotional impact would be more honest.