Sunday, December 12, 2010
One Out of Three: Love and Other Drugs, The Tourist, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Love and Other Drugs, directed by Edward Zwick, bored me more than any movie I’ve seen this year. Its insincere, manipulative use of Parkinson’s Disease as a topical focus; its tedious jokes about Viagra and erections; and its forcedly crass sexual situations, most of them involving Josh Gad trying to be the resident Jonah Hill, emulating the crudeness of Superbad without the humor, do nothing for this story about a wastrel playboy/drug salesman, Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), who reaches a pivotal point in his aimless life when he falls in love with Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway), a young woman suffering stage one Parkinson’s. While Gyllenhaal looks handsome in suits, Hathaway pushes her don’t-say-love flippancy and coyness to an irritating degree. The film’s climactic scene in which Jamie convinces Maggie “It’s you!” works like a parody of the worst of Nicholas Sparks. You don’t believe you’re hearing what you’re hearing, but you are.
The Tourist, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) is about Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. That's about it. In the opening scene, Jolie struts haltingly along Paris streets in ridiculous high heels. She reaches a posh café where Interpol detectives have her under surveillance because she is sexy and because Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) could lead police to her lover, a man who absconded with two billion dollars.
Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a long-haired, mild-mannered math teacher from Wisconsin whom Elise picks up so everyone will believe he is her thieving lover. In Venice, Jolie continues to strut in high heels, dresses in sexy dresses, and cruises the canals in motor launches. Meanwhile, Depp, looking pasty-faced and not as sexy as Jolie, utters about a dozen lines throughout the whole film. In fact, he’s so terse he hardly seems to be in the movie.
At times Depp seems to be channeling Peter Sellers, but he neither says nor does anything worth laughing at. Even a Peter Sellers-style rooftop pursuit has no effect whatsoever. Although Elise and Frank are pursued by gangsters and detectives, not one suspenseful second is achieved. A boat-chase scene is so slowly edited that it quickly becomes boring. Finally, Jolie dresses up and takes a motor launch to a fancy ball. So does Depp. They look spiffy. Venice looks beautiful. Jolie and Depp cruise around in a sleek motor launch.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader quickly sets up the atmosphere of Cambridge, England, during World War II, re-introduces Pevensie siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and introduces their nerdy bug-collecting cousin Eustace Clarence Scrubb (Will Poulter), who makes fun of his visiting cousins for believing in Narnia.
Then, in an imaginatively staged scene, a painting of an ancient ship at sea comes alive, floods the room they’re in, and the submerged kids surface in Narnia, where they are taken aboard the Dawn Treader to embark on a voyage to different islands in search of seven swords that will dispel an evil mist. Henley, Keynes, Poulter do delightfully faithful portrayals of C.S. Lewis’s characters, the story moves along expeditiously, there is rousing action involving a hideous sea serpent, and this third installment of the Narnia saga revives the sense of wonder established by the first film that was squelched somewhat by the overlong, battle-heavy second film.
A talking, sword-wielding mouse, a teary-eyed dragon, fanciful islands, sea adventure, and a lion voiced by Liam Neeson entertain warmly and satisfyingly while Hathaway, Gyllenhaal, and Viagra jokes, as well as Jolie and Depp looking chic in sleek motor launches, fail pathetically.