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.


The Film Doctor said...

Respectfully, I cannot believe that you prefer that Narnia stuff to The Tourist. I enjoyed all of the Hitchcockian moments of the Tourist, and I think the critics are a bit harsh on it. These endless repetitive kiddie franchises with their lions and their talking mice give me gas.

But then again, I haven't seen the Narnia thing, so perhaps I shouldn't talk.

When it comes to Love & Other Drugs, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are talented enough to move on to better movies.

Richard Bellamy said...

It's okay, FilmDr., I'm not bothered in the slightest by your comment. Some of these kiddie franchises can get tedious. I find the Harry Potter movies tiresome. But this Narnia installment is a sincere adaptation of the book. And it's not overblown. It starts crisply and keeps moving.

As for The Tourist, the whole thing bored me, and I didn't detect the Hitchcockian elements. I'll look forward to your review if you write one.

Sam Juliano said...

Well, these are eye-opening verdicts, but I'm not at all surprised. I have always had a weakness for the Narnia films, as the books have been used in my classes over the years, and I did liked the first films of the series. I was unable to get to any new releases this week as I have been busy with a retrospective, but I had planned on seeing NARNIA. It is shocking -but your review seems to follow the general concensus- on the Von Donnarsmarck film, especially as THE LIVES OF OTHERS is a masterwork; as to THE TOURIST, I'm not sure what to say either, but I suspect you are right.

Excellent writing and gathering together of your week's viewings!

Helen said...

I guess I liked The Tourist a tiny bit more than you did, since I laughed during the interrogation scene and found the canal chase the film's highlight. The way EVERYONE Elise sashays past turns to watch her walk away was unintentionally funny.

Good post! Enjoyed the review of Love and Other Drugs especially.

Richard Bellamy said...

Helen. Thanks for the comment. I did enjoy the inside joke of all eyes on Angelina - but that sort of takes the viewer out of the context and we are watching Jolie, not a character. There were elements in the boat sequence that had potential. As a whole, it was sort of casual.

Richard Bellamy said...

Thanks, Sam. Glad to hear that you are a fan of the Narnia books. That was something that my wife introduced me to - and that led to a visit to C.S. Lewis's grave near Oxford where we met an old lady who had known Lewis.

It's always nice to get your comments. Glad I allowed the non-Google comments. Your thoughts are worth the spam.

Sam Juliano said...

"That was something that my wife introduced me to - and that led to a visit to C.S. Lewis's grave near Oxford where we met an old lady who had known Lewis."

Wow, now THAT is something! I can only dream of such a trip.

Thanks for those much-appreciated words too Hokahey. I am the one who has really benefitted by discovering this terrific place!

Richard Bellamy said...

Sam, again, I really appreciate your comments. Enjoy the holiday movies! Let's hope for some great movies to write about.