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Julie’s biological clock is ticking, so she convinces her best friend, Jason to father a child with her. Unlike their married friends, they have an easier time as parents without the complication of being in a relationship. But as they start to date other people, they find their special arrangement unraveling.
Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott and Maya Rudolph.
Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt.
Written by Jennifer Westfeldt.
Produced by Joshua Astrachan, Riza Aziz, Jon Hamm, Jake Kasdan and Joey McFarland.
Genre: Romantic Comedy.
On April 27, 2007, a little independent movie premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The audience laughed, they cried… but mostly, they laughed. The film? David Mackay’s Ten Inch Hero. Initially only making its appearances at special screenings and film festivals, two years later, this charming film has made its way to DVD as a Blockbuster exclusive. Does it do the movie justice? Ten Inch Hero is a romantic comedy centering around a sandwich shop in Santa Cruz, CA, where the motto for employment is “Help Wanted – normal people need not apply,” leading to a staff of colorful and often hysterical twenty-somethings. Tish (Danneel Harris) just can’t find the right guy, but has fun looking; Jen (Clea DuVall) struggles with the complications of online romance; Priestly (Jensen Ackles) is the kilt-wearing, tattooed rebel who doesn’t mind being a bit different. Lastly, Piper (Elisabeth Harnois) jumpstarts the entire story, traveling to Santa Cruz in search of her daughter that she put up for adoption years ago. The movie itself is quirky, fun, and clever.
On the comedy end of “romantic comedy,” it’s got more one-liners that will make you laugh out loud than you can count and a snappiness to its writing that is quick and witty without being overdone. Personal favorites include reading Priestly’s t-shirts on a shot-to-shot basis—you’d be surprised at how often they change—and a now famous supply run scene. Not familiar with it and not quite sold on the movie itself? Hop on YouTube and search for “Ten Inch Hero scene.” You’ll love it. On the romance side, each and every character has a romantic obstacle to overcome, all through vastly different means. Everyone has their eye on someone else, and no one seems to notice.
Even though it was filmed before the global economy went south, Confessions of a Shopaholic is – however accidentally – definitely a metaphor for the recession on a personal level – and Jerry Bruckheimer’s anti-Bruckheimer film [the only explosions are those of an emotional nature] is a solid romantic comedy that nears, but doesn’t quite reach, screwball proportions.
Rebecca Bloomwood [Isla Fisher] loves to shop. When she shops, the world seems better, brighter somehow. Unfortunately, that feeling wears off and she has to shop again. Her life becomes complicated by a series of events: she loses her job; someone named Derek Smeath [Robert Stanton] is hounding her for payment on one of her twelve credit cards]; and she has to, somehow, feign glee at the bridesmaid dress she must wear to her best friend and roommate’s wedding.
A chance encounter at a hot dog vendor gives her her first lesson in finance and features a “meet cute” with Luke Brandon [Hugh Dancy], who will turn out to be very important in her transformation from credit goose to worthwhile swan. Brandon’s Successful Saving magazine will be Rebecca’s first stop on the journey from unemployment to celebrated columnist for the ultimate fashion magazine, Alette. Surprisingly, she turns out to have a knack for putting financial concepts into metaphors that make the subject fun – boosting Successful Saving’s impact, prestige and [it would seem] circulation.
At first, nothing seems to be able to stop Rebecca from shopping – not even attending Shopaholics Anonymous meetings. Like the money men on Wall Street, who kept spending as indicators grew telling them to stop, Rebecca carries on – until she gets precisely what she deserves in the most inconvenient manner possible. It’s here that the metaphor splinters a bit – because, even as we wait for the Wall Street folks to become responsible, Rebecca does indeed learn her lesson [the hows and whys of which you will not learn here].
There are two main plotlines to Confessions: Rebecca’s having to deal with her finances and the girl-meets-boy, girl-screws-things-up-with-boy, girl-gets-boy plot. For Confessions, the surprises don’t arise from the results as much as they do from the events that take place along the way [as when Rebecca has to decide between a stylish dress for a TV appearance and her bridesmaid’s dress].
The script [by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth and Kayla Alpert] is light and breezy, for the most part, but knows just when to hit an emotional note. P.J. Hogan’s [Muriel’s Wedding] direction is best described as deft. He has a good instinct not just for laughs, but for secondary and even tertiary bits that support rather than detract from the film – and he gets just the right performances from his cast.
Speaking of the cast: Isla Fisher is marvelous as Rebecca; Hugh Dancy is the second coming of Hugh Grant as Luke, and Krysten Ritter is delightfully odd as Rebecca’s best friend, Suze. John Goodman and Joan Cusack are equally terrific as Rebecca’s supportive parents, and the members of the Shopaholics Anonymous group more than hold up their sections of the film – especially ex-NBA star John Salley’s D. Freak, and Wendy Malik’s [Just Shoot Me] Miss Korch.
Confessions of a Shopaholic may have started out as a standard, if well done, romantic comedy but has become – however inadvertently – a metaphor. It succeeds on both levels. Admirably.
Final Grade: B+
Adam Sandler in a Disney movie… what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, as it happens. Well, nothing major. Adam Shankman [Hairspray] directs Bedtime Stories and – except for the usual Rob Schneider cameo [which sucks the life out of the film for a few moments] – gets a solid performance out of Sandler as handyman Skeeter Bronson, who works in a towering hotel that sits on property where his father [Jonathan Pryce, who also narrates] once had a charming little hotel. The terms of the sale to future hotel magnate Barry Nottingham [Richard Griffiths] included a verbal promise that Skeeter would one day run the new hotel [and verbal promises are worth the paper they’re printed on].
In the kind of sequences of events that exist in a whimsical tale such as this, the hotel is run by an obsequious twit – here called Kendall [Guy Pearce] and his simpering second in command, Aspen [Lucy Lawless] – and the hotelier’s plans for an even bigger hotel are situated on a piece of land upon which sits a school. That school is where Skeeter’s eco-warrior sister, Wendy [Courteney Cox] is vice-principal – not to mention the school attended by his niece and nephew – and where a pretty teacher named Jill [Keri Russell] works. Because of the plans for the hotel, Wendy has to look for work out of state and asks Skeeter to help Jill look after the kids.
When Kendall’s plans for a unique approach for the new hotel turn out to be in use elsewhere, Nottingham gives Skeeter a shot at running the new hotel. All he has to do is come up with a better theme than Kendall. Meanwhile, Skeeter’s bedtime stories for Patrick [Jonathan Morgan Heit] and Bobbi [Laura Ann Kesling] start coming true – though it takes him a while to figure out that it’s the kids’ improvised additions to his stories that are coming to pass.
So, can Skeeter be a good uncle, beat Kendall, and win the fair maid [Jill, of course]? And can he do it without relying overmuch on Sandler’s usual brand of humor. Almost. The humor is kinder, gentler and G-Rated, but the genuine whimsy of the fantasy is, for the most part, winning and well done. Sandler gets to use some of the chops first unearthed by Paul Thomas Anderson in Punch Drunk Love, and the rest of the cast seems to be having a pretty good time.
The effects vary in effectiveness, but by having one story element come true through what looks like a real life coincidence, Shankman gives the more far-fetched bits more punch – and makes Skeeter more relatable. The pacing occasionally falters [and grinds to a sudden halt during Schneider’s two scenes], but overall, Bedtime Stories is a fun diversion that will be enjoyed in theater and mostly forgotten by the time you get to your car.
Final Grade: B-
You’ve probably seen the trailers with the ancient Aztec ruins and the Esther Williams-like production number performed by Chihuahuas. The movie lacks the production number but the ruins play a crucial part in the proceedings. What’s really surprising is that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a kids’ flick that will entertain the kids but has some gags that will work only for the parents.
Chloe [voiced by Drew Barrymore] is the queen of the Beverly Hills canine scene. Spoiled rotten by her owner, Vivian [Jamie Lee Curtis], Chloe is shallow, selfish and haughty – not to mention rude to Papi [George Lopez], the landscaper’s Chihuahua who loves her. That all changes when Vivian heads off to Europe for ten days, leaving Chloe in the irresponsible hands of her niece, Rachel [Piper Perabo] – who heads off to Mexico to party, dragging Chloe along.
More concerned about partying and meeting guys, Rachel lets Chloe get away from her and the poor thing is dognapped for a floating illegal dogfight enterprise. Because this is a Disney film, the dogfight never happens as Delgado [Andy Garcia], a noble German Shepherd, rescues her just before her opponent, a vicious Doberman named Diablo [Edward James Olmos] can rip her to shreds. The rest of the film is the story of Chloe and her new friend try to get her home – all the while Rachel, Papi and his owner, Sam [Manolo Cordona] are looking for them.
Director Raja Gosnell [Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months] keeps the pace up, giving the film the feel of a romantic farce. The voice cast is extremely good [big names are joined by animation veterans like Grey DeLisle], though Cheech Marin does a little scene stealing voicing a rat con artist who works with a dim iguana. While the film is mostly light and frothy – darkening only for brief periods [and kids love a good scare, so it’s not an issue] – it is not unintelligent. The characters are well [and sometimes cleverly] drawn and the relationships that form along the way feel very natural.
Off course, we’re taking about a talking animals film [though the animals are only understood by each other], and no one does them better than Disney. The CG work that makes the animals appear to be speaking is very good, and the practical effects are right up there, as well.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua may not quite be inspired, but it is definitely good fun – good enough to not embarrass the parents whose kids drag them along to see it.
Final Grade: B
Bertram Pincus [Ricky Gervais] is a solitary man, rude and generally misanthropic, he lives alone and has a job [he’s a dentist] where he can make sure his patients don’t to him. He even has his office literally a few yards from he works so he can avoid as many people as possible – until he goes in for a routine colonoscopy. After the procedure, he finds himself being assailed by the ghosts of people who had unfinished business when they died – the most insistent of whom, Frank Herlihy [Greg Kinnear], believes that his unfinished business is to prevent his widow, Gwen [Tea Leoni], from marrying a “scumbag lawyer.” Problems arise when Pincus manages to weasel his way into her life via the manner in which an important mummified Egyptian died, and he gets the opportunity to meet Gwen’s finance´.
Ghost Town reminded of the superb Truly, Madly, Deeply, though it’s a good deal more superficial. David Koepp and John Kamps’ script works best when director Koepp allows the rhythms of the dialogue to dictate the pacing and when he leads Gervais into some genuinely poignant moments of revelation – regarding himself and how much he’s been missing while he wastes his life. There are moments where the film verges on maudlin, but Koepp manages to walk that line reasonably well throughout.
It’s not a surprise that Gervais made me laugh here. What is a surprise is the deftness with which he handles the poignant moments mentioned above. Both work because he has terrific chemistry with both Kinnear and Leoni. Kinnear plays Frank as a seeming good guy with a surface smarm but takes it to a level where it masks a smarmy guy who projects a superficial good guy over his smarm, but beneath an equally superficial level of smarm [please don’t ask me to say that again…]. Leoni, who has always had terrific comic chops, matched Gervais mood for mood – and she matches his banter equally well.
There’s a scene where Pincus goes off on politically incorrect riff on the Chinese that really isn’t funny, but because Gwen thinks he’s joking, and laughs, it becomes a far more disarming scene than it might have been. Gervais and Leoni work this potentially awkward scene in such a way that we believe because they’ve established their odd rapport from early on. In the end, it’s the chemistry between Gervais and Leoni – and the way they play off each other – that raises Ghost town above the average romantic dramedy – supernatural or otherwise.
Final Grade: B
Apparently, even Simon Pegg’s rewriting of a Michael Ian Black script wasn’t enough to keep Run, Fatboy, Run from becoming a mash-up of romantic comedy and sports movie clichés. This is not quite one of the worst movies of the year. There are major spoilers in this review – because, well, I can’t see the point in not mentioning them. They’re clichés!