Friday, June 22, 2012

Just Go With It (2011)

Could've Gone Without It
- Adam Sandler is a talented man and often uses his acting powers for good. Punch Drunk Love (2002) and Spanglish (2004) are great examples of Sandler performing at a very high level.... However, especially as a producer, Sandler often uses his powers for evil. While Sandler can give good individual performances, his production company, Happy Madison, has yet to produce a quality film. Just Go With It (2011) is no exception to this rule; I definitely could have gone without this Happy Madison production.

Danny Maccabee (Sandler) is one clustershmuck of a playboy with one successful gimmick: he wears a wedding ring to tell a seductive sob story about a hellish life with a horrible wife. However, Danny's whole game is shaken up after making impromptu contact with the young Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), hitting things off without even putting on the fake wedding ring. But when Palmer accidentally finds the ring, things look very bleak for any kind of relationship. Because Palmer appears as if she is "the one," Danny acts quickly to try and salvage things with Palmer, making up a story that he is getting divorced. The situation becomes complicated when Palmer wants to meet Danny's fake soon-to-be-ex-wife and Danny solicits the help of his single mother secretary Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to play the part of the conceited bitch. Things get even more complicated when an accidental slip-up alerts Palmer to the fact that Katherine has kids - of course inferring that they are Danny's kids as well.

Could things get even more complicated? Why, yes - yes they can! Katherine's kids are crafty little monkeys and make the charade very hard to keep up - little Maggie (Bailee Madison) treats the whole event like an acting part, deciding to practice her British accent, while little Michael (Griffin Gluck) uses the situation to get what he has always wanted: a trip to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins. Then Danny's cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) shows up as Katherine's fictitious German lover "Dolph Lundgren" (not the real Dolph Lundgren) and Katherine bumps into her life-long rival Devlin Adams (Nicole Kidman) in Hawaii of all places. (Dave Matthews shows up too). Whoa! I see a huge tidal wave of supposedly funny scenarios heading our way! RUN! HEAD FOR HIGHGROUND!!!!

As one can tell, this comedic labyrinth of senselessness and adolescence barely passes for a plot. But I am sure some of you are thinking: "Come on, it's just a fun movie! Just go with it!" Well, sorry, I could not just go with it. This Happy Madison comedy is just a terrible movie, nearly void of anything resembling good humor or likable characters and is simply difficult to sit all the way through.

This film is shallow in every area from jokes to characters to story to cinematography. The star-studded cast featuring Adam Sandler, who does not get a pass for putting so much work into this awful movie; Jennifer Anistan, who does about as well as anyone could have considering the circumstances; Brooklyn Decker, who is not asked to do anything outside of look hot and act dumb; Nick Swardson, whose talent for standup does not translate well through his character in this film; and Nichole Kidman, who clearly owed someone a favor in order to appear in this film, do nothing to make the film funny or create characters that we care about. While perhaps related, there in fact *is* a difference between "low-brow" and "childish" humor - and Just Go With It takes the latter approach every time. Just Go With It seems to find foreign accents, penis jokes, dying sheep, and Botox-overdosed patients funny; meanwhile, very little wit is present within its reels. Did Adam Sandler and director Dennis Dugan (Sandler's yes man behind the camera as of late) really think that our laughs could be purchased with these worthless gags?

The only aspect of Just Go With It that I even remotely enjoyed was the liberal use of tunes by The Police throughout the film.... And even in this instance, the film managed to screw up occasionally by including not the original versions of The Police tunes but *remixes* of the songs! The film can't even get the soundtrack right!

CBC Rating: 3/10

Source Code (2011)

"Look at me. Everything's going to be okay...."

- Director Duncan Jones has been on my cinematic radar since first viewing his incredible feature film debut Moon (2009). Jones' second film, 2011's Source Code, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens, a man with the worst case of deja vu in history. After waking on a train, Stevens meets a woman (Michelle Monaghan) who seems to know him very well yet is calling him by a different name. He recognizes many things about this train, even anticipating moments before they happen, although to the best of his recollection he had never been on it before.

And then the train explodes.

Colter wakes up again. This time, he awakes inside some kind of pod with someone named Lt. Goodwin (Vera Farminga) trying to contact him through a television screen. Goodwin informs Colter that he is in fact Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot, and that he is taking part in an important mission using ground-breaking technology. This technology, called Source Code, allows a one person's consciousness to be inserted inside another person's body for about 8 minutes (it's a new technology, you see). The train that Colter was on has a bomb and he, inside the body of a man named Sean Fentress, must find out who that bomber is using the Source Code.

Source Code is geared for a wider audience than Jones' previous cerebral sci-fi Indie Moon but gets pretty cerebral in its own right. The story is predictable in some areas where the filmmakers must have thought the audience would have been fooled but a number of plot twists really surprise and pay off wonderfully in the end. Jones style greatly compliments the film; not measuring up to that in Moon but featuring a great balance of risk-taking style and accessible Hollywood packaging. Overall, this springtime sci-fi thriller is exciting, character centered, and much more complex than the viewer could have possibly guessed going in.

The only negative I took away from Source Code was Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Colter Stevens. I will admit right off the bat that I have usually met a Jake Gyllenhaal performance with mixed feelings. Some of Gyllenhaal's performances are actually quite enthralling (such as his portrayal of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac (2007) and of the title character in Donnie Darko (2001)) but I find that Gyllenhaal, more than most young actors these days, often fails to appear natural in his roles. Subsequently, rather than being sucked into the film and character by a great performance, I am very aware that Gyllenhaal is acting and this takes away from the overall film experience. The last thing one can say about great actors like Cary Grant or Robert Downey Jr. is that they do not look or feel natural in their roles; this is, of course, one of the reasons that great actors are considered great. Unfortunately, Gyllenhaal is not a great actor and, although more passable as Colter Stevens than the normhe is the lone but significant, sour note in Source Code. 

CBC Rating: 7/10