Along with proclaiming our favorite films, it’s that time of the year when most critics seek revenge for having to sit through films that test the theory “no one deliberately makes a bad movie.” Going through the list of over 200 pictures I saw this past year, far too many were found to be “ho-hum” not just by me, but by most of my colleagues in criticism. A few were jaw-droppingly bad.
I love that movies can uplift or enrich, and believe it or not, it’s difficult for me to criticize those who attempt to entertain us. So, even though I’m going to go all acerbic for the next few paragraphs, I mean nothing disrespectful of their abilities. It’s the anti-Christian concepts in these films with which I take exception. Click on the links for my reviews – if you dare.
Easy A (PG-13)
Ttops the list. An unnoticed high schooler pretends to be “lose” in order to be popular. She decides to use the rumor mill to advance her social standing, and then for money, aids nerds by letting them tell others that they had sexual encounters with her. Talented Emma Stone is a likable screen presence and this youth-aimed comedy gives her a breakthrough role. I can’t, however, remember a film being so vitriolic in its attack on Christianity. The film’s Christian youth group is seen reading the Bible, praying, singing songs, all the while showing nothing but hatred and bigotry toward their fellow students. There isn’t one single example of a person of faith revealed in a good light, not even when the lead goes to different churches seeking solace for her actions Its premise is interesting – showing how far someone will go in order to be accepted. The plot peters out, however, and we are left with a good-looking cast abusing the rights of a filmmaker. By having the freedom to belittle and misrepresent an entire religion, the makers counter the very theme of their script – to accept/respect one another.
I Love You Phillip Morris (R)
Jim Carrey stars as a white collar family man who comes out of the closet, joins the dating scene only to discover that to maintain the party boy lifestyle, he must turn to crime. I suspect I'll be called homophobic by activists who search the Internet for any revelation they may consider threatening to the gay cause, but I don't like viewing men being intimate, as if the twosome were teens experimenting with newfound sexuality. And for that matter, I'm not sure why gays would desire to support this film, which supports stereotypes. Indeed, they seem somewhat unhinged, living life not just as if they were in a pink-tinged cartoon, but rather existing in a fuchsia-laden state of demented fantasy. Is that how gay men want to be portrayed in the movies?
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (R)
This is about two guys kidnapping a girl for ransom. Damsels-in-distress has been a major theme in movies since the silent era. Over the years women have been rescued from dastardly dudes by the likes of Superman, James Bond, and (hats off) John Wayne. And certainly, filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock knew how to handle the tension and suspense associated with the abduction genre (The Man Who Knew Too Much). But Mr. Hitchcock and others of his time knew that movies were the business of allusion and illusion. And when reality becomes dominant in the production, the film can go from suspenseful to disturbing. The whole process visualized by Alice's writer/director J Blakeson is grimy and exploitive. I can't understand why anyone would sit through the first act with this woman being forced out of her clothes, brutally slapped and generally humiliated. From there, it only gets worse. And we see it all.
Life As We Know It (PG-13)
The premise: two feuding opposites (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel) are forced together in order to raise the infant of their suddenly deceased best-friend couple. The exception to my own the rule, I’m allowing myself to go all Addison DeWitt (the cruel critic in All About Eve) not just because of anti-moral themes, but because this is a turkey that must be carved. Caution: this is going to get ugly. Countless movies of recent cinema past depict men in the same unflattering and misogynistic light. The titles are hard to bring to mind as these films are instantly forgettable, but they usually star Matthew McConaughey, Jason Segel, or Seth Rogen. And now, Josh Duhamel. The guy’s great looking (wish I had his hair and his height), but his character is so unlikable all the way through the film that for the female lead to finally find something “special” in him staggers the imagination. There’s a flaw in his character we are meant to ignore, much like women who marry cads because of their hair and height. Mr. Duhamel shows promise as a performer, but often his portrayals are shallow, like in this film. It’s also difficult to find something kind to say about Katherine Heigl, the former Grey’s Anatomy star. She and studio heads are determined to crown her the new rom/com Lucille Ball. Well, Lucy, she ain’t. There are a few humorous moments in Life As We Know It, but mostly the scenario is dated. Come on, haven’t we all seen our share of films where clueless singles suddenly find themselves facing stinky diapers supplied by food-tossing toddlers? Certainly, the raising of infants is a road full of comic detours, but gags about baby poop and infants vomiting on decked out Yuppies are based more on shock value than deft wit. The jokes are overly familiar and the delivery mundane. It’s like hearing a great George Carlin routine repeated by Larry King.
Leap Year (PG)
There, I feel much better. I’m now ready for 2011’s movie assortment. I’m sure they’ll be much better, Hollywood having been dutifully dressed down by yours truly. I live in hope.