Monthly Archives: February 2000

The Next Best Thing (2000)

The Next Best Thing offers viewers the chance to see an off-kilter romance and drama about the raising of children through standards alternative to modern society. Whatever. It sounded good on paper.

Madonna and Rupert are the best of buds, but he’s gay. So of course it’s only nature and a matter of time before they sleep together and get pregnant. They decide to disclose the identity of the daddy and raise the child together. Why they never went with the virgin birth angle is beyond me. So they raise it. And they do. Then the Material Girl wants said child for herself and it pretty much veers further into absurd soap opera from there on out.

The premise is a rip-off of the earlier The Object of My Affection, which in turn was a rip-off of Chasing Amy. Get prepared for countless scenes of Madonna and Rupert gallivanting about like they’re in a perpetual slumber party. Rarely has a more awkward film been so preachy. It’s a never-ending soapbox of sermons about family values and gay rights. Wonderful but if I’m not mistaken wasn’t there supposed to be a story somewhere?

The movie resides as one half comedy (?) then one half drama, neither of which is consistent let alone entertaining. Somewhere there’s a violent jolt into an out-of-place Kramer vs. Kramer courtroom battle royale. If the audience is supposed to feel for Madonna’s character then nothing like a selfish child custody battle to win the hearts of everyone. Who’s the victim in this? Not the child. It’s the audience.

Rupert Everett may be the only redeeming part of this uneven and mushy dramedy of lapsed judgement. His charm is evident and his leading-man ability carries the film as long as he can until it implodes on itself. I could clearly hear sighs around me of “If only he weren’t gay.” in the theater.

Madonna is clearly the biggest hindrance in The Next Best Thing. Whenever she speaks it’s like she’s reciting lines into a mirror. Madonna has some mysterious British accent she seems to have picked up and is as wooden as a board. If you call what she does in this movie “acting” then you’ll have to register some national parks with the Screen Actors Guild.

If The Next Best Thing really is the next best thing for Madonna’s struggling film career, I’d suggest reconsider her options. And pray to the other Madonna while doing it. At least she would have enough sense not to do a silly remake of “American Pie.”

Nate’s Grade: C-

Fantasia 2000 (2000)

The first updating of long gone Walt Disney’s dream anthology hits the IMAX screens in a resounding fury of classical music and first rate animation. Like its predecessor though, it’s uneven in its quality. Some segments are more impressive or creative than others. In the 2000 redux the best of the best would be characterized by “Rhapsody in Blue,” a Gershwin blues number brought to stunning life by characters of simplicity yet definition. The animation on each is commendable and different from the next segment to follow it. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the only segment from the original to be included, shows its wrinkles and grain more than ever when blown to IMAX’s wide canvas. The standout, to me anyway, was clearly the final segment closing the just-over-an-hour animated orchestra called “The Firebird.” The imagery and animation are so sleek and beautiful that I thought I was going to break down by how stupendous the artwork was. This is a tale that leaps from the screen and lets you share some of the beauty with it – further enhancing the festival of the Mouse. Without these stand alone segments this ballet of song and ink would be rather adequate and nothing more, but with the addition of these two marvelous segments it becomes something worthwhile… at least for 20 minutes. Hey, it’s the most exposure classical music will get on the youth of today.

Nate’s Grade: B

Scream 3 (2000)

Master of the macabre Wes Craven returns to the most anticipated and secretive horror series in recent memory. The Scream saga opened the doors for the teen proliferation of all that is commercial, and now the same people come back to close the book on what they started. At least that’s what the idea was.

Craven proves his directing credentials even more so with this vapidly dull sequel to the sequel about horror sequels. Even when the story is dragging, and it will, he wrings some amount of tension and excitement that I’m sure would likely be absent from any other director’s hands.

The void of teen powerhouse scribe Kevin Williamson is distinguishing, but newbie Miramax goldenboy Ehren Kruger walks the walk effectively. What is sadly absent are the touches of irony and intrigue that Williamson dabbled through like a French chef. Ghostface loses the edge it had in the earlier flicks where the deaths would all be unusually related to the topic at hand in some clever way. But in Scream 3 the irony is left behind at the Williamson offices and killer-man-guy just hacks people away. No interesting approaches or set-ups, just unrelenting running and slashing.

Scream 3‘s biggest drawback may be the lack of the central mystery the first two exhibited so well. ‘Scream 3’ introduces about 15 different characters, but then quickly enough kills off about 14 of them. Face it kids, if Scream 3 is your first Scream flick you ain’t making it to the end credits. Kruger lays no clues or red herrings for the audience to gape and trip over in wondering who is behind the killer’s mask. More time is spent needlessly killing needless characters than creatively playing the audience along an intricate guessing game that would have made the movie more enjoyable.

It may sound like I’m coming down hard on Scream 3 but, on the contrary, I had a huge amount of fun with it. Parker Posey is wonderful. I was laughing often and was usually entertained even though I could sense the franchise losing its steam. Besides a lame ending (two in a row), Scream 3 is good popcorn fun but nothing more promising than that.

Ladies and gentlemen the Scream horror series has finally degenerated into the very thing it’s making fun of. Except with this installment it seems not to know that the joke is on them.

Nate’s Grade: C+


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