Monthly Archives: June 2002

Mr. Deeds (2002)

Adam Sandler seems like the reason they created the “no shirt no shoes” policy for restaurants. His niche is playing the lovable goodhearted goofball that triumph over the pretentious jackass and somehow wins the heart of the fawning one-dimensional love interest. Sandler appeals to the masses as our nation’s greatest warm-hearted simpleton. He’s the Jimmy Stewart of slobbery. So why mess with that? Well for starters, if you want entertainment anymore you might want to.

Mr. Deeds, Sandler’s latest idiot opus, is disastrously, even tragically unfunny. In the film Sandler stars as the only known heir of a multi-billionaire media mogul. Longfellow Deeds (Sandler) is a simple New Hampshire pizza delivery boy who treats people with respect and kindness. However, the mantra “cruel to be kind” must be alive and well because Sandler mercilessly beats people to about an inch of their life throughout ‘Mr. Deeds’ for brutish comic effect.

Peter Gallagher and his monstrous eyebrows serve as the stand-in villain. He’s a greedy tycoon who wants the Deeds fortune all to himself. Gallagher actually plays his part well and seems to at least have some fun with the broad comedy role. Wynona Ryder, on the other hand, does not. People may start calling her “”former teen star”” Wynona Ryder now after such snooze-fests like ‘Autumn in New York’, ‘Lost Souls’, and now this. Ryder has never proven she can handle any comedy other than black, and slapstick just ain’’t her thing. She painfully goes from scene to scene clueless as a tabloid journalist hiding her identity so she can get the scoop on Deeds, only to fall madly in love with him.

The film has some glimmers of comedy, mostly from its supporting cast including John Turturro as a very sneaky Spanish butler. It’’s nice to see Turturro in something this high profile and get some recognition this journeyman deserves. There’’s also a really funny cameo served up by a former tennis giant himself known for his boorish temperament. Steve Buscemi should be charged with grand theft movie because his three minutes on screen as the “crazy-eyed” local are funnier than anything with Sandler onscreen.

The movie becomes far too redundant of Sandler’’s other comedies to the point where seeing former stars like Rob Schneider in his ‘Big Daddy’ character is somehow supposed to be funny. This kind of stuff is strewn throughout the film. It feels like everyone’’s going through the motions. Now I’’m not a total Sandler basher, because I do believe the man can be funny when worked right. ‘Billy Madison’ is still hysterical to me upon every viewing and I do get some fun watching ‘The Wedding Singer’, but ‘Mr. Deeds’ is sub-par Sandler –even for Sandler.

I’’m sure most of the people buying tickets for this have no idea that the concept is based upon the Capra film starring Gary Cooper. But what good is Gary Cooper? He didn’’t write cutesy greeting cards or save a litter of kittens from a raging inferno like Sandler’’s Deeds. In the end, this mostly laugh-free comedy is short on imagination, energy and entertainment.

Nate’s Grade: C-

Lilo and Stitch (2002)

Disney’s track record the last few summers is not exactly sparkling. Did anyone out there see Dinosaur or Atlantis? Anybody? You know you’re in for a different take when the film’s heroine, Lilo, in her opening scene punches another little girl and tries to beat her to the ground. Lilo is a troubled child living with her older twenty-something sis, Nani, in Hawaii after a car accident claimed their parents’ lives. Nani is stretched thin trying to find a job, look after her troublesome little sister, and also stay a step ahead of the social services representative. Lilo is saddened at her situation and deeply longs for a friend.

In a galaxy far far away, a mad alien scientist is on trial for creating the ultimate in destructive evil-ness – a manic six armed blue dog lookin’ thing named Stitch. Through a series of circumstances Stitch manages to daringly escape and runs off to Earth, a protected planet because of a rare endangered species I won’t spoil. Stitch meets up with Lilo at an animal shelter and she immediately takes a liking to this offbeat pet. Stitch isn’t the friendliest or most well-behaved creature but he eventually warms up to his new family. You can pretty much take it from there.

What makes ‘Lilo and Stitch’ so much better than the last few Diz offerings, besides a total lack of songs, is it’s a fresh and daring Disney animated film. The focus is on an unconventional family with no pristine smooth edges around them (hello opening Lilo hitting other girl sequence) and the material is shown a remarkable level of maturity. That isn’t to say that ‘Lilo and Stitch’ isn’t funny, because it has many charming and hilarious moments, many due to the sputtering and wild Stitch.

Not all the elements entirely gel well, especially the sci-fi with the family struggle. The animation has an old-fashioned look to it complete with backgrounds that look dusty, like the ones that were used in the 1970s. The characters have an anime tinge to them, like half moon mouths and noses like dinner roles. Lilo and Stitch is the hippest Disney outing in a long while and the best non-Pixar animated film since the underrated Hercules.

Nate’s Grade: B

The Bourne Identity (2002)

If you were in a fight who would you want to back you up? Ben Affleck has some heft. He has taken on a meteor, lesbians and even a crazed Sandra Bullock. Or maybe you’d take Matt Damon. “Wait, the same Matt Damon who stars in all those overly-serious period piece dramas?” you might reasonably ask. Well the very same Damon proves himself quite feasible as a thriller hero in The Bourne Identity and might just open a few new doors for himself – in between those overly-serious period piece films.

The flick starts off with a fishing vessel pulling a floating Matt Damon out of the Mediterranean. He has two bullets in his back; a Swiss account number embedded in his hip and no idea who he is or where he came from. He journeys to a Zurich bank where he uses the account number to unlock a safety deposit box. Inside he uncovers a series of different passports, stacks of all kinds of currency and a loaded gun. The box does however yield a name in Paris, Jason Bourne. He offers Marie (Franka Potente) a slew of dollars if she’ll transport him out of the country to where he can find his true identity and flee any police pursuits. It seems Bourne’s previous handlers do know his identity but are hurrying to dispatch other European assassins to make sure that no one else does. They’ve posted pictures of Bourne and Marie for any of their many eyes and ears to report back on.

Damon does begin to recover certain memories and reflexes. Early on he dispatches two Zurich police officers in a park quite handily but still remains clueless to his identity. Once in Paris Damon and Potente become an inseparable team trying to elude snipers, police, and any sort of danger while attempting to fit the puzzle pieces together. The film then descends into a series of great chase scenes and action pieces with bits of story in between. We as an audience root for Damon’s triumph, even if he may well truly be a cold-blooded killer.

The Bourne Identity is a loose translation of the Robert Ludlum spy novel of the same name. The 1980 Cold War novel has been retooled to where the bad guys aren’t Ruskies but CIA bureaucrats (Chris Cooper and Brian Cox) wanting to save face. But in today’s age I think most people would actually wish that the CIA is as powerful and technological advanced as portrayed in the movie.

Damon is a stranger to the action ropes. He’s more accustomed to ride pretty horses in picturesque Texas or gaily kill people in picturesque Italy. While Affleck’s saved the world, like, three times in cinema already Damon has been playing golf. You get the idea. That’s what makes it so surprising how capable Damon is in this unfamiliar territory. He scales walls, he drives a stick shift through a high speed car chase and man does this guy know kung-fu. You just better not have any ball point pens lying around. Run Damon run!

Franka Potente, is there a lovelier woman in the world than you, of the fire head variety in Run Lola Run? She is more than just a “romantic interest” even if that’s the lot she’s been given. She’s a surprising choice to coincide with Damon but a gamble that works marvelously. Hey, it bought my ticket. The chemistry between Potente and Damon doesn’t exactly speak of sparks but they look beautiful onscreen alongside each other.

Doug Liman is the director who put the swinger in Swingers baby. He also directed 1999’s most free-spirited thrill ride Go, so the man knows how to stretch a budget and propel an exhilarating vicarious feeling off the screen. The Bourne Identity is Liman’s first studio backed adventure and he should make his financial parents proud. He has a direct sense of mood and scale, setting the entire film amongst the wonderful backdrop of European cities. The look of the film is great, from the cool colors, the wet snow, to the luscious locales.

The film actually tries to shoehorn more profanity into a PG-13 movie than might be allowed. Potente, while in a hairy situation, will often keep muttering German profanities. After like the 30th time it becomes almost comical that studio execs or the MPAA would just let it slip through just because it wasn’t in English.

Damon eventually does come to learn of his former self as a trained CIA assassin and, as with all memory-recovery movies where the person’s previous life was dubious; they decide to be a better human being. If only more people would lose their memories.

The Bourne Identity is a slick spy caper with arresting visuals and some great propulsive action sequences, in particular a standout car chase through the back streets of Paris. Liman has crafted an intelligent spy thriller for the post Cold War era that makes perfect use of an anti-hero and his conflicts of memory.

Nate’s Grade: B+

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