Hop

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Hank Azaria
Directed by: Tim Hill (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”)
Written by: Cinco Paul (“Despicable Me”) and Ken Daurio (“Despicable Me”)

While Easter may never be referred to as a Hallmark holiday (the whole Christ resurrection thing usually trumps marshmallow Peeps), it’s not very difficult to point out the shamefully obvious marketing strategy a family flick like “Hop” has planned for the month of April. If Universal Pictures could assure God-fearing consumers wouldn’t scream blasphemy, the studio would’ve probably cross-promoted with candy companies to make licorice crucifixes and unleavened bread-flavored jelly beans. (Anyone wanna join me later at Denny’s for the $7.99 Last Supper?)

Actually, pay no attention to the blatant commercial hooks in “Hop.” They will distract you from the real problems this franticly written live-action/animated hybrid tries to bury under mountains of milk chocolate and fluffy bunny ears. The movie might keep the youngest of kiddos hypnotized by the gaudy imagery on screen, but “Hop” is far from hip.

In “Hop,” Easter is threatened when the Easter Bunny’s spoiled teenage son E.B. (Russell Brand) decides he doesn’t want to follow 4,000 years of tradition and take over for his retiring father. Instead, E.B. escapes Easter Island via an intercontinental rabbit hole (don’t scoff, it’s magic) and journeys to Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming a rock ’n’ roll drummer.

His plan is diverted when Fred O’Hare (James Marsden mugging for the camera), a slacker with his own daddy issues and vivid Easter memories from his childhood, runs E.B. over with his car (someone please explain why Fred is freaked out when E.B. talks but not when he hits a rabbit wearing a plaid shirt) and is forced to care for the cuddly creature out of pity.

Director Tim Hill (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”) offers up some harmless silliness, but Hop’s script is as uninspired as an animation can get. Why is the Easter mythology so much like Christmas? Why does the villain pollito have to have a Latino accent? And why, oh why, isn’t there a Glenn Close cameo when E.B. fakes his own death by boiling a turkey? In all, avoid “Hop” like you would cavities and hyperglycemia.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

July 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate
Directed by: Brad Peyton (debut)
Written by: Ron J. Friedman (“Chicken Little”) and Steve Bencich (“Chicken Little”)

Aptly named “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” in reference to the character played by actress Honor Blackman in 1964’s “Goldfinger,” the new talking-animal sequel doesn’t have nearly enough bark or bite for anyone to take notice. Despite the number of James Bond references director Brad Payton and screenwriters Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich try to inject into it, the spoof is still as annoying, useless, and lightweight as the pet dander you’d find fused to a couch cushion.

In “Kitty Galore,” a sequel to the first film in 2001, Bette Midler lends her voice to the title character, a hairless, villainous feline who has come up with a dastardly plan to turn all the dogs of the world against his or her owners by broadcasting a high-pitched sound that will cause all canines to go insane.

Enter the team of secret cat and dog spies who put aside their differences and join forces to stop Kitty before she takes over the world. This includes Diggs (James Marsden), a former hot-shot police dog who is released from the force for his risky behavior; Butch (Nick Nolte), a snippy old hound who recruits him; and Catherine (Christina Applegate), a stealthy cat with ninja skills. Even a pigeon named Seamus (Katt Williams) joins up as a feathered informant who might be able to lead them to the bad kitty.

As far as talking-animal movies go, “Kitty Galore” could be worse. Remember the fluffy special agent gerbils in the terrible animated movie “G-Force” last year? At least “Kitty” is able to use a combination of real and CGI pets instead of relying completely on computers to create their heroes. Some of the dogs are huggable enough to capture a kindergartener’s attention, but without any real humor and charm coming from any of these fuzzy characters, it’s difficult to defend a movie that simply refuses to be even a bit original.

Instead, Peyton’s only concern is in how many 007 jokes and references he can squeeze into the short 75-minute runtime (even Roger Moore cheapens his link to Bond to be part of this). After those fail, Peyton goes for the obvious, witless gags: cat nip, dogs sniffing butts, fur balls. There’s even an uncreative parody of “Silence of the Lambs” that turns up for no real reason except to maybe jolt parents from dozing off by giving them something they’d recognize.

As easily forgettable as the original, “Kitty Galore” will trigger some reaction from the youngest moviegoers (probably in the form of “look at the doggy, mommy!”), but even a caboodle full of cute kittens isn’t reason enough to drag the entire family out for a weekend matinee.

The Box

November 9, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
Directed by: Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”)
Written by: Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”)

A morality tale based on a “Twilight Zone” episode, director/screenwriter Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) tries to stretch the original work as much as possible into a feature film, but the results are far more ordinary than you could have imagined. While the source material is simple – a couple must make a decision whether or not to push a mysterious button that will kill someone they do not know but also earn them $1 million – Kelly complicates things by creating a ridiculous governmental thriller set in the 70s with no rhyme or reason. Sure, there’s another hour or so he has to fill in with narrative, but what he delivers is not nearly as fueled by paranoia as it should be.

27 Dresses

January 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”)
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

It’s almost shocking to see that the same screenwriter who was responsible for “The Devil Wears Prada,” a polished and classy female-free-for-all, wrote “27 Dresses.” As much as “Devil” was scathing and enjoyable, “Dresses” is really nothing more than chick-flick leftovers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some estrogen-filled entertainment, but not when it’s pre-packaged like the new Katherine Heigl vehicle. Heigl definitely has the comedic chops to keep up in the genre. She proved that last year in the wildly funny “Knocked Up.” She has a panache (almost like a Julia Roberts but without the overbearing glut) and manages to carry a few scenes on her own despite her limited feature film career (anyone remember her in “Under Siege 2”?)

In “Dresses,” Heigl hams it up again as Jane, a woman so obsessed with weddings that she has an entire closet in her apartment dedicated to the 27 of the happiest days of other women’s lives. In each of them, Jane has been a bridesmaid. Okay, let’s get the “always a bridesmaid never a bride” cliché out of the way before we continue.

Never able to say no to a friend who asks her to be a part of her ceremony, Jane has known since she was a little girl that weddings were her true calling. She thinks she might even want to have one of her own if her boss George (Burns) would sweep her off her feet the way all girls dream to be courted in movie land.

When Jane finally gets the nerve to confront George and tell him how she feels, she is undercut by her drop-dead-gorgeous sister Tess (Malin Akerman), who immediately catches George’s attention with a few flirtatious exchanges and fabrications.

Before you know it, Jane is planning her sister’s wedding to the man she wants to marry (or at least go out on a date with). She is so caught up in her love triangle, she blatantly ignores Kevin (Marsden), a persistent lifestyle and style reporter who is interested in her as the subject for his next puffy newspaper article.

As a romantic comedy, there’s not too many hearts fluttering to keep anyone’s interest for long and most of the jokes stay with the safe confines of rehearsal dinners and bouquets. You’ve seen it before in all its formulaic glory, so instead, go out and rent “My Best Friend’s Wedding” again and save yourself from a wasted night. If you do decide you want to see it “Dresses,” consider yourself warned and marked as a born sucker for anything that resembles a sassy rom-com.