Flipped

September 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Penelope Ann Miller
Directed by: Rob Reiner (“Stand by Me”)
Written by: Rob Reiner (“This is Spinal Tap”) and Andrew Scheinman (“North”)
 
No matter how undeservingly popular his last film “The Bucket List” was with audiences, it’s safe to say director Rob Reiner has been in a major rut since the early 90s. Racking up mediocre movies like “The Story of Us,” “Alex & Emma,” and “Rumor Has It,” Reiner has been working on autopilot for about the last 15 years.
 
At the pinnacle of his career in the 80s, Reiner was a fantastic storyteller who redefined true love and friendship into highly memorable cinematic achievements like “Stand by Me,” “The Princess Bride,” and “When Harry Met Sally.” In “Flipped,” Reiner returns to familiar territory, but simply can’t capture the same magical moments of his undisputed classics.
 
It’s fairly easy to pinpoint the narrative problems throughout “Flipped,” which, like “Stand by Me,” is a coming-of-age film sent in the 50s. Reiner co-wrote the script (the first since 1984’s “This is Spinal Tap”) along with longtime collaborating producer Andrew Scheinman, who is also credited for writing one of Reiner’s weakest movies (“North”).
 
In the film, Madeline Carroll (“Swing Vote”) plays Juli Baker, a junior high teenager who has been in love with the same boy since the second grade. But Bryce Loski (Callen McAuliffe) has never shown an interest in her. As they get older Juli’s puppy love becomes more of an annoyance than anything for Bryce especially since they live across the street from each other. The differences in their family’s social status also factors into problems as the years pass. Juli lives a more homely lifestyle with her mother and father (Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn) while Bryce’s parents (Anthony Edwards and Rebecca De Mornay) like to keep up appearances but can’t seem to run a very emotionally-stable household.
 
Based on a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, “Flipped” follows the same basic blueprint of its text. The innocent love story is told from both Juli and Bryce’s perspective, which means scenes are played out twice from different camera angles. The technique doesn’t do much to progress the narrative, which ultimately relies on its nostalgia to create any genuine emotion.

In the end, “Flipped” feels like a contemporary take on an episode of “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver” without the charm. Saturated in wholesomeness and uninteresting narration from both lead characters, watching “Flipped” only makes you long even more for Reiner’s glory days.

Swing Vote

August 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”)
Written by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”) and Jason Richman (“Bad Company”)

With the 2008 presidential election only three months away, in rolls some more political nonsense more absurd than an aging John McCain comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears.

Not since the disappointing “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004 has there ever been a more blatant attempt to draw voters through pop culture than the new political comedy “Swing Vote.” The morale of the story: Your vote counts, so make us proud America!

In the film, Kevin Costner (who hasn’t made a decent film since 2005’s “Upside of Anger”) plays Bud Johnson (can you think of a more all-American name?!), an unemployed single father who finds out his vote will ultimately decide the next President of the United States.

Bud is just an ordinary guy who wears t-shirts and drinks beer and is apparently supposed to represent the “everyman” that patriots can relate to. He’s not interested in politics, although his tween daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) is always reminding him that it is his civic responsibility to cast a vote.

But when Bud gets wasted on election night, Molly somehow manages to infiltrate the voting booth and attempt to vote in place of her drunken daddy. The voting machine, however, shuts down before Molly can vote and the ballot, which will later be traced back to Bud, ends up stuck inside system.

Soon, Bud becomes a hometown hero as media from around the world swoop into his small town of Texico, New Mexico to get a gander of the man who holds the future of the free world in his hands. Both presidential hopefuls (Kesley Grammer and Dennis Hopper) also jump on the next airplane to New Mexico to make their best pitch to a single voter, now their most important. Also on his track is local reporter, Kate Madison (Paula Patton), who is looking to find her own fame by getting an exclusive interview with Bud before he casts his ballot.

Basically, “Swing Vote” is a tired and cliché misfire at political satire. The problems start with Costner, who makes Bud so unlikeable, it’s hard to root for a protagonist who is the epitome of a born loser without the adorable quarks. The film also misses a chance to put a real political spin to the storyline by wasting actors Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci, who both play opposing campaign strategists. Where this could have really been a hilarious battle of minds, screenwriters Joshua Michael Stern and Jason Richman, instead, devise a desperate and silly scheme to make Lane and Tucci one up each other in dull fashion.

Whatever political attributes (if any) “Swing Vote” is peddling makes no difference. As a comedy it’s flimsy. Even worse, as a political commentary it’s uninspiring.