The Missing

June 13, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

It has come to the attention of several of my readers that I am skipping a few of the "high profile" summer releases. These are not accidental misses, but calculated ones. It's true that if I was a paid reviewer, I would have to force myself to endure these films, but I'm not generating any direct revenue from my writing. Every dollar I earn is collateral, and won't be impacted by whether I see a disposable Hollywood sports comedy that everyone will have forgotten about by the end of the year (if not the end of the month).

I am referring to The Longest Yard, a remake of a mediocre Burt Reynolds football film from the '70s. I didn't care for the original - it was okay for what it was, but hardly worth a second look. So when the "opportunity" came to miss Adam Sandler's re-imagination of the story (I was in Manila), I decided to skip it. On my return, I saw Layer Cake instead. To be fair, I checked whether it was opening in the Philippines during the same weekend it made its U.S. bow. It wasn't, but if it had been, I probably would have seen it there.

The Honeymooners is arguably the best-loved TV sitcom of all time, alongside I Love Lucy. Its stature should make it immune to remakes. (Although "stature" isn't held in great regard if Hollywood senses the potential for $$ - both Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life have been remade. It wouldn't surprise me if someone is trying to figure out a way to dumb-down a new version of Citizen Kane.) Yet one of this weekend's "bright ideas" was not only to remake The Honeymooners for the big screen, but to employ an ethnically diverse cast, with Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden. Turn over in your grave, Jackie Gleason. This is an iconic role. I like Cedric the Entertainer, but the cynic in me thinks the only reason he was chosen is because Hollywood saw the opportunity to lure in what is euphemistically called the "urban audience." At any rate, I find the concept of remaking The Honeymooners so distasteful that I have avoided the film. It may (or may not) be a fine piece of lightweight cinema, but I'm not losing any sleep over missing it.

Had Robert Rodriguez stuck to old fashioned 2D cinema for his The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, I likely would have seen it, even though the story's co-writer and target audience are three decades younger than I am. But his decision to film about 2/3 of the movie in ugly 3D cemented by decision to avoid the film. Rodriguez's third Spy Kids movie employed the same gimmick, and it ruined parts of the picture. Not only are the cheap cardboard glasses uncomfortable to don for more than a few minutes at a time, but they wash out all of the color. The film might as well be in brown-and-white. I like Rodriguez, but I hope the movie tanks at the box office. That way, maybe no one else will go in this direction. Good 3D, such as what plays in some I-MAX theaters, is an expensive process, and should be used sparingly. Meanwhile, Rodriguez must be channeling the ghost of schlockmeister William Castle.

Finally, there's The Perfect Man. It stars Hilary Duff. That's reason enough to skip it. A few years ago, I vowed never to see a movie starring the talent-deprived, teen-beloved "actress." Thus far, there has been no reason to break this vow, because she hasn't appeared in a movie that has grabbed my attention. I'm waiting for Quentin Tarantino to cast her. Now that would cause a dilemma.

Will I see Herbie: Fully Loaded? I'm agonizing over that choice. I don't put Lindsay Lohan in the same garbage container as Duff. She has shown ability in the past, and I'm curious to see whether it's possible to detect her computer-deflated breasts. (Probably not: these CGI artists are good. If they can spraypaint a seemingly-real bikini on a nude model, shrinking breasts should be no problem.) Odd that the movie's selling point might be its star's breast size.

One final, unrelated note: don't expect early reviews for two of the summer's remaining blockbusters, War of the Worlds or The Fantastic Four. I'm currently having "issues" with both Fox and Paramount and have to tread carefully (not in terms of content, but in terms of review availability) with both of these companies. Expect the reviews on the days the films open. The Batman Begins review will be available tomorrow (Tuesday), so at least those who want to read it before the midnight showing will be able to do so. For those who want an early "peek" at my opinion, all I'll say at the moment is to go see it. It's one of the best - if not the best - superhero movies made thus far.