Archive for the ‘chick flicks’ Category

‘Sex and the City’ has passion for fashion — and not much else

September 22, 2008

Turning a popular TV show into a movie is no guarantee of success. Bewitched, anyone? But Sex and the City at least had more than a sitcom premise to bolster its big-screen leap. It had relationships and love lives for long-standing, familiar and lovable characters.

It also had fashion — which, on the big screen, sadly, became its reason for being. In fact, the Sex movie has so much fashion that it doesn’t even seem like a plotted film, but rather one long infomercial or runway show for various designers.

Look, I understand the synchronicity of this franchise with designer labels. Designers get on Sex and the City — on TV, or in the movie — and that exposure can mean very big sales. The show gets to show off the duds, and the designers get dollars. A win-win, right? Besides, this show’s female target audience is into shoes, handbags and dresses (but mostly shoes and handbags, for which one size fits all), so it’s a natural.

But really, given the rich history of this show, shouldn’t its much ballyhooed movie, now new on DVD, have had more of a plot? I mean, the average TV episode consistently delivered a story and a theme, as tied together by the personal column of newspaper journalist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), and it did so in far less time. The TV series offered not just fashion, fun and sex, but also food for thought, and a legitimate exploration of rocky relationships.

But in this film, all those little things — things like plot, characters and relationships — seem almost irrelevant compared to the parade of ostentatious fashion. Heck, given its heart-tugging musical cue, even a scene when Carrie gives her new assistant (Jennifer Hudson) a costly purse is supposed to be emotionally profound and moving. Hey, it’s a purse! If that’s your currency for love or relationships, you’re in the wrong bank.

And, of course, the basic plot is so basic that it hurts: Carrie and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are finally headed to the altar for a big wedding, but he inexplicably does a 180-degree turn and backs off due to slightly cool feet. Will they ever reconnect?

Of course, his feet shouldn’t have been that cold, because the couple had been cohabitating like a middle-aged married couple anyway, more likely to read in bed than anything else. (Some hot romance.) But the looming ceremony somehow gets him — this grounded, confident, successful man who could handle any big business deal but can’t face a brief church ceremony.

Admittedly, Carrie went overboard, making her groom an afterthought amid all the costly hubbub. But really, there was no need to throw a monkey wrench into the wedding other than — oh yes, we need a plot development. So there you have it.

The rest of the film is pretty much Carrie never working (why she needs an assistant when she doesn’t work is beyond me), Carrie feeling sorry for herself, Carrie continuing to be the center of all attention and Carrie continuing to be slavishly devoted to materialistic excess. What’s not to love?

Actually, I wish I could love this film, because I did love the series. But the movie does it an injustice. It’s like the chick flick equivalent of the Star Wars prequels — obessively devoted to eye candy and horribly neglectful of story and characters, as if simply trotting out familiar icons were enough. And it’s not.

Sorry, Carrie and company — I love you gals. I just didn’t love your movie.

’27 Dresses’ wears overly familiar formula

April 29, 2008

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A hapless heroine is unlucky in love until she learns to assert herself and finds the man of her dreams. That’s the basic plot of 27 Dresses, new on DVD today, which squanders Katherine Heigl’s budding b.o. clout by wedging her into a painfully formulaic romantic comedy.

Heigl plays Jane — as in “plain” — who, naturally, isn’t blond. Rather, she’s a dutiful brunette assistant to a bland, clueless boss (the ever-dull Edward Burns). She also applies that sense of duty to her friends’ weddings, from which she’s amassed 27 wretched bridesmaid gowns. As they say, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

One problem about those 27 friends’ weddings: Jane has no friends. Well, one — played by Judy Greer. But where are those 27 close friends for whom Jane did above-and-beyond double duty as a wedding planner? No one knows. Just take the script’s word for it.

When Jane meets a handsome newspaper reporter (James Marsden) who writes warm stories about weddings for the New York Journal (the Big Apple being another of the film’s cliches) despite his cheeky irreverence and desire to be another Bob Woodward, it’s clear that they’re made for each other. After all, they don’t hit it off — at least on the surface. This gives them an alleged “arc” to play. But though I knew the ending at the start, I tried to settle in for romantic comedy fun and charm.

I didn’t get it. Instead, I got wretched writing, childish fits by grown people, witless about-face redefinition of characters (Jane’s sister is a monster — no, she’s sweet) preposterous situations and two grandstanding public pronouncements via microphones from a woman who can’t bring herself to hint to her boss of years, with just a word or a whisper, that she kinda likes him.

Oh, and everyone beyond Heigl eventually assumes the collective “friend” role that’s so gallingly banal in movies: where all that matters to the friend is the protagonist and their love life. The collective “friend” even includes a just-married bride at her elaborate shipboard wedding reception — a bride who doesn’t even know Jane, yet yields her big night’s spotlight to a stranger and her romance! And everyone at the reception loves the idea! Riiiiight.

I’ll stop here. It just gets too painful. And don’t get me wrong: I love romantic comedies and chick flicks in general. I just don’t love this one, which could be called 27 Cliches if that weren’t such a gross understatement.

‘Game Plan’ playbook mixes lively fun, weary preachiness

January 21, 2008

OK, I don’t expect many guys to appreciate chick flicks, especially one meant for grade-schoolers and ‘tweeners. But Disney’s The Game Plan sneakily mixes its chick-flick appeals (relationships, makeovers, ballet) with jock-guy star power in the form of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as a pro football quarterback who (stop me if you’ve heard this one) suddenly learns he has a daughter (charmer Madison Pettis) whom he never knew existed.

Johnson’s character balks at first, naturally. He’s a selfish playboy with no paternal instincts. In fact, anyone without children is essentially selfish–but I get ahead of myself. Yet even in the midst of a playoff run, and even while opening a new restaurant, he finds time to devote himself to his daughter, so the world will seem ordered and we’ll all feel better in the end.

Well, how can you argue with love? The problem is, it all feels so forced and phony and preachy here, like it’s part of a political platform, not a flesh and blood story about real people. Besides, how many times must Hollywood — a place known for nannies and distant parents — shove down our throats the sermon that “kids change everything” and all adults should revolve their worlds around them? The Game Plan trots out these same old plays, served in the context of anecdotal comedy scenes that rarely advance the plot an inch. Mostly it’s about watching big, tough Dwayne get cut down to size with slapsticky sliming (via an uncovered blender and an overbubbled bathtub) and other comic discomfiture. Why, he even winds up in skimpy ballet tights on stage and shedding tears. He hasn’t been daddified — he’s been lobotomized.

But though it’s formulaic to a fault, the film does entertain in small doses. In fact, it’s served well by DVD, where I enjoyed its 105 minutes in increments (a half-hour here, 40 minutes there) more than when I was force-fed its thin soup of a story nonstop in a theater.

Besides, it also has Andy Fickman.

As a new film director, he’s not a household name, but one day he could be. That’s because Andy gets it: Movies are a diversion, not a necessity, and to paraphrase Jack Black’s gonzo guitarist in School of Rock, they serve society by entertaining.

Andy gets entertainment out of a cast — and a thin script — because he loves the process and is an all-around fun fellow and nice guy to be around. He’s also savvy, and he’s going places, just watch. His She’s the Man took a teen chick-flick spin on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and delivered a lively girl-power comedy sparked by the reliable Amanda Bynes. And with The Game Plan, he knew what he was making, and he did his job. In fact, the film broke him out of the pack commercially, with a $108 million global gross, almost $90 million of it domestic. Now he’s prepping a remake of Disney’s ’70s Witch Mountain movies, again with Johnson in tow. And one day, I’m telling you, Andy Fickman will be as beloved and famed as his hero, Garry Marshall — or close, anyway.

Now, a confession: Andy is from my hometown, Houston, and I know him, via interviews and his visits back home. Even so, if his work was bad, I’d say so.

I am not saying The Game Plan is bad. I am saying it’s not for me. Of course, as Dr. Frank N. Furter might say, Andy didn’t make it for me. But hey — I can dig chick flicks and family films, big-time. Even without being in their target audience, I’ve enjoyed Clueless, Election, Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, Green Card, 13 Going on 30 and many more. That’s because chick flicks can mean many things — most of them good — and those films all had something going for them besides pandering. But that said, I just can’t take more touchy-feely warm-fuzzy resign-yourself-to-parenthood movies where the message is “Have children — or your life will be utterly empty.” I’m sorry, but I’m done with that indoctrination. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s cliched, and it’s grossly misplaced.

You know what? Plenty of people who have kids after they’ve heard that message all their lives turn out to be lousy parents. And partly as a result, plenty of kids have turned out not so great, either. Looking for meaning in life? There are plenty of other places to find it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, and don’t assail me for not preaching motherhood and apple pie. I love my mom, I loved being a kid and hey, I was lucky. Plus, having kids (which I don’t) can be wonderful, as my relatives know in Dallas, where my niece just delivered twin boys after an arduous preganancy. What a blessing and a relief. But the truth is this: The enormity of parenthood isn’t for everyone, contrary to what’s ceaselessly foisted on us by movies and the culture at large.

Heck, these days even allegedly hip and edgy adult comedies like Knocked Up and Juno all but chant the mantra “Make babies, make babies, make babies.” You’d think we were all little girls of the ’50s being indoctrinated with dollies who wet themselves. Can’t you see how great this is?

Come on. As an unwavering mindset it’s not great, but unhealthy — and unnecessary, since zillions of us are going to procreate, anyway. But why poke, push and prod everyone to do so out of guilt or envy, or else they’ll feel they’re not with the program? Isn’t that a disservice to some, if not many?

Besides, I’ve done the math, and here’s my conclusion: This world doesn’t need more people. This world needs better people.