Film » Film Clips

Film Clips

The 11th Hour, 3:10 to Yuma, others

by

comment

Page 2 of 4

THE INVASION I suppose every generation deserves its own sociopolitical take on Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers, though The Invasion does neither the audience nor the source material any favors. Depending on one's political bent, the 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which emotionless "pod people" from outer space take over human beings, was either a warning about Communism or an indictment of McCarthyism. The 1978 version (same title) tapped into post-Watergate paranoia, also finding room to mock the rampant New Age-y philosophies of the time. And 1994's Body Snatchers honed in on teen alienation while also examining the splintering of the nuclear family. So what agenda rests on The Invasion's plate? Hard to tell, given the general muddle of the piece (much of it was refilmed after poor test screenings, and it shows). There's some talk of eradicating humankind's intrinsic need to destroy (and plenty of TV sets showing scenes from Iraq), but it's unconvincing lip service. There's a hint that this might satirize our nation's obsession with medicating its populace, but that's quickly dismissed. Without anything to chew on, we're left with a straightforward thriller -- and a fairly effective one until the film self-destructs with a wretched ending that had me slapping my forehead in staggering disbelief. That I was able to register such emotion proves that I'm still human, though I'm not sure the same can be said for the indifferent automatons who made this dud.  **

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY By borrowing from Jacques Tati, Jerry Lewis and silent-cinema icons like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson managed to concoct his own singularly unique comic creation in the bumbling Mr. Bean. It's just a shame that the actor has yet to find a feature film to do his character justice. Atkinson fared well when he incorporated elements from his Bean persona into his role as a befuddled pastor in the 2005 dark comedy Keeping Mum, and he was delightful as an inept secret agent in 2003's underrated Johnny English. But neither 1997's Bean nor this belated sequel offer comparable consistency in terms of laughs-per-minute. Mr. Bean's Holiday has some amusing moments scattered throughout (check out his introduction to a seafood platter), but they're not enough to sustain an entire picture. That the plot is completely disposable (Bean wins a trip to the south of France but has trouble reaching his destination) shouldn't matter -- after all, the Tim Burton gem Pee-wee's Big Adventure wasn't about anything more than a guy looking for his stolen bicycle -- but for a skeletal framework to properly function, the gags need to be as complex as the story is thin (for prime examples, rent Tati's masterpieces Playtime and Mon Oncle). But inspiration runs dry long before the film reaches its Cannes-set climax, though cineasts will take pleasure in this portion's tweaking of pretentious art-house twaddle. Now whether the small kids who are taken to this G-rated confection view this segment with anything other than boredom remains to be seen.  **

THE NANNY DIARIES Writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the team behind 2003's American Splendor, return with an adaptation of the novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. As before, they attempt to embellish their tale with all manner of visual flourishes and eccentric details, but working from a blueprint that doesn't always lend itself to such touches, the results are more forced than before. That's not to say that this doesn't offer several rewards of its own making, starting with the strong performances by Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney. Johansson plays Annie Braddock, a college graduate who, wary of the demands of a career in high finance, ends up landing what she believes will be a less stressful gig as a nanny for a wealthy Manhattan couple known as Mr. and Mrs. X (Paul Giamatti and Linney). Her young charge, Grayer (Nicholas Art), proves difficult at first but over time softens toward Annie, who's merely the latest in a long line of nannies. Annie's main grievances are with the boy's parents, an aloof jerk who's carrying on with his secretary while away on week-long trips and a trophy wife who's too busy socializing to spend any quality time with her lonely son. A spiritual companion to The Devil Wears Prada (Nanny preceded Prada in print by one year, and in the film, one of the characters can be glimpsed reading the fashion industry tell-all), this offers some nicely staged sequences to help gloss over the broad characterizations. Incidentally, a gag involving a George W. Bush mask doesn't match the brilliant employment of a Nixon mask in The Ice Storm, but it still provides the picture with one of its largest laughs.  **1/2

Add a comment