"Warms the heart" Dir. Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge; writ. Michael J. Wilson (story), Michael Berg (screenplay); feat. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black (PG)
Everything comes full circle. A few years ago retro clothing came back in style. Now, the old-fashioned, slapstick comedy cartoon is back. As the mother of a 6-year-old boy, I for one, am thrilled to see this clever little flick. I hope it sets a new trend.
Reminiscent of the old cartoons set to classical music, this one also has an appropriate (not obnoxious Pokemon) soundtrack. And like the old cartoons, you have to be willing to readily forgive scientific errors, pure corniness, and "save the baby" plot. In my day (let me show my age here) many of the cartoons had no talking whatsoever.
While a non-talking full-length movie would never fly these days, the creators of Ice Age wisely chose to keep dialogue to a minimum. It is not needed nor missed. The length is probably too long for most pre-kindergarten children, but the 6-, 8-, 9-, and 36-year-old children in my group all loved it. LM
The Time Machine
"H.G. Well's classic gets dumbed down"
Dir. Gore Verbinski, Simon Wells; writ. H.G. Wells (novel), David Duncan (earlier screenplay); feat. Yancey Arias, Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons, Philip Bosco, Phyllida Law (PG-13)
If H.G. Wells were alive to screen his own great-grandson's (director Simon Wells - The Prince of Egypt) screen version of his 1895 science fiction-infused social diatribe, he would likely walk out before the movie was half over. The sale of doomed real estate on the moon in the year 2030 is about as far as the movie goes toward making commentary on the questionable fate of the future's ecology and social classes. Couched as an homage to director George Pal's 1960 movie and treatment of Wells' classic novel, this rendition compresses the story into a comic book journey complete with Enya-inspired new age music to accompany the hero's farthest leap into the future.
Wells' originally no-named time traveler has his shoes filled by Guy Pearce (Memento) with the appellative Alexander Hartdegen. Hartdegen's biggest statement against England's status quo is his refusal to wear a bowler hat. In place of Wells' clear-minded protagonist, Hartdegen is posited as an absentminded patron pal of Albert Einstein, who keeps a greenhouse in his flat and is looked after by a kindly landlord (played by Phyllida Law - Saving Grace). Screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator) stamps his hero with a spin of early comic book tragedy that sends Hartdegen into a tizzy of work which later reveals a beautiful glass and gold time machine built for the singular purpose of turning back the hands of time to rewrite our hero's loss.
Sienna Guillory makes her American film entree as Emma, Hartdegen's British love interest in the film's opening scenes. It's at least understandable, by Guillory's stunning appeal, why our hero should be so sprung over the sudden loss that follows. But this later works against the story when Hartdegen accepts Mara, played awkwardly by Dublin pop singer Samantha Mumba, as a romantic replacement. The current inundation of pop singers as flavor-of-the-day actresses in Hollywood movies is a transparent marketing trend that ignores a bevy of competent actresses chomping at the bit for similar roles. While the late Aaliyah was a talented exception to the trend, it seems that a lot of musical pop stars are anxious to quit their day jobs for Hollywood and getting a chance to fall flat on their faces. CS