Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In which Matt continues his Reviews of recently-viewed Movies

Review: Munich and Fun with Dick and Jane

Stephen Spielburg's latest film, Munich, has been called (among other things) his "boldest feat yet." This movie is heavy, dark, graphic, and intense. It's not a movie that you sit down, pop a bag of popcorn, and think "Oh, I know! I'll watch Munich today!" But it is one that you absolutely should sit down and watch at some point.

First off, Munich is not a movie that everyone is going to like. (Presenting my first foray into politics,) liberals are not going to like it because it depicts a group of men who are not afraid to stand up and fight for a cause they believe in. Conservatives are not going to like it because these men are not presented as gung-ho gunslingers, but as actually having remorse for doing their deeds.

Liberals won't care for the movie because nothing is politically-corrected. The antagonists are terrorists, and not just any terrorists, but Middle Eastern Muslim terrorists. And conservatives won't care for it because the terrorists are portrayed as people with ambitions and concerns (not the the movie endorses those ambitions), not as mindless automatons ripe for the killing.

And people expecting your run-of-the-mill action-suspense-thriller are going to be sorely disappointed indeed. Munich is a movie that makes you wonder, consider possibilities and motivations, look at a problem from all sides and reason through the consequences. It makes you think. It's a fitting memorial to one of the most tragic events of the late 20th century. And it is absolutely worth seeing, provided you're up for it.

Fun with Dick and Jane, topically and relationally, is close to the diametric opposite of Munich. It's amusing instead of grim, light-hearted as opposed to weighty, and mocking rather than reflective. Your motivation for going to see these two movies would be in all ways dissimilar. And yet, I can recommend Dick and Jane almost as highly as I can Munich.

I am not a fan, at all, of Jim Carrey's older works. Ace Ventura, The Mask, whatever else he starred in that I don't recall--all of those roles struck me as being absolutely ridiculous. They sacrificed any kind of acting legitimacy for goofiness. A lot of people who agreed with me in the estimation, in turn, loved him in The Truman Show. That was a good movie, and Carrey's acting was certainly less stupid, but I think he was only marginally effective in that serious role. Dick and Jane's Dick, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of role Carrey should have been playing all along: it's comical but doesn't opt for the sheer idiocy of his early movies; it allows him to have fun with the role but forces him to remember that there's actually a story going on behind it.

A few of the people I went to see this movie with started to comment on want versus need, on excess versus necessity. Normally I'd be all about this sort of discussion, but that's not at all the point of Dick and Jane. One review I read mentioned something about the movie hardly being biting satire and social commentary. Again, if that's what you're after, read The Onion or watch The Daily Show. (To its credit, this review also noticed that that wasn't the point of the movie either.) Whichever Baldwin played Carrey's character's boss did an excellent mockery of the late 1990's high-powered dot-com conceited CEO, and the company Globodyne is a remarkably accurate depiction of the "we don't have a product, but we have two million dollars in stock options" company from the same era.

Where Munich is a deeply powerful and emotional consideration of a prominent global concern, Fun with Dick and Jane is an amusingly pleasant diversion. But if you're seeking one cinematic experience or the other, both of these movies provide an excellent place to start looking.

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