Monday, January 09, 2006

In which Matt has seen many Movies recently, and begins to give his Opinions of them

Review: King Kong and The Producers

Over Christmas break, I have had the pleasure of seeing lots of movies. I probably went to the theater more times over the break than I had over the rest of the year, to various theaters, with various company, and on various people's dollars. Many of these movies were very good, although for a couple of them, let's just say I'm glad it wasn't my $8.50.

Christmas night, I got a phone call asking if I wanted to go see a movie. General debate ensued, in which I suggested that we see Brokeback Mountain. One thing I found out is that the "let's go see Brokeback Mountain" joke is funnier if everyone else knows what Brokeback Mountain is. After I explained my failed attempt at humor (which would really have been quite humorous under the right conditions), the general consensus on the movie was King Kong. Now, everyone living has heard the hype about King Kong. Peter Jackson plus Jack Black and Naomi Watts plus amazing special effects equals spectacular movie, right?

Not so much.

What it boiled down to for me was that the movie was just not believable. By this, I don't mean realistic, because of course it's not realistic for a movie director to accidentally discover a giant ape living on some Pacific island. It's not realistic for wizards to battle each other with magic and a magical ring to turn you invisible, either, but once you accept the fantasy premise, Lord of the Rings is at least believable. King Kong had so many little points of contention that the whole thing became jumbled in them. A man who has never fired a gun before blasts a dozen giant mosquitoes off someone else without hitting him even once? Kong easily makes it across a huge wall designed specifically to contain him? A single canister of chloroform knocks out the giant ape for long enough to get him across the Atlantic Ocean? The giant ape is then loaded onto a boat about the size of said ape and the boat is still seaworthy? Nobody has a problem with Denham installing this giant ape in a Times Square theater?

Additionally, the emotional factor tied to the movie's denouement left a lot to be desired. It's my understanding that I was supposed to feel some sort of sadness when King Kong fell off the Empire State Building. By this point, I believe I was thinking along the lines of "about damn time." If you're the National Guard, and a giant ape is rampaging through your city, destroying cars and buildings, what are you supposed to do? Ignore the darn thing? Hardly. Ann Darrow, I'm really sorry that you were in love with it, but this is a case where utilitarian principles clearly apply: save one woman's "love" (the degree to which one can actually be in love with a semi-sentient creature is of course open to debate) or save the lives and property of thousands of people? The last line of the movie ("It was beauty killed the beast"), aside from being grammatically irritating, was probably the cheesiest way to end a movie that I have ever seen, "The End" screens included. No, it was machine gun fire from biplanes killed the beast. But even if you're not being a literalist about it, that line so clearly does not fit with Denham's character that I about burst into laughter when I heard its underwhelming lack of sincerity.

And maybe I'm just becoming jaded, but the special effects were nothing to write home about. Okay, a giant monkey jumping across chasms. Rampaging dinosaurs? I seem to have seen those before... oh yeah, it was called Jurassic Park. Really, special effects are fine and good, even better if they're nothing we've seen before, but they mean nothing when there's nothing interesting to back them up. And in King Kong, the interesting bits just aren't there.

One review for King Kong mentioned something about "everything you ever wanted from the movies." Maybe so, if everything you wanted to see was some average special effects and a bizarrely unbelievable love story. The Producers, on the other hand, did have everything you ever wanted from the movies, provided you don't want maudlin tear-jerking and plot-jumbling impossibilities.

A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to see The Producers on Broadway. This was after its original cast had moved on, so unfortunately I never got to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on stage. That's not to say that Brad Oscar and Roger Bart weren't brilliant; the production was fantastic. And to my pleasant surprise, the movie version preserved most of the play and transferred it faithfully to the screen.

If you're not familiar with the story, it's a satiric masterpiece involving a couple of Broadway producers who realize they could make more money with a flop than a hit. Without too much plot summary, amsuing antics ensue, and eventually the Producers put on "Springtime for Hitler." You really can't go wrong with Nazi jokes, but Nazi jokes and gay jokes in the same movie? Now maybe you're thinking that this sounds awfully low-brow. People talk a lot about "low-brow" versus "high-brow" comedy. I'm not sure about the brow height of The Producers, but it's funny. The songs are imaginative and creative, the characters are just over-the-top enough to make them hilarious and not annoying, and the story really doesn't drag significantly anywhere.

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, of course, form the comedic core of the movie. But credit deserves to go to the supporting cast, too. Apparently, the original plan was for Nicole Kidman to play Ulla, and after seeing Uma Thurman's performance in that role (and not being a huge fan of Nicole Kidman anyway), I'm glad the switch was made. Uma Thurman is a talented actress (who can apparently sing, too), and exactly who I envisioned in that role. Even better was Will Ferrell as Franz, the Nazi who wrote "Springtime for Hitler." Ferrell has shown an affinity for completely absurd roles, and as Franz is the ultimate absurd role, this was an excellent casting choice.

Of course, watch for Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia and Gary Beach as Roger De Bris. I won't spoil their unique relationship, in case you're unfamiliar with it. The payoff is too good.

Despite its many flaws, King Kong was entertaining, but if you're going to see only one of these two movies, The Producers is the better choice by far. Stay tuned for reviews of Munich, Fun With Dick and Jane, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

1 comment:

Laurel said...

havn't seen The Producers yet, but my brother says I'd like it. a lot. well, you know me ~_^ let's just say that I've seen Brokeback Mountain twice already xD

I did see Kong, and I agree with you for the most part; OMG that scene with the machine gun and the giant bugs. *insert eye-roll here* and it just kept going. I especially loved the part where he was more worried about his crotch being shot off than his face.

But really, Adrian Brody kicking dinosaurs in the face? THAT'S entertainment.

And I did think the CGI was awesome, but just because the sheer mass of dinosaurs falling all over eachother. And those T-Rexes appearantly really, REALLY wanted to get at that girl, even with fresh kills littering the scenery. THAT I didn't find believable. And the whole T-Rex pack behavior thing. ugh, as if. My brother and I started MST3K-ing the movie about halfway through ^_^