Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Must Love Dogs

I was watching Must Love Dogs on DVR when I was interrupted and had to turn it off. In fact, two more times, the same thing happened. The surprising thing is that I went back to it, plodding along until I finally finished it.

There isn't much to rave about here. This is another one of those girl-meets-boy and things don't work out for 2 hours until they find each other again (plug in your own hyphens) kind of movie. The plot is a tired one, the dialogue is mostly tedious and witless, although there are elements of promising monologues sprinkled throughout:

"The best place to meet a guy is at the supermarket. You don't need to waste a lot of time there, either. You see a guy holding a list, you know he's married. He's in the frozen food section carrying a small basket, he's single. I like to hang out by fruits and vegetables -- there's a better chance of getting a guy who's healthy."

The title doesn't have much to do with the film, just so you know. Yes, they meet because she has a dog and he "borrows" one just so he can meet women, but then confesses to it as soon as it happens. That gives you an inkling that "Jake" (Cusack) is at least an honest guy if not a bumbling guy, and that he has a strange if cute habit of running off at the mouth, not a great trait to have when you're dating.

As Diane Lane's character, Sarah, inches her way towards true love, she has loads of people along the way giving her advice. While many of these are family members, even the butcher puts his own two cents in, proving, I guess, that 40-something attractive women are the orphans of the rest of us, and we must take care of them. The best advice seems to come from Christopher Plummer, who has some relationship problems of his own; at least his advice sounds Shakespearean in comparison.

There's a nice, almost cameo role by Dermot Mulroney, clearly the better looking of the two lotharios. Sarah is certainly attracted to Mulroney, as on the surface he appears available and very cute. But we know that something has to trip up this relationship so that she's led back to Jake.

And we understand instinctively why Cusack wants Sarah back after a disastrous first date. She's well grounded, beautiful, quiet yet smart. Compelling.

The real question is, what brought me back? Why did I keep watching this comedy that was often pitifully slowed down in its own bog? Diane Lane and John Cusack. Lane just turned 41, but she looks terrific. (There are some horrible periods, however, when the lighting director does her a grave misservice -- perhaps to prove she's in her 40's?) Cusack just turned 40, and has some really strange dialogue, most of which, I understand, he wrote himself. He's getting older but he's still cute, and when he's honest, he gets so much cuter. I think strange dialogue here equals honest, because why else would you say those things?

I must conclude that Must Love Dogs is only for those who like slow, embarrassing comedies about life after divorce. Especially if you like actors Lane and Cusack.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Superman Returns

Superman Returns is, above and beyond, a paean to Christopher Reeve's performance so many years ago. The movie succeeds -- at least in reminding us how wonderful Reeve's performance really was.

Yet, I remember thinking a few months ago as I watched a prolonged trailer of Bryan Singer's movie, that this movie's success would hinge on one thing: Lois Lane.

So, the whole thing falls on the performance of its two leads: Brandon Routh and Kate Boswell. I would have to say that they succeed halfway. Which means that they fail halfway.

Poor Routh. Those are big, red boots to fill. Reeve gave us the iconic superhero, yes, but more than that, he gave us Clark Kent. His superhero WAS the bumbling Clark Kent, it wasn't just an act, and in doing so reminded us that we're all Clark Kents....and maybe just a bit Superman. We could see a little bit of ourselves in this uberman. And, when you think about that feat, how amazing it is and continues to be.

Routh looks a lot like Reeve, but he doesn't show the nuances, and he certainly doesn't have the comedic timing. He appears simple, but, then, that's pretty much what we've been given to work with for the last 80 years or so -- except for Reeve's performance. After two-and-a-half hours, we still have no idea who this guy really is.

Margot Kidder, on the other hand, showed us that Lois Lane was on the outside what she was on the inside. There wasn't a lot of guessing you had to do. She could do drama, she could do comedy, and you saw it in her eyes. Kate Bosworth, unfortunately, doesn't have a whole lot to work with here in terms of story. She's an angry young woman. It gets a little tiring watching Lois Lane as angry when we're used to perky, spirited, determined. Okay, we get determined out of Kate's Lois, but that's about it. Oh, and we get sad.

Which is what we are at the end of all this. Did I mention the action scenes are incredible? The beginning disaster is worth the price of admission. But that's not why we're there. Oh, maybe that's why the 10-year-olds are there. But the rest of us are there for the Clark and Lois story. After you save the airplane, who do you go home to?

The answer for Superman is always, and has always been, no one. Christopher Reeve in the first two Superman movies gave us hope for more. Superman Returns does not.

I liked the action scenes, I liked the evil, over-the-top Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. I wanted more depth for that iconic trio -- Superman, Clark, and Lois. And, like Superman and Clark, I truly am schizoid on a thumb's up decision on this one. Decide for yourself.