|Monday, Dec 9, 2013, 12:14:21 PM|
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Valentin/White Chicks/Two Brothers
Space cadet: Valentin includes that necessary evil--a cute kid
Movies that depend on the likability of a child actor are often annoyingly overloaded with visual pleas for our sympathy. It's not enough to cast a cute, charming youngster and trust in his or her ability to inspire the appropriate emotions; the poor tyke must be made to look as pitiable as possible. In Valentin, 8-year-old Rodrigo Nova is sweet, bright, and puppy-dog curious--and even, as a bonus, naturally cross-eyed--yet he's still forced to play the film's titular character saddled not only with ill-fitting clothes but with monstrous glasses to boot.
Set in Buenos Aires, just after Che Guevara's 1967 execution in Bolivia, Valentin is one of those movies (Kolya, Central Station, My Life as a Dog) that suggest the problems of screwed-up adults are best solved by the meddling of a precocious child. Dumped on a sickly, cantankerous grandmother (Carmen Maura) after his parents' divorce, Valentin dreams of becoming an astronaut and wanders the city in a homemade spacesuit performing good deeds. When his ill-tempered father does deign to visit, he's usually accompanied by one of several girlfriends, and Valentin--whose mother is completely absent from his life--fervently hopes his favorite, Leticia (Julieta Cardinali) will soon be his stepmother.
All of this is adorable, but frustrating too, as intriguing ideas and issues are ignored in pursuit of a sweet, oblivious tone. Director Alejandro Agresti based the film on a year in his own childhood after the disappearance of his mother, and has taken the interesting (and perhaps therapeutic) step of portraying his own abusive father--whose anti-Semitism is hinted at and then abandoned. Also unexplored are the historical reverberations of rebellion and disillusion, as a tumultuous era is dismissed in a single scene where a eulogy for Guevara precipitates a mass exodus from a Catholic church.
Relentlessly cheery and star-gazing, Valentin ends as upliftingly as one expects. "Women are a necessary evil," opines one doleful character. Something like movie children, I suppose.--Jeannette Catsoulis
Fart for art's sake
So sue me. I liked White Chicks.
Director Keenen Ivory Wayans' comedy (written by Keenen and his two starring brothers, as well as Andy McElfresh, Michael Anthony Snowden and Xavier Cook) is stupid, crude, at times inept, illogical, and alas, often very funny.
The plot, of course, makes little sense (it took six people to dream this up?), but provides an excuse for Marlon and Shawn Wayans to get silly. The pair play FBI agents who try to foil a kidnapping by donning latex, boobs, make-up and skirts to impersonate two airhead Hampton socialites (Anne Dudek and Maitland Ward). The comedy, no surprise, stems from the attempts of these two men to be women. They fart a lot, take dumps that cause women to flee the ladies' room, burp loud, pick their toes at the dinner table, bite off hangnails in mixed company--you know, all the stuff males do that females don't.
Why, you may ask, would two black men need to impersonate blonde-haired white women when surely there must be one or two female agents in the New York area who would have an easier time of it? Well, if that question is important to you, then you may not have the right mindset to appreciate the Wayans' "artistry."
Director Keenen keeps things moving so that when bits fall flat we're onto the next one before we've noticed. Though the jokes are usually ones we've seen and heard before, they're executed with entertaining energy. As actors, the Wayans siblings have an earnestness that is appealing. And their broad comic style is rooted in enough of a reality base to give the film a core of believability.
Try to see White Chicks in a full house. The audience's laughter may encourage you to enjoy yourself, even if it's against your better judgment.--Anthony Del Valle
Never mind that effigies of Roy Horn's big white buddy became last Halloween's hippest neckwear, after he clamped his fearsome, feline jaws on the magician's jugular, Montecore was framed. He was provoked. He's innocent. And in the fine tradition of Free Willy, it's time to start a campaign to rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of the Mirage's disgraced big cat.
Meanwhile, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud unashamedly reverts to the winning, anthropomorphizing formula of his 1989 charmer The Bear with Two Brothers. The plot of this family-friendly flick is predictable enough: In the wild jungles of Cambodia, in the early years of last century, two orphaned tiger cubs, Kumal and Sangha are separated--Kumal to the circus, Sangha to the lush palace of a local potentate--only to be reunited later with help from rogue bounty hunter Guy Pearce and the inevitable, insufferable youngster (Freddie Highmore).
Effectively deploying Jean-Marie Dreujou's bright, digital-video camerawork together with seamless special effects, Annaud convincingly conveys the illusion that his live actors are interacting up close and personal with their trained big cat co-stars. Too bad he and co-writer Alain Godard couldn't devise convincing dialogue to go along with the visual tricks. As clumsily delivered in English translation by non-native actors, their lines are more likely than Montecore's roar to get your hackles rising, for all the wrong reasons. But your cubs will probably be unconcerned by that nuance, and be sufficiently amused by Kumal and Sangha's adorable antics for it not to be an issue.--Anthony Allison