The wife and I went to the drive-in on Saturday night. A place called the Star-Lite Drive-In. We'd been there once before for a business school event last year, and it was pretty fun, even if the movie sucked (Corpse Bride). So we came back for a double feature. Haven't seen one of those in a long time, and since it's only $6 per person to get into the drive-in, $3 a movie for first-run feature films seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. So we went and saw the Nacho Libre and Over the Hedge double feature.
Nacho Libre, directed by Jarod Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame, is a weak follow-up to Hess's first movie. Napoleon Dynamite was funny, in part, because the characters were recognizable. If you weren't like Napoleon coming up through school, than you at least knew someone like him, or were even, perhaps, friends with someone like that. Not to mention the fact that the characters in the movie seemed fresh and inventive, and the filmmakers' treatment of these loveable losers was more empathetic than mocking. And though Nacho Libre manages the same gentle treatment of its characters, they aren't quite as recognizeable to the hip 14-35-year old demographic Nacho's shooting for. The story takes place in the very third world part of Mexico, and it's a slightly taller order to make desperate poverty funny than it is to make a bunch of goofy looking Idaho-ians funny. Jack Black plays the eponymous Nacho, a portly friar who works as a cook at a poor Catholic Church/orphanage. He has only the worst ingredients from which to make meals for the children and the clergy, but he soldiers on and makes the best of it. There are a few Dickensian scenes early on in the movie where the orphans have the vilest green gruel set in front of them for dinner. In one scene, Nacho has to fight with a shirtless emaciated man for a bag of tortilla chips meant for the orphanage. Like I said, desperate poverty -- and Jack Black's hairless gut isn't funny enough to make that sort of thing hilarious. Anyway, all Nacho wants to do is become a luchadore, a mask-wearing Mexican wrestler. He and the shirtless emaciated man team up and become tag-team luchadores and essentially find new ways to lose against actual wrestlers -- sometimes spectacularly, sometimes ignominiously. But they always lose. There aren't too many bright spots to point to in this film, either narratively or comedically. (The feral midgets are one of them, however. They are creepy and hilarious). There are long boring stretches, which is death for a comedy. Twice Hess has Jack Black sing some songs in his distinctive Tenacious D-style ("Rega-goong, rega-gee-guh" -- you know) and suddenly my paper thin suspension of disbelief, namely that Jack Black was a Mexican named Nacho, vanished. For me, Nacho Libre never traveled far into the realm of Bad Movie, but it never really set its wagon wheels over onto Good Movie territory either. For $3 at a cool drive-in movie, yeah, why not? But not worth seeing in theaters.
The second feature was Over the Hedge, a CGI-animation feature from the Shrek people at Dreamworks Animation. Peggy and I were both fully prepared to drive home the second we sensed the movie was either a) too directed at the kiddy demo, or b) just a plain ole' bad movie, but surprisingly it held our interest throughout. It's about a bunch of woodland creatures who hibernate together in the winter and forage together during the warm months -- just like real woodland animals don't. During the winter, a massive residential development goes up around them. Their little patch of woods is separated from the homes by a big hedge, thus the title. So there's some room for social commentary, and the writers and animators use the space to do so. The average American's preoccupation with food was satirized quite a bit, but even though I enjoyed the new perspective, I started to feel a little picked on after a while. I like to eat, what of it? My other complaint with these grade-A animated features is that the studios seem to think that big name actors lending their voices to these animated creatures is universally a better idea than to hire voice actors who are nothing more than excellent voice actors. Garry Shandling is a funny comedian (in his way), but a voice actor he is not. When he's called on to scream in fear as his turtle character's being tossed this way and that, his meager shouts and enthusiasm-free shrieks really made me think of him in the recording booth looking embarrassed, maybe contemplating an angry call to his agent, but his voice work did not have me thinking about his turtle character. On the other hand, Steve Carrell was a standout as the hyperactive squirrel, Hammy. Overall, I thought Over the Hedge worked. There are two really inventive action sequences (one involving propane, the other involving small animals travelling faster than the speed of light), and a few laugh-out-loud (LOL, if you will) moments which puts the movie well above most of the kid movies the studios are cramming the multiplexes with these days. Well worth my $3.
Anyway. Before the drive-in we went to see a Braves game with my in-laws for Father's Day. The Braves lost yet again, but this time to the Red Sox. There were nearly 50,000 people in attendance at Turner Field, and I'd say that at least 20,000 of them were Red Sox fans (including my traitorous father-in-law). When the Kilin guy hit a homerun, I could have swore I was in Boston the way the crowd erupted in cheering. Thoroughly depressing. My question is this: if there are so few native southerners living in Georgia these days, why the hell are we still so thoroughly a red state? It can't be the transplants all happen to be arch conservatives, can it? Like I said: depressing. Especially now that our beloved Braves are currently placed last in their division. These days, in a city that expects their baseball team to make the playoffs every year (and they have since 1991), most of us are hoping they can just find a way back to playing .500 ball again before the season's over.
Anyway, this long post must end now. Hope everyone had a good weekend. More tomorrow.