Monday, June 19, 2006

This Monday, the Inanities Gives You Movie Reviews: Nacho Libre and Over the Hedge.

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.


Speck said...

I loved Nacho Libre. But yes...when Jack Black is doing his tenacious D stuff it gets old...he does it in almost every movie.

Other then that I found it to be pretty hilarious.

Over the Hedge was just OK. I was hoping for more adult lined humor to be added into it. It was cute. More for kids. Cars still holds my vote as best cgi movie of the year...absolutely amazing.

Nathan said...

Corpse Bride was NOT a bad movie. It was no Nightmare Before Christmas, but still a good movie.

Crane....sometimes you're right on and sometimes..... I believe loving "Virus" is a great example.

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for the review of Prarie Home Companion, that you saw with your sainted mother. HMMMM.

harwell said...

I haven't seen Nacho yet, but it really surprises me to hear so many negative reviews for it given how hard and how often I have laughed at the trailers and commercials and everything I've seen of it. All the physical jokes - the bull, the motorcycle thingy, the beehive, the feral kids - just make it look like gold. I wonder how much is the script and how much is the director if this thing falls as flat as you guys (sans Speck) are saying. One of the things I love about Napoleon was how loose the structure was. Essentially, there was no plot but the movie worked so well because of this! I hope Hess will get to write the next thing he does. Crazy mormon.

Crane, I couldn't agree more about the voice actors vs. actors in animated roles issue. I heard Billy West (of Ren & Stimpy and Futuram fame) talking about this and it's a shame to think these animated films are catering so much to celebrity that they're drawing characters who look like the actual actors, when a guy like Billy can give you a great voice that you don't immediately recognize as a famous person from something else. I don't want to see Scorsese as a fish. There are some great performances by stars in animated films (Ellen DeGeneress, Eddie Murphy), but when it's bad it's usually really bad. Why isn't it good enough to let the characters overshadow the people who do their voices???

But Crane - Virus, dude???

Captain Mike said...

Go Sox!

JudgeHolden said...

Virus? Is that the movie with Jamie Lee Curtis on a ship with Donald Sutherland? I ain't even seen that movie, dudes! I think what Hinesy MEANT was, possibly, "Outbreak", which is a movie ABOUT a virus. I liked Outbreak ok when it came out, probably because I enjoyed the apocalyptic scenes of a virus spreading through a small town and the hardcore military quarantine that followed, but I doubt very seriously I ever said I "loved" Outbreak. If you want to ding me for a movie I have affection for all out of proportion to its actual cinematic importance and/or quality, ding me on Relic. I still really like that movie.

Oh, and Corpse Bride WAS bad, dude. I didn't really like Nightmare Before Christmas either (though I liked the premise), but Corpse Bride made Nightmare look like frickin' Godfather. Aren't teenagers supposed to outgrow the "goth" thing when they're in college? Didn't anyone tell Tim?

And I'm still open to maybe seeing Cars, it just looks so damn juvenile -- I understand anthropomorphizing bugs, toys, or creating a world of monsters but all of those worlds interacted with a real and identifiable human world. It looks like Cars throws out the whole idea of humans and depicts a world comprised exclusively of cars, themselves manmade objects. Do they manage to make that concept seem less than totally stupid in the movie? The Pixar guys are smart, I'm guessing they manage to make it work, though I wasn't convinced by the trailers that they did.

I'll put up some reviews for Prarie Home Companion and The Omen up on here sometime this week.

And does Billy West do the voice for Bender by any chance?

Speck said... skepticism is sometimes boggling.

Cars is a fantastic movie.

Nathan said...

wait...isn't Virus the horror movie that came out while we were in school, where, at one point, the monster licks the heroine on the cheek? Because whatever horrific movie that was was the one that Crane liked.

And just because something is Goth, does not mean it's bad. Corpse Bride is a fine film.

blankfist said...

Haven't seen Corpse Bride, but then again I disliked Nightmare Before Christmas with a certain anti-Burton passion. I'm still kind of ticked at him for the 1989 Batman, but he did give me Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and for that I'm grateful. I hope he gave you guys something. I think he just likes me.

Virus was John Bruno's feature directorial debut. He was the bonehead that also directed The Run, which if some of you remember was that 350Z DVD I worked on three years back or so. He's an FX Supe for huge films like Titanic and his most recent, X-Men 3. He seemed like kind of a jerk, to be honest. And, I hear that movie was a decent hit even if it was bad. Did you like that movie, Crane? Wait. Wasn't that the movie where the chick was the "Virus" or something like that? Dude, please tell me you didn't like THAT movie.

Outbreak was a good movie. Not great, just good.

blankfist said...

Oh, by the way, Crane, you're spot on with Nacho Libre. That movie was boring in a big big way, but when it was funny, it was damn funny. It's a rental, for sure.

harwell said...

Billy West doesn't do Bender, but he does just about everyone else:

Tim Burton's "goth thing" usually translates to a good bit of goth bling even if it doesn't make for great films. Go walk into a Suncoast video store and see how much Nightmare garb is for sale. Also, he didn't direct Nightmare or Corpse Bride they just carry his name (again, for the bling) - it's like being in a band and doing a side project. I think he's a great director though; he manages to take a weak story and turn it into a fun experience. Mars Attacks is an awful movie, but God did I have fun watching that in the theaters the first time I saw it. Same with Sleepy Hollow, Pee Wee's, and Beetlejuice. He has a few clunkers here and there, but then there's Ed Wood - a really great movie. Can you imagine if he got his hands on a Charlie Kauffman script???