Okay. Got some video goodness for you. (The picture link doesn't actually work, by the way -- just click on this here hotlink coming up). It's a video of Andy Dick getting kicked off the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Wow. As you'll see, he's sitting on the couch with second guest Ivanka Trump. Kimmel asks her if she has a boyfriend. Dick, sauced, says, "You're looking at him." Then he says, his voice slurred, "I need a fucking sugarmama." Then a bit of glitter catches his eye and he starts to rub her leg. Kimmel reaches over Ivanka to take Andy's hand off. Everyone gets over that, but when he does it again, Kimmel and an old security dude come in and take Andy away. Andy looks up at them and says, laughingly, "Am I out?" He doesn't look altogether sure if he's really going out or not. He is. I saw Andy Dick on Letterman a while back and his theme of the night was "getting back to sobriety". Letterman, I thought, was very condescending in that dickish way of his that he doesn't indulge as often as he used to, but Andy was a sport and it looked like he was serious about cleaning up. As his Kimmel appearance makes clear, sobriety didn't work out. Anyway, fun video.
Well, I've been seeing a few movies during this mini-book-finishing hiatus. I am very nearly done with the revisions on el novelo and will very soon be entering the changes into the Word file. Done by Sunday. Done by Sunday. Done by Sunday. It will happen.
Anyway. I saw Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" over the weekend and, surprisingly, I was underwhelmed. Really disappointed actually. A whole cadre of respected genre artists like Stephen King, Frank Darabont, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman all saw "Pan's" together sometime last year and heralded the movie as a masterwork and a film of genius and all of that. One of those guys saying that stuff, sure, a grain of salt, but all of them? So when I ambled into the theater Friday night, I was not expecting anything but filmic goodness. There was not a whole lot of that.
"Pan's Labyrinth" is set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. A little girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her mother settle into a garrison in the countryside run by Ofelia's new stepfather, Captain Vidal (played with gusto by Sergi Lopez). Vidal's hunting the Communist rebels who are hiding out in the hills near the garrison. Vidal's a mean vicious guy with no redeeming qualities. No human traits. He'd kick a puppy with as much fervor as he'd kick an elderly woman in a wheelchair. We get hints that it has to do with his dad. Whatever. We first get a taste of his sadism when he kills a guy by slamming the bottom edge of a whiskey bottle into his face over and over. Guillermo, who seems to love that stuff, shows it in loving detail. Oh, Guillermo. If it seems like I'm talking a lot about Capitan Vidal, it's because Guillermo does, too. Vidal's gruesome, Mengele-style hijinx occupy most of the film's attention, which kind of sucks all the air out of the rest of the movie, the rest of the movie concerning Ofelia's being visited by fairies who say she's the long lost princess of the Underworld, reincarted in another body. One night she descends a spiral staircase at the end of an old labyrinth near the garrison. Pan comes to her (or, just a faun as it's called in the original Spanish title, "The Labyrinth of the Faun") and tells her that if she completes three tasks then she may reclaim her rightful place on her Princess throne in the Underworld. This sort of thing is the meat and potatoes of children's stories. Harry Potter's not just an unloved adoptee, for example, but the greatest wizard of all time. Eragon's not just a peasant -- whatever. He rides dragons or something. Anyway, the point is that this movie looks like it's suitable for kids, but it is not for kids, which is part of the reason why the movie's frustrating for me.
The movie's built like a fable -- simple. A child could watch it and not miss much. That's not to say an adult can't enjoy a movie structured as a fable, but it's not the preferred storytelling mode for those in the 12 and up demographic. But when a guy who gets way off on gory horror gets a hold of a children's fable, and doesn't think to hold back on the gratuitous gore effects for this new audience, the question comes up pretty fast: who the hell is this movie for? As an adult, stories of children completing three tasks (one of which is to feed a big toad under a tree magic stones) is kind of boring for me. I'm starting to think, "Oh, that's why I'm nodding off. This really is for kids." Then comes the face smashing via the whiskey bottle. I'm not nodding off anymore. I'm looking for my cell phone so I can call my mommy. Fricking gross. Now I'm thinking, "Not only is this not for kids, I don't think it's for me either." It only gets worse from there. But strong storytelling can often overpower objections to artless tone shifts. If only we had any here.
"Pan's Labyrinth" is not a weak story exactly -- perhaps told a different way it'd make a fine film or young adult novel. But Guillermo (who also wrote it) gets lazy a few times, and the characters do stupid shit that make you throw your hands up and quit rooting for them. [SPOILER AHEAD.] For example, before Ofelia begins her second task, Pan tells her explicitly not to eat anything off of a big banquet table she'll encounter while doing the second task. Pan tells her doing so could kill her. Ofelia finds the table, sees the creepy eyeless monster at the head of the table who sits motionless, not seeing her. She does the task and then, you guessed it, eats something off the table. A grape, no less. No reason other than she was hungry. Lazy, Guillermo. Lazy. Again, if this is a kid's movie, you can get away with this kind of unjustified BS, but Guillermo's aiming for an arty prestige movie so this unmotivated character action doesn't cut the mustard. Maybe the cheese. [SPOILER DONE.]
At that point I essentially gave up on the movie. The ending did what good stories are supposed to do, namely tie up loose ends, and it does that, but -- well, I don't want to give that away at least. So, in the end, I don't know what all those writers and filmmakers were thinking. When "Pan's Labyrinth" comes out on DVD, check it out, see what you think. Maybe I'm way off.