Monday, February 05, 2007

"Pan's Labyrinth": Bad? Really? But First, Andy Dick Self-Destructs

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.


blankfist said...

I cannot wait to see Pan's. I have to admit, once you started demonstrating your disappointment in it, I started to worry that maybe this movie I've been looking forward to (even if I haven't made it to the theaters to watch it) was bad. Then, when you write of a fable with gore, I think that sounds really cool, and then I remember it's Crane talking about a movie. Crane, the guy who loves Waterworld but hates Pirates of the Caribbean. Yeah, that guy.

By the way, I saw Blood Diamonds over the weekend. Why? Because I was in Westwood walking around and Children of Men wasn't playing over there and neither was Pan's. It was okay. DiCaprio was amazingly good in it, but the script at times couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be Rambo or The Killing Fields. And, for the first movie that focuses on the African civil war centering on diamonds, I don't think the atrocities were represented largely enough. These rebels cut off the arms and legs of children for control of the diamonds and the mines, and that sort of thing seemed to be downplayed into a backdrop at times. Anyone else see this film? Any thoughts?

harwell said...

Meant to chime in yesterday, but I forgot and now I'm sure no one will read this.

Anyway, maybe it's just because I've been told I look like Andy Dick but I really didn't find that video awkward or even worthy of the much-coveted TMZ airtime. I was expecting Kimmel to get upset based on your post, but isn't he laughing through the entire thing? To me it just seemed like the normal Andy Dick routine. Of course he's sauced, but everyone knows that. Compare this though to Danny DeVito on the View and Dick doesn't even seem like he's had cough syrup much less the mountains and mountains of crack he probably had put into his body that morning.

Honestly, if you can't accurately review an Andy Dick clip then no wonder you didn't like Pan's Labrynth. I bet it's the best movie EVER MADE!

And, no, I haven't seen Blood Diamond. Only you, Heath. Only you.

Craig Moorhead said...

I think I may be over-hyped on "Pan's Labyrinth" and I am definitely under-hyped on "Blood Diamond". That has always just looked like a piece of shit, from Leo's awful fake accent to the fact that they even have a white hero in this movie to begin with. Maybe it's just because I've done a billion pieces on blood diamonds here at Nat Geo, but the idea of making it a story about how a white dude deals with the blood diamond situation is fucking laughable.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. Is it Hounsou's movie? I'd be a lot happier if it was. But it looks like Leo and Connelly are going to have a romance with the massacre of poor black Africans as a backdrop.

Vintage Hollywood.

blankfist said...

No, Leo's accent was apparently spot on. Everyone thinks he was trying to affect an Australian accent, but truthfully it was South African. I knew a South African that worked at eHarmony, and I'm not sure if the accents matched or not, but according to another South African that HB had conversations with, he says the accent is spot on. Although, he did say it wasn't the accent for the region they say he was from in the movie, but whatever.

And, it was Hounsou's movie - but Leo did take the focus. Totally vintage Hollywood. But, all the issues you have with it based on your assumptions of what you fear the movie will be like didn't really effect me. I was more torn about the hashing of tone (and at times even genre). Still, I've always wanted there to be a movie about the atrocities of the African civil war and the diamond trade, but I'm not sure this was it.

Elizabeth1533 said...

The movie was a great fairy tale. Sergi Lopez hinted at Vidal's lost humanity with the way he stroked the watch and the scene where he looked in the mirror and gestured (very violently) slitting the throat of his own reflection. This man should be asked to do American cinema, not Antonio "the Nasonex bee" Banderas.