Tuesday, June 26, 2012

(Very) Short Takes: "MIB 3", "Madagascar 3", "21 Jump Street", "The Intouchables".

Sometimes adaptations of TV shows work better than they should, which happens to be the case with 21 Jump Street. Recurring to the modern fad of bromances, this one has former high school enemies Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) become best friends during their training at Police Academy. The geek learns from the jock (no need to point out who plays what, right?) and soon the roles are once again inverted when they're sent back to high school on an undercover assignment. The film doesn't really make an effort to be much more than it should be, although it has to be said that when compared to recent comedies, this one -gasp-is surprisingly funny throughout. Hill and Tatum don't stretch their acting muscles beyond what we know them for, but the screenplay and the high-spirited direction of dynamic duo Lord and Miller make it pleasant, sometimes hilarious(despite moments of massive eye-rolling) and actually rather sweet.

Those who take so much pride in belittling Hollywood for its mundane, lowbrow sensibilities, and brag about the wonders of European cinema should be eating their words while watching The Intouchables. The movie isn't just proof that even the French can do crappy cinema, it's also proof that they have seen something they want to emulate in the lowbrow Hollywood movies they criticize so much. This "feel good" flick, was "inspired by true events" and shows us how Driss, a poor man from the Parisian projects (Omar Sy) injects new life to lonesome, millionaire tetraplegic Philippe (Francois Cluzet). The movie feels like a montage of everything that's wrong with how movies choose to treat their audiences - there is nary a moment that doesn't feel calculated and overstudied - and while its magical negro center might be excused by France's lack of racist self-awareness, there is much to be said about the way in which it reduces its characters to silly archetypes, nothing but shadows of real humans.

If you enjoyed Madagascar and Madagascar 2, this unnecessary sequel is just what you were looking for. There isn't much to add to this series which by now has become a purely money-making enterprise. This time around, the escaped zoo animals join a circus and travel across Europe as they try to avoid being caught by a psychotic Animal Control officer. The movie is aimed at children who will undoubtedly be enthralled by the simple humor, visual gags and colorful situations. Thinking adults however might be offended by the film's complete lack of subtlety, especially because there aren't any cheap jokes it shies away from (including countless punches at how Europeans are "weird"). From its use of Katy Perry, to the way in which it avoids taking any real risks, this is one of those movies you know were better than the previous chapter but still won't remember the day after you've seen it.

Men in Black 3 seems to be rooted on a strange thirst for 90s nostalgia, that has invaded movie screens recently. While the first installment was groundbreaking and helped establish Will Smith as the king of summer movies, the ten years that have gone by after the sequel have proved that time isn't always forgiving. Tommy Lee Jones practically disappears for the entire movie and is replaced by Josh Brolin (never a bad thing to be honest) who plays a younger version of his character. The film's time-travel premise gives path to many plot holes, confusion and all the issues brought on by bending time, but despite its shortcomings (Will Smith isn't half as charismatic onscreen as he used to be) the film results rather enjoyable.

21 Jump Street **½
The Intouchables *
Madgascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted **
Men in Black 3 **

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