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51 reviews in total 
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Good idea gone bad, 22 November 2002

Watching "Death to Smoochy," I realized it must have looked great on paper. But, we don't watch movies on paper. We watch them (for now) on film. And on film, this film flops.

I checked out the credits of the writer, Adam Resnick. Unfortunately, I've seen all three films he wrote: this one, "Lucky Numbers" and (get ready) "Cabin Boy." I didn't like any of them, but there's a certain consistency to them. While watching all three of them, I said to myself, "Hmmm. That should make me laugh. But it doesn't." Something about this guy's work just does not translate. And yet, I'm not sure the writing was the main culprit here. Instead, I blame three other elements.

First, Ed Norton. Yeah yeah, great actor and all. Love him in almost everything else. But how they settled on him for the role of Sheldon/Smoochy is beyond me. He brought entirely the wrong vibe, spirit and mannerisms to the part. In no way does this role suit him.

Second, Catherine Keener. Anyone else getting tired of seeing this girl play a bitch? Best I can tell, she's a one-note actress, and I've heard enough of that note. Thanks, Catherine. Next time we need a hardened urban professional woman who uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism, we'll be sure to give you a call. Until then, I suggest trying to find the other two dimensions to your characters.

Third, and most crucial, the direction. Devito just f*cked this one up. Where he should have gone for irony, he went for maliciousness. It tilts the boat the wrong way, and everyone goes into the drink. I almost always like Danny, but he did not interpret this script right. Because of that, this movie never really had a chance.

If you give me this script, these actors and this director, I agree to make this film any day of the week. Oh well. Just goes to show you that there's no such thing as "can't lose." Because in this case, "can't lose" did.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Dead-tired Presidents, 10 November 2002

"All About the Benjamins" falls into that category I call "something else" movies. As in, when you watch it, you should be doing something else, e.g., paying bills, talking on the phone, drinking with friends, trying to nail the girl you invited to your place, etc. Do not give it your undivided attention, because it doesn't deserve it.

It seems like everyone realized they weren't making a very good movie and phoned it in accordingly. The direction is so vague you'd swear it was done by remote control from a helicopter. No one, even the normally enjoyable Ice Cube, ever breaks a sweat trying to get this movie off the ground.

If you held this flick up to your ear, you'd hear the ocean. Easy come, easy go. Stay away, or have that "something else" on deck.

Panic Room (2002)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, not great, 10 November 2002

Wow. The spectrum of comments this film elicits should give you a clue that you're going to have to decide for yourself. To address some of those comments:

For hard-core David Fincher fans -- Yes, it's probably his worst work. I blame the script, and I'm not sure why it interested him to begin with. But if you do "Se7en," "The Game," and "Fight Club," eventually you will come up against a script that, while interesting, does not lend itself to visual exploitation. And here it is.

For hard-core action fans -- The whole thing takes place in a house. What did you expect, Lethal Weapon? Sometimes, action intensifies BECAUSE it takes place in cramped quarters. If you don't dig that, fine. But this film never promised anything else.

For the idiot who sees this film as a racist rape warning (I can't be bothered listing his name) -- If you're looking at a white guy in cornrows as proof as racism, you really need to finish graduate school and get out into the real world. Even Freud conceded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If there were no black characters, you would have bitched about that. In fact, the black guy comes off as perhaps the most humane character in the film, in terms of what he sacrifices to make things right. Keep voting Democrat, but dude, get off your high horse. You're way off base.

So, beyond that, it's still a fun film worth watching. I figured it would be better. It wasn't, but that doesn't mean it's not good. It is. So enjoy it.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Unexpected, but in a good way, 10 November 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*****WARNING: contains tiny potential spoilers*****

Reading other people's comments, it's obvious that the marketing folks at Paramount did "Changing Lanes" no favors by advertising it as an action/revenge fantasy movie, because it's not that at all. No big showdowns, no gunfire, no fight scenes -- OK, one, but it's incidental to the main story. But while the movie lacks action, it speaks better of the human condition than I initially thought it could or would.

You know the basic premise: two guys have a fender bender whose consequences dent their lives worse than their cars. A game of F-U one-upmanship ensues. Life-altering changes hang in the balance. Off we go.

It seems a lot of people don't like the movie's pace or ending. The pace thing, as I mentioned, I attribute to mismarketing. The ending...well, what others found too contrived or neat, I found compelling. There's a difference between saying things will work out fine and suggesting that, with a little effort, they might.

To me, "Changing Lanes" is ultimately a story about learning from -- and taking responsibility for-- your mistakes. While a literal lane change causes the initial accidental, it's the figurative lane change in how they live that redeems these men. The movie revolves around an accident, but the title is no accident at all.

Laughed a lot, 27 October 2002

I've enjoyed every Kevin Smith film I've seen, and yet I still found myself surprised by "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."

Incorporating characters from all of his previous movies, Smith constructs a flimsy, irrelevant plot to stitch together his scenes. And that's fine. Anything more is unnecessary and would probably have just cluttered the freewheeling, good-time script.

Really, I'm not sure why I found this film so amusing. The setup is basic, the jokes are juvenile, and the performances are...WAIT! That's it! The performances!

Am I saying anyone here got robbed of an Oscar? No. But am I saying that everyone, especially Jason Mewes, buys into what they're doing totally. It looks like they had a blast filming it, and that silly joy radiates from the film.

Put it this way. If you liked the Kevin Smith films before this, you'll like this one. And if you didn't, why the hell would you go near this thing?

Van Wilder (2002)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Peters out, 27 October 2002

At the start of "Van Wilder," I was amused enough to keep watching. But by the end, it became one of those "guess I'll leg this out" movies. And while they probably didn't shoot it in sequence, it felt like the actors were doing the same thing -- waiting for it to wrap up.

Having spent 5 1/2 alcohol-soaked years in college, my main problem with this film is that what passes for college craziness isn't all that crazy. Come on, a guy spends seven years in college, he better find cooler parties than this. And he's the one RUNNING the parties. It just didn't click.

Beyond that, I didn't buy Ryan Reynolds as a college lifer or Tara Reid as an aspiring journalist. And while I smiled seeing Otter from "Animal House" in this National Lampoon venture, it only reminded how much better you can do the drunken college idiot genre.

My advice: Watch "Animal House" again. You'll get more laughs from a second, third or twentieth viewing of that than you will from a first-time viewing of "Van Wilder."

Noble effort, but still...swing and a miss.

Joy Ride (2001)
Gets Good Mileage, 17 June 2002

A pleasant surprise, "Joy Ride" takes a very basic premise and squeezes from it every possible drop of entertainment and suspense.

Writer J.J. Abrams, who cruelly foisted "Gone Fishin'" on an unsuspecting public, began atoning for his sins with TV shows "Felicity" and "Alias." He continues to deliver the goods here, with nothing much more than three kids, a car, a truck, and some seedy locales. There's really no clutter, as everything advances the story, entertains, or both.

A clever horror film, without the standard horror film body count, "Joy Ride" is worth the trip.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Interesting at first, but then..., 17 June 2002

"Smilla's Sense of Snow" captivates at first, but by the end, I found myself struggling to care. It's not for a lack of effort. Everyone here seems game, but there's too much working against them.

Calling it a murder mystery would unfairly ignore the film's subtleties, yet at its heart, that's what it is. Unfortunately, "Smilla's" neglects the standard murder mystery practice of doling out little nuggets of information periodically to keep viewers interested. It takes a long time before you see anything substantial enough to call a development in the case. Before that, there's a lot of mood, a lot of flashback, and a lot of Julia Ormond snarling at those around her. Which brings us to problem number two.

Ormond delivers a solid performance, but her character isn't very likeable. Yes, they kind of explain why, but it still didn't make me care whether she discovers how/why her young neighbor died.

I think some people might really enjoy this film. I'm just not one of them. 5/10.

Bait (2000)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Liked it a lot, 17 June 2002

I happened across "Bait" on cable one night just as it started and thought, "Eh, why not?" I'm glad I gave it a chance.

"Bait" ain't perfect. It suffers from unnecessarily flashy direction and occasional dumbness. But overall, this movie worked. All the elements aligned just right, and they pulled off what otherwise could have been a pretty ugly film.

Most of that, I think, is due to Jamie Foxx. I don't know who tagged Foxx for the lead, but whoever it was did this movie a big favor. Believable and amazingly likeable, Foxx glides through the movie, smooth as butter and funnier than hell. You can tell he's working on instinct, and instinct doesn't fail him.

The plot, while unimportant, actually ties together pretty well, and there's even a character arc through which Foxx's character grows as a person. Again, they could've slipped by without any of this, but it just makes things that much better.

I'm surprised at the low rating for this. Maybe I just caught this move on the right night, or vice versa, but I'd give it a 7/10. Bravo, Mssr. Foxx.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
As dumb as you'd expect, 16 June 2002

I'm pretty sure the name "Not Another Teen Movie" is meant ironically, since the entire film is ironic, or at least tries to be.

This flick contains an absolute gaggle of d*ck jokes, so if that's what you're looking for, you're home. Occasionally, something semi-clever surfaces, like using the white dude who acts Chinese to lampoon how dumb white kids look when they try to act black. That really amused me.

Other than that, it's a steady diet of low-brow humor. "NATN" contains parodies of countless teen movies from the last 20 years. Sometimes, they're actually funny, but other times, all they've done is recreate an old movie scene and hope you laugh from the nostalgia.

So, if dirty jokes and half-baked send-ups leave you in stitches, you'll like this movie. If not, you won't.

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