Reviews written by registered user
|18 reviews in total|
Clark Gable is fine as usual, but this film is so obviously struggling
to amuse the audience that it becomes painful, then dull, to watch. The
reliance on repeated shtick and what is often a wasted talent (Donald
Meek's take as the mentally unbalanced caretaker is depressing, as he
is usually a reliable character actor, here asked to broaden his
approach to paint a personality of bizarre - but not amusing -
proportions). I really wanted to enjoy this, but the speed at which it
became obvious this was a leap at an "It Happened One Night" clone only
made it suffer by comparison. Every frame screamed "love me!"
Others speak of the chemistry between Gable and Crawford, but I do not see how it translates to the screen; I never once thought they were meant for one another, and was not entertained by the time it took to get there. The entire film - although spotted with good dialogue - failed to convince me that there was a guiding intelligence behind the tale, that the creators were convinced of its vitality as a comedy, or that it was meant as anything other than a desire to cash in on Gable's award-winning role in a better film. The slapstick is painful, the male rivalry unconvincing, and Tone particularly grievous, as he mugs and screams his way through this "comedy."
This film has all the elements to have made it utterly superior: a
great cast of major and secondary performers, a sophisticated
director/writer, and a storyline that appears to be charmingly
eccentric and replete with the possibility of urbane dialogue.
And yet it is very strangely cool, the characters' talk seemingly hanging in the air, emotional outbursts muted instantly by ambiguous explanations, and a alienated and robotic air which smothers the comedy and the drama beneath a blanket of distance. The material strikes me as the basis for a good screwball comedy (the collegiate setting, the secret past, the childish banter and behavior between old friends) and yet there is no manic energy or feeling of fun, and it seems we are to take seriously what is impossible to absorb.
The film simply never "gels" as a cinematic experience, and it is no wonder that it is not more widely known. A near-numbing ride...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a visually seductive movie which seems to be on the verge of becoming intriguing up until the terrible moment it devolves into a fantasy action film, at which point its connection to the whimsy and strangeness of the novel severs entirely. The second portion of the film is difficult to enjoy for anyone who appreciates the linguistic torsions of the novel, and that book's celebration of a level-headed child resisting the madness of adult social rules and vile tempers. The film's ending, in which Alice "grows up" and embarks upon a business career (in an imperialistic trading company of all things!) is even more profoundly errant. I don't know maybe the tale is inherently difficult to capture well in film, or perhaps its age has passed, and become crushed by capital into just another venture. Yet, the "flashback" scene (where we see Burton's take on the original Mad Tea Party episode) seems to me to have been a shadow of a missed opportunity. Burton's usual oddity and comic/Gothic sensibility appears to have deserted him precisely at the moment it was most called upon. And the reduction of that supreme insane, the Mad Hatter, into as sort of stand-in for Baum's scarecrow is particularly sad. No amount of 3-D technology can salvage a story so horribly mangled. And - regretfully - at points there are sets and visuals very redolent of the Disney cartoon, which (as this is a Disney film) suggests an undue interference by the "product's" owners. Worth viewing, for its many visual surprises, and for the odd performance here and there (Helen Bonham Carter strikes me as especially fun in her raging role). But not a great success of mood or sensibility.
The performances were good, and (in Eddie Vedder's offerings) even
splendid, making something poignant and powerful as well as
rambunctious and ground-breaking out of the Ramones' songs. The visual
production is no-frills, which is appropriate to its subjects, and most
of the guest stars and inserted commentators are both passionate and of
relevance to the Ramones' legend, although - in this regard - I do
wonder how Lisa Marie Presley managed to squeeze her way into the
proceedings, since she is not punk, scarcely a modern musical presence
at all, and of no particular interest in her comments here. Still, the
importance of the Ramones to many of the people in the film is both
well expressed and (at times) moving. I have no essential problem with
those two aspects of the movie: the musical homages, and the oral
essays. My concerns start at the point where they were edited together,
and this is where one of the most common errors of these "tributes"
emerges in full force - the performances are constantly interrupted by
talking heads, very few acts find their tributes in full array. I don't
need to be told (in the middle of a song) how important the Ramones
were to this or that personality. The adulation can wait until song's
end, because the music is what it is ALL about. A disappointing and
very Middle of the Road format.
As an aside, Johnny Ramone was in the process of dying and though eager to be there that night, was finally too ill to attend. So they held up a cellphone so he could hear? Why couldn't some type of audio-visual remote have been set up so (at least) Johnny could have experienced the concert, if not also so he might himself be seen? This struck me as odd, considering the level of money and talent that attended.
Worth viewing, for the few full songs, the passion displayed in some acts, and the occasional stills and video of the Ramones themselves. But not an exemplary production.
For someone who lived (really lived!) through the madness of the 1960s, this film (without any overt reference to hippies/counterculture) seems to embody a general feeling of rootlessness, and loss of an "easy" cultural identity. Jack's character bridges both high and low culture, Northern "intelligentsia" and rural Southern "hillbilly" without finding a steady anchor in either extreme. Many of the counterculture were - if pressed - "looking for themselves" in a mad rush for experience / sensation, and - for many - it was a futile quest for something that was really "at hand" - identity, and family. Here, Jack's character has - for the most part - surrendered to a loss of self, turned entirely cynical about any solution or connection. He personifies much of what I (and others) hoped to avoid while setting ourselves to achieve: a separation from all the "worst" in society, while also exiling oneself from any possibility of finding "satisfaction" or contentment, as we strove to avoid mere sentimentality, and to be "elsewhere" (Alaska perhaps?). Jack has given up of course, he is a jerk, but one you come to feel great pity for, although he would only disdain you for the effort. The one time he comes close to "revealing" his self (as he understands it) is when he speaks to his mute father, obviously finding safety in the other's inability to have any feeling about him, thus entrapping him in expectations and love and concern. It is a perfectly wrought narrative about an existential crisis that has no fix. Funny at times (though always dark and apt to spill into hopelessness), the film leaves a viewer feeling depleted, yearning for escape, but realizing that - eventually - no exit exists.
As others have commented, the film does (on its face) have things to
(potentially) enjoy: Judy's singing, Arthur Freed's handiwork, Cohan's
songs, and a possible musical and comic look at Irish immigrants in New
York. But in almost every way the film stiffs. Judy climbs from the
wreckage (as usual) unscathed: her freshness and energy nearly making
the film and songs rise to the level of entertainment. But George
Murphy is the complacent stiff, the songs are mostly mediocre at best
(except for a jazzy "Singin' In The Rain' by Judy), and worst of all
"Grandpa" is a character who - although meant to be curmudgeonly and
adorable in his irascibility - comes off as almost criminally abusive,
ruining his daughter's one leap at married bliss, and doing a good
number on his grand-daughter's as well. The actor in that role (the
usually reliable Charles Winninger) gives an unlikeable and near
one-note performance which constantly grates, until the viewer wants to
strangle him. This may or may not have been purposeful, but - in terms
of making the film (a light musical affair) bearable to watch - it is a
disaster. You feel both aggravated by Grandpa's insistent hostility
towards the happiness of others, and put off by the passivity of others
toward his ugly and pointless behavior over the course of years. I
don't think this is the stuff of light entertainment, but of a
psychological essay. Grandpa's just a jerk...
It is true that every now and then you will find an unheralded film to be undeserving of its anonymity. This is not one of those cases: the film drags along, forgettable song after forgettable song, stiff actor after stiff actor, sentimental stereotype after sentimental stereotype, and all made worse by that horrible Irish stew pot of a Grandpa. This one can be skipped without feeling cheated.
This film is mainly a missed opportunity. It might have been a minor
but pleasurable evocation of a certain (supposedly more innocent)era,
and of the "baseball life" as seen through the eyes of an umpire. Still
funny and light, but less "Three Stooge-ish" in its antics.
As it is, I think a good performer (William Bendix) is wasted in scenes of over-broad physical comedy (which is NOT Bendix' forte, and is NOT particularly well-handled at any rate). Among the baseball films of the time I can immediately recall (e.g. "It Happens Every Spring"), this ranks easily at the bottom. Such scenes as the one involving the car chase, and the vapid shtick at the umpire school are sub-par and badly filmed, and actually made me miss the presence of the Howard boys...And that's some feat! So - in sum - I think the human angles (the relations between family members, the "love of the game," and "lessons to be learned") might have been emphasized just a bit. That - with a general toning down of the mediocre physical comedy - might have made this more bearable. As is, it is less than adequate.
I am a comic book reader of longstanding, and have enjoyed several of
the screen adaptations of comic books, but both Fantastic Four films
have been textbook examples of how NOT to translate a comic book to the
screen. Seriously, I thought they couldn't make a worse film that the
original Fantastic Four, but I have been proved wrong.
From the gratuitous attempts at showing Alba as naked as possible, to the less-than-convincing physical presence of the Thing, to the miscasting of Alba and whoever plays Reed, to the pointless changes in the story, to a bland visual style (performed upon one of the most visually dynamic creations in comic book history) to the endless scenes of dull dialogue. Nothing goes right, here as in the first film. Galactus is a hungry cloud with no actual personality at all, and the obnoxious military man seems totally unaware of who and what the Fantastic Four are. Plot holes, flat acting, uninvolving action scenes. The movie acts as a sort of fraud pulled on comic fandom.
I recently saw this "film" on TCM - mildly intrigued by its central
premise - and thought it might be - at the very least - an amusing bit
of 1950s culture, with stereotypical (yet charming) characters from a
mythically "simpler" time, such as one sees in the entertaining fluff
of the "andy Hardy" series. But - no...
This film plays as if it were produced by a small-town (and vastly untalented and humorless) church group who had accidentally come across some film equipment. The cinematography is dull, and the time crawls by like sludge through a small tube, as we are constantly barraged with limp and cliché bits of supposed divine wisdom which appear to come down to such gems as "take it easy" and "don't rock the boat". One wonders why sedatives weren't simply poured into the water supply to achieve such conservative ends, until you consider the acting of James Whitmore and the equally flat Nancy Davis, whose role here explains why she got out of the business. There is a lot of moping, an aggravating child actor, a seemingly insane aunt, and - to my eyes - some of the worst "acting as a drunk" bits I have ever seen.
The utter "preachiness" of this film, combined with its dull look, its duller acting, and a humorlessness that borders on criminal combine to make it an excruciating viewing for anyone who thinks the "old time virtue" was mainly a matter of skewed nostalgia.
When they say such films as "Plan 9 from Outer Space" are the worst films of all time, they must exclude from consideration such draggy fare as this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is (correctly enough) billed as a "crime comedy" but that
tone is not entirely maintained throughout the film, and to good
effect. For one thing, Robinson (as "Jonesy") emanates a very palpable
feeling of repression and yearning for a more romantic existence
throughout the film, and this is underscored by his poetic ambitions,
and the fact he named his cat "Abelard" for just two examples.
But the most powerfully emotional scene in the film - and the one which most breaks the comedy constriction - is when Mannion is finally gunned down by his own men, entirely at "Jonesy's" direction. It is not a moment which is let off with comedic ease, and this is marvelously portrayed in a fleeting closeup of Robinson (as "Jonesy") as the gangs carts Mannion off to another room - the camera cuts away to a shot of "Jonesy's" face, and what one sees there (underscored by an anguished bark) is a true second of real anguish and guilt over what he has just be responsible for. Although Mannion was a murderer (and this "crime" of "Jonesy's" is partly in response to his discovering Mannion was trying to gt him killed), the murder is not tossed off without emotional undertones of true anxiety. It is a great sequence, possibly entirely a matter of Robinson's skill and feel for the character.
The comedic moments go down easy, Jean Arthur is at her tough girl best, and the film abounds with the "usual suspects" of Hollywood character actors. It is well worth viewing as a light farce. But - for this viewer - that one quick brush with actual internal pain somehow puts the rest of the film in a briefly glimpsed and different universe of real human morality. If for no other reason, (and there are many) that one tiny moment makes this film highly recommendable.
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