Weekend Movies: Ouch

So, I didn’t see any of the trio of big studio releases opening this weekend, mostly because they all look really awful. (Plus, I didn’t get invited to ‘Charlie St. Cloud‘). The summer has been lousy on the whole, peppered here and there with only a few genuinely entertaining Hollywood pictures (‘Toy Story 3,’ ‘Predators,’ ‘Inception‘). This looks like another “off” week – as in, “You should take the weekend off and finally get through Justin Cronin’s brilliant post-apocalyptic vampire novel ‘The Passage,’ which you’ve been telling yourself you’d finish before the summer was over and now that’s looking unlikely.” That kind of weekend.

The biggest movie this weekend, at least in terms of being poised to take home the largest box office haul, is ‘Dinner For Schmucks,’ directed by Jay Roach (the ‘Austin Powers‘ films and the first two ‘Meet the Parents’ movies). It’s based on a so-so French farce called ‘The Dinner Game,’ which I remember being mildly amusing when it was released about ten years ago. The remake features the same basic premise: Paul Rudd, in a bid to impress his bosses and climb the corporate ladder, takes part in “the dinner game,” wherein each guest is invited to bring the biggest loser/goofball/moron he or she can find. Rudd picks Steve Carell. You know he’s the “schmuck” because he’s making the hammy face on the poster. I mean, does this sound interesting to anyone? The cast is rounded out by some pretty amusing people, among them Bruce Greenwood, Jemaine Clement, and Zach Galifanakis. But the premise seems tired and weak, and the movie clocks in at an epic 114 minutes. I happen to agree with Woody Allen and John Waters that no comedy should run more than 90 minutes long. Funny can quickly become tiresome.

Still, it might make a whole bunch of money and land at the top spot of the box office. It’s sort of the anti-‘Inception’ – in that it looks (visually) about as flat as a sitcom and doesn’t require any additional thought whatsoever beyond the necessary motor skills used for moving the popcorn from the giant tub into your open mouth.

Also opening is ‘Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,’ a sequel to a movie that nobody cared about nine years ago. This really is mystifying. IMDB says that the first ‘Cats & Dogs‘ never recouped its astronomical budget, much of which was spent on expensive animatronics (courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) and animation. Maybe it made the money back on home video? Is this some family film staple that I never knew about? To me, the original film was cute and diverting, but lacked the wit and antic activity of something like a Joe Dante movie (which it was clearly modeled after). This looks like more of the same: directed by a nobody, with a cast of has-beens and nobodies, and lots of cute animals doing nifty spy movie stuff. Oh, but this time it’s in 3-D. So there’s that. How this will do at the box office is anybody’s guess. We’ll see if the siren song of 3-D will be enough to sell families on this turkey.

Rounding out the unimpressive triumvirate is ‘Charlie St. Cloud,’ a weepy melodrama starring the underrated Zac Efron. (Yeah, you heard me.) I’ll probably end up seeing this one, not only because of my crush on Zac Efron but because I have a bet going with my little sister. She thinks that Efron’s character is a drunk and is therefore responsible for the death of his younger brother. I say that’s not true. For one thing, that would make his character totally unlikable very early in the movie. And, his guilt would be too tethered to an actual event. Instead, his guilt has to be more ethereal – which is why, based on the trailers and commercials, he has weird conversations with his dead brother. Maybe I’m thinking too much about this, but the stakes are pretty great: an Oreo ice cream sandwich from the convenience store down the street. I want that ice cream sandwich. So I’ll probably see the movie.

Even on the indie front, things are pretty slow this week.

There’s ‘Get Low,’ a small 1930s-era drama/comedy with Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek. It played Tribeca this spring and people seemed to like it. I don’t know much about it. From what I’ve seen in the trailers, the cinematography reminds me a little bit of ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,’ which is good enough for me.

There are also some middling documentaries out there – one on Hugh Hefner (‘Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel‘), one on Sid Vicious (‘Who Killed Nancy?‘), and one about a celeb photographer that played on HBO a few weeks ago (‘Smash His Camera‘).

Oh, and there’s a movie by the filmmakers that did ‘American Splendor,’ called ‘The Extra Man.’ I hear that’s good too. [Ed.: You heard wrong. Whoever told you that must hate your guts and want you to suffer. It’s atrocious.]

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