Knocked Up: Shouldn’t have worked half as well as it does. If I absolutely have to, I can buy the idea that Katherine Heigl, as a glamorous and gorgeous entertainment reporter, would engage in a drunken hookup with Seth Rogen, playing a going-nowhere-fast goofball. But even though he gets her pregnant, it is unfathomable that she would continue the relationship with this pot-smoking, jobless loser. It is to Heigl’s credit that she pulls off this impossible role — she makes you believe she can see Seth Rogen’s decent soul.
The movie is almost unbearably crass at times — Rogen’s friends in the movie are like the South Park kids grown up. (Well, older, anyway. “Grown up” is not a term one would readily apply to these people.) But the movie has a genuine heart, and even if it overstays its welcome by about twenty minutes, its impossible not to be engaged and even, hard as it is to believe, moved.
Standout performance: Kristen Wiig as a passive-aggressive assistant Hollywood producer, whose every line is twisted into a smoking curveball. She’s in two or three scenes and steals all of them handily.
Hairspray: Damn, I was really looking forward to this. But it just doesn’t work. The musical numbers are fine for the most part, but the director or the producers or somebody didn’t trust the material. Movie adaptions of Broadway shows always require some condensing and rearrangement, but in this case they approached the plot without any regard to logic. And that’s why, for instance, you get the show’s big love duet before the male lead has declared his love to the female lead. (He sings to her picture instead.) The movie is like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces mostly out of order — you can vaguely tell what they were shooting for, but the result is a mess.
Standout performance: John Travolta, except he doesn’t stand out in a good way. His performance is not so much watched as endured.
Superbad: It was hard to believe Katherine Heigl falling for Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, but I bought it. Not so for Superbad. The main characters here make Knocked Up‘s pot-smoking loser look like David Niven in a tuxedo. They are 1) overweight, foul-talking, sex-obsessed madman; 2) his best friend, a quavering, socially inept worrywart; and 3) cinema’s greatest-ever dweeb.
Yet we are to believe that attractive high-school females might find these social rejects desirable. Maybe the supporting actresses could have sold this better if they’d had more screen time… and if they had the talent of Meryl Streep, Uta Hagen, and Katherine Hepburn combined.
This comedy is so broad it might not fit on smaller television screens. It’s your basic high-school sex comedy: We watch three magnificent losers try to lose their virginity before they all leave for college. To do this, they need alcohol. To do that, they need a fake ID. These mild sitcom elements spin into an ever-expanding farce, and it’s up to the viewer to decide how much he’s willing to believe. Personally, I kinda zoned out after a while. A lot of funny lines, yes, and I admired every comic performance. But a major subplot concerns two demented policemen, and I found them to be more wearying than hilarious… and the whole point of the story — that these three ninnies might get lucky with the aforementioned beautiful actresses – I didn’t believe for one flat second.
Standout performance: Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogell, sidekick to the two main characters and possibly the greatest movie nerd ever. If Mintz-Plasse isn’t actually like his character, then he deserves an Academy Award nomination.
Death Proof: Quentin Tarantino seriously overestimates how long we’re willing to listen to his trademark style of edgy banter. This movie goes on forever before anything even happens. I found myself fast-forwarding through minutes at a time. There’s a scene between a sherrif and a deputy that has no bearing on anything but goes on for something like half an hour. That’s what it feels like, anyway.
The movie is about a stunt driver who uses his car as a murder weapon, and there are a couple of effective horror moments. But only a couple, and it’s a two-hour long movie.
Standout performance: Quentin Tarantino. His screenplay is crapola, and his brief onscreen acting is even worse, but the photography is gorgeous, particularly in the second half — every color looks vibrant enough to leap off the screen. And there’s a great joke during the climax when two classic muscle cars, in a do-or-die, no-holds-barred car chase, merge into a modern suburban highway. You get the feeling that’s what Tarantino sees in his head every time he drives down the road.