Movie Reviews: Charlotte’s Web, The Good German, more

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-15T21:38:12-04:00 December 21st, 2006|Uncategorized|

December 25, 2006

NEW THIS WEEK:

Charlotte’s Web

Young Fern (Dakota Fanning) rescues runt pig Wilber (voice of Dominic Scott Kay), but it’s going to take even greater intervention to save him later, when he’s ready to be turned into bacon. And that’s where spider Charlotte (voice of Julia Roberts) comes in to save the day in this charming adaptation of the classic E.B. White novel. Hollywood hasn’t always done right by White – the 1970s animated feature gave Fern short shrift, while the Stuart Little movies lacked the quiet dignity of the books – but this new version captures the gentle qualities that have made the book perennially popular. Thanks to an all-star voice cast and “Babe”-style computer animation, the film brings White’s beloved animal characters to very realistic life. Kids and adults alike will be won over by the results.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Steve Buscemi, who voices Templeton the Rat, made a memorable screen debut as a gay rock star with AIDS in Bill Sherwood’s “Parting Glances,” and Robert Redford – Ike the Horse here – played a bisexual movie star married to Natalie Wood in “Inside Daisy Clover.” Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Bates, who both have queer movie credits, also provide voice talent.)

The Good German

“New Republic” reporter Jake Geismer (George Clooney) travels to Germany in the waning days of World War II to cover the Potsdam peace conference. While there, he gets caught up in intrigue involving a former lover (Cate Blanchett), a shady Army wheeler-dealer (Tobey Maguire), and the American government’s attempts to smuggle Nazi rocket scientists out of the country before the Russians can get them. It all sounds exciting, but this Steven Soderbergh production is a big snooze, featuring characters you won’t care about. Meanwhile, the cinematography tries for a classic 1940s-noir feel – even the poster is designed to look like the one for “Casablanca” – but does not live up to those heights, making it seem like not only was the plot drained of life, but the movie itself was drained of color.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Blanchett played the object of Judi Dench’s affections in “Notes on a Scandal,” and Maguire was memorably bedded by Robert Downey Jr. in “Wonder Boys.”)

The Pursuit of Happyness

Behind on the rent and barely scraping by with 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith) to support, salesman Chris Gardener (Will Smith) cannot afford to work for free. He accepts an unpaid internship at a brokerage firm anyway, convinced that becoming a stockbroker will ensure a brighter future. This 1980s-era drama is never more than a handsome soap opera, despite a terrific, uncommonly serious turn by the elder Smith. Its message is bizarre, since it suggests that money – and lots of it – really does buy happiness, and, in fact, may be the only real avenue to achieve it. The story only ever satisfies in the intimate, moving moments between father and son, as little Jaden Smith steals every scene from his real-life dad.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Will Smith played a gay man in “Six Degrees of Separation” and produced the lesbian romantic comedy “Saving Face.” Co-star Thandie Newton appeared in “Interview with a Vampire,” while co-star Kurt Fuller had a recurring role on “Desperate Housewives” and a small part in “Auto Focus.”)

ALSO IN THEATERS:

Apocalypto

If director Mel Gibson’s Mayan-language film fails by thinking it’s saying something important when it’s really just an excuse to revel in bloodshed, at least the bloodshed is wildly entertaining and atmospheric – just not for the weak of stomach.

Grade: B+
Kinsey Scale: 0

Blood Diamond

Djimon Hounsou is moving as a desperate man fighting against the odds, and the drama is powerful when it focuses on Vandy’s situation. But it’s too bad that the film is mostly about Danny Archer; DiCaprio’s performance is weak, and his character is mostly unbelievable.

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

While Borat is a racist, sexist, homophobic twit who hilariously mangles the English language – he describes sex as “making sexy-time” – the real joke in this satirical “Candid Camera”-style “documentary” is on the Yanks, who are unfailingly polite in the face of Borat’s weirdness, and ignorant enough about Kazakhstan to take his blatherings at face value. Their discomfort and Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant adherence to character result in one of the year’s funniest movies.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1

Breaking and Entering

Even in the capable hands of director Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”), “Breaking” winds up being just another tedious “upscale pretty white people with problems” movie, despite its stabs at multiculturalism. An able supporting cast – including Robin Wright Penn, Ray Winstone, Martin Freeman (from the original British “The Office”), and the luminous Vera Farmiga – does little to mitigate the tedium.

Grade: C+
Kinsey Scale: 1

Casino Royale

Eva Green makes for one of the more three-dimensional Bond girls – she’s actually disturbed after watching him kill an assailant – and the film is smart enough to fool you into expecting one resolution and then spring another. Bond – and Bond movies – haven’t been this exciting in ages.

Grade: A-
Kinsey Scale: 1

Deck the Halls

It has a few funny moments, thanks to the actors’ energetic performances and Danny DeVito’s truculent charm. Most enchanting of all is the dazzling, if garish, light show that graces the Halls’ home, the movie’s true star.

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1

Deja Vu

The time-travel sequences feel like a theme-park attraction, and there’s a “we’re-tired-of-feeling-helpless-about-terrorism” undercurrent to the proceedings, but the movie winds up being an entertaining night at the movies – even by Jerry “let’s blow stuff up” Bruckheimer standards.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1

Happy Feet

Emphasis on predators will frighten young children, while the icky sentimentality may put off grownups. Only when Mumbles cuts loose with his energetic tap routines (courtesy of motion-captured dance great Savion Glover) does this bird-brained saga soar.

Grade: C+
Kinsey Scale: 1

The Holiday

For a romance, it seems odd that the most satisfying relationship in it isn’t either of the love matches, but instead the touching friendship that Iris forms with elderly screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach).

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.