If Titanic is re-released in 3D under the guise of marking its 100-year anniversary, why should movies like Refer Madness, Dazed and Confused, or Cheech and Chong be re-released each April 20th? Perhaps a movie could be alternated every year. Just something to think about Hollywood. Either way, this week, you can watch Steve Harvey self-promote, a tale of a stalker dressed up like a war hero, Oscar discover a new family, or a movie guaranteed to cause deja vu.
Think Like a Man: I’ve seen this preview a dozen times, and I taste bile each time. The idea of female empowerment is a solid one, particularly in a perpetual-adolescent-based film. At the same time, this movie if ripe with testosterone-driven tirades that veer more to cliché and predictability than poignancy. Granted, perhaps one shouldn’t expect poignancy from a film that headlines Chris Brown and features his character stealing his one-night-stand’s morning coffee. This ensemble of generic characters leaves little to root for, and even less to the imagination when the plot – or rather, marketing strategy — is revealed: women are sick of their men, so they use Steve Harvey’s advice from his latest book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man; the men then decide to turn the tables on their woman. The premise is silly and more appropriate for a twenty minute sitcom episode, but I’m more bothered that this movie is merely a one-hundred-and-twenty-three minute advertisement for Harvey’s real-life 2011 book. Product placement is ubiquitous and quotidian nowadays, but Think Like a Man avoids any attempt at subtlety and transitions a product from furniture to purpose. I can’t wait until Ron Popeil pens Like a Grape in the Desert Sun, a rousing tale of his food dehydrator.
Chimpanzee: Narrated by Tim Allen, Chimpanzee is a documentary about Oscar, a three-year-old chimpanzee separated from his troop and then adopted by a fully grown male. Any fan of National Geographic or Wild Kingdom will certainly dig this film. Anyone who isn’t a fan of animal docs should look a bit deeper and recognize the humanity within the animal kingdom. Numerous times we’ve noted what separates us from the animals (cognition, love, opposable thumbs, etc.) but the separation often comes from a fear of equivalence. Superiority is endemic is all species, and perhaps the most in homosapiens, so a constructed hierarchy is inevitable. However, Chimpanzee might just bring us a bit closer to understanding that the many species on this planet are closer in mentality than we want to acknowledge. Or, it could just be cute.
The Lucky One: For those of you wondering what happened to Zac Efron after the last High School Musical installment: he donned a beard – a literal, not figurative one, though I’m thinking Vanessa Hudgens serves as the latter, but I digress. Either way, he’s back in The Lucky One, a film about a Marine returning from three tours in Iraq to look for the woman he believes is his good luck charm. This film will be a sure hit with the under-eighteen crowd and those who clamor for Nicholas Sparks novels – more appropriately referred to as: proof that the same story can be regurgitated dozens of times with different titles. The war / wounded hero element here will also create sentiment given our global denouement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem I have here is not with the saccharine pretense, but with the narrative itself. Logan (Efron) believes that Beth (Taylor Schilling) served as his good luck charm. However, this “charm” comes from a photo he found after another soldier – Beth’s boyfriend (probably fiancé) – was killed in action. I know we all need to cling to something in times or crises and stress, but Logan covets a dead man’s wife and then seeks her out. Is this a bit creepy to anyone else?
Jesus Henry Christ: Initially, I was intrigued by the premise: the young Henry (Jason Speyvack) is both a ten-year-old genius and the product of the mixture in a petri dish. Here, we have a potential debate about humans tampering with natural biology. Eventually he finds his father, so then we have a conversation about the semantics and value of the word “father” and whether or not its personification is equal to its expectations. However, the trailer itself then spirals into cliché with lines like “I think being a freak is kind of cool” and “you can’t change the past, but you can change the future.” A film that started with the promise of contemporary conversations regresses to heart felt tropes guaranteed to draw a tear. “Freaks” are no longer abnormal. Freaks and Geeks debunked this as does The Big Bang Theory. The bit about the past and the future is a bit we’re reminded of each year in the many incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge. In bold letters, the trailer suggests I “Meet Henry,” but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him dozens of times before.