Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Lovin' 2008

I'm not a huge summer movie gal, but there is always a solid handful that I really, really want to see, and a couple that I NEED to see. Even though I had to stretch a bit to come up with so many, and even though I might not actually see all of them in theaters when the time comes, I've compiled a list of my ten most-anticipated summer flicks.

10. The Rocker: I admit that the trailer doesn't induce more than a couple base laughs, but Rainn Wilson starring in his own vehicle with The Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo at the helm has me just too curious...and hopeful.

9. Hamlet 2: Steve Coogan is a washed-up actor-turned-drama teacher who, when threatened by the school administration that the drama funding will be axed, comes up with a bizarrely inspired concept for a play: "Hamlet 2." How do the characters come back from the dead, asks the lovely Catherine Keener's character? A time machine, and they've got an extra passenger: Jesus. Did I mention that the play is a musical and features a song called "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus"? Sounds irresistible.

8. Hancock: I'm not the biggest Will Smith fan, but I like the idea of seeing him play against type as a mopey, grouchy, past-his-prime, not-so-super superhero. Plus, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman have an Arrested Development reunion as a married couple. Mr. F!

7. Get Smart: This looks funny, but I feel like it's going to suck. Regardless, I love Steve Carell, and I will be there to support him.

6. The Wackness: Quirky indie stoner comedy that won Sundance's coveted heart this year. Ben Kingsley is a pothead, Juno's Olivia Thirlby gets more adorable and promising by the film, and Nickelodeon mainstay Josh Peck gets a chance to prove his chops.

5. Sex and the City: The Movie: I loved the show, and I'm a woman, so...

4. Wall-E: Pixar can basically do no wrong, and with a script comprised of virtually no dialogue, most of that being only robot sounds, this seems like their most audacious effort yet. And Wall-E is so cute!

3. Pineapple Express: I have high expectations for this Apatow production written by Superbad writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by DAVID GORDON GREEN. Talk about trippy.

2. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Woody Allen's latest film looks gorgeous, sexy, smart, and beyond fascinating. I'm in love with it already. Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Cruz are in top form (when Cruz has a good director, her talent shines), and they even make out, which is incentive for male viewers...and probably was pretty fun for Allen, as well. Oh, and Javier Bardem is officially the hottest leading man around.

1. The Dark Knight: Obviously.

So, there it is. And number five gets crossed off at 12:01 a.m. tonight! What a great start. Wow, I'm on fire.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Going Down

2007 bust Descent (not to be confused with 2005's THE Descent, which I'm sure is an infinitely better movie) stars Rosario Dawson as a college student who gets raped and then plots and exacts revenge on her attacker. It was directed and co-written by Talia Lugacy. So, it seemed promising: a female filmmaker dealing with women's issues, Rosario Dawson getting a chance to act instead of just being pouty and busty, and a controversial premise with the potential to say something powerful and substantial about rape, misogyny, gender roles in society, and what it means to be a woman in general.

Well, Descent says NOTHING, and it takes forever to do so. Lugacy had the floor, and she wasted it. Just because she's a female director, I'm not expecting her to right all of the wrongs committed against women or to make some huge stand in favor of feminism. But come on, say something...anything! I think I know what her stand IS, but from watching the film, there's no way to tell. It's boring, muddled, pretentious nonsense. There's no point to it. Descent is way-too-consciously moody, unnecessarily graphic, and ugly (in appearance and story), and to what end? It seems like it's desperately trying to be edgy, but it doesn't prove or achieve anything. It's certainly not empowering like I believe Lugacy wanted it to be...or like she arrogantly seems to think it is from the few minutes of interview I saw.

As a viewer, but more importantly as a woman, I wasn't moved or affected at all. At least if it offended me or made me angry or shocked me, that'd be something tangible that I could grasp from this experience. Descent is simply too inconsequential to trigger any of those reactions. I saw it well over a month ago, but I forgot it almost instantaneously. It doesn't even have the distinction of being memorably bad. I only remembered because I saw a note I had jotted to write a review of it. Rosario Dawson didn't make an impression on me either. I was rooting for her, but she only has one really good scene. Other than that, she's bland and just about as forgettable as the movie itself.

I wish I could say something more profound, but I've got nothing. "Nothing" is the key word when it comes to this non-movie. Descent is nothing. It's less than nothing. It doesn't deserve a passing thought, much less a viewing.

Rating: Zero stars.

Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona, Penelope, Scarlett, Javier, and Woody

Woody Allen is one of the most talented, prolific, and underrated filmmakers in the history of cinema. He's in his 70s, and he's still making a movie per year. Even if they're not all winners, you have to give him credit for that. His is the epitome of an indomitable spirit. Vicky Cristina Barcelona, however, DOES look like a winner. It's his latest film, and it's gotten great buzz. It just rocked Cannes. Check out this trailer/montage:

Could that look any more awesome? Allen's creativity and constant ability to reinvent himself and his style astounds me. Vicky Cristina Barcelona comes out in late August/early September of this year. I can't wait.

Incidentally, Javier Bardem is ridiculously hot in this movie. I didn't think he could get any more appealing, but there's the evidence. Wow. Scorching. I'm in love.
I mean, more than I was before even.

When Republicans Attack

This video has nothing to do with movies at all, but it's worthy of a post anyway. I think you'll agree. I just love it so much. Bill O'Reilly goes nuts, and we all laugh at him. Enjoy!


The marketing for The Dark Knight continues to amaze me. These official sites should help pass the time until July 18th. They've definitely kept me busy. Well, they've kept me busy enough. I'm still hopelessly excited, and these are just fueling my fire, but that's fine by me.

They're all great and clever and fascinating, but just to guide you, I'm listing them from least interesting or fun to most:

Gotham Police Major Crimes Unit: - Special division of the GCPD, headed by none other than James Gordon.

Gotham Police Department: - Get the DL on the haps of the GCPD.

Clown Travel Agency: - Click on the envelope. Accept an assignment. Get a call from Gary Oldman. Seriously.

Why So Serious: - Want to join the Joker's gang? Prove your loyalty and show your stuff like these creative fans have. It's really inspiring to see so much love and support for Heath Ledger.

Concerned Citizens For A Better Gotham: - Don't like Harvey Dent? Neither do these people. A very committed wesbite for a very anti-Dent group. They have their torches out. Join them, won't you?

I Believe In Harvey Dent: - Sick and tired of real politics? I know I am. What's with the neverending primaries? This is why people become apathetic. Anyway, if you're bored and frustrated with the current tug-of-war being played out in the good ol' US of A, choose Harvey Dent instead. Invest some energy in a fictional politician. Follow his campaign as he seeks the position of Gotham City District Attorney, much to the chagrin of Concerned Citizens For A Better Gotham. I don't like to reveal my bias, but I can't help it - I believe in Harvey Dent. Do you? The best site by far.

Have fun!

Return of the Invisible Woman

Hey, hey, hey! Long time, no blog. I can't believe I haven't posted anything or updated in over ten days. I've missed you all! I'm sorry that I've been out of commission, but the last two weeks were a crazy blur of stress and ridiculously persistent illnesses.

To nutshell it, I was in a ton of pain from a boil (yeah, gross, I know), took antibiotics, and within three days developed a violent allergic reaction to the devil medication. My reaction took the form of a severe rash/hives combo that reduced me to a blotchy, itchy pile of misery for the past fortnight. Seriously, it's still not totally gone. It's cruelly insane. It started because of the medicine allergy, but then it continued because I was monumentally stressed due to my impending graduation (May 18th).

I finished school last December, but Columbia doesn't DO mid-year ceremonies, so I had to wait 6 months. I was really, really nervous about it, as irrational as it may be. I don't like to be the center of attention. So, the rash/hives continued, got worse and worse actually, throughout that whole week. Then, I graduated officially (woo!), and the second I got home from my party that night, I was attacked by a vicious cold-turned-bronchitis, which has kept me gripped in its evil clutches for over a full week now. I'm still crackling/wheezing/coughing/phlegming as I type (pleasant image, huh?). Basically, I've been a wreck.

But, I'm back and mostly recovered. Mostly... *shakes fist at her lungs* Hmm, shaking vigorously might not be such a good idea. Curses! Ahem, anyway... I'm sorry about my absence, but I promise to flood you with posts to make up for it. Also, "She Said, He Said" will be back soon. I'll keep you updated on when. It went on an unintentional hiatus because of all of my issues, so I apologize for that, too.

All that being said, let the blogging begin!

It's good to be back.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dawes for Dent

The marketing for The Dark Knight rocks. I don't think I've ever seen more commitment or creativity in an ad campaign. Here's a video of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) endorsing Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) for Gotham City District Attorney. It's so great. But beyond being awesome and generating even more buzz, this video also proves that we're much better off without Katie Holmes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Feeling the Groove This Time

Hi, my name is Lisa Draski, and I watched a straight-to-DVD Disney sequel. I hang my head in shame.

What was I thinking? I've only watched two of them. The first was the sequel to The Little Mermaid, which I actually BOUGHT right when it came out because I love the original so much. I thought, "It's more of my favorite characters and story - how can it go wrong?" But oh boy, did it go wrong. Very wrong. Since then, I've avoided the sequels like the plague that they are, but when I was making my list of Disney favorites recently, I became intrigued by the existence of Kronk's New Groove, the follow-up to the brilliant The Emperor's New Groove.

There's a sort of reverence surrounding most Disney films, like it's sacrilegious to tamper with them and exploit their purity, magic, and artistry to turn a quick profit and give parents some inconsequential fluff to distract children for a little while. I agree with that sentiment. Oh, I want to clarify that I'm just using "straight-to-DVD" as a blanket term for these sequels; I'm aware that the format has changed and that Disney used to produce their poison on VHS, which was known as "straight-to-video" once upon a time. Anyway, even though The Emperor's New Groove is one of my absolute favorites, it came a lot later than the "classics" and has a more irreverent tone itself, so there wasn't the same choir of angels surrounding it. Plus, I discovered that the entire cast of the first one was back: David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman, and Patrick Warburton. Plus, they added John Mahoney and Tracey Ullman. It sounded awesome. Even if the movie sucked, at least I could still revel in the marvelous voice work of these amazing actors.

Well, the sucking eclipsed the reveling, and there wasn't even much to revel IN. David Spade is in the movie for about two minutes tops, and Eartha Kitt for about ten-ish. That's pitiful. They were my favorite parts of the first one, so that was a huge disappointment. Spade and Kitt are still terrific and funny in their measly roles, and Kitt even gets to belt out a song in a really elaborately staged musical number. She rocks and is a total diva. Unfortunately, the song is lousy, and all the flash in the world can't cover that up. Patrick Warburton is Kronk, and thus the star of this flop. He's a great actor and does consistently outstanding voice work (he's been on Family Guy since the beginning), and he's wonderful here. Kronk is a fantastic sidekick, but he shouldn't be the main character. He's kind of annoying in large doses, even though he's a very endearing, sweet, funny creation. Despite Warburton's best efforts, Kronk cannot carry a movie.

It's a cute enough story. Kronk has gotten away from evil Yzma (Kitt) and is now living out his dream of being a chef. He leads a scout troop, helps the elderly, and is just a really nice person. Everyone loves him, except for his father, at least in Kronk's opinion. His dad, Papi (Mahoney), is coming to visit, expecting to see Kronk's beautiful family and house on the hill, like he had been told. However, this was merely a fabrication to placate Papi, who had always discouraged his son's cooking, domestic skills, and ability to communicate with squirrels. Kronk has only ever wanted to win his father's approval and get the coveted thumbs-up (apparently the highest praise in his family) from Papi. That's why he lied to him.

Through flashback, the movie reveals that Kronk did have a fantastic house on the hill, but he felt guilty because it was bought with dirty money (Yzma tricked him again), so he gave it away to the old folks and made it into a pretty pimp retirement pad for them. Kronk also had a girlfriend, rival scout leader Ms. Birdwell (Ullman), but that got screwed up, too, again due to his selflessness. Kronk asks Pacha (Goodman, good as usual, and he at least has decent screen time) to borrow his wife and children in order to pose for Papi. When Papi arrives, the whole town, including Emperor Kuzco (yay, another few seconds of David Spade!), tries to help because they love Kronk so much. A whole bunch of them pretend to be his wife and kids, complicating matters exponentially. Did I mention that Papi comes to the restaurant where Kronk works as a chef and that all this happens during a big lunch rush? Uh oh! Today's special: trouble.

So, to cut to the chase, chaos ensues, order is promptly restored, Kronk thought he had nothing but realizes that he actually has everything in the love and support of his friends and in the fulfillment he gets from his work and hobbies, Papi is proud and gives the big thumbs-up, Kronk gets the girl back, a bell rings, and Clarence gets his wings. The end.

The story is okay, but the script is miserable. The movie plods along laboriously and tediously, and except for a few moments here and there, it's not funny at all. It tries too hard to be kooky and random, and fails at that. The original made it seem effortless. There's just nothing special about Kronk's New Groove. I cared at times, and it's occasionally enjoyable, but it's mostly bland and unremarkable. Okay, fine, I'll quit the vocabulary exercise and just spit it out - it's bad.

Kronk's New Groove is such a let-down. I only have myself to blame, I guess. I watched two straight-to-DVD Disney sequels. Well, I quit. Fool me once, Disney, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. But Disney keeps cranking them out, so really, shame on you, Disney. Shame, shame, shame.

Seriously, has there EVER been a good straight-to-DVD Disney sequel? I'm just curious.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It Just Keeps Getting Better

I would love to comment on the new trailer for The Dark Knight, but I'm too busy squealing with giddy enthusiasm, hugging myself out of sheer excitement, and exploding from cinematic ecstasy.

Enjoy with me. Let's bask together.

You're Welcome

This is a TV promo for last weekend's Shia LaBeouf-hosted SNL episode. I find it extremely hilarious. It's only ten seconds, so check it out.

I love it. It cracks me up every time.

Andy Samberg will soon realize he's too good for SNL and leave to launch a failed movie career. His digital shorts are little miracles in that comic wasteland. I bet this 10-second Samberg-helmed promo was funnier than the entire 90-minute show. It's funnier than most things on SNL nowadays.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kate!

I want to honor my favorite actress of all time, Katharine Hepburn, by celebrating what would have been her 101st birthday today. Her work and life have meant so much to me. She's my idol. Not only was she immensely talented (the best actress ever, in my opinion), she was also smart, strong, independent, and the ultimate feminist. Women are lucky to have her as a role model. And to young girls: you want someone to look up to? Look up to Katharine Hepburn. Kate's unabashed pride in her gender and her insistence that women are equal to, and perhaps even better than, men are gifts that never stop giving. Tough, determined, and confident, she succeeded in maintaining a career over SIX decades and conquering the male-dominated film industry. She showed the big boys that she wasn't messing around, she didn't take crap from anyone, and she did it all with integrity. Katharine Hepburn is a constant inspiration to me, and I only hope I can be even 1/100th of the woman she was.

Happy birthday, Ms. Hepburn.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bored Game

You know you're in trouble when the opening credits of a film say, "Based upon the Parker Brothers' board game Clue." Board games should not be turned into films. There's a reason that there isn't a board game genre - the idea is LAME. Besides, it would be a bitch to cast Rich Uncle Pennybags.

Clue (1985), a take-off of that delightful-for-about-five-minutes board game, has a huge cult following. That's the biggest mystery that I discovered in my viewing. After seeing it, I'm feeling more than a little suspect. These fans must have been hit upside the head with the wrench a few too many times. Did we watch the same movie?

There are murders aplenty in Clue, but the real terror stems from witnessing a cavalcade of comedic greats (Tim Curry, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, and the late Madeline Kahn) floundering, drowning even, in the painful ineptitude of the script and direction (Hello? Pacing?). There are so many unintentionally awkward silences (A terrible joke every ten minutes? Try to keep up with the whiz-bang speed of Clue!). Sometimes you can sense emotion, see some sort of plot/character development, or find humor in well-executed awkward silences (The Office has that cornered), but here, the silence is cavernously empty. You know the expression "You can cut the tension with a knife"? Well, if you tried to cut the air with the infamous knife (you know, was it the knife in the study, or was it in the observatory?) in any given scene in Clue, you wouldn't encounter one iota of tension or resistance whatsoever. In fact, the vigor of your slicing motion would most likely make the knife fly out of your hand and cause you to face-plant on the floor, possibly on top of the knife, thus stabbing yourself, which would actually be more pleasant and humane than sitting through Clue. My point is: there's nothing there to cut! Wait, scratch that. The whole movie could be axed. Clue is like a black hole of comedy.

The actors ride the clunky joke anvil all the way down, to the very bottom, and it thuds to the ground with seismic intensity every time humor is pitifully attempted. That sound you hear? Jokes falling flat. The noise produced is not unlike that of the blunt force of a lead pipe or candlestick to the skull. Boom. Thud. Clatter. Ugh. The revolver should have been used to shoot the hell out of the ridiculous script, and then turned on every back-up source so that nothing remained. Hmm, I guess I have to incorporate the last weapon. Okay, how's this: After a gag about dog poo bombed not once, not twice, but FOUR times, that rope was looking mighty tempting. Where's the nearest rafter? Ooh, another possibility for the rope would be to use it to tie up someone you really hate and make them watch Clue. What marvelous functionality! Madeline Kahn gives this movie way more than it deserves. However, not even her excellent performance can redeem this atrocity.

I did not view Clue during the phases of life (childhood, adolescence, teenage-ness) in which many people seem to have forged their inexplicable and eternal love for this appalling mess. I've heard people rave about this movie my whole life. Now, at last, I've seen what I haven't been missing. I have no fondness for Clue. It's as dead to me as Mr. Boddy.

I would rather have read the instruction manual to the board game for an hour and a half than watched Clue.

Rating: Zero stars.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's in a Name?

During the course of my recent Disney escapades, I discovered a list of discarded names for the dwarfs in Snow White.

Here's what we could have ended up with as names for these iconic, diamond-mining little men:

Blabby, Jumpy, Shifty, Snoopy, Awful, Bald, Biggo-Ego, Biggy, Biggy-Wiggy, Burpy, Busy, Chesty, Cranky, Daffy, Dippy, Dirty, Dizzy, Doleful, Flabby, Gabby, Gloomy, Goopy, Graceful, Helpful, Hoppy, Hotsy, Hungry, Jaunty, Lazy, Neurtsy, Nifty, Puffy, Sappy, Sneezy-Wheezy, Sniffy, Scrappy, Silly, Soulful, Strutty, Stuffy, Sleazy, Tearful, Thrifty, Tipsy, Titsy, Tubby, Weepy, Wistful, Woeful

Wow. Just take those in for a moment. The names ending in "ful" are terrible. "Bashful" really is the only "ful" adjective that works as a name. They're all appalling in their own special ways, though. Here are my personal favorites (aka the most ridiculous):
  • Awful - Not so catchy.
  • Biggo-Ego - What the...? Why does this sound like a waffle product?
  • Biggy-Wiggy - What does that even mean?
  • Chesty - Was this meant to be a female dwarf?
  • Goopy - What would his defining characteristic have been? Gunk in his eyes?
  • Hoppy/Hopsy - I like to think that the combination of these two rejects was Preston Sturges' inspiration for the character of Charles "Hopsie" Pike in The Lady Eve.
  • Neurtsy - Huh? Yeah, that's something you want to hear from your kids. "Mom, get me the Neurtsy doll!"
  • Soulful - He would have been the Barry White of dwarfs.
  • Titsy - Enough said.
  • Woeful - The thesaurus is not always thy friend.

Suddenly, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, and Dopey don't sound so lame. In fact, they sound perfect.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I Believe in Harvey Dent

Oh, I really, really do.

The Best Tap Dancing Ever Captured on Film

Yeah, what the title of the post says... Actually, this might be the best tap dancing in the history of tap dancing. It's certainly got my vote. I just can't conceive of anything better.

This is the very famous sequence of Cole Porter's "Beguin the Beguine" from Broadway Melody of 1940, starring Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell. It's an extremely lavish number, and quite long, so if you're impatient, Fred and Eleanor dance twice together, at the 2:30 mark and again at the 6:45 mark. And if you're really, really impatient, the best part is the bit that begins at the 6:45 mark. That's the real show-stopper, the legendary tap dancing that everyone talks about (or if they don't, they should). But seriously, watch the whole thing and contextualize. It won't hurt you.

I bought the DVD just for this dancing. I haven't even watched the whole film yet. But if it sucks, the dancing is more than worth what I paid. I had to have it. I'm so in love with what Astaire and Powell do.

Oh, and fun fact: "Begin the Beguine" is mentioned in The Little Mermaid's own show-stopper, "Under the Sea." I never quite knew what Sebastian was saying in this one line, but it finally clicked: "When the sardine begin the beguine, it's music to me." Excellent. I adore Howard Ashman and Alan Menken even more for this obvious Astaire/Powell shout-out.

Remember, the magic number is 6:45. Are you ready?

This will blow your minds.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Apatow Amnesia

Judd Apatow continues to make good on his "No Penis Left Behind" promise (if only our government was as ardent) with his latest flick, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This time, though, the penis belongs to the star, Jason Segel, and it's on display much more prominently than in any of Apatow's other films. Segel's penis receives about 25-30 solid seconds of screen time. What's especially interesting is that Segel wrote the script, so he penned his own penis into the film. I definitely respect his courage. I'm not bothered by the plethora of penises in Apatow's work; in fact, I'm rather amused at his insistence on shoving male genitalia in America's collective face. But the gag is growing stale, and I know that Apatow is an intelligent man, and I'm thinking that he can make us a more worthwhile promise than this one. Just off the top of my head - maybe he can promise to stop making his films too long.

Yes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall maintains the Apatow tradition of overstaying its welcome. With the exception of Superbad, which I think is perfect, all of his films would have benefited from a more liberal hand in the editing room. I thought Knocked Up was the worst offender...that is, until I saw Sarah Marshall and the time seemed to drag on forever. It felt excruciatingly long. I was super antsy watching it. An hour and fifty-two minutes isn't even terribly long. The running time itself isn't necessarily the problem. Billy Wilder made many outstanding comedies that run well over two hours, but his pacing is spot-on, and the duration is proportionate to the story being told. In other words, they shouldn't be one second shorter. Apatow has not figured out how to balance story with running time. He doesn't know when to say when. More is not always better, and it certainly isn't with Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

You've all seen the billboards and trailers, so I'll be brief with my plot description. Jason Segel is Peter Bretter, a musician/composer who writes the music for his girlfriend Sarah Marshall's TV show Crime Scene (a delightful parody of all those intolerable CSIs and Law and Orders clogging the airwaves). Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) is a big star. Peter is a self-loathing mess. She breaks up with him, he takes it badly, has lots of meaningless sex, decides that the sex isn't helping, and is convinced by his brother Brian (Bill Hader) to take a trip to Hawaii. Of course, Sarah Marshall and her new beau, a ridiculous specimen of a rock star named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), are there. Peter freaks out, but he gains the sympathy and affection of Rachel (Mila Kunis), the girl who works the front desk at the hotel that both Peter and Sarah are staying at. Let the games begin.

Unfortunately, the games aren't that much fun. I felt like I saw all the best bits in the trailer, and the rest wasn't terribly impressive. I enjoyed myself for the most part (except near the end, when I wanted to gnaw my arm off from boredom - seriously, I thought it was going to end about five different times), but it's too formulaic and predictable. I defended Judd Apatow against claims of misogyny in another post. I'm happy to say that the depiction of the women in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, specifically Sarah and Rachel, is about as far from misogynistic as possible. Actually, they come off far better than the men. Peter and Aldous are idiots. What I think people who fling accusations of misogyny around fail to realize is that there's a danger in going too far the other way. Of course, it's horrible to show women as nothing but sexist caricatures, but are all women supposed to be saintly paradigms then? That's equally one-dimensional and harmful. Real women have flaws. Sarah and Rachel certainly do. However, they're extremely well-developed and three-dimensional, and those flaws are part of who they are. Having flaws and weaknesses doesn't make them targets of misogyny - it just makes them stronger, more realistic, and human. I love Sarah and Rachel. They're empowering because they have their own minds and make their own decisions in life, even if we perceive those decisions to be mistakes. Sarah and Rachel are interesting, extremely sympathetic (the male characters aren't at all to me), and they refuse to be ruled by men. I think they're great examples of womanhood. On charges of misogyny in the case of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I hereby find Judd Apatow acquitted.

That being said, the film is guilty of not being very good. It seriously lagged at points, and I occasionally found myself just plain bored. I only laughed out loud maybe twice. The rest of the time, I was waiting for it to be funny. It is, after all, a comedy, n'est-ce pas? My main problem with the film is Jason Segel. He's not capable of carrying an entire movie. This is the first time I've seen him extensively (I know lots of people have preexisting attachments because of Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother), but I looked at him objectively, and I was unimpressed. He's not a good actor. I mean, he's okay, but I didn't see any depth or discernible character arc. He was just as obnoxious to me at the end as he was at the beginning. In all of Apatow's other films, the Everyman is socially challenged, average-looking to fat, or a loser, but they're all eventually likeable. Actually, I think they're instantly likeable and identifiable. Peter is not a likeable character. In fact, I kind of hate him. He never emerges from his pit of despair and self-loathing long enough to become a real boy. He's pathetic in a totally non-endearing way. Segel may have done a decent job writing, but he sure botches the acting. He is NOT ready for his close-up, Mr. Apatow.

That leads to another huge flaw - it's totally inconceivable that two intelligent, independent, strong-willed women would be fighting over Peter. It doesn't matter that he's not Brad Pitt. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever! He spends the entire film as either a shallow jerk or a self-pitying, unambitious loser. Ooh, line up, ladies. I don't get what Sarah and Rachel see in him, and Segel never helps us get it. Oh, okay, Peter's big dream is to make a Dracula puppet musical. Whoopee. It's fun for a little while, but it feels really self-indulgent on Segel's part and totally insincere in the context of the film. Well, I guess it's about as insincere as everything else Peter is or does. The Dracula business quickly turns from cute to cloying, and my major issue with it is that it just doesn't seem terribly motivated by the story or the character. It rings false for me. What do we really know about Peter that would make it at all plausible for him to do this? Well, I suppose we know everything about him - there's simply not much there to know, and certainly nothing to justify this scenario. Is the puppet musical something that Peter wants to do, or is it something that Jason Segel wants to do? It appears to be the latter, as Segel is now in talks to make a Muppet movie. The Dracula bit screams, "Look at me, I'm Jason Segel. I'm so kooky and clever. Isn't my self-deprecation adorable?" Um, no, it isn't. Sorry, Jason. While the whiny, selfish tone of the musical fits the character perfectly, I still don't believe that it's something he would do. I don't buy it. Even if I did buy it, which I emphatically don't, he's too unlikeable of a character to pull off the potential quirky-sweet charm of such a bizarre project. Thus, the overall result is grating. And if this production is the culmination of all of Peter's efforts in life, that's really sad. Even Peter's minimal aspirations are lame and unsatisfying. Blechh. Peter is such a lousy, despicable character.

There is some great acting in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, though. Everyone is over the moon about Mila Kunis because she's not playing Jackie from That '70s Show. Well, I am glad to see her doing something else, and she IS wonderful here, but the real female stand-out for me is Kristen Bell as Sarah Marshall herself. Maybe that's some of my own bias creeping in, because I love Bell on Veronica Mars. Sarah Marshall is actually my favorite character. Bell makes her extremely complex and empathetic. She definitively negates those stupid Sarah Marshall ads by making Sarah a completely-realized human being. Bell even proves that she's an adept comedian. Her performance is all-around outstanding, but she's total dynamite when Sarah tells Peter why she broke up with him. She's fierce and vulnerable at the same time. I love Kristen Bell. I wish the whole movie had been about Sarah Marshall.

I have no love at all for Jack McBrayer or the annoying subplot surrounding his sexually-inexperienced character on a honeymoon with his freaky wife, but there's some decent supporting work by Hader, Jonah Hill as a waiter/stalker, and Paul Rudd as a perpetually stoned surfer. However, the breakout star of this film is Russell Brand as cocky, pretentious philanthropist/rocker Aldous Snow. I have no idea where he came from, but he's hilarious. When the film was flatlining, he was like a much-needed comic defibrillator.

I know I sound really cranky, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall seriously is a good film, with sporadic instances of greatness. It's seldom hysterically funny, but it's consistently passably funny. Segel's script is generally fresh and insightful, though majorly flawed. I applaud his efforts to try to make something different, and he does achieve some rare moments of poignancy and even brilliance. Nicholas Stoller (who?), the director, is a non-presence. Besides, we all know it's an Apatow film, so Stoller doesn't matter. It's sad, but true. Apatow does a fine job of directing when he chooses to do so, but when he's not doing it, the directors of his films are essentially anonymous. Actually, the directing in Apatow's films is pretty anonymous itself. Granted, it's not the attraction, but would it hurt to jazz it up a little? The directing has never been revolutionary, special, or even noticeable. There's no style. I can't wait to see how an Apatow vehicle fares with a real, acclaimed, renowned, stylistically distinctive director at the helm, namely indie auteur David Gordon Green with Pineapple Express.

Anyway, I honestly did like Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the most part. I just wanted to love it. I guess I'm being so harsh because I'm disappointed in Apatow and Company. Sure, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is much better than most of the junk out there, but I'm worried that Judd Apatow is getting too comfortable. The rest of his significant works (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad) have been near perfect or, in the case of Superbad, perfect. Forgetting Sarah Marshall marks a considerable decline in Apatowian quality. There's the trademark humiliation factor, but not the usual heart that goes with it. It's simply not up to par. He's capable of more than this. Obviously, everything Apatow touches doesn't have to be a masterpiece. Even Hitchcock wasn't infallible. But Forgetting Sarah Marshall doesn't seem like it's trying very hard, and yet critics are fawning all over it simply because of Apatow's name. I think he needs a hearty dose of tough love. He's been doing this for awhile now, and just being "better" than the rest of the Hollywood trash isn't good enough at this point in his career. Aim higher. And for crying out loud, EDIT!

Ultimately, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is regrettably forgettable.

Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)