Wednesday, July 12, 2006

At The Movies

So the thought occurs to me that Snakes On A Plane mania will continue only until the film actually opens, at which point people will realize that regardless of Samuel L. Jackson's unquestioned charisma the film is still essentially something you'd expect to find on the Sci-Fi channel at two in the morning starring Mario van Peebles and Patrick Duffy. I mean, sure, the hipster cache is pretty strong at this point, but how many of the people championing the movie are actually going to like it when it comes out? I mean, seriously? Let's be honest here. The movie started life as a straight-forward action movie screenplay, so any self-aware irony will only have been added after the fact (i.e. the addition of Jackson's "motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane" line), so I am extremely doubtful that it will be the ironic yuk-fest the hipsteratti is expecting. Just a hunch.

For reasons which are still slightly mysterious even to me, I saw The Lake House in the theater last week. Sure enough, it was just as good as I was hoping: that is, not in the least. It was a horrible, horrible movie and it was good for little more than laughing uproariously throughout. The other patrons, most of whom seemed to be authentically interested in the action onscreen, thankfully did not sic an usher on us.

You have to wonder why someone like Christopher Plummer would do a movie like this. Sandra Bullock I can understand: she's been on a slow slide from the A-list for many years now. Keanu? Well, he's one of the biggest actors on the planet and he really doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to, so you have to figure he lost a bar bet or something. Although he gets a lot of flack I think he's a pretty canny performer (when he's got good material), one of those rare actors who knows how to cede attention to the actors around him, which is one of the reasons he is at his best in ensemble films such as My Own Private Idaho. Sometimes he underplays a role to the point of absurdity, but he's a lot smarter than many give him credit for. Plus, he was in Johnny Mnemonic, so he is forever enshrined in the pantheon of cinema gods.

In any event, however, The Lake House was a great example of a weird phenomenon that you come across every so often and which never fails to bug me: a science-fiction / speculative fiction plot being handled by people who obviously have absolutely no familiarity with the genre. The concept of the movie -- a mailbox which sends letters two years into either the past or the future, depending on when you are -- is actually pretty decent. But the idea, such as it is, is stuck in a bad romantic movie, and the screenwriters have obviously given very little thought as to how such a device would actually work. This is extremely obvious in the fact that I was seriously confused at many points during the film about just what was happening, and when. I try to assume that I am not especially dim, but if I had trouble following the film, what about Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public? Then again, I thought "Rock of Ages" was perfectly straightforward, and I was the only person in my college class who didn't have a problem with the narrative line in Eliot's "The Wasteland", so what do I know?

Time travel is tricky business, and even a moron knows that if you change the past you change the present as well. So if Sandra Bullock changes the past to ensure that Keanu Reeve's doesn't get hit by a bus, how is it that she still remembers he almost got hit by a bus? How is this paradox resolved? In later seasons of the various Star Trek spin-offs, I remember they established that every time someone messed with time, the time police from the 29th century had to show up to fix it. It was perhaps not the most elegant solution, but it at least kept people from scratching their heads overly much. At the end of The Lake House I was rooting for the time police to commit some serious brutality on Sandra Bullock, or at the very least for the Time Bandits to fall through the ceiling clutching their map of the universe. That, at least, would have made some sense.

But as it is I can't really be disappointed because I got exactly what I paid for: a horrible, horrible movie that was perfectly good fun for the duration of its running time. If it had actually been any good, then I would have been really upset.

The film did have one great line, however:

"What, did you have clowns for breakfast?"

Don't worry, it doesn't make any more sense in the context of the movie. Great line, however. It should be the next viral internet catchphrase. Go forth and make it so, my minions.

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