Well, pretty much what I do anyway, except I did it four nites in a row in a desperate attempt to keep from having heat stroke. It’s been running 90 – 93 degrees here in central Florida—way too warm, way too early. By late in the afternoon my house is sweltering and it doesn’t start to get temperate until after midnight.
So I went to the movies and enjoyed the air-conditioning along with the flicks. The chilled air was at least more predictable than the films. On consecutive nites I saw: The D-Train, Hot Pursuit, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Little Boy.
The D-Train was an interesting if internally conflicted movie. It seemed to be trying to make a redemptive statement about being one’s self, but mostly it succeeded as an appalling assessment of fame and how low our society’s morality has fallen. The always entertaining Jack Black plays a middle-class nerd and self-appointed chairman of a committee trying to organize his 20th high school reunion. The response has not been good to the letters and phone calls to his classmates. He serendipitously sees a Banana Boat suntan lotion TV commercial in which a former classmate is the hunky spokesman—played by the impossibly handsome James Marsden—and decides that if this D-list celebrity attended then every classmate would want to be there too. He cons his boss into a bogus business trip to LA to track down and get his commitment to attend. . .and then the fun begins.
The following night I went to see Hot Pursuit. It had not gotten good reviews but I was doing the best I could to avoid the Avengers super-hero sequel. I’d seen the previews and they were at least moderately funny, and it did star two of my favorite babes, Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. Reese plays an eager-beaver redneck Texas deputy given the assignment of escorting a Colombian drug lord’s wife into a witness protection program. There are a few funny scenes but they lose their comedic impact when immersed in a sea of uncomfortably racist stereotypes about Latinos and rednecks. Vergara, who was one of the films producers, plays a caricature of her screen persona, and Witherspoon, who is a truly fine actress, waaay overplays her role as the obnoxiously by-the-book deputy—who spews cop-talk as in “copy that 1020” and other assorted nonsense.
As miserable as Pursuit was, it was still one star better than Avengers. Anyway, Monday nite it was still sweltering, and so I had to get out of the house for at least a couple hours. The Avengers movie had gotten generally favorable reviews and I thought perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad as the last super-hero movie I’d seen several years before. And it did have a heavyweight cast—Robert Downey and Scarlett Johansson are two of my faves—and a huge supporting cast of big-names in more-or-less extended cameos.
Well, after an hour and fifteen minutes of loud noises and pointless, over-the-top “action” I couldn’t stand it any longer and I left. The phrase “movies for morons” kept running thru my mind. It made me wonder about the so-called critics who give three stars and up for little more than special effects. If Avengers had any plot it was no more than to serve as a platform for one bloated action scene after another.
These are the same critics who will slam any film with a vaguely Christian theme—such as Little Boy the movie I saw the following nite. The little boy of the film is 8-y.o Pepper—small even for his age. It’s set in a tiny California coastal village during WWII.
Pepper’s dad gets drafted into the army. A comic book hero and stage performer, Ben Eagle, convinces Pepper that he can use his mental powers to end the war and bring his dad safely home. The movie is a bit of schmaltz that attempts to invoke nostalgia for the era—and it does that reasonably well. The film has better production values than your average “Christian” movie and solid performances by Tom Wilkinson as the local priest and Emily Watson as Pepper’s mother lends the film some dignity.
It over-reaches more than a bit in themes. There are echoes of the Karate Kid when Pepper reluctantly befriends Hashimoto a local Japanese man who has been released from an internment camp. Along with the power-of-faith theme provided by the magician and the priest, Hashimoto teaches him the way of the Samurai. So we have the fakery of the magician/mentalist, Father Oliver teaching him that one activates supernatural power by following the directives of Jesus from Matthew 25:35-36 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, etc.—and Hashimoto teaching him the way of the warrior—the message gets a bit muddled.
Still, I found it an enjoyable and worthwhile film that deserved a better fate than the trashing it got from secular critics. It opened over a month ago but played widely for only one week. Locally, it is still just showing on one or two screens.
The movie is directed by Alejandro Monteverde and written by the director and Pepe Portillo, and most of the production crew is Mexican—which struck me as odd because other than Eduardo Verastegui there appear to be no Latino actors in the film. A Baja California locale filled in for a northern California coastal hamlet.
The critics generally applauded it only for portraying the racism directed toward Hashimoto. And, of course, there is an enormous intended irony in the title. “Little Boy” was the code name for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and so the hero’s title does in effect win the war.