Thursday, November 20, 2008

Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties

Last Friday, I babysat for one of my regular families. I ate pizza with the boys, got them in their pajamas, and settled down to watch the movie. I picked up the box, and was horrified to see the film was Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.

I have done my best to avoid the Garfield films, since, the film looked worse then the comic has been recently (side note, to see how Garfield could be great, see It hasn't been hard to avoid, nobody in my household felt any urge to see it, except my sister, who saw it only because a friend wanted to go. To add to this, it was a sequel, so any cliched lasagna/napping/Monday related jokes which had already been used in the first, would be even more repetitive than the 30 years of lasagna/napping/Mondays. 

The cliched jokes, and cliched plot (two identical people get switched, but then find a very very good reason for wanting their own places back), were not the biggest problems with the plot. The biggest problem is with Garfield himself. 

I've recently been reading a screenwriting book called Save the Cat. The strange title comes from the author's assertion that all movies should have a save the cat moments. This is a scene, early on in a movie, where the hero does something good. Despite any flaws the character might have to work out, it establishes that deep down, he has a little good. This makes the audience want to follow the character through the movie. Garfield has no save the cat moment.  In the beginning, Garfield is fat, lazy, and a jerk. Even when he becomes a (very slightly) better cat later in the film, I didn't believe his change, and more importantly, I didn't care.

What makes this all worse, is the fact the fat cat was voiced by Bill Murray. I have nothing against Murray for taking the role, while he's been in great films like Caddyshack and Ghost Busters, he has to pay his bills somehow. My problem is this, Murray has made his career making unlikeable characters funny, and if not likable, at least entertaining. The grating antics of Garfield became even more so, knowing that Murray was behind it.

One of the better parts of babysitting is the very essence of the job. You're paid to hang out with kids (who are usually pretty nice, and if  they aren't, you don't have to babysit for them again), watching TV, and hoping nobody chokes. This also encompasses some of the worst parts of the job. Every now and again, the kids will be brats, the food is disgusting, and there's nothing good on. Or sometimes, you have to watch Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. Hey, at least the pay's good. 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Over the Hedge

I watched Over the Hedge tonight. I'd love to divulge into the quality of the film, the stale jokes, the thin characters, the film maker's obsession with their "atomic bomb" effect that suggested that the animators just figured out how to do it, and wanted to use it as much as possible, or how looking at the play-mobile forest animals was more fascinating than watching the actual film.

But, I'm getting a little tired and I still have some homework to do, so I'll just cut it short. While watching a good film, you can enjoy their quality, while watching a bad film, you can revel in the odd minor masochistic pleasure they give. Sadly, middling films can only rot in their own mediocrity. Over the Hedge is one of these films, and isn't worth 83 minutes of your life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

George of the Jungle

School has started again, and along with massive amounts of homework, come opprotunities to learn (or something, this is the public school system), hang out with friends, and most importantly (for this blog at least), babysit. There are back to school nights, parent teacher comfrence, and the endearingly vauge "school events". With these jobs come more last minute trips to Blockbuster (or picks from the online Netflix) for crummy kids movies, and with that come these blog entries. Tonight's film was George of the Jungle.

It's been years since I've watched George of the Jungle, the 1997 live-action adaption of the 1960's cartoon. I know that we own the VHS, and I remember watching at home. Since I was about seven at the time, I quickly was distracted, and moved on to the newest Disney/Pixar movie or whatever was new on our shelves.

That being said, I had extremely fond memories of the film. The swahili-speaking guides were a particular favorite. Lines like "Bad guy falls in poop, classic element of physical comedy", with their combination of meta awareness and bodily humer, can not fail to amuse grade school kids. And particularly immature babysitters. Lyle's (the villian, played by Thomas Hayden Church) attempt to speak Swahilli also still amused. However, rewatching the film was an overall disappointment.

The acting, especially Fraiser's title role, are played over top to the point that they are grating, and every second joke has to do with bodily functions or crotch shots. As the film went on, it got more flat and annoying. The roles became stale and the time just seemed to drag.

If you watched this film in your childhood, let it stay there where only the better jokes remain. If you have never watched it, let it stay unwatched.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Hiatus, sort of

Hey, sorry I haven't been able to post for awhile, but as it has been summer, I'm getting fewer babysitting jobs. This makes all sorts of sense, because one of the mothers I baby sit for is a teacher, and therefor, can be with her kids more during the summer, and the other family is home schooled, and now it is the summer, and the kids can go over to friends houses more giving their mom a break.

Sadly, this leaves me noting to do, and no source of cash, which explains why I've spent my summer watching The Price is Right and googling myself. This makes things even worse, because I have an extremely generic name, and haven't done much.

Apparently, I share my name with a marine biologist, an actress, and a character from Buffy the Vampire slayer and Angel, all of whom have done many more interesting things than I have. The only way I can find myself in the mass is to type in the name of my hometown along with my name. Even then, the only things I find are a few random letters to my local paper, and a club I was in in 8th grade.

What did I learn from this? Apparently, I have a really good porn star name.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

High School Musical

There isn't much left to say about High School Musical. The film was a gigantic hit when it first came out, prompting mass merchandising, a sequel, a stage version, and another upcoming sequel to be released in actual theaters. There are hordes screaming fans to purchase all this paraphernalia and keep the trends going, and many have wondered why this particular film is so popular with teens. Here's why: It isn't.

High School Musical is not especially popular with teens. Many of us can't stand it. The film is much more popular with nine to thirteen year olds, also known as tweens. Now a little bit of clarification, in case my thirteen year old sister reads this, someone in this age range is not necessarily a tween and you do not have to be in this age range to be a tween. This is simply a term used for those who are so desperate to be a teen soon that they buzz around Disney channel shows (Hannah Montana, High School Musical, etc.) and pretend they know about high school. Tweens are not bad people, a couple are downright pleasant, although after extended exposure they can get annoying.

In the presence of these people, I got to view High School Musical, or HSM, twice (this is twice more than I would suggest for anyone to watch it). The first time was at the house of close friend from church. She's younger than me, so then she couldn't quite be home alone, but we hang out with the same group, and so the job was really more like getting payed to hang out, usually. She had just bought the DVD an CD of HSM. I'd heard of it, but never seen it, so I decided what the heck. Turns out my friend was a bigger fan than I had thought, and throughout the film, she sang along with every number. After a long time, the film was over, and she went to bed. As I read my book, I wondered what she saw in it.

The film itself is extremely formulaic. Two teens meet outside of school, and a spark is felt when they sing karaoke. Then, later, the basketball star, Troy, and the nerd Gabriella, realize that they are at the same school. They both are stuck in their stereotypes, but attempt to break them by starring in the big school musical. However, the school's spoiled brat and her pink obsessed, wussy theater loving brother attempt to take them down. Good wins out in the end and everyone learns that it's not good to just "stick to the status-quo" with some help from the science and basketball teams.

This is a nice neat little message, but the only problem is that the film actually reinforces stereotypes. The villain is the spoiled-always gets what she wants character from every teen movie ever, the geek table is amazed to learn that one of their members likes dancing better than homework, and the theater loving brother is automatically played as a gay character (okay, they don't go out and say it, because this is Disney after all, but it's there all right). The songs are annoying, and the actors are nothing special. After that night I'd have been happy to have never seen the film again.

A while after that I was asked to see the film again when babysitting two boys down the street who were curious what all the fuss was about. They enjoyed the film, although did not become rabid fans. I thought I was rid of High School Musical, but you never really can be rid of it.

Every summer, our church youth group visits the local 6 Flags amusement park. When we all sat down to lunch on our latest trip, Radio Disney had set up a station by the food court. The speaker system was blaring out tunes from HSM and cheery dancers were reenacting numbers from the film. A couple girls from our group sung along or volunteered to be participants in games. The annoying, yet catchy, tunes then permanently lodged themselves in my head, never again to be silent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Spring Training Charlie Brown

Growing up, I had a Peanuts book. It was mine, and nobody else's, which, when you're small is a great source of pride, even if you can't read it too well. I remember that it was pink or orange with Snoopy and flowers on the cover.  In fact, to this day, I still love Peanuts. I fell that Charles Shultz was a genius and am ardent that the strips should be reprinted in papers until the end of time.

That being said, all copies of It's Spring Training Charlie Brown should be destroyed. The film was written by Shultz, but it has none of the charm, philosophy or humor of the actual strip. In the film, it is the beginning of the baseball season for Charlie Brown's team. They are their usual uncoordinated selves while getting ready for the new season. Some random new character called Leland, a little boy, who seems to be Freida's little brother, who is too small to tie his shoe, wants to join their team. Charlie Brown mocks him cruelly, and then lets him be on the team.

The team wants uniforms, claiming they'll play better with them, and so Charlie Brown tries to deliver. He finds a local store owner, who will buy them uniforms, but first, they have to win their opening game. Oddly enough they are able to win with Leland's help. They get their uniforms, and then promptly lose the next game. This allows them to have two heavy handed cliched morals, it doesn't matter what you wear it's how you play the game, and it doesn't matter if you're big or small, you can still make a difference. These are both good morals, but they are dealt with such seriousness, they are hard to stomach.

Charlie Brown's team actually winning an important game is like giving the Trix Rabbit cereal, you always hope for it for them, but in the end it feels extremely wrong. The whole film has the same unnatural feel. The characters' usual wit and appeal has been sucked right out of them, and they seem like tired cliches. The film, created in 1992, replaced the iconic Peanuts soundtrack, ranging from dreamer sounds like the catch Christmastime to Beethoven, in the background with a rap-like sound which doesn't really fit. This leads to one of the worst moments in the film. It turns out that instead of singing the "National Anthem", the characters do the hokey-pokey, and then, Franklin raps. The rap is something about being the invincible team that never loses (although their record says otherwise) and winning is what it's all about.

This film takes all the joy, humor, and charisma out of a classic comic strip, and I hope that no one out there has the misfortune to watch it.

The Babysitter