Friday, June 13, 2008

Quick-Shot Movie Reviews

Madea Goes To Jail: Tyler Perry's plays always feel like two very different stories fighting for control of the screen/stage. On the one hand, Madea is a very amusing character, and her antics provide plenty of comedic moments; on the other hand, there's this whole layer of obnoxious Christian proselytizing and saccharine melodrama that you're apparently meant to take quite seriously. It's a schism that's impossible to reconcile, because the tone of the Madea scenes is very light and entertaining and then you're brought down to baby-mama-drama and accepting Jesus' love. The end result, for me, was much like "Diary of a Mad Black Woman": fast-forwarding through most of the movie looking for the funny parts (read: Madea's scenes).

Corrina, Corrina: One of the less interesting Whoopi Saves The Day films, part of a whole sub-genre where Whoopi Goldberg plays a wise-cracking outsider who enters a hopeless situation and turns it around for everyone, like a '90s version of Mary Poppins. I'll admit I have a soft spot for "Sister Act" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash", but "Corrina, Corrina" doesn't quite do it for me: Goldberg's performance is too sedate, the other characters are dull, the story takes a last-minute leap into romantic territory that would've been better left unexplored. And you wouldn't know it from "Veronica Mars", but Tina Majorino was one scary-looking moppet. Brr.

Pump Up The Volume: This would've fit in nicely when I did that "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"/"Dangerous Minds" comparative review, because it's an interesting middle point in the continuum. Thematically, the conflict is still between teenagers and an actively oppressive authority, as it was in "Ferris Bueller", but that movie was about individual rebellion. "Pump Up The Volume" prefigures "Dangerous Minds" by making that rebellion a collective experience, and we're still years away from bringing any ethnic context into the mix - it's still very much the white suburban middle-class kids who declare war. On that level, though, on the brink of the shift where unity becomes fragmentation and The Enemy becomes other teens, this film does the job well.

The Conrad Boys/Shelter: Broadly speaking, these movies both tell the same story, which is why I'm reviewing them together: a teenager has been saddled with heavy responsibility and has to choose between obligation and love. Of the two, I think "The Conrad Boys" did a better job with the story because it's more complex - appearances can (and do) deceive, Charlie's options aren't quite what he thinks they are, and most importantly, the choice is precisely that: a choice. By picking one, Charlie forfeits the other, and that's good drama. "Shelter" falters in this sense because not only is Zach's dilemma external (someone else is forcing him to choose), he ultimately walks away with everything he wanted. For obvious reasons, that's a less-compelling take on the story.