Dec

13

Funny Films, from Marion Dreyfus

December 13, 2010 |


YOGI BEAR 3D

Directed by Eric Brevig With Anna Faris, T.J. Miller,Tom Cavanagh, Nathan Corddry, Andrew Daly, Dean Knowsley

Though we personally know Tom Cavanagh (Ranger Smith), a handsome and dashing neighbor, this film is not so much for children fond of the beloved child icon as it serves to reinforce the annoyed suspicions of disgruntled adults. It features a lovably larcenous food-obsessed Yogi Bear (voiced by the amusingly gruff Dan Aykroyd, whom we have also met, a charming, gallant Canadian) and his short, faithful sidekick-wingman, er, wingbear, Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake).

The bears and rangers exchange volleys and jibes in Jellystone Park, where a bad man, the man-who-would-be-governor, Mayor Brown (Andrew Daley) and his unctuous chief of staff (Nate Corddry) try to sell the hapless and underperforming park to agri interests for mucho dinero to bail out their bankruptcy, though the principals are shocked at such a terrible and unwarranted act of perfidy. The film, lensed in New Zealand (though the car licenses all read Montana), features a peculiar though not unacceptable mix of cartoonlike human-sized man-made 'animals' alongside the winsome humans. Nefarious politicians scheme to sell the park. Rangers Smith and Jones (T.J. Miller), love interest swee' pea Rachel the filmmaker and forest polymath (Anna Faris) and picnic-basket-craving Yogi and sidekick all desperately fight to ward off the clear-cut disaster that awaits their beloved park if it is sold off.

The majority of the 90 minutes teaches unethical and seamy values, only latterly wrapped up in OK and per-the-rules because the filmmakers know it ain't cool to let bad guys and bad messages win out in children's films. After all is wrapped up, it's not clear whether kids will go off siding with the contraption-happy pie-stealing Yogi, or with golden-hearted forest ranger Smith, tongue-tied when confronted with a pretty woman, but decency running through his every stalwart sinew.

 How Do You Know

Directed by James L. Brooks

With Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Andrew Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Dean Norris, Shelley Conn, Brian O'Halloran, Mark Linn-Baker, Tara Subkoff

Is there a cuter presence than Reese Witherspoon in all the movie world? Owen Wilson, a dastardly serial polygamist sport figure, here, is also cute and impossible to dislike, even as a hopelessly Clintonesque cad, as he is here. Paul Rudd, adorable too, as he has been in everything from CLUELESS to the annoying THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, is impossible not to like, too–though Brooks gives you no reason to dislike him, as a schlemiel who has little luck but deserves a better fate, and father, than the one he gets here. Dad Jack Nicholson, also adorable, is alas not at all an admirable dishonorable mogul who would rather sell his son down the jail-route river than get himself in Dutch with the Feds. These four do a zesty and nimble pas de quatre worthy of the Rockettes; loads of laugh lines and fresh takes on this Shakespearian switch-up of dosie-do's and many dosie don'ts. HDYK is not a heavy-carb holiday dessert two hours in the Odeon.

 TANGLED

Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

According to the Hollywood Reporter, animated movies have had a tremendous impact on the 2010 box office. Four of the year's top 10 grossers—TOY STORY 3, DESPICABLE ME, SHREK FOREVER AFTER and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON– are animated, and then there's TANGLED, which topped the Thanksgiving weekend's chart, and continues strong, while big-ticket vehicles for such as Depp and Jolie falter in the middling teens. MEGAMINDS, another animated feature along the lines of reformed bad-boy protagonists happily-ever-aftering, recalls DESPICABLE ME in a number of aspects, but its script and concept are both fresh and fully engrossing to both adults and (most) children. TANGLED features brilliant colorations, vivid story—a retelling and modernization of Rapunzel—it is an enthralling and charming entertainment, featuring an evil 'mother,' a strong heroine who is not afraid to use her wits as well as her hair, and a smoldering though often-jerky roué on a spirited steed who almost steals the show. For those who unaccountably missed the first through fourth grades, the long-haired Princess Rapunzel has spent her entire life locked in a tower, here because she confers eternal youth on her abductor parent. When she falls in love with a passing rapscallion she risks the trauma of the downstairs outside world for the first time to re-locate this cocky and oblivious brigand. Many witty passages, and risible enjoyment for all.

 LE PETIT NICHOLAS

Directed by Laurent Tirard With Maxime Godart, Valérie Lemercier, Kad Merad

Sweeter and gentler than all the American snark above, however, is the adorable live tale of a young French fellow of some 6 or 7 years. The young hero has a carefree existence, parents who doter on him, a great cache of copains with whom he enjoys enormous mischief and lark. All he desperately wants is that nothing change. Learning that Tom Thumb's parents abandoned him in the woods, and imagining his mother pregnant (he has only sketchy notions of what pregnancy constitutes, from lads equally ignorant), beatific Nicholas, in a panic, schemes hilariously with his mischievous school chums—rich, sleepy, favored, spoilt, daft—to get rid of the brother who has not only not been born yet, he has yet to be conceived. Laughter rolls from the moment the film opens, and the Paris of some 30 years ago unrolls in constant hilarity and delicate amusement. What a delight: No CGI. No stuntmen. No heavy-handed erotic nuances. Just imaginative and frolicsome writing, marvelous direction, unexpected dénouements and extraordinary ensemble performances from tiny tykes and established comic talents cherished in France. Moreover, we remember the pedagogy of the past here, as visions of how education in Parisian arrondissements differs so markedly from its partner parallels in the United States. The film is a magnum flute of the best champagne after a satisfying repast in a four-star French inn.

In French, English subtitles.


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