When it comes to movies, stupid is as stupid watches. Unless you’re getting paid to watch stupid movies. Which I’m not. I guess that makes me doubly stupid.
I certainly feel that after catching two of the new releases opening in the Twin Cities this Friday, but at least both movies offer the opportunity to examine the diverting multiplicity of Hollywood stupidity. (Note: Mark Rosen, in his movie preview segment Thursday night, wisely pointed viewers to the new Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers, which is only showing on one screen in Uptown. It’s not just counterprogramming. It’s counterintelligence. Opt for that one if you don’t feel like checking your brains at the door.)
In a classic case of more being less, Jack the Giant Slayer joins an ever-growing field of full tilt CGI blitzes based on simple fairy tales. Invariably, these films bury their wispy source material beneath vomitoriums of backstory and suffocating production design, obscuring the simple elegance their core stories and ultimately making them seem paradoxically thinner than the original tale.
The bright idea Jack‘s makers came up with was to place not one but a whole army of slouching, green-skinned, booger-flinging giants at the top of Jack’s beanstalk, all of whom are just itching for one of those magic beans to find its way into the ground so they can climb down and enslave the human race. That’s basically it, and of course it all culminates in a moronic standoff at a drawbridge that one would presume the giants could just step over.
Anyone who thought Braveheart would’ve been the perfect mood board for “Jack and the Beanstalk” will probably eat this up with a Renaissance Festival artisan fork, and I admit that the 3-D work during the vertiginous climbing sequences is pretty dizzying.
But as Maker’s Mark could tell you now, watering down the base spirit is only going to result in a softer-headed product. Jack the Giant Slayer is, at best, 18 proof.
Conversely, 21 & Over has no premise at all, so it can hardly dilute it any further.
Actually, that’s not completely accurate. Another dropout cutup bearing the Hangover pedigree, this one especially does not stray from the blueprint: three comically mismatched friends all bearing voracious appetites for S, D, R&R, MDMA and XXX waste themselves thoroughly and emerge the next goobery, scabbed-over morning all the closer to one another because of it.
This time around, your party gladiators are the blowhard Tasmanian devil Alpha male Miller (Miles Teller, a usually sensitive actor who manages to overcome his sensational miscasting), the clean-cut future investment broker Casey (Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin), and the newly 21-year-old brainiac best bud they insist, with more than a hint of playful racism, on calling by his full name: JeffChang (Justin Chang).
JeffChang has a very important interview to get into medical school the next day and thus assuage his overbearing father (Harold & Kumar, anyone?), but Miller insists he take full advantage of his 21st birthday. Let the bodies hit the floor.
Stale leftovers in its every interlude of beer pong, the one thing that sort of endears about 21 & Over is that, unlike most of the movies it emulates, its cast of characters are actually young enough that their antics aren’t flagrantly regressive. Functioning like a prequel to everything that preceded it, the movie suggests that the “party now, tomorrow never knows” ethos actually only ensures that the party will never end.
Hand your money over for either of these movies at the box office this weekend, and you’ll ensure that Hollywood will keep offering more of these stale mugs of 3.2% cinema.