Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Double Feature

One of the minor fringe benefits of watching a movie on its opening weekend is the fact that in addition to the poppin' fresh feature, you get to see the latest poppin' fresh previews. It's a minor thing, but I really do notice the difference when I go to a film that's been in the theaters for a month or two and see nothing but outdated trailers of currently running features. For some people, the preview is sometimes reason enough to go into a particular movie. I remember a few years back, a significant number of die hard fans paid the full fare to see the forgettable "Dreamcatcher" just to see the first previews for the Matrix sequel and walk out. It might have even won its weekend because of it.

During my recent opening day trek out to see "Watchmen", I got to observe the latest and greatest features Hollywood had lined up in its pipeline. While I have nothing amazing to report from my glimpse of the future, the above pictured, upcoming Seth Rogen vehicle "Observe and Report" did catch my attention for different reasons. These reasons may become more obvious after viewing the recent trailer for yourself. Notice anything familiar?:
  • A large mall setting?
  • Doughy mall cop protagonist with a comically over inflated sense of duty and importance?
  • Attractive female mall employee love interest?
  • A sudden opportunity for said mall cop protagonist to become a hero?
  • Slapstick physical comedy?
  • Condescending law enforcement officials that look down on said mall cop?
  • Plenty of comical shots of said mall cop cruising around in a personal transport?
  • Fat guys falling down?
Looks an awful lot like another recent film.

It appears indeed that the ever unpredictable Hollywood movie machine has inexplicably cranked out two "Mall Cop Hero Comedies" in the same year! Despite modern technology providing endless avenues of expression via the cinematic medium and the infinite amount of stories to be told of the human condition, we find ourselves with two films coincidentally following the incredibly narrow topic of "Mall Cop Hero Comedy". While this may seem like a once in a life time cosmic event, like a sort of cinematic syzygy; it's actually more common then you think.

Just three years ago we had a double Victorian era magic act with vastly superior "The Prestige" trumping the "The Illusionist". Only about four years ago we experienced two biopics about Truman Capote ("Captote" and the criminally underrated "Infamous" coming out in about a one year span). The year before that we had the dueling first daughter romantic comedies "Chasing Liberty" and "First Daughter". In 2000, we experienced two separate unsuccessful manned voyages to mars in "Mission to Mars" and "Red Planet". Even a seemingly unique and creative concept like "The Truman Show" had an eerie thematic doppelganger in "EDtv" in 1999. There was the CGI showdown between "A Bug's Life" and "Antz" between 1998 and 1999. An even more unlikely duo of biopics about 70s long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine ("Prefontaine" and "Without Limits") came out between 1997 and 1998 (to this day I still confuse Jared Leto and Billy Crudup movies). Also in 1998, summer asteroid films Deep Impact and Armageddon hit theatres within two months of each other. That double dose of disaster stuck while we were trying to recover from havoc released the previous year when Dante's Peak and it's flashier, less scientifically accurate brother Volcano erupted within months of each other.

Unavoidable coincidences based on the large number of yearly mainstream movie releases? Or just an indication of Hollywood's creative bankruptcy? You can draw your own conclusions on that. One thing I noticed about these twin billings is that in nearly all cases, one film is usually vastly superior to the other (Forrest Whitaker's direction in "First Daughter" clearly gives it the edge). While we're all aware about my (and America's) inexplicable affection for "Paul Blart", the trailer has given me zero indication that "Observe and Protect" will even be a watchable film let alone the superior picture. The film seems to have taken the Blart story and sucked out all the likability and charm. Where as Kevin James' character had a sympathetic, everyman quality to him, Seth Rogen's mall cop seems downright cruel and sadistic. I find his personal monologue in the trailer, creepy and unsettling rather than funny. Both characters seem to find themselves unexpectedly thrusted into a heroic situation but while Blart does his best to save the day, Rogen's just seems all about manipulating the situation for his own unscrupulous gains. Even the casting of the always delightfully bubbly Anna Faris fails add enough for me to want to see this film, even on a lark. I didn't recall anyone laughing at any point in the trailer which is always a bad sign. Perhaps we're just about approaching critical mass in our tolerance of Seth Rogen and his unchanging schlubby stoner persona. In any case, it'll be interesting to see who comes out on top in this twin rivalry and goes down in history as THE definitive "Mall Cop Comedy".

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget next year's dueling Sherlock Holmes movies one with Robert Downey Jr and another with Will Ferrell both coming out in the same year.