At the Movies: The Adjustment Bureau, Rango, Take Me Home Tonight

My apologies, I did not have the time to catch “Beastly,” the new “Beauty and the Beast” remake. I understand it’s for the 18-35 demographic anyway.

Where to begin? Let’s try alphabetically.

The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon usually exercises good judgement in the roles he picks and Philip K. Dick has a strong track record as a storyteller. So it’s kind of a letdown to report that “The Adjustment Bureau” is a flawed film — good but not great.

Damon stars as David Norris, an up-and-coming politician.  His career hits a snag early on but the night of his concession speech he meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), an up-and-coming ballerina. There’s an immediate spark but they are separated before David can get Elise’s phone number.

David can’t get Elise out of his mind, and as luck would have it they meet up again on a bus. Unfortunately, they were not supposed to meet up on that bus, which means the Adjustment Bureau has to step in and take a more open role in David’s life.

You see, everyone is set on a specific life path by the Chairman, or Fate, or God — take your pick — and when people go off track they have to be put back on it by the adjusters, or agents of fate, or angels — take your pick.

Despite being warned by agent Richardson (John Slattery) that he could have his mind wiped if he doesn’t go along, David continues to pursue Elise. Eventually the Big Gun — agent Thompson (Terence Stamp) has to be brought in to clean up the mess.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this science fiction/thriller/romance has too many flaws to work as a convincing story. Early on the agents threaten to erase David’s memory if he won’t cooperate but they never act on it despite the fact that he’s clearly not going to cooperate. And the reason the couple have to remain separated isn’t very convincing. The ending comes as little surprise despite all the build up.

Did it work for me? I found “The Adjustment Bureau” to be worth seeing for the strong performances and the world that it creates. There are some interesting ideas here, they just don’t come together in a satisfactory way. A near miss.

Rango

Well, that was certainly the strangest animated feature film I’ve seen in some time. Cartoon movies, especially those featuring talking animals, don’t usually drift off into the surreal and weird quite like “Rango.”

Not that I’m complaining. The unusual aspects of “Rango” are a big part of what makes it entertaining.

Johnny Depp gives voice to the title character, a pet chameleon with dreams of being an actor. A bump in the road tosses Rango and his terrarium-home out of the backseat of his owner’s car. He winds up alone in the desert where he’s given advice by an armadillo with a tire track through his stomach.

Rango walks through the desert until he’s picked up by Beans (Isla Fisher), a fellow lizard. She takes him to the Wild West town of Dirt, which is suffering from a water shortage.

Rango claims to be a gifted gunslinger, which leads the Mayor (Ned Beatty) — a turtle of questionable character — to make him the new sheriff. When the town’s water supply dries up, it’s up to Rango to solve the mystery of the missing H2O.

“Rango” doesn’t offer a lot of big laughs but it’s an amusing and unusual take on the spaghetti western. The animation is sharp, although I’m not sure what some of the animals were supposed to be. The action sequences and the surreal bits are equally effective.

The movie was directed by Gore Verbinski of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, and the film shares a weakness with those films. Namely, it’s long. Not over-two-hours long, but longer than your standard 90-minute animated feature. It feels longer than it is and keeps going when you think it’s time to put things in the corral.

Did it work for me? Yeah. I have no idea what kids will think of it.

Take Me Home Tonight

How much you enjoy “Take Me Home Tonight” will probably depend on how many of this type of movie you’ve seen before. I’ve seen many and this one pales in comparison to most of them.

It’s not that they didn’t do their homework. The movie runs down the checklist for young adult comedy and doesn’t leave anything out.

1. Handsome, somewhat loser male lead who doesn’t know what to do with his life, other than he wants to get it on with the hot female lead who normally would have nothing to do with him. Check.

2. His definitely loser, usually pudgy, best friend and comedy relief. Check.

3. The lovely female lead who really would like to go out with male lead if he’d pay attention. Check.

4. Loving but seemingly clueless parents. Check.

5.  A (a) sympathetic or (b)  troublemaking sibling. Check.

6. An all night party/parties for the leads to bounce around at. Check.

7. Lots of alcohol and drug gags. Check.

8. Classic rock soundtrack. Check.

9. Brief, gratuitous nudity — not involving the leads. Check.

10. A stupid lie that will come back to haunt the male lead and briefly split up the power couple. Check.

11. An act of stupidity that will bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. Check.

The year is 1988. Topher Grace stars as Matt Franklin (1), a brainy but adrift graduate of MIT who lives with his parents and works at a video store. One day Tori (Teresa Palmer), his dream girl from high school (3), shows up at the store. Pretending to be a fellow customer, Matt engages Tori in conversation. She’s in banking, so he tells her that’s what he’s doing as well. (10)

Tori suggests they meet at a party that night, so Matt, sister Wendy (Anna Faris) (5a) and his buddy Barry (Dan Fogler) (2) head to party central. But since Matt is pretending to be a banker he needs to arrive in style. And since Barry was just fired from his job as a car salesman, they steal one of the prime cars on the lot. There’s cocaine (7) in the glove compartment.  Let’s hope they don’t get pulled over by Matt’s dad (Michael Biehn), who’s a cop. (4)

You can figure out the rest. Oh, the stupid thing involves getting in a giant metal ball and rolling down a hill causing lots of property damage. You might not figure that part out unless you’ve seen the commercial.

“Take Me Home Tonight” is harmless and predictable. It’s not all that bad but there are probably a dozen John Hughes and John Cusack films that have done this better. Unless you’re a big Topher Grace fan, you’re better off renting one of them.

Did it work for me? Go see “Rango.”

 

 

 

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One response to “At the Movies: The Adjustment Bureau, Rango, Take Me Home Tonight

  1. I’m pretty sure that girl beside me liked Rango. At least between her kicking me and asking “Why?” every 5 minutes.

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