New Movie Reviews: Cyrus, The Last Airbender

Cyrus (***)
Cyrus plays like a smaller-budgeted, more independent-minded, and less funny sequel to the 2008 Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy Step Brothers.  Maybe it's because Reilly stars in both, but I think it also has to do with the fact that in both movies, he plays a dysfunctional (less so here than in Step Brothers) man-boy who butts heads with another guy when they're forced to live in the same house.  Switch up Will Ferrell for Jonah Hill, and you get the picture.  
Though the direction by the Duplass Brothers is distracting (lots of shaky cam and random zooms), the actors make the material work for them.  It's great to see Reilly get the leading role, and the movie gives him ample opportunity to shine.  Also great are Catherine Keener as Reilly's ex-wife and Marisa Tomei, as his new lady love and mother to the deceptively devious Cyrus (Hill).  I even enjoyed Hill in this movie, which is a step up from June's Get Him to the Greek, where Hill kind of ruined the movie for me.  

Cyrus is not as dark or twisted as it should be, and there aren't enough belly laughs, but it is consistently amusing, particularly whenever Reilly and Hill go mono-a-mono.
If there's a word to describe M. Night Shyamalan's latest failure, it's "incoherent."  The story is incoherent (something about a battle between people who can control the ancient elements of air, fire, water, earth, and the young Avatar who might just save them all), M. Night's directing choices are incoherent, as are the casting choices (The Daily Show's Aasif Mandavi as the main bad guy?  Terrible!).  Though it's not quite the Battlefield Earth-like disaster that some critics are proclaiming it to be, it is a muddled, unfocused, giant bore of a film that puts another nail in M. Night's career respectability coffin.  
Seriously, what has happened to this guy?  I love Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense.  But Lady in the Water and The Happening are pure crap, and The Last Airbender ranks right up there with them.  It's not as atrociously bad as The Happening, but it is more dull.  At least The Happening had you laughing at the level of ineptitude displayed on screen.  
My real worry for M. Night though is in the acting community.  After Mark Wahlberg's career worst performance in The Happening, here, every actor (child and adult alike) comes across as untalented.  Why would you want to work with a director that makes you look bad?  At least M. Night had help behind the camera - the cinematography, special effects, and James Newton Howard's score are all solid, but they're employed in the service of a misguided movie, led by a director who has clearly lost his way.


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  • This depresses me. I loved the show (I'm in my 40's) and was really looking forward to a big screen adaptation to bring it a wider audience. It's unforgivable Shyamalan could take a fantasy world on an imaginative par with Harry Potter or Narnia or even Lord of the Rings and muck it up like this.

    FANS OF THE TV SHOW... Band together and show your support for the original version: the Peabody award-winning Nickelodeon cartoon created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Talk it up, post in on comment boards, anything to remind the public of the excellent source material and forget the Shyamalan hack-job.

    Don't let this lousy movie condemn the original "Avatar: The Last Airbender" to the dustbin of pop culture history. It deserves much better.

    -- mm

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    Thanks for the comment Matt. I've never seen the TV show, so it's nice to hear from someone who has. I think both fans and the uninitiated alike will have big problems with the movie, so we're in the same boat here. The depressing news is that the box office returns on The Last Airbender so far are pretty good ($70 mil and counting), so the odds of M. Night feeling justified enough to make a sequel are, unfortunately, rather high. This franchise needs a do-over!

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