New Movie Reviews: Knight and Day, Grown Ups, Jonah Hex, When In Rome

Tom Cruise does his darndest to inject some old school movie star charm into this creaky, uninspired action comedy, but unfortunately it’s just not enough.  Cruise is great, gamely inhabiting the role of uber-spy Roy Miller – someone not all that different from his Mission: Impossible character, Ethan Hunt.  When Miller is targeted by his colleagues for protecting a young genius with some game-changing invention (an endless battery of sorts), he goes rogue and ends up pairing with normal gal Cameron Diaz for romance and danger.  Diaz isn’t as annoying as one might expect, but the two don’t have much in the way of chemistry.  I often found myself wishing her character would just exit the screen and we could focus on Cruise’s character.  When he’s off screen, which happens around the 2/3rd mark, the movie suffers.  There’s only so much he can do though with an unimaginative script and jokey action sequences that are too reliant on clunky-looking green screen work.  Knight and Day (I have no idea where that title came from by the way) is a bit better than the similarly themed Killers from a few weeks ago, but that’s not really saying much.  A disappointingly mediocre summer offering.

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Grown Ups (**1/2)
Adam Sandler’s latest doofus comedy is a rambling, low-key affair, with moments of inspired wordplay and camaraderie between the actors, and way too many gooey, overly sentimental interludes.  There is no plot to speak of – other than a group of five childhood friends and their families gathering at a lake house over fourth of July weekend after their old basketball coach dies.  It’s clear early on that Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade are quite fond of each other, and when their characters are ripping on each other in true inside joke fashion, Grown Ups is kind of enjoyable.  But co-writers Sandler and Fred Wolf feel the need to give audiences all these feel-good moments that just come across as fake and manipulative.  The cast, as likeable as they once were, are clearly past their comedic prime.  Kevin James is the only one who can really act.  Seriously – Chris Rock – what the hell?  You’ve had almost 20 years of experience and you still can’t act your way out of a hat.  Haven’t you learned anything about the craft?  Anyway, I digress.  I didn’t laugh much at Grown Ups, but for the non-discerning Friday night crowd, this is semi-decent summer escapist fare.  Similar to last year’s Couples Retreat – but not as good.  Take that for what you will.
This DC Comics-based superhero western is a misfire on almost every level (other than the casting of Josh Brolin).  Slapped together in the editing room as if the release date was only a day away, there is little on screen in the way of style, wit, or coherence.  You know you’re in trouble when John Malkovich is cast as the bad guy, wearing a crazy wig and hardly caring less about what he’s doing on screen.  Megan Fox also pops up as a tightly-corseted hooker and even though she doesn’t have a big role – she is still a distracting, untalented presence.  Most of the action sequences lack any sort of kick – everything falls flat or disjointed or non-sensical.  There’s a scene meant to be kick-ass where Jonah collects new weapons.  It’s not – he just unwraps them, has a brief conversation with the seller (Fringe and The Wire’s Lance Reddick), and then goes on his way.  What was the point of this scene?  It achieved nothing, and that’s emblematic of the whole movie.  Not every comic book character deserves his/her own movie.  I doubt we’ll be seeing any more of Jonah Hex.
An instant, surefire contender for worst movie of the year.  Gives romantic comedies a black eye and makes last year’s atrocious Bride Wars look positively Oscar-worthy in the process.  Nobody comes off looking good after this.  I love Veronica Mars, and have great respect for Kristen Bell as an actress, but she should really fire her agent.  And what the heck are talented actors like Anjelica Houston and Danny DeVito doing here?  Slumming it, yes – I just hope the paycheck was worth it.  A real groaner that had me jumping ship, logic-wise, in the first ten minutes when Beth’s (Bell) sister announces she’s engaged and two days later has a full-blown, 300-person wedding in Rome.  The story is dumb as a post (courtesy of the two guys who wrote last year’s crapfest Old Dogs) and the manufactured, late-act separation between lovebirds Beth and Nick (Josh Duhamel) is totally predictable.  Even the most forgiving of romantic comedy fans will have a hard time defending this mess.

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