Thursday, March 3, 2011

“Movie Review: 'The Adjustment Bureau' ends in fizzle - Corpus Christi Caller” plus 1 more

“Movie Review: 'The Adjustment Bureau' ends in fizzle - Corpus Christi Caller” plus 1 more


Movie Review: 'The Adjustment Bureau' ends in fizzle - Corpus Christi Caller

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Matt Damon and Emily Blunt fall in love and flee shadowy figures in the immensely stylish romantic thriller "The Adjustment Bureau." If only the ending lived up to the build-up.

Damon and Blunt have crazy, sexy chemistry from the very first moment they meet, in the gleaming men's room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, of all places. They're a real treat to watch together - he's reserved and sort of smart-alecky, she's quick-witted and flirty and the contrast in their appearances and personalities just works.

You want them to end up with each other, despite the many elaborate and creative obstacles that thrust themselves in the couple's path over several years and across New York City's five boroughs. With all that heat and hype, you long for a climax worthy of the dedication their characters (and the actors) have given.

Instead, writer-director George Nolfi's film takes all that dazzle and wraps things up with a fizzle: Following intelligent debates about the nature of free will, "The Adjustment Bureau" ends in an overly simplistic, heavy-handed religious allegory that leaves you wondering, really? Is that it? That it's based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose writing has been the inspiration for such groundbreaking sci-fi films as "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report," represents even more of a letdown. Dick's dark, paranoid vision sadly goes soft.

But it's got a lot going for it, for a while. "The Adjustment Bureau" is shot beautifully, the stark cinematography from Oscar-winner John Toll reflecting the isolation and frustration Damon's character feels.

Damon stars as David Norris, a young and up-and-coming congressman who's on the verge of losing his bid for the U.S. Senate at the film's start. While practicing his concession speech in the men's bathroom, where he thinks he's alone, he runs into Blunt's character, Elise. He's a kid who grew up without much family in a rough part of Brooklyn; she's a sophisticated, British ballet dancer. But their attraction is palpable; they kiss impetuously, and then she runs off.

David's instantly, and understandably, smitten. But as it turns out, that was the only time he was ever supposed to see Elise. His life - and all our lives, according to the film are managed by The Adjustment Bureau, men in tailored suits and fedoras who make sure everyone and everything follows a predetermined plan. If anyone steps out of line by accident, a little nudge here or there steers things back to their proper course.

When David learns from Richardson, (played with perfect, "Mad Men"-style cool by John Slattery), one of the man adjusters assigned to his case, that he and Elise can never be together, he's naturally more inspired than ever to track her down. Anthony Mackie is his usual charismatic self as another bureau member, who's a little more sympathetic to David's cause, while Terence Stamp makes a huge impression in just a few scenes, as always, as a far more rigid enforcer. (In case you hadn't noticed, it's an excellent cast.)

And so David and Elise hook up and go on the run, using the Adjustment Bureau's own tricks for being everywhere and seeing everything all at once. Yes, this involves wearing silly, magical hats and running through myriad, secret doors, but it also makes exciting leaps in time and space - and asks us to do the same as the couple dashes from one portal to the next through hidden passageways all over New York City. One second they may be at the foot of the Statue of Liberty; next, they're in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. It's reminiscent of "Inception" in its striking visuals and the assumptions it requires us to make, but it moves so fluidly, and it's in the name of a love that seems so perfect, you may as well give in.

But that's right about when you'll get your heart broken. We won't give too much away. But after raising intriguing philosophical questions about determinism, "The Adjustment Bureau" gives into the saddest, softest fate of all. David and Elise - and we as viewers deserve more. And we should be able to choose it for ourselves.

"The Adjustment Bureau"

Universal Pictures release is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image

Running time: 99 minutes

Two and a half stars out of four

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Hall Pass movie review: valid for easy laughs - Crikey

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Ah, Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Those giants of gross out. Those titans of the toilet bowl. Those pharaohs of the fart joke.

The world may have changed a fair whack since the brothers Farrelly began amusing and disgusting audiences in 1994's Dumb & Dumber, but their trademark irreverence shows no sign of ageing. Their talent, no sign of maturing. The pinnacle of their careers — creatively and financially — is still, by a long shot, 1998′s There's Something About Mary.

Hall Pass reminds audiences that while each of the Farrelly's have now celebrated their womb extraction anniversary more than 50 times they are certainly not above a well timed shart joke. Remember Dumber & Dumber's outrageous Lloyd-Bridges-on-laxatives bathroom gag? You could plop that directly into Hall Pass and it wouldn't look out of place.

Toilet humour, it seems, is largely timeless. And while the Farrelly's dunny sniffing gags may still be risqué their storylines these days are somewhere a little different, a little more self-aware. The Farrelly's self-imposed challenge seems to be to strike a balance between streamlining stories for multiplex audiences and finding a high concept niche or "hook," and the most obvious example is 2003′s conjoined twin comedy Stuck on You.

The premise of Hall Pass is a no-brainer: two best friends get granted one week's "hall pass" by their wives. One week's guilt-free vacation from marriage to do as they please. Sex, alcohol, golf, buffalo wings, hash cookies. Whatever.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Justin Sudeikis) are chuffed to receive such a gift from their special someones (The Office's Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) who dosh them hall passes after Rick is busted checking out other women's butts and Fred is caught masturbating in his car by the fuzz (the latter moment is reminiscent of a scene in There's Something About Mary in which a fireman is rather amused to discover Ben Stiller's testicle caught in his zipper. Back we go to timeless toilet bowl comedy territory: it was funny then and it's funny now, though in both instances timing played a major part).

Rick and Fred decide to get laid pronto and hit the town to carve up the dance floor and woo some ladies, but they soon take heed of geriatric Indiana Jones's shibboleth — "not as easy as it used to be" — and awkward interactions with the opposite sex ensue.

When all appears to be lost, a veteran ladies' man and parody of Sherlock Holmes (Richard Jenkins) arrives on the scene. Amusingly, he can deduce the likelihood of a woman going to bed with them by observing the marks on her fingertips, the bulges in her bag, her poise, the way she moves her mouth etcetera.

Hall Pass's wild sense of humour keeps the proceedings unpredictable, even as the story ebbs towards familiar emotional territory. The overlapping but only lightly flogged "love your partners for who they are" message feels more authentic than expected, especially given the Farrelly's have always struggled to pull off any substance or serious side (no matter how diluted). Credit goes largely to Owen Wilson, whose affable nice guy presence has a mellowing effect and provides some balance to the Farrelly's trademark trashiness.

There's more than a touch of 2009's The Hangover to Hall Pass; it's in the same breed of dopey male-driven comedy. The characters are of Flight of the Conchords anti-cool ilk (though a decade or so older) and keep the movie's irreverent sense of humour kicking along. The gags in Hall Pass are an unpredictable mixture of dialogue, gross outs and absurdity, and a lot of the time, they work. The hilarious final scene (hint: don't leave when the end credits appear) is a fitting reminder that when the Farrelly's are on, they're on, though that period is often painfully short.

Hall Pass is one of their better, livelier movies. Chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure.

Hall Pass' Australian theatrical release date: March 3, 2011.