Not really recommended. The sequel to the hilarious Meet the Parents. This one is the flip side in it’s theme. Whereas Meet the Parents was about meeting the uptight overbearing conservative parents, this one is about those people meeting their opposites, the Fockers, who are bleeding heart liberal loosey goosey 60s rejects. So the comedy of errors comes as a clever culture clash between conservative and liberal. Of course, the movie predictably favors the liberal parents, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand. The endless sex jokes get tiring. Streisand is a sex therapist for seniors, so that’s what keeps every scene she is in about sex. And also predictably, the DeNiro character, is an uptight conservative whose redemption is found in his need to have more sex with this wife. This is really revelatory in that this is truly what liberal ideologues believe, that conservatives are hung up on sex and their whole problem in life is that they need to loosen up and just have some fun sex. Not only is this amazingly shallow, it’s simply untrue. Statistics have come out recently illustrating that religious conservative people generally have more fulfilled sex lives, and that religious women in particular have more and better orgasms. Well, that aside, there’s not much to say about this movie, cause it was a bit tiring. The funniest line of the first movie, “I’m watching you” with DeNiro gesturing to his eyes, was overexploited in this movie with DeNiro teaching a baby how to do “I’m watching you.”
Not very recommended. Feminist parable about the unreliability of men for female happiness. But its pretty well done and entertaining, up until the ending agenda that leaves the viewer unsatisfied. Brittany Murphy plays Stacy, a new young hireling to a daytime sleaze talk show, a female Jerry Springer, Kippy Kann, played by Kathy Bates. Stacy’s dream is to be Diane Sawyer and Carly Simon roled into one, but in the mean time, she has to work her way up the ladder while maintaining a romance with her boyfriend Derek. Someone comes up with the idea of doing a show on men’s little black books, to discover the women in their lives. When Stacy stumbles upon one of Derek’s ex-girlfriends talking as if she still has a connection to him, Stacy is drawn to Derek’s “little black” palm pilot. What’s very clever about this story is its mentor, played by Holly Hunter as the cynical experienced writer Barb. Barb apprentices Stacy throughout the story, giving her wisdom on how to deal with her boyfriend – by not trusting him. The other great element is that it winds up being a trap. Barb is actually manipulating Stacy into one of the Kippy Kann shows. So Stacy ends up as one of those dufuses who walks in to the show having no clue SHE is the sucker. An excellent revelation of betrayal as Stacy becomes one of the fools who is deceived, just as she has deceived her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends for her own purposes. This is an excellent morality tale on that level. But then it gets into trouble, when Barb, who should be the devil, turns out to be Stacy’s salvation because Derek really is still in love with his ex, and not Stacy. So it turns out to be “for her own good.” Well, I think it is a rather unique and interesting unpredictable storyline to have the heroine realize she is not “the one” for another man, and therefore he is not “the one” for her. Romances of course usually end up with the revelation that it was all a big misunderstanding, and the boyfriend loves her more than any other. Sometimes these kind of romances can reinforce the Romantic humanistic worldview that salvation is found in romance, the love of another human being. For that reason, I like having a romance where the person discovers that another person is NOT what completes their humanity or saves them from their despair. The first false ending is another great unpredictable twist that I liked. Stacy is all alone, now, but a stronger person for having walked away from a detrimental relationship. Okay, I’m with them. Fine. She meets an old friend from high school by chance and blurts out in a fairy tale way that now she realizes why this all happened to her. It was because somehow this old friend was the solution to her happiness. Very deliberately schmaltzy. But then she sees that he is married and she walks away embarrassed. So the point is made by the story that her revelation about Derek was NOT for her to be fulfilled by another man, which is the predictable romance ending. I even found that rather insightful and clever. But here is where the feminist agenda flows in like a Carly Simon concert on estrogen. Next scene we see Stacy getting a job with, who else? DIANE SAWYER. The woman of her dreams! Stacy jumps up and down and say’s “I got the job! I got the job!, using the word “job” so many times to make sure we do not miss the agenda that it is a job that will satisfy Stacy and fulfill her with happiness, not someone to love. And what makes it even more embarrassingly preachy is that Carly Simon just happens to be there for an interview and the two jump up and down together. Oi vey! This is the old feminist rant from the 60s, and to be quite honest, its almost ludicrous to think that there are some women around who actually still want to be like men. Problem is, even men have finally discovered that jobs and careers do not make happiness at all. Feminists are like 10 plus years behind the curve. Come on and catch up, ladies. Newsflash: careers do not provide the meaning of life and happiness. Even men have figured that one out. You don’t want to be more stupid than men do you? That’s what makes this movie unsatisfying. The solution for Stacy’s happiness turns out to be a very empty proposition, at least for those of us seeking transcendent meaning and purpose in life. This life is not all there is. The things that really matter are the love of God and neighbor. Stacy should watch the movie The Family Man and learn a little bit from a man who’s already been there done that and found career to be a spiritual and human dead end. All in all, a very clever anti-romance that is soured by an outdated feminist agenda.
Kind of Recommended. James Brooks is a brilliant dramedy director. I recommend his stuff because regardless of his lack of a strong moral worldview, he does try to address morals and the emotional reality of life and he makes you think. Lots of laughs here and touching human moments that make it rather good storytelling. This story about a Spanish speaking woman hired by a rich family and how she brings light and life into their lives is very well written with some GREAT lines and great characters, very true to life, and funny moments all wrapped in together. I must say, Adam Sandler is GREAT when he is not in an Adam Sandler movie. He can really be a great understated actor. I thought he was great in Punch Drunk Love as well. Anyway, this movie is about a lot of things. But one of the themes is how the heart of our humanity lies not in perfection and success and excellence, which tends to destroy and dehumanize, but in loving one another with all our faults and messy weaknesses. So you have a wife, played a bit too over the top by Tea Leoni, who is neurotically obsessed with perfection and excellence, while Adam is the husband/father who is a chef but who is the opposite. He hates perfection precisely because it does destroy the fun of life. He doesn’t want his restaurant to be reviewed with too high a score because that happened before in New York and the “heart went out of it all” when it happened. He just wants a pleasing loving environment. Well, these opposites cause the comedy and pathos in the film. A great mom character by Cloris Leachman, a has-been singer who wasn’t really famous anyway but admits in the film, “I loved everybody, that’s what’s killing me.” And to the Spanish maid, “I lived for myself, you live yours for your daughter, none of it works.” Great lines from her, like to Tea, “Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.” Some very touching and moving relationship issues with Leoni’s daughter, who is a little chubby and suffers implied rejection from her mother from this. Very poignant thing about love and acceptance without perfection. So, back to the main story. The father, played by Sandler, of course is pushed into struggling with a growing interest in the beautiful Spanish Maid played by Paz Vega. I don’t have a problem with having this in the story, but it seemed to be a dominant focus. That sexual tension becomes the driving force of the movie rather than a factor that drives him to redemption back to his marriage, like in Shall We Dance?, which is superior in this sense. My big complaint is that Brooks fancies himself a “realist” in leaving the dominant relationship between Sandler and Leoni up in the air at the end rather than bringing redemption or resolution like in Shall We Dance? Sure, some good things happen. Leoni confesses adultery and tries to fix it, and Sandler gets to the moment where he wants to sleep with the maid but in her wisdom she says, “There are some mistakes you cannot make when you have children.” They don’t do it. Some great stuff here, but I felt that Brooks lingered too long on that “connection” between Sandler and Vega, trying to milk some good out of it as if it’s just another “just married to the wrong person” kind of thing. Like maybe we can get that human connection from each other even if we “can’t have sex.” Rather than, No, I need to rekindle my marriage rather than wallow in fantasy (again, like in Shall We Dance?). And the Maid should NOT have told him she loved him and walked away. That was very irresponsible. It was not the right thing to do. And don’t attack me with “that’s reality. Sometimes marriages don’t get back together etc.” Because movies ARE NOT REALITY. They are worldviews to teach about how we should act in our reality. It’s okay if someone doesn’t fix their marriage. But what’s not okay is for the hero to not make a defining choice of redemption. THAT is unsatisfying. I want values affirmed, I don’t want nihilism affirmed. If he loses his marriage because he makes the right choice, fine. Just so long as the hero makes the right moral choice. DOING THE RIGHT THING is what it is all about. And another annoying thing was that Sandler was made to be the good guy, but he really wasn’t in my mind. His fault was just as wrong as the others, but it was never resolved. His fault was that he was TOO easygoing. Or rather, that his own desire of avoiding perfection was itself a flaw of him wanting to avoid some kind of responsibility like growing up. But this was not developed. He says school is supposed to make his daughter feel good about herself. And this is shown as positive. Yes, school should not make you feel BAD, as in attacking you. But the purpose of education is the same as maturity: To grow. And growth does not come without pain. The problem with educational philosophy in this country is precisely that they have jettisoned excellence or growth and replaced it with self-esteem, which has created an entire class of stupid young people who feel good about themselves. Well, I guess that makes them better slaves of the State, which is the purpose of secular indoctrination anyway, which is the ultimate goal. Back to the movie. My point is that this nice guy laizzes faire calmness should have been a flaw that the hero had to overcome, but it was not. I reckon the major theme was focused around the main character, which was the daughter of the Spanish Maid. And her problem was that mom was so overprotective of her because she wanted her to maintain her Mexican heritage. SO when the little girl gets a scholarship to a private school and becomes the substitute darling daughter of Leoni, the Maid loses control and her daughter becomes TOO American. She still ends up taking her daughter out of private school. But the daughter concludes in an admissions application to Princeton that If they don’t pick her, that won’t hurt her. Because “Your decision will not define me. My identity rests on one fact. I am my mother’s daughter.” So the main character learns to accept becoming like her mom. Well, this seemed rather weak to me. I think that the answer is really more in between, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding where it concludes “Don’t let your past control you, let it be a part of who you are.” That middle way seems more wise to me. You don’t reject your heritage, but you don’t worship it either. It’s only a part of who you are, not the whole. And the Maid never really learns this either. But anyway, the girl’s conclusion doesn’t really say much to me. It doesn’t seem to include the balancing fact that she is also who she is because of all the influencing people in her life, not merely her mother. I mean she should have learned a lot about life from that family she was with for three months, you’d think. Despite these confusing and contradicting elements and themes, the movie still captures some very touching human moments and wisdom along the way. I probably sound more negative here than I should. Oh well, forgive me.
Not Recommended. These guys are good filmmakers. About Schmidt was brilliant. Election was naughty, but original. But this movie shows that the filmmaker’s humanism is quite frankly, morally inadequate for a fulfilling story. Miles, a depressed failed writer takes his best friend, Jack out for a week of wine tasting in Northern California before Jack’s wedding. It all goes down hill when Jack, being the shallow actor that he is, turns out to be a heat seeking sexaholic. He lacks any sense of faithfulness to a woman he is about to be married to. He will literally jump in the sack with any woman he can find, and does so a couple times. Well, that ain’t so bad for a topic of a movie if you deal with it right. After all, Miles, the hero, hates this infidelity, but he tolerates it in the name of friendship. In the mean time, he hooks up with Maya, thanks to jack’s help who tells Miles, “This is my nut. Don’t sabotage me. Have some fun.” So the whole story is about honesty and grabbing for the wine of life. In fact, there is one brilliant and touching scene where Jack and Maya tell each other about their favorite wines and they are clearly analogies of their own lives. Jack likes grapes that need to be tenderly and patiently handled and believed in their potential. Maya loves the process of wine being a gusto of reaching out and enjoying it all, etc. But this movie proves to be morally bankrupt for a couple reasons. I have no problem with a story about a guy who learns to deal with his unloyal friend IF the hero actually grows up or ultimately makes the right choice and finds redemption in walking away from such “so-called” friends. The point is that such friends are NOT friends, but users. That’s what honesty and loyalty stories are about. Problem is, Miles never does. He continues to aid and abet Jack in all his infidelities, all the while griping and complaining about how wrong it is. BUT THEN HE NEVER TELLS JACK’S FIANCE AND ALLOWS THE WEDDING TO GO ON. This is so morally pathetic that I lost all respect and sympathy for Miles. He is an idiot and a fool for staying with a man like that. He doesn’t even challenge this toad. And this is supposed to be a hero? The story hurts itself. The only redemption is that Miles has trouble going for Maya, and when she discovers Jack’s deception she breaks it off with Miles. Miles says, “I’m not Jack.” But of course, he is. If he never chooses to stand up to or divorce himself from this kind of lack of character, then he is in fact exactly the same. This comes from an obviously modernist humanist moral view that thinks loyalty to friendship is higher than the truth or morality. So, allowing the fiancé to be betrayed is somehow moral? I don’t think so. Jack is a creep and Miles never does the right thing. And Jack is supposed to just be this comedy relief, “isn’t that funny how shallow he is, but hey, they’re best friends.” No, he’s not. He’s a turd that should be flushed down the toilet of life. This makes Miles a repugnant undesirable hero, and that is why the story not satisfying. Furthermore, the actual redemption of the movie focuses on Miles going back to Maya at the end, as if all he really needed to do was to get the girl. Which makes the girl look pretty stupid to be willing to take back a man who never apologizes for partaking in such betrayal. And she complains about being betrayed before by her ex-husband, but she continues to choose moral losers like Miles? This is the problem, not the solution. This is her character flaw, not her redemption. But alas, this is the central conceit of humanism. It really thinks finding another human to love is the ultimate meaning of life, not truth or morality, which reflect higher values of character that make a person worthy of their humanity. Well, humanism doesn’t want to make moral judgments on things like infidelity or irresponsibility, or rather, it values loyalty to friends higher than loyalty to spouses, which is fundamentally inverted morality. But after all, humanism thinks there are no ultimate higher absolutes or God to which we are accountable. A humanist universe is ultimately relative morality and truth, so the love of another human becomes the God substitute, which explains this morally pathetic story.
Not recommended. I loved the first one because it was a modern version of Pride and Prejudice. This one was uninspiring. It had gratuitous language that was off-putting. It has a good moral couched in an immoral lifestyle. Bridget learns about loyalty and trust in love, but unfortunately, she is so neurotically distrusting of Darcy that she became stupid and unsympathetic to me. How stupid is someone who mistrusts their lover without reason over and over and over again? And then, they don’t get married at the end. Very unsatisfying. Too modernist.
Highly Recommended. This is a great personal film about second chances, about seeing the consequences of life choices made early in our lives. 13-year old Jenna (Jennifer Garner) tries to break into the “Heathers” inner circle of “the 6 Chicks” at her school. She must sacrifice her best friend, chubby Matt, a photography hobbyist secretly in love with her. But she is rejected by the in crowd anyway and she pines over wanting to be “thirty, flirty and successful,” like fashion magazine Poise tells her. After magic wishing dust sprinkles on her, she wakes up 17 years later as the fashion editor of Poise magazine itself. Only trouble is, she is the two timing, frenetic fast-lane society user of other people in order to achieve that status. When she tracks down Matt, now all grown up and rather handsome, she discovers they never saw each other after that day she rejected him in Jr. High school. And she embarks on a journey of discovering the successful but empty life she built on her way to the top of social success. This is a story of realizing the importance of character and decisions in life. She realizes the kind of fake user you must become to be successful in today’s fashion conscious urban professional world, and how blind she was to the quality person right in front of her, Matt. She makes the wrong choices in life by sacrificing her character and her true friend for acceptance into the “cool” group in school. A universal issue we all deal with. She tries to rectify her issues. When the magazine is in trouble with its competition, they decide to redesign the vision and look of the magazine. And this is an example of good storytelling, her attempt to overhaul the magazine vision reflects exactly the same issue in her own life. She proposes that they get rid of all the fake model shots and replace them with real people in joyful memory experiences, “The Class of 2004.” Looking back to innocence. As she says, “We need to remember what used to be good.” In a sense, she seeks to regain her innocence lost and she recognizes you do this by going back to what was right and good in the past. Excellent thematic writing. But she learns this all too late to stop Matt from marrying his fiancé. He tells Jenna, “I’ve always loved you. These last two weeks, you made me feel what I’ve haven’t felt since High School (obviously, her). But it’s my wedding day. We chose different lives. I’ve chosen my fiancé. Things are different.” And then she wakes up, 13 again, from the magic dust. And she is faced with the original opportunity to reject her young 13 year old chubby Matt, but instead chooses him over the “inner circle” of chicks. Excellent morality tale. Very moving and inspirational to make the right choices in life NOW that will bring fruit later. If we could only see the consequences of bad choices now and where they end up, we may make the right choices instead. This movie gives us the opportunity to see that future result. And that’s the benefit of age: Wisdom. Or at least it should be. That’s the benefit of listening to those who have gone before us. We don’t have to experience consequences to foolish mistakes if we listen to wisdom now and choose the right over selfish ambition. Chose character, devotion and authenticity and you will avoid the pitfalls of the shallow, vain, selfish culture we live in. This movie is a cinematic incarnation of an aspect of a rather profound ancient book, Proverbs:
Prov. 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause; We shall find all kinds of precious wealth, We shall fill our houses with spoil,” My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil.
It’s just too bad the filmmakers of 13 Going on 30 neglect the one most important element of such wisdom, the source itself, The fear of the Lord. It must be noted that the attempt to achieve morality without God is an ultimate failure and cannot provide ultimate redemption or forgiveness of sins. But it is certainly a testament to God’s Word that when even pagans obey certain aspects of his eternal truths without Him, they are blessed with a measure of success in life. The problem is, that is not all there is to life.
Recommended. Funny little Indie movie about Geeks winning. Quirky, clean, character-driven comedy. Amazingly clean. I must applaud the Mormon filmmakers for making clean look cool. Quite an example for Christians and others who are trying to bring influence on the values of movies they make without capitulating to cheese and preachiness. What I didn’t like was that it was so character focused, that it dragged a bit in the middle. You can only enjoy so many scenes of the Nerdy title character and his oddball interactions with his dopey friends so much and then you start begging for some story. Character ain’t enough to drive a story, but it sure helps tremendously in our character-starved plot heavy movie culture. So it’s a good change of pace with a refreshing freedom and simplicity that you just don’t see from studio films because of their obsession with formula, marketing and justifying corporate executive jobs.
Recommended, but not highly. There is just something magical about Tom Hanks to me that makes everything he does so appealing as the everyman. Which is why, if this was some other star in the movie, I would have considered it somewhat plodding. This is a story, about a traveler, Viktor Navorsky, from a small Eastern European country who is stranded at JFK airport because his country erupts in civil war which makes it cease to have national status, and therefore places Viktor unable to enter the United States or to fly home because of legal technicalities with international passport laws. He is a man without a country. He then ends up living in the Terminal for almost a year, while the head of security, played by Stanley Tucci relentlessly hounds him as the antagonist. And of course, Viktor falls in love with a stewardess, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Viktor’s cute little anecdotal experiences with some of the airport personal make for some humorous, if not very believable, episodes. The themes behind this film center around waiting for life to happen versus making your life through your choices. Not bad. The stewardess is a woman who can’t extricate herself from an adulterous relationship with a married man, because she keeps foolishly hoping against hope that he will divorce his wife. Men can be pigs – but boy, women can be stupid. Of course, he won’t leave his wife, and she wastes her life waiting. Until she meets Viktor, who loves her for who she is and treats her with the respect she needs. One of the cool things I liked about this film was its unusual point about character. The stewardess never can give up her hope for the married man. She keeps going back to him, and therefore loses Viktor in the end. Viktor moves on when his country is back together. It is a bittersweet ending, but a good one. Viktor is too good for this woman, and we see that the romantic emotions of love are not the highest value, but character is. Very unusual for a romantic comedy for the boy NOT to get the girl. But another cool thread carries the film, that of grace, and loving the unlovable. Of course, the airport personnel are quirky characters. Anyway, when the security head discovers that several of the airport personnel are good friends of Viktor, and that they each have reasons to be fired, he uses this against Viktor to try to get him to go home rather than stay in New York and achieve his ambition of fulfilling his father’s dream of getting a famous Jazz singer’s autograph. If Viktor does not go home on the next plane, the security head will fire these guys and deport one of them back to India where he awaits charges of assault and battery. The Indian guy, with the name Gupta, was a fugitive from his own country. And Viktor became one of his only friends. Viktor sacrifices his dream to protect his friends. But when Gupta finds out about this, he basically turns himself in to the police with a diversion and allows Viktor to go and get his father’s dream autograph. Gupta gets himself deported. Now the security man cannot stop Viktor cause he has nothing over him. It’s a perfect picture of grace. Gupta is shown grace by Viktor’s sacrifice, the innocent for the guilty, so Gupta responds with repentance and accepts his own responsibility for his past actions. Very powerful grace and atonement theme. Those who respond to grace (Gupta) find redemption, and those who do not (Stewardess) continue on in miserable lives.
Recommended for adults. Funny. Very funny. A good sequel, which is hard to do. It revisits the original movie’s theme that beauty and love is in the eye of the beholder, and trying to be someone you are not or measure up to society’s definitions of beauty and fashion is harmful. The problem I had with it is that it attempted to add to this theme the idea that cross-dressers and transvestites, and other perversities are part of the “goodness” of being yourself. Pinnochio wears women’s underwear and Cinderella’s wicked stepsister is actually a male cross-dresser or transvestite who owns a bar. The whole point is that, though given the magical opportunity to change herself and Shrek into beautiful “Royal Family” looking people rather than ogres, Princess Fiona chooses not to because that’s not who she married. It would be untrue to Shrek and herself. Well, the logical extension is to show other characters in the story who are victims of such social standards of “imposed” identities and fashion. These characters, then, by extension, are also reflections of the heroine’s own redemption (ala the Pinnochio and the wicked stepsister). It’s easy to see how the filmmakers considered bizarre perversions to be part and parcel of that redemption. Without an absolute moral standard to define good and bad social norms, ALL variety of human identity becomes legitimate. They just don’t realize the Frankenstein monster they’ve created.
Recommended for adults. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I had expected the typical Kevin Smith agenda-driven, overly wordy, excessively profane self-importance of his other movies. But it was not. It was a rather touching and sensitive story about a selfish publicist who has a baby girl and loses his wife, only to be forced into taking care of his child by himself. He learns that people and family are more important than career and personal ambition. Hey, now that is great. And Mr. Smith told the story with less profanity than normal (though arguably still too much). The publicist, played by Ben Affleck, is refreshing in his commitment to his daughter. When was the last time you saw a movie where a guy doesn’t have sex with women since his wife because of his dedication to his little girl and turns down a “free jump” because it isn’t right? Then, when he does give in to a sex opportunity, he is caught before he gets too far by the little girl and faced with his own moral challenge that he told her: “sex is only for married people.” I was shocked. Maybe Smith thought it would be original to have some traditional morality in a movie, and sadly he is right. There is a scene in the beginning where Ben is talking to his baby daughter about her mother and it is over the top, wordy, on the nose, tell us what you are thinking on your sleeve scene. But it wasn’t terrible. This movie convicted me about my own life and keeping people and my marriage as a higher priority than my dreams.