16 November 2008

The Wackness

This movie was pretty disappointing, but it's my own fault really for having such high hopes for it. The premise is fabulous - Ben Kingsley as a psychiatrist having a mid-life crisis, trading therapy for pot with a kid who goes on to fall in love with his daughter. Set it in NYC in 1994 and make it an ode to hiphop, cast Method Man and one of the Olsen twins in minor roles, and boom, I'm sold. But it was not to be.

So to begin the griping, casting Method Man - genius. Casting Method Man as a Jamaican - boo. It's not that his accent is terrible, it's that there's no way I can take Mr Meth seriously when he's talking Jamaican. Sorry.

One big problem with the movie is that it drags. There are long sequences, for instance, of the main protagonist selling pot. It's kind of a nice way of putting in lots of footage of the city, but it gets old. 

Secondly, for a film that's basically a study in the emotional evolution of two characters, there's a startling lack of character development. It's all a bit flat, much like the washed out colors of the film, which perhaps were meant to give it an aura of back in the day, but ultimately highlighted the lack of depth. Ben Kingsley was strong enough to make it work, mostly, as was Josh Peck, but still, they were both barely clinging to compelling. Meanwhile, the female characters in the film weren't graced with any sort of understanding, rendering them into cold, inscrutable, and ultimately cruel creatures. Famke Janssen is almost brutal in her indifference, and the few moments where she seems, maybe, to have something resembling a heart aren't nearly enough to compensate for it. Worse yet is Stephanie, who ultimately comes off as a capricious, self-centered princess, which is a real pity, because she started off so charming and understanding. 

Then, when you think back on it, the whole movie is basically a big long sob story, these two somewhat messed-up guys who granted, are quite sympathetic, but can't really seem to get their shit together, and meanwhile life is crapping all over them, and oh boo hoo. Meh. The glimpse of redemption at the end of the film manages to be simultaneously cheesy and unconvincing. 

On the other hand, there are some fabulous moments in the movie as well, whenever it can resist the urge to spill over into cheesy triteness or pretentiousness. While it made me cringe a lot, I have to admit that it's a pretty fantastic rendition of adolescent awkwardness. When it's not painful to watch, it can actually be kind of sweet, in the standard coming-of-age sort of way. 

At the end of the day though, the best thing about the movie is the music. The soundtrack is back-to-back classics, and it's awesome. It beautifully evokes this image of the golden era of New York hiphop (no, I wasn't there for it. But that's pretty much exactly how I imagine it.), and the excitement of discovering these amazing albums that speak to you on a profound level. It's so lovely. 

But honestly, unless you're gonna appreciate the hiphop aspect of it, you can probably safely give it a miss. 

My friend Trevor sent me a link to this entertaining review - we're in agreement, but this version is much more amusing.

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