Friday, August 31, 2012

Reviews: The Campaign, Shark Night 3D, Bel Ami

The greatest achievement of Shark Night 3D is that it managed to be even worse than this year’s Piranha 3DD. This film isn’t just awful to sit through, it is dreadful enough to consider being eaten alive by a shark as a less painful experience.

Directed by David R Ellis, the ingenious filmmaker who brought us such gems as Snakes on a plane and The Final Destination, the film neither offers the naughty fun of 3D gore and nudity nor any enjoyable thrills that one can expect in a modern Hollywood movie. Shark Knight 3D just lumbers along like a shark hit by a tranquilizing dart. First time writers Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg put together the most clichéd set of characters in a plot that can only exist in the 80’s. We’re introduced to a bikini clad bimbette attacked by a large shark, and then to the stock American idiotic movie teens  - the nerd (Dustin Milligan), the gym athlete (Sinqua Walls), the hot chick (Sara Paxton), and other kids who descend to a lake house for a weekend getaway. There is also an ex-boyfriend (Chris Carmack) and a racist redneck (Joshua Leonard) whose big teeth are supposed to foreshadow a sign of things to come from beneath the waters. Ooh, scary.

You’d have to be dumber than these kids to not figure out who dies first and who survives and how. You’d also have to be super smart to figure out why there are sharks in a salt lake. Speaking of which, the sharks are part CGI part animatronic, and they make for some hilariously bad special effects. The whole coming-at-you 3D gimmick is done way too many times to entertain, and since the majority of the film is shot in the dark, the dimming 3D only worsens the visual quality. Just like in the Piranha movies, these super strong ultra-aggressive mega-pissed sharks are given a backstory in an attempt to make us invest in the film, but the only thing one can care about is the time remaining until the end credits arrive. 

 Are you a fan of the Twilight movies? If not, the chances are that you’ll snooze through Bel Ami. But if you are, then you’re probably not wasting time reading a review of a Robert Pattinson movie; the film is strictly for folks who drool over the man.

Just like in the Twilight films, Pattinson has been struck by a curse – to live forever as Edward Cullen. He has been trying desperately hard to move on to more serious films like Water for Elephants and Cosmopolis but he continues to be known only for his vampire character. The curse lives on in Bel Ami, where he plays a desperate toyboy for a string of attractive ladies. Set in Paris in the 1890s, Georges Duroy (Pattinson) an ex-soldier finds luck when he meets a former comrade at a club and lands a job of a journalist with a popular French newspaper. To ‘get ahead’ in his career he begins a relationship with his comrade’s wife (Uma Thurman) but also falls in love with another woman (Christina) and is somehow forced to seduce his employer’s wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). The entirety of the film purely consists of Pattinson hopping from one bed to another battling guilt, remorse and lingerie. 

Bel Ami is adapted from the famous 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant, however the film merely offers Twi Hards a chance to see Pattinson strip naked and canoodle various women. Directors Declan Donnelan and Nick Ormerod squeeze out every last drop of melodrama possible from a thin story, and Thurman and Thomas try their best to maintain a semblance of dignity amid the pasty faced hamminess of Pattinson. The guy is neither scheming, nor a suave genius nor a remorseful villain – he is the same eyebrow twitching, nonstop grinning character we have seen before multiple times. That’s not to say a better actor would’ve made the film any more interesting considering the story is pretty much antiquated. 

The Campaign attempts to satirize the current election in America but more often than not it misses its target. How much you enjoy the film depends heavily on how much you like its hilarious leads Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.

Directed by Jay Roach, famous for his Austin Powers and Meet the Parents films, The Campaign is a moderately fun comedy, albeit not particularly a razor sharp satire that one expects it to be. It gets many things right but it lacks the panache found in British political comedies like In the Loop. Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, the four-term Democratic congressional incumbent in a North Carolina district, and along with his wife (Katherine Lanasa) and his campaign manage he expects to win his fifth term. Unfortunately for him, two business brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) plot something sinister by inputting a rich businessman’s stupid son (Galifianakis) as the stooge to increase their profit. Seeing as the son is a moron, they hire a campaign manager for a full on makeover and prepare him for the campaign. Brady laughs at the newbie first, but he soon finds himself in hot waters. 

Ferrell and Galifianakis have a blast in their roles and there is abundance of their trademark boisterous goofiness. It’s not surprising that Roach cast these two in the lead – they are the masters of on screen buffoonery. Their exchanges play out like skits of Saturday Night Live, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However despite flashes of excellent comic timing The Campaign becomes a wobbly satire. Towards the middle Chris Henchi’s screenplay gets stuck in a muddy puddle and fails to go whole hog with its intentions. Majority of the film is either too farcical or not farcical enough – it gets monotonous to wait for Roach to hit the sweet spot. Moreover, the film rarely treads outside the safe zone, and one feels kind of cheated to watch an A-rated political satire that is politically correct. On the bright side the film runs a swift 80 minutes, if you’re looking for harmless laughs this weekend then this might just be the film for you. 

(First published in MiD Day)

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