23 March, 2005

Surfin' Multiplex: Robots, Hotel Rwanda, Hitch

I've overdone it this week, seven movies in two days. So to preserve sanity, just some capsule remarks.


A perfectly enjoyable little film, but not one to get too excited about. I suppose all CGI animation will forever suffer by comparison with the almighty Pixar. Would that we could hold conventional films to the same high standard.

My only worry going into it was that Robin Williams would do his increasingly grating manic ad-lib schtick. Ever had a conversation with someone who tries to make a bad joke / pun / strange allusion from everything that's said. I've been that annoying git, and even I'm tired of it. Restraint either from medication, self, director or editor has quelled Robin's performance.... this time. To give him his due, some of his gags, particularly about how annoying his character is, work precisely because they are underplayed.

It flirts successfully with saccharine, despite wearing its "message" a little too obviously with the slogan "you can shine no matter what you're made of", or something like that. It tells its very standard story of the young inventor who goes to the big city to make good, meeting sidekicks and adversity. It's lightweight, less than memorable, but entertaining nonetheless.

Hotel Rwanda

An almost harrowing tale of the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutu in Rwanda. I say almost because the film conspicuously avoids showing us the worst of the atrocity and because it is a story of survival. Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, house manager of a luxury hotel, a wheeler dealer for the requirements of his guests and employers. A Hutu, he uses his conniving skills to protect his Tutsi wife and family, and many neighbors and friends from the genocidal onslaught. A struggle which keeps tension flowing through the whole film.

Although the Hutu militia are portrayed as monolithic jingoistic thugs, their leadership has the frighteningly canny arrogance to predict the indifference of the west. To a certain extent there lies the crux of the films impact, we ask ourselves would we care more about the characters if they were white, if they weren't in Africa, if the warring groups didn't have such comical sounding names. To compound this liberal guilt, the roots of the conflict are in European imperialism, as the colonial Belgians artificially created the racial distinction in the first place by promoting the more European looking, taller, lighter skinned, sharper nosed Tutsis over the Hutu.

The film doesn't waste time or cloud the issues with subtlety. In fact it clearly condemns the kind of subtlety that lets the western governments in the film quibble over how many "acts of genocide" constitute an intervention worthy "genocide."

The film might be criticized for oversimplifying. The blackguard Hutu, the toothless UN, the actions of the Tutsi rebels which are glossed over as either justified or heroic. I was glad of simplification, I don't want atrocity shoved in my face, I can handle the aftermath shown, killing-fields-style of roads littered with corpses, or implied off screen rape torture and murder. Simplification is not the failing of the film, it's the failing of all of us who would rather get on with our lives without having to contemplate the suffering we'd feel helpless to solve.


I enjoyed this movie thoroughly, but I'd rather not write too much about it. Thinking too much about this perfect concoction of aspirational romantic comedy fantasy might spoil it.

Will Smith with perfect cool portrays a "date doctor" who helps nervous nerds capture the eye of the women they've fixated on romantically, but, poor guy, he's so successful with the opposite sex that he has too many women and can't focus on one emotionally. Aspirational fantasy kicks in with dates from lifestyles of the rich and wealthy that include jetskiing around Manhattan, gourmet meals with one-on-ones with famous chefs, and private tours of Ellis Island. No woman is less than beautiful, no guy as cute as our man Will. We're even given a flashback glimpse of an earlier nerdy Will Smith, I told you, it was a fantasy.

Will meets gorgeous, emotionally unavailable career gossip columnist Eva Mendes, attraction, farcical misunderstandings, conflicts of interest etc. ensue. Emotional barriers come down, we all get a hug. It's that kind of movie.

The truest thing about this film is that with the right amount of confidence, you stand a decent chance of seducing anyone. Fortunately this applies as much to audiences of this film as it does to members of your desired sex. Breezy, fun, confident. A great date.



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