Friday, June 27, 2008

Richard - Movie Review - The Wackness

I don't usually comment before a movie review, but in this case, I feel I need to. Although Richard saw the film a few weeks ago, he didn't have the roundtable interviews until yesterday. Even though I totally trashed Olivia Thirlby, Richard still sucked it up and went in. We didn't know what his reception would be, but I appreciate him seeing it through. Thanks also to Sony Pictures Classics. Their PR people are fantastic. Thanks Melanie. It is Olivia's PR people that need to get a life.
Instead of wasting $12 on a ticket to see The Wackness, donate that money to charity. A donation of twelve bucks couldn’t possibly make a difference, you say. Twelve bucks barely covers the cost of a triple venti caramel mocha-choca-latte with whipped cream so how could it have any impact as a donation, you argue. Most of a donation to a charitable organization gets eaten up by the running expenses anyway, you exclaim, so my measly twelve bucks will do squat for those who need it. Let’s face it, twelve bucks doesn’t even begin to cover the lube budget on some movie sets so if you want to talk about running expenses eating into that twelve bucks, almost any charitable donation is a better investment.

Excluding a Jessica Simpson movie, most movies take in a couple of million on their opening weekend. Who do you think could use that money more, some studio so they can fund the next schlock project or an organization like Miracle House that provides temporary housing and support services for caregivers and patients coming to New York City for critical medical treatment? Would you rather read that The Wackness took in $4 million on its opening weekend or that Literacy Partners received a $4 million donation? When you think about the fact that the opening weekend figure is made up of all of those little $12 “donations,” you begin to see the impact that you can have on an organization.

I will step down from my soap box for a minute so I can tell you why you should avoid seeing The Wackness. The movie takes place in 1994. How do we know it is 1994? The characters make reference to Zima and 90210 (multiple times), there is a bus that passes by with a Forrest Gump ad on it, and the soundtrack includes music by The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

Okay, some of those things are more generic 90s but we’ll go with it. I guess what is really supposed to nail it to 1994 is the number of times they mention NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the implementation of his “anti-fun” laws. For those of you who didn’t live in NYC at the time, the so-called “anti-fun” laws cracked down on things like graffiti, vandalism, loud radios (remember the big boom boxes?), public drunkenness, public urination, unlicensed vending and the squeegee guys. How could he! No wonder he earned the moniker, Bulliani. Doesn’t the constitution protect my right to play loud music while I tag a store front? Isn’t that freedom of expression? And why can’t I piss on the sidewalk? Dogs do it, so what’s the difference, especially if I have been tossing back some brews with my buds and I am trying to make my way home. Given the fact that our true civil liberties have been disappearing under the current administration, the self-centered outrage in the film is embarrassing.

A big problem with the whole, ‘Giuliani doesn’t let us have any fun any more’ argument is that the City did become cleaner and safer while he was mayor. Don’t get me wrong, the guy has an ego the size of one of the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and he could NEVER admit that he did anything wrong, but there definitely were changes for the better. For a lot of people, this is the guy who brought Disney to 42nd Street and became America ’s mayor after 9/11.
But I digress… The basic plot of the movie is Ben Kingsley plays a shrink in crisis who is smoking a lot of weed. Josh Peck is his dealer and is trading weed for therapy sessions. Josh just graduated high school and is still a virgin and hates his parents. Method Man supplies Josh with the weed. Olivia Thirlby is Kingsley’s step-daughter and a classmate of Josh’s. For reasons that were lost on me, Thirlby decides she is going to deflower Josh but I couldn’t tell if she did it out of pity or to be cruel since he immediately falls in love with her. And then there is Mary-Kate Olsen playing a hippy chick who buys pot from Josh and makes out with Ben Kingsley in a bar (actually Mary-Kate and Ben making out was the most interesting scene in the movie and they were the only actors who seemed to have any chemistry).

Everyone is in crisis; everyone has something happen that makes them wake up and realize things have changed forever. Toward the end of the movie there is a scene shot in Brooklyn with Manhattan and the Twin Towers in the background. I cared little for the characters throughout the movie and seeing the Towers made what the characters were going through pale in comparison to what we as a nation went through on that day and what so many are still dealing with.

The movie stars Academy Award winner, Sir Ben Kingsley. Gandhi, Maurice, Schindler’s List, House of Sand and Fog – my God, the man can read the phonebook and people will line up to see it. However, in 2008 Ben took roles in the Love Guru and the Wackness so one has to wonder if he is in a bit of an Ed McMahon situation.

Josh Peck not only shed 40 pounds from his days as the star of a tween sitcom, he is also trying to shed his Nickelodeon image by doing a nude scene. Great you say, the guy shows his butt while the woman keeps all of her bits strategically covered. If Reese Witherspoon had to pretend that her topless scene was integral for her character just so she could move up to adult roles, why shouldn’t the young male actors have to show skin. Fair is fair. Except when the young male butt is soft and doughy looking and your thinking, how could a guy that young have a muffin top already? Trust me, I enjoy going to Harbin Hot Springs where I am surrounded by all shapes and sizes and with natural bushes (can we start a campaign to let women know that it is okay to have some hair down there?). I’m not saying that he had to go on some Abercrombie regimen but enough sitting on the couch playing Guitar Hero. Get outside and do something.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you know from the posting the other day that Olivia refused to meet me. It actually became absurdly funny at the press event. As soon as I walked in and introduced myself, I was immediately informed that I could not speak with Olivia. Every where I went, there was someone who seemed to know who I was and they would remind me that I was not to speak with Olivia. I was in a room with the director, Jonathan Levine, Method Man, and several other journalists, and someone walks into the room, calls me by name and tells me I have to leave because Olivia will be coming into the room. Of course everyone is looking at me with these quizzical expressions as if there must be a court order that prevents me from being in the same room with her.
Method Man is completely charming and someone that I could have hung out with all day. He is working hard, doing The Wire, making movies, still making music and performing and his philosophy is, when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. He didn’t complain about how rough his schedule is or how draining it all is. Just the opposite, he was talking about how grateful he is to be doing everything and that he juggles his schedule so that he can honor all of his commitments.
I must confess that given how much I disliked the movie, I expected to dislike the director, Jonathan Levine. But the truth is, he is a nice guy. I may be na├»ve but he just came across as very earnest and genuine. He wasn’t arrogant and blowing smoke up my ass nor was he being tortured and pretentious. I specifically asked him about his decision to use the shot of the Twin Towers and out of that came a really heartfelt discussion about that scene. He wrote and directed the film and maybe he should focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do everything. I would be curious to see what he would do with a script written by someone else.

On Wednesday, June 25 the Wackness was screened in NYC and the evening was capped off by a party at the private roof club at the Gramercy Park Hotel. The gentleman who organizes these events usually assembles a mix of New York socialites and celebs along with some A/B actors who aren’t affiliated with the movie but have come out to support it. Ben, Josh, Olivia and Mary Kate were there. Let’s see who else was there… Ashley Olsen – no wait, that wasn’t Ashley, it is just Mary Kate wearing a different dress. It seems that for some reason Mary Kate changed from the long dress she wore to the screening to a short dress for the party and that her sister wasn’t there to support her.

Some of the people who really were there include, Beth Ostrosky who is engaged to Howard Stern and seems to take advantage of any opportunity to be out of the house by herself; the musician Rob Thomas (?!?!); a couple of models with vaguely recognizable names; and to underscore how low they scraped, the two socialgays who got into a shoving match a couple of months ago (both have thinly veiled careers that seem to serve the sole purpose of trying to get their names mentioned in print). Where was everyone? What could have been so important that they weren’t able to make this event? Can you believe that instead of going to a free event with some cool Hollywood types some people actually chose to spend money and buy a ticket to go to a Friends of the Highline party or the Partnership for Public Service gala or even (wait for it because it is just too depressing) a Rock to Save Darfur concert. Shesh!


Anonymous said...

Richard, thanks for doing this.

As a non-smoker/toker, I had no desire to see this movie based on the previews. None. Now, I want to see the reels in flames.

Great insights, and it's hilarious about your shunning. Though it must have been a little awkward.

MnGddess said...

Richard - how dare they shun a fine member of CDAN such as yourself! We welcome you back with open arms. lol

Thank you for the review, and I love your comments about Method Man. Now I just wanna hug him.

And I wanna see the Olsen Twins on that show with Stacy London and that guy (sorry) - What Not To Wear!!

boobsu said...

Hey… Joshy lost a lot more weight than 40 lbs! Making fun of a guy's doughy butt is just as nasty as making fun of a fat girl! It's nice to show all body types in movies and no I'm not overweight! I do give you props for going into that kind of environment where you are not well-received!!!

mooshki said...

"Of course everyone is looking at me with these quizzical expressions as if there must be a court order that prevents me from being in the same room with her."


Where were you guys in 2005? Sir Ben Kingsley was in "BloodRayne" (a Uwe Boll movie) and "A Sound of Thunder" (the most unintentionally hilarious movie I've ever seen). He's been slumming it for a while. I love it, though, because he's such a great actor that you can totally tell he's thinking "yeah, this movie sucks, but they're paying me to do it, and I'm gonna have some fun!"

Anonymous said...

makes me wonder if Sir Kingsley does it like Gary Oldman used to. Oldman only did Air Force One so that he could finance a movie that he wanted to make (Nil By Mouth).

And is it wrong that I think Jonathan Levine is a little bit hot?

jw12 said...

Thanks for saving me the time and $$ Richard.

Ellen said...

Aw, I love Beth O. - and her homely - yet awesomely hilarious and rich - fiancee. Can't help it.

Marna Palmer said...

The characters make reference to Zima and 90210 (multiple times), there is a bus that passes by with a Forrest Gump ad on it, and the soundtrack includes music by The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

DAMMIT. I just got excited about this stroll down memory lane, but the rest of your review quashed that. Thanks for saving me $12! My check is on it's way to the Humane Society.

lutefisk said...

I miss the fat Josh--but Drake & Josh WILL be back with a Christmas movie!!

Thanks for a great review. I wasn't planning on going to this, so it's fun to hear what other's say.

Judi said...

Wasn't planning on seeing this either. Haven't changed my mind.
Olivia, cherie, get over yourself. You haven't done enough for anyone to care about you.


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