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December 22, 2010 5:56 pm
The Way Back (
The film is a sort of mish-mash of reality TV shows, with the gang, led by Sturgess, resourcefully overcoming challenges in a variety of environments. They make it through a blizzard by fashioning masks out of bark. In the desert they kill a snake and turn it into dinner.
|Cold Comfort: the band of characters in ‘The Way Back’ must overcome a myriad challenges|
Generally, the co-writer/director Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Master and Commander) resists the story’s potential for heart-racing excitement. We do not witness the escape itself or the slaughter of the animals that provide sustenance. Instead we get foreign-accented (yet confidently idiomatic) English, near-constant coughing, and helicopter shots of isolated figures trudging through mountain and desert.
Somewhere during the Russian leg of the journey, Saoirse Ronan, the girl from Atonement, turns up as a Polish orphan. Ronan helps things along at a point where the lack of conflict and incident begins to pall. She serves not as a catalyst for, say, macho jealousy but as an emotional conduit between the grunting men, and as one of the many small motors that power this honourable film over the finishing line.
Love and Other Drugs (
So what we have here is a tale of a playboy who finds love – but one in which that familiar trajectory is given less emphasis than, say, the challenges faced by Zoloft reps keen to displace Xanax as the best-selling anti-depressant. A period setting (1996), a comparatively out-of-the-way city backdrop (Pittsburgh), and a plausible amount of sex and nudity give further distinctiveness to this smoothly handled, thickly textured film. The final scene is a flop, complete with reflective “what I learned” voiceover, but then we have Regina Spektor singing away over the credits, and goodwill is restored.
Gyllenhaal’s drugs-rep superior talks about Chicago as the place to get to, the ideal beat – and Chicago is where nurse-turned-administrator Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) receives nuisance visits from a drugs rep in Little Fockers (
From an enema at the beginning to a whoopee cushion in the closing moments, the film has a preoccupation with what Greg’s father (Dustin Hoffman), encouraging open exchange about bodily matters, calls “the things that make us human”. This anatomical concern can hardly be called a theme, but it nevertheless serves as a loose organising principle for the film’s gags. Owen Wilson returns, this time with eastern teachings to spout; Alba and Laura Dern, as the headmistress of an exclusive kindergarten, are sprightly additions. And there is a scene in which De Niro fights with Harvey Keitel about the latter’s slow construction job – probably not the old-age reunion the two envisaged when they worked together on Scorsese films in the 1970s.
Gulliver’s Travels (
|Jack Black in ‘Gulliver’s Tales’ may be too much for some|
Do children delight in anachronisms? Will they giggle when Emily Blunt, princess of the Lilliputians, tries to break up with her betrothed with the line “It be not you, it be me”? I doubt it, but they can stare happily through their 3D glasses while the accompanying adults laugh at the sheer silliness of pudgy, Converse-wearing Jack Black encouraging the Lilliputians to build a mini-Times Square in his honour or convincing them that the plots of The Empire Strikes Back and Titanic were merely episodes in his exciting life. It kept me amused but heed this health warning: the film may prove insufferable to those with little to no tolerance for Jack Black, or Billy Connolly, or Catherine Tate, or – in a small role, but it may prove enough – James Corden.
The director Hideo Nakata (Ring, Dark Water) has designed a physical world for the chatroom. On the plus side, this means we are given more to look at than boys and girls tapping away. But the gimmick is so poorly conceived that we spend most of the film converting what we are being shown into what is actually going on. It isn’t worth the effort.
Nigel Andrews is away
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