by M. Faust
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I’m not persuaded that a big screen update of The Three Stooges was something we really needed, certainly not when the originals can still be seen (and often are, thanks to regular “Stoogemania” events in the Western New York area). But we have one, and all things considered it’s probably as good as it could possibly be given the obvious affection for the comic trio that the Farrelly Brothers have and the performances of MAD TV’s Will Sasso, Sean Hayes (from Will and Grace) and Chris Diamantopoulos as Curly, Larry, and Moe. It’s not a biopic but rather an attempt to recreate the characters in a modern setting, complete with pretty much every bit of shtick they used in their shorts from the 1930s through the 1960s, and as homage it’s pretty impeccable. (There’s a brief shot of Sasso’s Curly jumping in a fountain that I wish I could replay a dozen times.) The biggest drawback is that the Farrelly’s trademark sentimentality is misplaced: Giving the Stooges a backstory in an orphanage adds nothing, other than the ability to enjoy Larry David as a nun. It won’t make many new fans, but Stoogeophiles should be happy with it.
In cities where they bothered screening it for the press, the distributors of The Cabin in the Woods reportedly made a big deal out of not giving away any of the “surprises” in this film that has been sitting on the shelf since it was shot in 2009. Given that the surprise occurs in the first minute of the film, when we see a pair of laboratory technicians manipulating the events occurring to the oh-so-cliched teens heading for a weekend in the woods, it’s hard to see what could be spoiled. Like the Scream movies, it’s essentially an exercise in patting horror fanboys on the head for how clever they are at “getting” it. To put it another way, it’s like watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater hosted by a college sophomore who has just discovered Pirandello. As directed by Drew Stoddard (Cloverfield), the movie wants to have its cake and eat it too, but by continually pointing out the manipulations of the genre, it drains whatever effects a horror film might hold for unjaded audiences, and to no terribly interesting end. It’s a film that thinks it’s a whole lot smarter than it is.
As produced by Luc Besson, the Jerry Bruckheimer of Europe, Lockout has no such illusions: It’s a genre exercise that revels in what it is, with tongue only slightly in cheek. Guy Pearce, who should be seen in films a lot more than he is, stars as the tough guy who is sent to an outer space prison to rescue the president’s daughter from 500 prisoners who want out. The plot leading up to this is almost cheerfully tossed off, as is the futuristic setting. (2070, if I recall correctly.) But as an exercise in action cinema, it’s even more fast-paced and unrelenting than The Raid: Redemption.
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