Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys, Aliena and Incurable Romantics

A Fine Madness Called “Crazy, Stupid Love”

By Skip Sheffield

Is there one perfect soulmate for every person? A lot of people think so. They are called “incurable romantics.”
“Crazy, Stupid Love” is a very funny romantic comedy that has fun with the notion there is that perfect person, and if you find him or her, you should hang on for dear life and never give up.
That incurable romantic is named Cal Weaver and he is played by Steve Carrell, who also co-produces. Cal’s soulmate Emily, with whom he fell in love at age 15, is played by Julianne Moore.
Both Cal and Emily Weaver have good jobs and two great kids who live at home and another who has already left the nest. What could possibly go wrong? In Dan Fogelman’s clever script, plenty. Fogelman is a bit of a Cinderella story, having struck it rich first as an unknown with the surprise hit “Cars.” He is now one of the hottest young screenwriters in Hollywood. Fogelman has a way of stating simple, obvious truths in a very funny, ironic way.
Without warning Emily drops a bombshell: she wants a divorce. She has lost sight of what she had and lost her head over a snarky co-worker.
Kevin Bacon is quite adept at playing snarky. His David Lindhagen is a jerk of the first order and a perfect foil for the impossibly pure, squeaky clean Cal, who has been with only one woman in his life.
“Twenty-five years of marriage, and you have nothing to say?,” Emily demands her shell-shocked mate.
True, most guys tend to clam up in this kind of emotional situation, and Cal is more tightly-jacketed than average. Jumping out of a car is pretty extreme, but here quite funny.
In real life it would be hard to imagine some studly dude noticing the morose Cal nursing drinks in a bar every night and deciding to do a Henry Higgins makeover on a complete stranger.
That is just what happens in this fantasy, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the same guys who directed the gay romance “I Love You Phillip Morris.”
Jacob (Ryan Gosling) is a chick magnet with killer pickup techniques. He decides to impart his ways with women on the hapless Cal, and bit-by-bit it works.
This gives Carrell ample opportunity to do his bumbling geek schtick that he honed in “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Dinner for Schmucks” and “Dan in Real Life.” The funniest of these bits co-stars Maria Tomei as a spitfire eighth grade teacher.
Cal is not the only incurable romantic in the story. So is his 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who is smitten with his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Also discovering her possible soulmate is Cal’s eldest daughter Hannah (Emma Stone), a junior lawyer.
This is shaping up as the summer of Emma Stone, and once again she and her gorgeous blues eyes acquit themselves well.
“Crazy, Stupid Love” is not going to change anyone’s notion of romantic love, but it may help those who have been romantic saps recognize and laugh at themselves.

“Cowboys and Aliens” Neither Fish Nor Fowl

When I did an advance on “Cowboys and Aliens” for Atlantic Ave magazine earlier this summer, I thought to myself this could be daringly brilliant or really dumb. The answer lies somewhere in between. This Steven Spielberg production looks great, has a dynamite cast and a script that both honors and spoofs the movie Western traditions, but it gets headed off at the pass once those darn aliens start jumping around.
Steely, blue-eyed James Bond actor Daniel Craig looks good in a cowboy outfit, and does some convincing choreography as badass gold-robber Jake Lonergun. Harrison is more grizzled than ever as his nemesis, Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde, and Olivia Wilde is stunningly lovely as the obligatory babe, Ella Swenson. Ella has a very special secret in this tall tale adapted by director Jon Favreau from the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.
“Graphic novel” is just a nicer way of saying comic book. Like “Super 8’ earlier this summer, “Cowboys and Aliens” goes off the rails- way off the rails- and off a cliff. The advance screening crowd seemed to enjoy it and even applauded after the grand finale, but they didn’t pay for tickets. This movie will please neither fans of Westerns nor alien monster movie fanciers. I guess that leaves fanboys (the film debuted last week at Comic-Con). We’ll see if there are enough of them for this film to earn back its production costs.

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