Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Over the Hedge, Poseidon

1. Over the Hedge (Directors: Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick)

Dreamworks has started to crank out their digitally-animated lineup every year now and every release has the whiff of trying to live life outside of Shrek. Unfortunately, movies like this, Madagascar, and Shark Tale have the very stench of excess--trying too hard, loading up the movie with name actors lending voices, and cutting on the story.

Here, it's Bruce Willis as a raccoon who has tried to steal a bear's (Nick Nolte) hibernation food stash, full of people garbage like potato chips and such. The booty gets destroyed, and the bear threatens the hapless raccoon's life. But, it is assured that every last item on the list can be recovered in a week--so the raccoon goes near the suburbs, where there is a little bit of nature reserve left for a turtle (Garry Shandling), a family of porcupines (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara in their umpteenth pairing as a married couple), a couple of possums (William Shatner and Avril Lavigne), a nutty squirrel (Steve Carell), and a skunk (Wanda Sykes). He needs them to help out in raiding the suburbs for the items, all the while seeming like a good guy. But their raids call attention to the humans (the main one voiced by Allison Janney), and they call for an exterminator (Thomas Haden Church) and more trouble ensues.

I found the movie kind of tiring, but there are a couple of decent gags--the most inspired being towards the end. This time, a Dreamworks movie finds the heart, but it lacks everything else.

2. Poseidon (Director: Wolfgang Petersen)

I don't know how the director of The Neverending Story and Das Boot got into fare like Air Force One, The Perfect Storm, and Troy, but now I think it's safe to say that Petersen isn't the best man for the job, if he ever was. His movies are frequently overblown, the special effects are terrible (the AFO crash may be one of the worst displays of special effects ever), and there's just a lot of meat missing.

Poseidon suffers from actually not taking enough time to set up the boat disaster and the characters, and the action suffers, ahem, disastrously because of it. Before we even get to know anybody, really know anybody, there's a rogue wave crashing into the ship and then the movie pares down the cast to a few heroes--led by Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell, and maybe Richard Dreyfuss playing a gay character (complete with earring!) giving the gay guys someone to cheer for. In every big situation, there's a person who did something like it a few years ago. Like Russell--he's a former firefighter (and I immediately said, "Of course! In Backdraft!"), or there's a guy who was on the swim team. I just couldn't lay my eyes off of Emmy Rossum the whole time. Just make her the freaking hero.

So while big moments in the action occur, those are the perfect times to hash out personal dramas--something an extra reel of film could have hashed out before the wave hit. And highly respected actor Andre Braugher gets stuck with the hapless captain role. I'm sure he enjoyed every minute filming this thankless part. Action confusing many times--Petersen wants to concern us with a falling elevator in one scene, but damned if I ever saw it hanging perilously over any of the characters at any time.

Nope, it's no Titanic. Not by a long shot.


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