Movie Reviews: The Grocer's Son, Kenny, Space Chimps
FELON Clearly overcompensating for all the aggression that he couldn’t get out of his system as the wheelchair-bound Augustus Hill on HBO’s Oz and the repressed single dad Michael Dawson on Lost, Harold Perrineau gives unintentionally comic expression in Felon to the delineation between his character’s public and private scruples — vile on his beat as a prison lieutenant but a picture-perfect vision of upstanding citizenship around his boy. After accidentally killing a burglar in his front yard, Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff) is sent to the cocksure madman’s unit at California’s Corcoran State Prison, where he quickly loses his bearings while getting the dish on prison politics from lifer John Smith (Val Kilmer, practically understated in spite of the sea of scruff, tattoos and body fat under which he’s buried). Like Perrineau’s performance, former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh’s directorial mode is essentially a form of acting-out — all fast cuts, blurred affectations and herky-jerky camera moves — but at least his belligerent style is lobbed at the same fever pitch as the intense dog-eat-dog rumbles that wear on Dorff’s working-class stud. Essentially a cautionary tale for pretty boys without criminal records, Felon gives everyone their tidy and expected due but outlines a realistic enough cycle of how a man’s life can easily spiral out of his control, with Dorff proving once and for all that he can just as ably emote above the neck as below. (Mann Chinese 6) (Ed Gonzalez)
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GO THE GROCER’S SON Director Eric Guirado’s The Grocer’s Son is a small, self-assured film that moves at its own pace, always staying one graceful step ahead of its reluctant protagonist. City boy Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) has a built-in curl to his lip and a sleek, dark velvet brow; resentment is the air he breathes, and so when the source of it — his father, a rural grocer — is felled by a heart attack, it takes some serious guilt-tripping to draw him back into the family business in the French countryside. Accompanied to the family homestead by a burgeoning crush named Claire (Regular Lovers’ Clotilde Hesme), Antoine picks up his father’s grocery route and immediately alienates the locals with his brusque, patronizing airs. Claire gives him some lessons on the human touch, and is rewarded with a sabotaging dose of Antoine’s aspirational complex; he wants to keep her expectations below par, even as he loathes his father for similar behavior. Guirado’s story — as humble as the old folks here who can make a day out of purchasing an aubergine — is inflected with immense emotion, mining the quotidian for its deeper charms and exploring how the individuals in a family dynamic shape and reshape each other. As Antoine slowly reassimilates into the family and community, his gradual comfort in being needed suggests one definition of adulthood: when rebellion against routine gives way to respect for tradition. (Royal; Playhouse 7) (Michelle Orange)
GO KENNY Australian comic Shane Jacobson, who has the body of a lumberjack and the sweetly innocent face of a newborn, makes his bid for Crocodile Dundee–style crossover stardom with this crude (in every sense) but surprisingly charming mockumentary about the life of a “corporate bathroom rentals” serviceman. A sort of philosopher of the port-o-let, Kenny holds forth with double-entendre-laden pocket wisdom (“It’s not like my business is going to dry up overnight, is it?”) while trying to keep the lid (as it were) on a series of predictable personal conflicts — a difficult ex-wife, a disapproving father and brother, a son he doesn’t want to disappoint — and, eventually, traveling business (what else?) class to an international toilet convention in Nashville. Borat this isn’t, but what keeps the film consistently winning is Jacobson himself, and the character’s laissez-faire attitude toward matters of human waste. Though I’d hardly call it a Marxist tract, Kenny offers a useful reminder that, whether we’re the rowdy revelers at a drag race or the high-society belles at the Melbourne Cup, we all shit the same way. Or, to quote Kenny himself, “There’s no pecking order in poo.” (Monica 4-Plex; One Colorado) (Scott Foundas)
MEET DAVE If you’re an 8-year-old boy who’s never heard of E.T. or Liar Liar, then MeetDave may be your new favoritest movie of all time. On a mission to save his dying planet of miniature aliens, the captain of a human-shaped spaceship (both played by Eddie Murphy) flies to Earth, befriending perky widow Gina (Elizabeth Banks) and her meek son, Josh (Austyn Lind Myers). As directed by the none-too-subtle Brian Robbins (Norbit, The Shaggy Dog), Meet Dave is aimed squarely at prepubescent boys — the mixture of sci-fi, broad physical comedy and absent-father sentiment will prove irresistible, although they may gag at the schmaltzy love story. What keeps the film surprisingly likable is a game cast led by Murphy, who sustains more laughs from the moth-eaten Starman conceit than it deserves. Murphy’s questionable recent career choices notwithstanding, the guy remains a gifted comedian, and his performance as the spaceship “Dave” — his body a foreign vessel awkwardly trying to interact with jaded Manhattanites — possesses the sort of inspired glee he hasn’t demonstrated since Bowfinger. Still, Meet Dave feels a little too cuddly and familiar to be more than a programmatic summer kids movie — better than average but not worth phoning home about. (Citywide) (Tim Grierson)
SPACE CHIMPS “Dad, which was your favorite part of Space Chimps?” asked the 4-year-old, the day after a media sneak peek. “Dunno, Harry, probably the part where Kilowatt lets the giant monster swallow her.” Kilowatt’s an alien with a giant, glowing head perched atop a teensy-tiny body; blows high-pitched raspberries when excited; voiced by Kristin Chenoweth, who thinks she’s still on Broadway; a very funny character — probably should have been the star, rather than Andy Samberg, Patrick Warburton and Cheryl Hines as monkeys shot into a wormhole to see if there’s life on the other side of the galaxy. Yawn. The wee one wasn’t impressed. “But, Dad, that scene was just a rip-off from Star Wars.” Pardon? “When Kilowatt says, ‘If you swallow me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine,’ that’s what Obi-Wan says to Darth Vader before he cuts him in half.” We agreed that the payoff following the big gulp was a giggle, but then it hit him: “Dad, the whole movie’s a rip-off.” Ah, they can’t even sneak one past the pre-K crowd, which already saw this when it was called Space Wiggles. The animation, incidentally, is half-assed, like they ran out of the $292.96 budget halfway through. Rip-off indeed. (Citywide) (Robert Wilonsky)
A VERY BRITISH GANGSTER I’m not sure what makes Dominic Noonan “very British” other than the fact that he hails from Manchester, but the hero of journalist Donal MacIntyre’s first foray into filmmaking is most definitely a gangster. The head of a locally famous crime family, Noonan spent 22 years in jail for various combinations of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder. He is also charismatic and jovial, an openly gay man who lives in a ratty bungalow with a posse of pimply young gangsters-in-training, loves to sing karaoke, and officially changed his name to Lattlay Fottfoy (short for “look after those that look after you, fuck off those that fuck off you”). MacIntyre’s control over his material is assured at times, particularly when he focuses on Dom’s young son, Bugsy, and the other troubled boys who float around the periphery of the Noonan gang. But he is also apt to lapse into thumping, Entourage-esque segments that feature Noonan’s posse marching around Manchester to an Oasis-heavy pop soundtrack. For an experienced reporter — MacIntyre is well-known in his native Ireland for hard-hitting television exposés — he has an almost unseemly attraction to the gangland life, gushing over Dominic’s often benevolent role in Mancunian community affairs while glossing over the nasty means by which he acquired his power. It would have been nice to hear a small something about Noonan’s very British victims. (Culver Plaza) (Julia Wallace)
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