Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Enchanted Hitman: A Completely Random Film Festival

Having this last weekend entirely to myself allowed me to do one of my most favorite things: go see a couple of movies whose only similarity is my desire to see them. No perusing film reviews to find early Oscar favorites. No subtitles! No spinach! No moms with cancer! My needs are few and simple: entertain me. Feed me candy and nachos. Points are taken away for anything that “really makes you think”, as in “This really makes you think about the plight of the barn swallow/Iraq/state of spirituality in modern culture.”

First up to bat was Enchanted, the latest Disney ex machina about a princess looking for her happily ever after whilst being pursued by a wicked witch with a ‘b’. A couple of days before Enchanted opened, my brother sent me an agitated email pointing out that Enchanted had a Rotten Tomato rating of 100%. “What is the world coming to?” he wanted to know. He sulked eloquently: “[This movie] answers the question we’ve all been wondering. What would happen if Doctor McDreamy were a lawyer in New York instead of a doctor in Seattle?”

I attempted to gently point out to him that it’s a Disney movie and he, a man in his early 30s with no children and no propensity for cross-dressing or singing show tunes, is not really the audience. We both agreed though that the scene of James Marsden being run over by bicycles looked HI-larious!

The truth is, Enchanted is charming, though hardly Disney’s best. Giselle, who lives in an animated fairy tale world in a mushroom house waiting for her prince, finds herself banished to New York City by the evil Queen who is not interested in sacrificing her throne to her son’s new love. So, you have a sweet na├»ve beauty with cartoon notions of love wandering the streets of New York City, singing to the rats and cockroaches. Through the course of her journey she is also being chased by her handsome if vacant cartoon-esque prince, her chatty pet chipmunk and eventually of course the evil queen and her minion. Along the way she meets Lawyer McDreamy, a divorce attorney with a cynical view of happily ever after, and Lawyer McDreamy’s sweet young daughter who dreams of fairy princesses.

New York is probably the one city on earth dazed refugees from planet family animation could wander unmolested, which is both a strength and a weakness of the film. On the one hand, you can accept that people would stare but then instantly forget the crazy dude in tights trying to wrestle a city bus. On the other, it’s really hard to imagine a single dad allowing a clearly insane if sweet young lady into his apartment in the middle of the night, no matter how much his daughter insists that she’s “really a princess”. But the song and dance number in Central Park is frankly hysterical and one of those scenes, like those with the sewer workers who keep encountering lost cartoon land refugees, which show the writers knew New York as well as they knew Disneyland.

Personally, I found Giselle’s options of Happily Ever After guys pretty underwhelming. If I awoke to find I had to choose between James “Milquetoast” Marsden and Patrick “I don’t care how McDreamy you insist he is he’ll always be the geek from Meatballs III to me” Dempsy, Disney might find they had their first lesbian princess on their hands.

Strangely disappointing too is Susan Sarandon as the Evil Queen. Whether it’s the cartoon/reality-vision transformation, or a costume that wears her rather than the other way around, she just does not have the riveting malicious menace that crowns the best of Disney’s evils. Maleficent, Cruella DeVille or Ursula she ain’t, although clearly she raided their closet.

But, as I had to remind my brother, we are not the intended audience for Enchanted. And, I must give Disney credit for dreaming up yet another means of recycling their catalog and selling us the exact same product over and over again. They’re like some kind of mythical creature, the Scarlett O’Hara of animation. After the human race is gone, and there’s nothing but cockroaches left, Disney will still be here too, re-editing all their old footage to make heroes of the cockroaches, and keep on selling the dream.

Which brings us to part 2 of our entertainment extravaganza, Hitman. Here is what I knew about Hitman before I went to it: . That’s about all you need to know. I found out watching the opening credits that it’s based on a video game. Video games are kind of a black hole in my pop culture knowledge. Before I saw that, I think I’d assumed it was based on a graphic novel, but six of one. Why this was obviously “based on” something as opposed to the fully organic creation of a studio, I do not know, but look, already we are thinking far far too much.

So, there’s this guy. Over halfway into the movie we find out that (spoiler alert) his name is “47”. Yeah, that’s right. Agent 47. Not 46. Not 99. 47. I hope I haven’t spoiled too much for you. This guy was raised, along with a lot of other orphings, by a vaguely Catholic Church-like organization, to be a master assassin. And if you’re wondering why the Catholic Church would need to raise an army of assassins I only offer why not? I mean, the Buddhists have a whole genre of kung-fu warriors, right? I mean, I think they’re Buddhists, but look, already we are thinking far far too much.

So all of the assassins by this organization shave their heads and have barcodes tattooed on the back of them. By their baldness and their barcodes shall you recognize them. It kind of makes them stick out a little bit, actually. They also are very natty dressers, dark suits and what not. If I were going to raise an army of assassins, I think I would train them to look like actuaries, or maybe plumbers, but that wouldn’t be very photogenic, and these assassins are very very very photogenic, especially 47.

There’s enough of a plot in Hitman that I actually found myself asking questions. Like, what is the goal of this assassin orphanage organization? Do they have a political agenda, or is it money for hire thing? Granted, the Catholic Church has had longstanding issues with Russia that would make repeatedly killing their president tempting, but maybe it’s just a fundraiser, like selling poinsettias at Christmas. It’s just…oh gosh…look what I did there. I was thinking.

There are no problems with the movie Hitman that cannot be solved by checking your brain at the door. Seriously, it’s got just about everything you need, with the explosions and the shootings and five-on-one close quarters combat and hookers in danger and cast members of Lost moonlighting as Russian drug dealers and a really really really photogenic hero named 47. I enjoyed it so much, I actually considered playing the game, but only if I don’t have to think too much.

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