Sunday, April 16, 2006

Vacation Movie Reviews, Part II

Hokay, two more movies that I saw on vacation with the shadowy and mysterious Codename V:

The Benchwarmers
Yeah, I know it's fashionable and cool to diss Rob Schneider and David Spade, but I thought this was actually pretty damn funny. Schneider is actually the straight man here, playing a kind of vaguely brooding jock with a hot ovulation-obsessed wife, a mysterious past, and a grudge against bullies. He meets up with a couple of adult nerds (Spade and Napoleon Dynamite) to practice some baseball, and they end up playing an impromptu pickup game against a team of Little League bullies. Spade and Dynamite are completely inept, but Schneider is good enough to beat the Little Leaguers all by himself.

Their efforts are noticed by Jon Lovitz, a formerly bullied nerd who grew up to become an internet billionaire, who bankrolls a tournament of Little League teams and "The Benchwarmers," with the winner to get a spiffy modern stadium. The funniest bits involve Spade's incredibly paranoid, agoraphobic, heliophobic brother, and a very obvious ringer used by one of the Little League teams (complete with facial hair and drinking problem, and the world's most unconvincing birth certificate).

Okay, it's not The Producers or anything, but it's good silly fun. If you like semi-mindless comedies, this... is one.

This is the review I've really been dreading, as this movie is rather... difficult to describe. It's kind of like Labyrinth meets The Talisman, or Jim Henson meets Clive Barker. Helena is a cranky adolescent girl who juggles in her parents' travelling circus. She loves to draw, and is sick of the circus life, craving "real life" instead (yes, she wants to run away from the circus). Then her mother collapses backstage in the middle of a performance and ends up in hospital with a mysterious ailment. After stewing in her spacey aunt's apartment for a while as her father tries to keep his performers from bolting, she wanders out one night and finds herself sucked into a surreal fantasy world.

Umm... Surreal fantasy world. Yes. Where to begin. You have book-eating "sphinxes" with human faces and voices, cat bodies, and rainbow-colored wings; mechanical eye-spiders; floating interlocked stone giants; singing mechanical clothier-robots... and everyone wears masks (except Helena). The Kingdom of Light is being overrun by destructive tendrils of darkness, and its Queen (who looks just like Helena's mum) is in a mysterious coma that can only be broken by "The Charm," which the Princess of Darkness (who looks just like Helena) has stolen. It turns out that the Princess of Darkness has disappeared entirely, and the dark tendrils are the Queen of Darkness (who also looks just like Helena's mum) attempting to find her daughter. Helena volunteers to find The Charm, and by the rules of fantasy, it is understood that if she can find The Charm and save the Queen of Light, that Helena's mother will recover as well.

It's definitely not for everyone, and the lighting is perhaps a bit murkier than necessary, but if you like surrealism and creative weirdness for its own sake, you should be all over this.

Yes, I realize that I have recommended every single movie that we saw, but they were, in fact, all good. This is entirely due to our finely tuned and infallible moviegoing instincts, and has absolutely nothing to do with blind luck.

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