J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Archive for the ‘Romantic Comedy’ Category

Roxanne

Posted by J on November 4, 2008

Our hunt for decent romantic comedies continues. Roxanne was as vulgar as it was stupid, and it was hard 200px-roxanne1987to know whether the vulgarity was outpacing the stupidity, or vice versa, until they both crossed the finish line at the same time.  In record pace, too.  It’s hard to know what exactly Siskel and Ebert were drinking before declaring this movie to be a “comic masterpiece,” but their gushing praise is proof that they occasionally had no clue.

The movie serves as a warning to anyone who thinks “PG” means “okay.”  The ratings system has always stunk, but a movie like this today would earn a PG-13 and you could look up everything about it online.  Back in the ’80s, just about anything could PG, even a flick like this wherein every character — when they aren’t asking their god to damn something — has sex on the brain.

The story is based loosely on the Cyrano de Bergerac tale, and so the movie adopts a light-hearted, almost cartoonish tone at times.  The fact is Roxanne discordantly combines stage comedy with the cheesy sentiments of late 20th century film romances.  For example, the movie opens with Steve Martin’s character dueling two dopey rich guys with a tennis racket, but later Martin tries to romantically woo a blonde.  As viewers, we’re supposed to respond to the cool FM jazz playing in the background and forget the cartoonish tennis racket duel.

Forget about the fact that Daryl Hannah plays a rocket scientist who will have sex with any poetically inclined male.  The subplot involving the town’s fire station has little to do with anything else in the movie, offers no laughs, and now looks incredibly cheesy.  We hated it. A “comic masterpiece” indeed.

Entertainment: 1

Intelligence: 0

Morality: 0

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Joe Versus the Volcano

Posted by J on July 14, 2008

“Our lives are a continual process of getting away from ourselves, to get to ourselves.”

Though we made up the above quote, it has probably been uttered by some New Age guru. This fuzzy sentiment encapsulates the meaning of Joe Versus the Volcano, an otherwise thoughtful movie floating in a sea of really bad romantic comedies. The movie has a light-hearted and goofy tone, while attempting to utter things profound. No wonder people still like it.

And there is a lot in it that we, as Christians, want to admire. The story follows Joe Banks, whose meaningless life is centered in his dull work at a rectal probe company. A hypochondriac, Joe goes in for medical tests, only to find out that he has a “brain cloud,” a disorder with no symptoms that will kill him within six months, so his doctor tells him. While Joe begins to ponder the meaning of life, the following day he is offered a proposal by the owner of a superconductor factory. This proposal , complicated and outrageous, begins with Joe living like a king and ends with him jumping in a volcano two weeks later. What the heck, Joe says. From there Joe’s journey begins.

The movie’s structure points to its worldview. Joe moves from the hideously dull world of office work to the highlife in Los Angeles. Then Joe sails away from that high-class urban life to a tropical island. In the transition from one place to another, as he moves from the civilized to the primitive, we are supposed to believe that Joe is learning new things about himself. The movie all but utters familiar clichés: take risks, time is precious, live life to the fullest. Along the way, Joe inquires about God and even prays to Him. He is answered in movie-language: by a gigantic rising moon, and later an erupting volcano.

But what is Joe’s ultimate need in life? For the movie, it is to find himself and to existentially learn the meaning of familiar clichés, not to gain salvation in Christ. This “finding one’s self” theme is reinforced by the three female characters that Joe encounters, all played by Meg Ryan. Each of these represents a stage that Joe moves into – from naïve office worker, to disenchanted but poetic rich girl, to the can-do risktaker named Patricia, a woman who answers the question “Do you believe in God” with the statement, “I believe in myself.”

The movie makes it clear that Joe cannot bond with or mate with the first two female characters. It is Patricia whom Joe ultimately is reserved to fall in love with and marries. He has literally found himself in his mate, who is his double. At the end of the movie, these two sail off into the moonlight, seeking, in Joe’s final words, to “get away from the things of man.” While a New Age guru might see this as Joe achieving a higher stage of enlightenment, a cynic might view the ending as an argument that we all need to learn to love ourselves while getting away from the world. In other words, it praises a kind of spiritual narcissism.

Yet, this is a rare movie that doesn’t necessarily put the need to entertain before the pondering of ultimate questions. It is in the same category for us as Pan’s Labyrinth, Groundhog Day, and No Country for Old Men: wrong but interesting. These are the kinds of movies we all ought not to learn from, but instead to analyze and critique. In that sense, we think they are primarily, maybe only, for Christians willing to do a bit of hard work.

Entertainment: 7

Intelligence: 7

Morality: 5 (for worldview issues, and a few taboo words in Joe’s juvenile speech to his boss)

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