by Christopher Null
Romy and Michele' s High School Reunion - Fathers' Day - Chasing Amy
A Chef in Love - The Fifth Element - Addicted to Love
Night Falls on Manhattan - Lost World: Jurassic Park
Christopher Null is a long-established writer and media critic based in Austin, Texas. He was first published at the age of 11, completed his first novel at the age 19, and his first screenplay, Fringe, at 23. Chris has also written 2 other novels and just completed September Drift, his second full-length screenplay. In addition to writing, Null Set Productions (the film production company he began with his brother) produced its first offering, a live-action short film entitled Pressurecooker, this August. The company hopes to begin shooting Fringe in early 1997. Now 25, Chris has been covering the world of film and the cinema for almost 3 years. He is internationally syndicated as a writer (now in 5 countries and 4 different languages) and is also Contributing Editor for Film for Mike's Feedback magazine, an Austin, Texas monthly. Now, Chris's reviews and articles reach over 850,000 readers (that's four times the readership of Austin's daily newspaper).
With more Go-Go's songs than any other film this year, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is a treat if for no other reason than to hear the 80's soundtrack. The plot? Simple: Romy and Michele have gone nowhere in the ten years since high school, so they create themselves into seriously unbelievable "businesswomen" in an attempt to impress their fellow graduates at the reunion. Much like Grosse Pointe Blank, though, too much emphasis is placed on nostalgia and not enough is placed on the script. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow prove to be a powerful duo on-screen, but with jokes that hit about 50 percent of the time, not even the shiniest of outfits can pull them through the low points of this film. Janeane Garofalo disappoints here, also, reprising the stereotypical, crusty, chain-smoker she has played a hundred times. It all boils down to a fair-enough experience... you know... like, whatever.
More info about Romy and Michel's High School Reunion at the Internet Movie Database
What are the odds that the two would-be fathers of one woman's son would be two of the biggest comedians of the screen today!? Well, they're pretty good if you see Fathers' Day, yet another Ivan Reitman (Beethoven, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, et. al.) film that is so disgustingly sweet you'll want to spit out your jujubes. Billy Crystal and Robin Williams play the titular fathers, out to rescue the missing son they never knew they had. (Plot Simplified: Nastassja Kinski was a stonkingly huge slut and doesn't know who daddy is.)
For all its saccharine heavy-handedness, Fathers' Day does manage to come across as one of Reitman's better efforts in recent years, but the by-the-Hollywood-book formula, structure, and pacing really bog down the production. There's plenty of missed comic opportunities, but plenty that hit dead-on -- especially a notable, heavily-pierced cameo (watch for it!). And yes, the estranged son looks exactly like me. A 1/4 star bonus for that.
And yes, I'm sick of writing mediocre reviews, too.
More info about Fathers' Day at the Internet Movie Database
The intro sequence of Chasing Amy, comic book frames of oddly familiar characters, informs us immediately that we are entering the world of Kevin Smith. That world is one over-populated with comic book fanatics, philosophical drug dealers, and ambitionless twenty-somethings. To Smith, the film's director, that world is New Jersey.
Like characters found in other recent Gen X movies, Smith's heroes are unjustifiably hip. In Chasing Amy there are two groups of characters, Jersey boys afraid of the city, and fixtures of the NYC underground. But regardless of background, every character in Chasing Amy is poised with a witty remark or comical/philosophical riff on love or life. Smith even highlights the (self)-importance of his protagonist, played by Ben Affleck, by unabashedly naming him after the coolest literary character of the twentieth century, Holden Caulfield.
Going well beyond other Gen X movies such as Swingers and Reality Bites, Chasing Amy embraces the new generation with an unparalleled frankness. Although this boy-meets-lesbian love story is more mature than Smith's earlier work, its never before seen subject matter is indicative of Smith's predilection for ignoring the taboos of film. Frank discussions of sex and perversion are common in Smith's world of wordy, quick-paced diatribes long on profanity. Smith tackles this material with characters and situations that come across, despite their wit, as strikingly awkward and realistic. They never have the perfect line to describe their emotions or what they want. Their attempts to riff on their problems en route to solving them display a realistic ineptitude in dealing with serious problems. Either the characters have too much to say or nothing at all, but in all cases the outcome of these slipshod attempts is bad. Although the intermittent stupidity and vulgarity of Smith's characters is sometimes painful to watch, the film's refreshing realism is an invaluable experience.
Despite this powerful subtext, Smith's world is not devoid of humor. Though self-absorbed, all of Smith's characters are quite amusing, and the plot development, camera work, and editing in Chasing Amy capitalize on the humor in every situation. In one instance, an atypical riff on sexual acts leads to a fierce comparison of sex wounds and a game of one-upmanship that riotously parodies such battle scar comparisons from Lethal Weapon and the adventure film genre. Smith's hand-held camera and static long takes also serve to focus action within the frame and on the borders, which he uses for comical and emotional effect.
In all cases, Smith's awkward situations, for both the characters and audience, play off of traditional film structure in which everything fits together seamlessly. In Smith's world, you can count on only one thing: when Silent Bob (played by Smith himself) finally speaks (and he will) he is going to say something profound.
More info about Chasing Amy at the Internet Movie Database