Bruno: Supposedly this isn’t as good as Borat, and that may be, but Borat itself, while highly enjoyable and often hilarious, was sort of an ephemeral stunt, not exactly a comedy classic. There are certainly moments in Borat that became justifiable infamous, but I’ve never had the desire to revisit that movie, much less pick up the DVD, as compared to its less-buzzed comedy ’06 siblings Talladega Nights and Strangers with Candy. What I’m actually saying is that even though Bruno himself seems less fully realized and original than the Borat character, it wouldn’t be that hard for Bruno‘s blackout reality sketches to be about as good as Borat‘s — the loose, bizarre format combined with Sacha Baron Cohen’s virtuoso commitment to character has a novelty that might not wear off as quickly as expected.
I Love You, Beth Cooper: Most years, I am spared that distressingly common indignity of watching in horror as a favorite book becomes a failed movie. I’m usually way behind on stuff that’s getting turned into movies, so more often than not, I’ll wind up reading the book after I see the movie (or saying “I bet that was a good book, which I no longer particularly want to read”). Also, I tend to prefer short story collections to novels, and though short stories often make more logical sources for movies, no one reads them, so everyone keeps adapting unwieldy novels and then hacking them up or dumbing them down or occasionally doing a nice job of translating them into a workable feature. This summer, though, yikes: two of my recent favorites are getting the questionable-movie treatment. In August I’ll peek through my fingers at the long-delayed movie version of The Time Traveler‘s Wife (current status: liking the casting, fearing the director of Flightplan and the goopy trailer); in the meantime, I Love You, Beth Cooper can serve as a sort of test run for my emotional well-being. Larry Doyle’s novel about one graduation night in the life of a hapless valedictorian is hugely entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny; his roots as a Simpsons writer show a little, though the book also plays a bit like a Dave Barry novel — sweet-natured and full of hilarious digressions. Doyle did write the screenplay for the movie (as he did for the underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action), but the director is Chris Columbus, which explains why the trailer is so loud and cartoonish. Columbus gets a lot of crap for those first two Harry Potter movies, especially once people got a gander at what an Alfonso Cuaron would do with similar material; the Columbus Potters are certainly the weakest by far, but at least he did an admirable job of setting up the cast and world of the movies. But I Love You, Beth Cooper is not the first of a seven-book series; it needs to be good, like, right away. The movie actually looks quite faithful to the events of the book, just as Columbus has no trouble filming just about every sentence in those Harry Potter books; the problem is the tone, which looks more akin to blown-out Columbus kidfare like Home Alone than to the relatively naturalistic Superbad style. I’m hoping that’s just the ad campaign, and that the actual movie will be good enough for me to start future criticisms with “well, it was never going to be as much fun as the book…” rather than “OK, well, I promise you, the book is awesome, but…” and, while I’m hoping things, that the Kavalier & Clay movie is either awesome or never made. Ask me about my awesome fantasy-casting that time has mostly voided by now.
Soul Power: You know how a lot of fact-based movies inspire the (completely reasonable) reaction that a documentary about the actual subjects would probably be way more interesting? For some reason, the trailer for Soul Power gave me the exact opposite feeling: I would be way more into seeing this if, instead of a documentary about a soul music concert staged in Zaire in 1974, it was some kind of fictionalized ensemble recreation of that same concert, where you get to watch weird and interesting current-celebrity interpretations of past celebrities. Sort of like Cadillac Records. Cadillac Records wasn’t even that great, so I don’t know what my problem is. Actually, my problem might be this: minus any movie stars laboring to impersonate famous figures, Soul Power looks an awful lot like a PBS special, not a feature film.