Water for Elephants: So, I should say upfront that this week I haven’t seen any of the new movies coming out ahead of time. Water for Elephants certainly looks pretty, but if you are understandably reluctant to hand over your hard-earned money for a movie with the poor sense to put Robert Pattinson in the leading role and Paul Schneider in the supporting one, I would like to point out the surprising number of decent-or-better movies out there for your enjoyment: Source Code! Hanna! Paul and Your Highness are both pretty funny! (Also, I feel it’s worth pointing out that Your Highness is far more of a nerdy fantasy-homage comedy than a weekend-of-4/20 stoner comedy. This seemed to escape a lot of the reactions to it that I read.) But if you’re like me, you saw those already and now you’re thinking of going to see Water for Elephants because it has the most elephants of any of this weekend’s new releases.
I hope after this movie, Christoph Waltz maybe sidesteps the bad-guy roles that obviously inundated his agent following his well-deserved Inglourious Basterds awards, but I have come out of my stubborn appreciation of How Do You Know with even more affection for Reese Witherspoon, and hey, she could use a hit, so maybe my thirteen bucks won’t be misspent.
African Cats: If you would rather see wild animals tamed by excess personification than by, you know, circuses and stuff, DisneyNature has their annual Earth Day documentary in the offing. Then again, they’re obviously exercising massive restraint by not computer-animating mouths onto these animals and giving them the voices of Justin Long and George Lopez. You’re welcome, Earth!
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold: The L’s Michael Joshua Rowin wasn’t too taken with Morgan Spurlock’s new docu-wink, though he also seems to vaguely dislike Spurlock himself, a feeling I don’t particularly share (he may be self-promoting or obvious, but I’m not so sure I’ve ever seen Spurlock looking particularly smug). A whole movie talking about product placement does sound a little thin (then again, I’ve seen all manners of documentaries that don’t manage to eclipse the experience of reading a good magazine article about the same subject, and at least Spurlock is amusing); my favorite Spurlock project so far was his reality series 30 Days, sort of a Super Size Me spinoff challenging others to take similar thirty-day challenges. He may work better raising the level of reality television than making features that might seem dumbed-down to their exact target audience.
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family: Tyler Perry movies never screen in advance, for anyone except, I assume, employees of Tyler Perry’s extremely profitable company, so let’s just talk about Perry flying slightly off the handle regarding the haters who he pre-emptively (and defensively) refuses to let watch his movies ahead of time anyway. Spike Lee came under particular attack, and frankly, I understand how any filmmaker who’s been on the receiving end of Spike’s holier-than-thou method of attention-mongering might lash out in such a way. But the anger seems to have rattled Perry into the misapprehension that (a.) no Italians have ever complained about the stereotypes in The Sopranos and (b.) Robin Williams and/or his character in Mrs. Doubtfire is somehow Jewish and therefore a potentially stereotypical equivalent to Perry’s own Madea character (also, he seems faintly confused about Madea being an actual female character played by an actual dude versus the characters in Mrs. Doubtfire and Tootsie actually being dudes who dress up as women).
For future reference, Perry might consider saying something more like: “well, Italians complained about The Sorpanos self-stereotyping, but I think we can all agree that our job as artists is not to provide characters to serve as positive role models.” (He can fill in the part about an artist’s true responsibility being, in fact, to echo the audience’s deep-down beliefs with a healthy dose of melodrama and piousness; I don’t know that as well because I’ve never seen his movies.) He might also consider making a movie as good as Do the Right Thing, Clockers, 25th Hour, He Got Game, or even Inside Man. And then proudly screening it for critics without a hint of defensiveness or angry press conferences. That might help, too.