2012’s Biggest Let Downs

The 2013 Academy Awards was fun and there was much to celebrate. But 2012 also delivered some great disappointments that should have been mega hits. All of these movies were disappointing, but some had farther to fall. I’ll start with the least disappointing:

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Why it should have been great:

The floodgates have opened and comics are taking form on the big screen in exciting ways that were never before possible.  They have gained enormous traction in mainstream appeal and reboots have become commonplace enough that a new take on a familiar favorite can be seen just a few years after the last one.  No comic book franchise needed a fresh vision quite as badly as the underwhelming Ghost Rider.  The sequel, Spirit of Vengeance was Sony’s chance to get it right, especially after they fought so hard to retain the rights to the property.

What went wrong:

The script was rushed to meet Sony’s deadline and the movie didn’t have much going on beneath the special effects.  The lack of inspiration and daring lead to a run of the mill, action flick with a dull climax and a hokey twist of redemption for the tragic hero.

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Total Recall

Why it should have been Great:

Two 80’s classics from the mind of cult sci-fi mastermind Philip K. Dick appeared to have converged when the Schwartzenegger vehicle Total Recall was given a 21st century face lift with a  Blade Runner inspired set design.

What went wrong:

Everything.  The movie was not only flat, but the echos of the vibrant pulse of the 80’s original still spikes over the bland re-creation of every plot point.  Without at least an interesting new twist at the end, there is literally no reason to watch it.

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The Raven

Why it should have been great:

John Cusack stars as Edgar Allan Poe in a Sherlock Holmes style thriller based on Poe’s numerous tales.  Seriously, what part of that sentence doesn’t sound awesome?

What went wrong:

Edgar Allan Poe is a literary giant.  Screenwriter Hannah Shakespeare, despite her name, is not.  Though the visuals were pretty on target the story consisted of finding clues and arriving too late and finding clues… after a while it feels like a loop and it fails to contribute to or adequately explore Poe’s works, so the promising allure of the premise rises again nevermore.

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Prometheus

Why it should have been great:

Alien Prequel.

What went wrong:

Connecting the film to the highly successful franchise and bringing back the director that started it all gave false hope to many who wanted to see a compelling sci-fi horror film; and instead delivered an elaborately designed, but ill-plotted, quasi-philosophical, highly questionable storyline.  It pretends to explore the chasm between faith and science without taking a leap for true discovery, or at least making a convincing argument for either.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Why it should have been great:

The Dark Knight was a phenomenal achievement on top of the already acclaimed Batman Begins, which turned the genre on its head and delivered the Batman fans had been craving.  Audiences demanded a reprise and ceaselessly speculated about the next installment before Nolan even agreed to do another.  So the bar was set pretty high and the anticipation was palpable.

What went wrong:

Since I won’t review a film I haven’t seen in its entirety, this is my one chance to explain why I hate TDKR so much and forever hold my peace.  For starters, the decision to turn the series into a trilogy was near-sighted, and selfish.  I hate that TDKR is referred to as the final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy, because that implies that the three films have more connective tissue than they do.  TDKR is not a natural conclusion to Batman Begins and there was no need for such an abrupt ending to the series.  I realize that there is a Ra’s Al Ghul connection and the Scarecrow even makes his third appearance, but these elements were contrived to bookend a series that artificially truncates the Dark Knight’s story. The forced conclusion effectively makes future installments by other directors extremely difficult and all but eliminates the possibility of continuing Batman films in the same vein.  It’s also worth noting that M.Night Shyamalan already did what Nolan gets so much credit for when he made Unbreakable, which was in essense the first installment of a trilogy that never happened, because it was too problematic.

The story chosen, taking Gotham under siege and revolting against its wealthy class (Occupy Gotham), lacks the layers and depth that the first two films had and simply piles scene upon scene, tenuously linking these separate characters and ideas together when they could have all been better used under different circumstances.  Rather than reinforce the story by reiterating a solid theme, Nolan pulls from three separate storylines in the Batman universe and files them down in order to force pieces together that don’t belong. The scenes were shallow and lacked the showmanship of the previous films that made it possible; serving as little more than bullet points to an over-reaching plot.  If they dropped the Dent angle and the Bane escape in the beginning, and hit Wayne harder when he was in his prime, not pissing away his inheritance in solitude.  They could have had a solid opening.  I would have liked to see an intro that finds Batman at war with the police possibly discovering “Robin” to be a worthy adversary/potiential apprentice.

Also, if they weren’t going to have Batman for most of the movie, they should have introduced Azrael, his temporary replacement, rather than setting up a Robin. I love Robin and JGL, but why use screen time setting something up when you are concluding your “trilogy”.  When Batman is in the movie, the action is a joke.  I think history will tell that people would rather forget about this film. It basically spits on the success of the franchise and gives its audience the finger. Bottom line is, if Nolan didn’t want to do the movie, he should have left it alone and let someone else take a crack at it.  Still, I had seen enough warning signs to diminish my expectations, so it wasn’t my biggest let down of the year.

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Brave

Why it should have been great:

It’s Pixar, first of all, and it was in development for a really long time.  It was going to be the first folk/fairy tale by the studio, effectively trading places with Walt Disney Animation Studios which made the much more Pixar sounding Wreck-it Ralph.  When it was titled The Bear and the Bow, the early artwork was gorgeous and the original story description read like and Mulan meets The Little Mermaid.

What went wrong:

They changed writers and dropped the title in an attempt to make the Bear element a surprise.  The quality of the animation slipped by Pixar standards, apparently putting everyone on staff on “hair duty” and letting everything else slide.”  The story was slow, way too simple for its running time and it did little to distinguish itself from the previous Disney disappointment Brother Bear.

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Simplicity=Complexity>Complicated

gi amazing 2I like to figure out what makes things work.  I don’t have a work desk cluttered with vacuum cleaner parts or anything, and I still think televisions are magic, but complicated things are like complicated ideas, which then become complicated movies.  I like to build things without the instructions before I realize I made a huge mistake and start over.  One thing that I find interesting about both movies and anything material that requires assembly is that the simpler it is, the fewer the parts and those parts tend to serve a dual purpose, functionality and style.  The more complicated, once you crack open the hood you find a big ugly mess of raw function.

I think that films are the same way.  Small films can be great fun.  A really enjoyable, but simple movie is never unimpressive.  Big, movies with lots of moving parts are very ambitious projects that not many can handle. It’s a problem that tends to be very unique to large properties, such as those based on comics, or blockbusters like Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Spider Man 3, was pretty disliked and one of the biggest, but also most vague complaints about it was that “they” tried to do too much.  TDKR also got criticism for being overly complicated.  Every X Men movie, even  First Class, is notorious for jamming more characters than necessary into the picture.  Jon Favreau turned down returning to Iron Man 3 as director for various official reasons, but word early on was he was concerned about flooding the film with too many characters.  The pressure to overcomplicate these films comes from the studios who want to be able to market more action figures.  Joel Schumacher was under a lot of pressure from Warner Bros. to turn the Batman franchise into basically a feature-length commercial for Batman toys.

But what makes a movie go from a solid, provocative, and even admirable complexity to an overcomplicated tangled mess?  Iron Man 2 had dangerous potential to be convoluted and dizzying, but they had good mechanics.  The Dark Knight was the epitome of the kind of masterfully woven tapestry of story that Chris Nolan has become known for.  I think the key is functionality.

The Dark Knight had a theme that was continuously reiterated by the story’s central characters.  The theme was choice.  It was full of dichotomies:  Dark Knight/White Knight, Chaos/Order, Bruce Wayne’s inner dichotomy, Two Faces outer dichotomy, Batman’s struggle to reconcile freedom and justice, and Harvey’s resignation to chance determining his actions.  For all that is going on in the movie, everything taps into the same theme and reinforces the body as a whole.  In Iron Man 2 the theme was legacy.  It’s like a home base you can return to if things are getting out of hand.

If a movie is particularly large and hosts a number of sub-plots and a wide cast of characters you need to determine above all else, what the heart of the story is.  It can’t just be a simple heroes journey.  It must be thought about as a thesis, with each separate plot supporting it.  When you make a movie about a flawed hero overcoming obstacles and saving the day, it’s best to give him one nemesis for a tight well-rounded effective and exciting story.   You don’t want him facing a thief with superpowers, who’s trying to save his daughter, a former BFF dead set on vengeance, and a work rival who gets his hands on your symbiont costume and becomes the worst ever representation of Venom.  Spiderman 3 had three major villains and no heart.  Peter Parker’s struggle is explored to death and yet it still works in small doses.  It isn’t enough, however to support so many adversaries without a central theme that they can plug into.  It’s also a terrible waste of great villains.

The easier the movie can be summed up in one idea (better yet, one word), the easier it is to connect all of the characters to that idea so that they serve a unique function in telling your masterpiece.  If you try to give each character their own separate objective that does not reinforce the theme of the primary storyline the film becomes fragmented and crushed under its own weight.

The Amazing Spiderman was a great movie.  It’s a brilliant retelling of the origin story with terrific new vision.  It was also a pretty standard hero movie.  The upcoming sequel, following in the tradition of pretty much all hero movie sequels, has a cast list that looks like an unfinished brainstorm.  The talent is stellar and it isn’t necessarily bad news, but it isn’t looking great either.  Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, and Chris Cooper have all been cast in villains roles.  Foxx plays Electro (guess what he does) and Giamatti will be Rhino, which is an interesting choice, but I have no problem going with it.  Now as far as I can tell, Cooper is signed on to play Norman Osborn, who becomes the Green Goblin, but where Foxx and Giamatti are credited with characters names AND their supervillain names i see nothing actually saying Green Goblin will make an appearance.  That would be good.

It makes perfect sense to set Norman Osborn up as a main character as he runs Oscorp and likely has something to do with the mystery that Parker continues to unravel about his parents.  The Incredible Hulk pits Banner against the Abomination making his defeat the resolution while his real nemesis, General Ross, lives to fight another day.  Similarly, Loki conjures up the The Destroyer for Thor to battle and saves his best stuff for later.  Allowing a character to be introduced without giving them their own storyline to finish is like a delicious glass of Sam Adams, always a good decision.

Norman probably enlists Electro and/or Rhino as thugs.  that would be typical and raises no alarms to my mind.  Since there is no way such great talent is going to be squandered on roles like Toad and Sabortooth in the original X Men, I think it’s a good chance we are in for a nice ride.  Marc Webb is still directing, The Kurtzman/Ortiz writing team are big hitters scripting the story by James Vanderbilt who penned The Amazing Spiderman.  I would not expect a big thematically interwoven monument of a film, but provided Norman Osborn stays out of the green suit this could be a fascinating sequel.

Review: Amazing Spiderman

Movie Review: Battleship

The low held expectations of, I think, most people when they found out that Hasbro not only planned to make a movie based on the Battleship board game, but that it was in fact put into production as a summer blockbuster a la Transformers was due mostly to skepticism about how such an adaptation would even be possible.  The inevitable question that would follow the rolling eyes of anyone who’d read about it was “How?”  It seemed an insane and poor attempt to wring more money out Hasbro’s properties, especially in the wake of the underwhelming G.I. Joe.  When the Ouija board movie was scrapped it seemed like Battleship shouldn’t stand a chance, yet it was given big money production and seemed unflinching in its development and marketing strategy.  All the while, I for one believed the entire experiment was doomed.

Such gross conflict is exactly what Battleship thrives on in its film incarnation.  It may be flippant and clumsy, but the premise is actually very strong and the plotting really proves that not only can it be done, but it turns out it can be done pretty well.  It is funny to me when I think of how much must have been riding on the success of the film and how little the makers seemed to take it seriously, particularly at the start of the film, where engaging your audience is crucial, they seem to test your willingness to submit to a film over two hours in length with no (then) discernible plot.  The characters are goofy with questionable dialogue and the scenes are irreverent and almost whimsical.  It’s fun, but only increases doubts that the movie will ever come together.  Happily this trial is a short one and once the filmmakers begin to take things more seriously the film begins to look better and better and slowly, but definitely wins you over by the end.

The hero of the story is Hopper, a romantic, gifted, but arrogant naval commander who is always in trouble and looked after by his strait laced brother, a captain.   Their superior is also the father of Hoppers girlfriend and they need his permission in order to marry.  Hopper is like maverick in Top Gun if he consistently under performed and disappointed.  He’s not the guy you want making decisions when the fate of the world is at stake.  Meanwhile, the alien threat in this movie is very menacing.  The set up, which somewhat and very ingeniously mirrors its source of inspiration in a way that should satisfy even the most cynical movie fan, leads the naval fleet into near hopelessness.  The film turns out to be very delicately plotted, satisfying the basic, but crucial demands of its source material, and previous Hasbro successes.  The references to the game, whether implied by peg shaped missiles or graphically depicted with computer monitors and birds eye perspectives, or simply buried in the premise made this adaptation a win, as did the wildly imaginative alien tech and the strategy that keeps you engrossed and hoping Hopper can pull out a “W” just this once.

Battleship borrows heavily from Iron Man, Top Gun, Aliens, and is definitely modeled after ID4.  While it doesn’t reach that level of greatness it does bring some freshness to the mix of “been there done that ” that makes it a fun, enjoyable film worth watching at least once.  In fact, in terms of the many sources cited and referenced in the film I’d compare it to John Carter which is also reminiscent of several earlier films in its search for a unique identity.  I only think that while John Carter might have been more interesting because of those allusions Battleship comes out a better film in spite of them.

Movie Review: Cinderella, Diamond Edition Blu-Ray

I had the surprising pleasure of watching the new Blu-ray Diamond Edition release of the classic Walt Disney picture Cinderella.  This is one of the best told and most enjoyable of all of Walt’s fairy tale adaptations.  Some of those long loved Disney Classics are so far removed from the direct to DVD sequels they’ve spawned that returning to those childhood favorites is a real treat.  These films truly stand the test of time.

Cinderella has all the charm, humor and beautiful artwork you can expect from Walt Disney, but it’s also one of his best animated features.  I was never too interested in Cinderella,  I remember some of the comedy bits, the suspenseful climax as the mice lug the key up the tower to rescue Cinderella before the Grand Duke leaves, and the songs, but I was more interested in The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book at that age.  Returning to this film as an adult I am really able to appreciate the artistry and the very clean storytelling.

The story of the little girl condemned to a life of servitude to her wicked step mother and two step sisters is filled with wonderful characters, visions, scenes and music that demands respect from an audience that has been exposed to recent cheaper takes on the Disney classics that lack so much of the heart and depth of the originals.  It takes you through a typical day in Cinderella’s life as she trudges through her chores, but when the king announces a ball is to be held as a plan to get the Prince married she must try to find time in her busy schedule to prepare.  Even with the help she receives from her mice friends, the Step sisters ruin her chance to go, but the Fairy Godmother arrives just in time, to give her the magical night that will change her destiny with that memorable song “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo,”.  One of my favorites is Cinderella’s rendition of “Sing Sweet Nightingale” in the bubbles while she washes the floors and the devious cat, Lucifer tracks dust all around her in the mean time.

Among the special features, of which there are many, is a short documentary on the “Real Fairy Godmother”  The woman the character was based on who later became the Fairy Godmother of Burbank, for all of her charity work.  You’ll also be delighted to find the hilarious short “Tangled Ever After” featuring Pascal and Max as the ring bearer and flower– um… lizard.  You’ll also get a sneak peek behind the scenes at the amazing expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Disney World.  Let me just say it’s the best use of space since the creation of the park.

 
Buy Cinderella (Two-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) from Amazon.

Film Review: Expendables 2

Sometimes you leave a particular film with a lot of thoughts or ideas that need to be talked out or talked through.  Other times you have a definite opinion right at the end.  You love it or you hate it.  Other times you might think you feel one way and on further reflection decide on the complete opposite.  All of these reactions are great for writing a review.  On the other hand the take it or leave it opinion is a little more difficult to express and the attitude of general disinterest implied makes it even harder to do any kind of write-up of a film.

Such was the case with The Expendables 2.  I liked the film.  It was corny, but it delivered for the most part.  I think if you paid for a ticket you should be satisfied with what you got.  On the other hand, if you haven’t yet bought one, I don’t think it’s necessary.

One of the things I loved about the first film was the sub plot.  The sequel lacks one.  Mickey Rourke’s character which contributed so much to the first film is absent in the second.  Other talent is brought in to fill the void, but they are mere cameos that add little depth to the big picture.  Depth is missing, but lots of video game type action sequences fill the top of the movie.  It takes it’s self much less seriously, I think to its detriment.  It’s kind of like an overweight kid making fat jokes to mask his insecurities.  These action dinosaurs do the same thing, but with plastic surgery.  Just kidding.  But not really.

I liked it.  I did.  There was some cool stuff and it pretty much lives up to every possible expectation.  What it lacked in plot complexity it made up for in big action and lot’s of cheesy dialogue.  I liked seeing it on a big screen and I’m not sure how it will translate on a smaller one, so it might be an all or nothing deal when it comes to seeing this particular picture.

Movie Review: Wanderlust

I finally rented Wanderlust.  Now, you have to understand that I am a big Stella, The State, and Wet Hot American Summer fan.  I also enjoy David Wain’s web series Wainy Days.  On the other hand, his humor can easily wear thin and his stock jokes are few and often used.  I’m not saying I’d prefer another Austin Powers.  It’s just that such a great talent with solid comedic skills is slightly diminished in the feature film format.  Role Models was good.  The Ten was lost on me.  Wet Hot American Summer was his Citizen Kane and it will never be topped.

Wanderlust has a couple of other things going for it, too.  Some of the old cast from The State support the legendary Paul Rudd and the always nice to see Jennifer Aniston.  These two are great together and are arguably the key to making the whole thing work.  And it does work… but barely.

The movie starts out really strong and very, very funny as a married couple makes the big decision to buy a “micro-loft” in the East Village.  In the same day each loses their current/potential income and they are forced to sell and move in with George’s (Rudd) brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino).  on they way, they become stranded and stay at a B&B which as it turns out is a wacky commune.

So, here come the spoilers.  The set up is really, really great.  But then, some of the characters try a little too hard to be quirky, some harboring ulterior motives, and the humor began to drop a bit.  The inclusion of a plot to turn the land into a casino lacked pizzazz.  If Michael Ian Black or Michael Showalter were more involved, a hilarious farce riffing on the cliché would ensue, but it was just a tactless way to give the story an end point.  About halfway through the movie it stops being truly funny in spite of Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd.  It comes together at the end though, just as hastily as the mal-intentioned characters began the conflict; And although it never reaches the cleverness and genuine wit, that it began with, it ends well enough to be worth watching.  Still, you gotta go with WHAS. C+

Movie Review: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

My first impressions of The Odd Life of Timothy Green was that it was okay.  I didn’t feel inspired, or have the kind of emotional response I expected.  Still, there wasn’t really anything blatantly awful or annoying that ruined it for me.*  I didn’t love it, or particularly hate it, and I thought it had a few really nice scenes.

After giving it some time to settle, I realized I did not like the movie at all.  It has a promising concept that rests on that old “Disney magic'” we’ve come to love and accept.  So when a kid grows out of the ground over night for a desperate couple who’ve planted a box full of their fantasy child’s dream qualities, you just go with it.  Unfortunately, for as much heart as the little boy has, the film lacks depth and feels empty.

Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner play a couple that can’t conceive.  They want to adopt and at an evaluation they pin all of their hope on this story that they have to tell about Timothy.  Now, on the night that they found out that their last-ditch effort to have a kid failed, they decided that before they gave up, they would write down everything that their kid would have been.  They plant a box full of these notes, a storm comes and out pops Timothy.

Timothy is a cute kid, played very nicely by CJ Adams.  Girls are going to love him.  This kid is everything they wanted but he grows leaves on his legs, which means they not only suddenly have a kid they need to explain to their small town, but they have a secret to hide.  This is where things start to deteriorate for me.  Possible spoilers ahead.  Continue reading

Movie Review: Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes is one of those films where the two protagonists duke it out under escalating circumstances that threaten to completely ruin their lives.  One man (Samuel Jackson) is an is a divorced alcoholic fighting for custody of his kids.  The other is a blissfully unaware lawyer (Ben Affleck) who wakes up to some dark truths about his business and how greedy people succeed.

These characters struggle with their conditions in thought provoking ways that raise philosophical questions without overduing it or neglecting the momentum of the story.  By not pushing too hard on the philosophy aspect, it becomes a very philosophical movie, one with a real resolution that brings a proper end to the drama of the film.

It all starts with a freeway accident between two strangers with important court dates.  Gavin leaves Doyle high and dry and as a result Doyle misses a custody hearing.  Gavin’s day gets worse when he realizes a crucial file for his case was left with Doyle at the scene of the accident.  The two then irrationally, but understandably, try to bully/get back at each other as Gavin attempts to get his file back.

The rising conflict is a little harder to watch.  On the other hand the film does a terrific job of making you care about the characters and still understand that they are bringing all of this trouble onto themselves and that they deserve each other.  For this reason their constant unraveling is endurable and the depth of thought beneath the tumult makes it worth watching and investing in.

It’s a delicate sort of film and this movie was handled by a surgeon.  The story and screenplay credit goes to Chap Taylor, although Michael Tolkin gets screenplay credit as well and may have been the surgical hands involved. A

Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Fantastic?  Incredible?  I’d say that The Amazing Spiderman truly lives up to its name.  Besides earning points for best Stan Lee cameo ever, The Amazing Spiderman takes the cake as best Marvel based film of the year, beating the thoroughly enjoyable MIB 3 and the mildly disappointing Marvel’s The Avengers.

It turns out Marc Webb wasn’t just chosen for his name.  His sensibility brought Spidey to life in the best vision ever shown, live action or animated.  Borrowing heavily from Chris Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight while retaining Sam Raimi’s horror and comedic influence,  Webb created a world for spiderman that is genuine and exciting.  Andrew Garfield matches him bringing everything to the table to creat the perfect Spiderman.  Add to him, the gifted cast including Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Denis Leary and inspired staging and visual effects and you’ve got more than a blockbuster.  It’s a true classic.

In this take, which retells Spiderman’s origin, Peter Parker wants to know why his father, a secretive scientist mysteriously disappeared.  In the process of investigating the matter, he comes in contact with some of his father’s life’s work, a radioactive spider.  gene splicing is researched in the lab to find a way to use the advantages of certain animals to heal humans.  Dr. Conner, a former colleague of Peters Dad hopes to use reptile DNA to regenerate his lost forearm… but something goes terribly wrong.  Peter’s character is much more complex and satisfying this time around, making both good and bad choices, while remaining true to his perspective as a teen with a lot of questions.

James Horner sets the mood beautifully throughout the film with his masterful score and Alvin Sargent returns as co-screenwriter to Basic, The Losers and soon to be Robocop scribe James Vanderbilt.  The film was wonderfully paced and well-balanced thanks to the remarkable work they did pre and post production to build and enhance the character of this fine story. A+

Review: A Thousand Words

Eddie Murphy has had a lot of interesting roles in his time.  Most of them were in one movie.  A Thousand Words is his newest comedy from Steve Koren (writer) and Tom Shadyack (director) of Bruce Almighty fame.  While not as hilarious as Bruce, It’s still a very good movie.  The comedy in the film is somewhat lost in the tension of the situation, but the story is very interesting and pays off, finally after a painful but entertaining character journey.

Murphy plays Jack McCall, a fast talking agent who’s used to getting everything on his terms.  He fits his wife and son in where it’s convenient and conquers his world by signing anyone who can build his personal empire.  High on his own esteem, he sets off to sign a new age spiritual leader to sell his book, based solely on his large number of followers.  When he talks his way into a deal, a mysterious tree grows in his yard over night that turns out to be connected to him.

He soon discovers that every word he speaks causes a tree to fall and that once the tree dies he will too as everything that happens to the tree also happens to him.  Jack struggles to refrain from speech and focus his thoughts into simple terms, resulting in anger and occasional outbursts that bring him ever closer to his looming fate.  Meanwhile, his family and career fall apart and he is helpless to stop it.

Ultimately, Jack’s efforts to save himself fail, but he eventually reaches an understanding of the guru’s philosophy and why he is so troubled.  In confronting his past and releasing the anger he holds onto, a transformation occurs within and he experiences a sort of rebirth along with the tree which bursts into full bloom.

It’s not a side-splitting comedy, but it never fails to be interesting and the heart of the movie is really quite touching.  Eddie Murphy effortlessly leads the film which is boosted by an exceptionally talented cast of minor characters.  It’s definitely a feel good movie with a redemptive message, like Bruce Almighty, and the story is well honed and crafted even if it falls short on laughs. A