shen done him wrong: day five

day five begins with a case of mistaken identity, as shen may have confused me with someone who enjoys danny kaye. up first, henry koster's the inspector general (1949).

danny kaye plays an illiterate gypsy traveling with a medicine show. while wandering a village they are visiting, he is mistaken for a horse thief and thrown in jail. the corrupt city officials then mistake him for the inspector general, rumored to be traveling incognito and ferreting out those that are on the take. they plan to give him the v.i.p. treatment just long enough to figure out how to dispose of him. in the meantime, the real inspector general shows up, realizes that danny kaye is the only right guy in town and makes him mayor of the village. it's all delivered with efficient zest and good cheer, if only i could stomach danny kaye. he is the comic embodiment of just about every personality trait i cannot stand. he is a bundle of unceasing twitches, tics, noises and what, i assume, are supposed to be cutesy-pie faces. he makes charlie callas look as reserved and dignified as alec guinness. add to the constant mugging a barrage of dialect comedy that was already dusty in the vaudeville days and a raft of songs that test his verbal dexterity and my patience and you begin to get the idea. it basically boils down to a personality conflict. in the battle of under the breath versus over the top, there is only one choice for me. the whole time i am watching danny kaye i cannot concentrate on what is happening on screen because i am trying to imagine him in his personal life. i am trying to count how many times people who loved him had to say "can you just stop that for five minutes?!" it's just not in me to reward people who need to be looked at this much. if i can see your eyebrow raise from the back row, i am headed to the lobby. the inspector general is useful, at least, in that it makes me appreciate understatement that much more. it also makes me appreciate that jim carrey does not sing.

next we have robert rodriguez's spy kids (2001).

one of the best things about this experiment has been discovering things i really enjoy that i would have otherwise never seen and, since i have no children, that has happened most often with kid's movies. this was a blast. carmen and juni cortez and the offspring of two super-spies, a fact they are completely unaware of. to them, mom and dad are as boring as any other mom and dad. when mom and dad are kidnapped by an evil cabal set on world domination, carmen and juni are pressed into service as junior super-spies themselves and save the day, learning valuable lessons about not underestimating yourself or your parents in the process. i loved this movie. i imagine kids love this movie. it is a wildly imaginative alternate universe that has all the things you could ever want if you ever thought it would be cool to be a spy. the brother-sister dynamic is right on the money and no one ever talks down to the children. the predicaments the kids find themselves in are never presented in a way that is frightening, just a challenge that any kid could overcome if they put their mind to it. it is also refreshing to see a latino family be the heroes, kicking back against the anglophilic slant that has dominated kid's cinema for so long. it may not seem like much, but think about how often you see a mainstream kid's movie that features non-anglo protagonists that refer to, celebrate and joke about their culture in a healthy way, that actually embrace all aspects of their heritage. there aren't a whole lot. after seeing machete (2010) and this, where the machete character originally came from, in the last few weeks, i wish rodriguez would stick exclusively with kid's movies. he has a real knack for it and his flights of fancy don't feel hastily dashed off, insulting or ridiculous when they are in this framework. this makes me want to see the other entries in the series but i am afraid, as is often the case, they won't hold up to the original. the spirit of this one seems so pure and fun that i fear that would be lost in the cash grab business of sequels. maybe i'll just stick with this one so i can always think of carmen and juni this way.

and then there's this, the one i know some of you jackals have been waiting for all week, darren lynn bousman's repo! the genetic opera (2008).

at least this guy got the benefit of an early exit from the film. i had to stay for the whole thing. if you ever wondered what it would be like if a bunch of stabbing westward videos gangbanged moulin rouge! (2001) here is your answer. this masterpiece is brought to you by the whiz kid who helmed three installments of the saw franchise. usually, when faced with one of his torture devices you at least get the courtesy of finding out why you're being punished. i am left wondering. whatever it was, i am sorry. the story takes place in a dystopian future where a plague of organ failure has swept the land and all exposition and dialogue must be sung. corporate behemoth geneco has instituted a program where you can finance a replacement organ, or even elective surgery, at what i am sure are very reasonable terms. just don't be late putting the check in the mail or they will come and retrieve their property with extreme prejudice. i would tell you more about the plot but it doesn't make one damn bit of difference. my apologies to the goth kids who are responsible for the production and proliferation of this (google "repo army" if you're curious about the extent of this phenomenon). i have a soft spot for you because i know you have it rough but, man, you make some shitty art sometimes. this time you've gone too far. you make me long for the simpler days of angelfire pages devoted to shakespeare's sister. this is just ridiculous, tuneless caterwauling with no purpose and, seemingly, no end. i know i have a lot of nerve saying that about such respected vocalists as paul sorvino, paris hilton and bill moseley, but there it is. i think the thing that irritates me the most (besides the snippet of a song where they were mimicking tom waits) is the feeling that they were consciously trying to manufacture a cult classic, as if every decade or so you can just lazily slap your infantile, tone-deaf modifications onto the chassis of the rocky horror picture show (1975) and that's just going to be alright. sorry, chumps, it doesn't work that way. we already have one of those. your birthright is hot topic and you're just going to have to be satisfied with it.

and enough with the goddamned exclamation points in the titles of musicals, already!

well, the damage that this one did to my auditory functions is at least well timed because i have it on good authority from one of tomorrow's participants that you don't need two ears.

me and you and bowie in tights. see you then.

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