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Films I Neglected To Review: Another One Bites The Dust
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Girl Most Likely," "R.I.P.D." and "Springsteen & I"

Ten years ago, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulci made a big splash with their innovative and highly entertaining Harvey Pekar biopic "American Splendor," one of the best films of that season and of that year. Since that debut, their careers have been decidedly uneven--they did the interesting cable docudrama "Cinema Verite" and such largely unseen misfires as "The Nanny Diaries" and "The Extra Man"--and with their latest comedy-drama "Girl Most Likely," they have hit rock bottom with a film as bad as "American Splendor" was good. Kristen Wiig stars as a once-promising playwright whose life naturally goes to pieces when her douchebag boyfriend dumps. After a wacky fake suicide attempt designed to win him back goes wrong, she winds up in the care of her mother (Annette Bening), a degenerate gambler who is now shacked up with a younger guy (Matt Dillon) who may or may not be an FBI agent. Adding extra-touches of hardcore whimsy to the proceedings is the guy renting her old room (Damian Criss), a hunky hipster singing in a Backstreet Boys cover band, and the discovery that the father that she long believed to be dead is actually alive and well.

There is not a single element in this film that even comes close to working. The screenplay and direction are both on the level of an exceptionally poor sitcom that attempts to replicate the whimsy of something like "New Girl" but which barely struggles to reach the level of an advertisement for "Whitney." All of the performances are similarly awful--Wiig is an unlikable bore while the others overact so stridently that they seem to be having a contest to see who can come across the worst. Worst of all, there is nothing here that remotely suggests recognizable human behavior and as a result, it is impossible to give a damn about what happens to Wiig's character. The only possible reason that one might legitimately have for going to see this flop is to get out of the brain-frying heat and into an air-conditioned theater--that said, this movie is so awful that after a reel or two, it could very well send you back outside to take your chances with the slightly more forgiving elements.

You have to hand it to Jeff Bridges--even when he when he gives a rare bad performance, he throws himself into it as completely as he does with his great ones. As undead Old West lawman Roycephus Pulsifer, Bridges stomps through "R.I.P.D." like some unholy combination of Jeff Lebowski and Yosemite Sam and while the performance is arguably the dumbest of his entire career, he commits to it so fully that you can't take your eyes off of him whenever he is on the screen, even if it is for many of the same reasons that you would gawk at a particularly grisly car accident. As for the rest of the film, most viewers will be hard-pressed to keep their eyes open during this disastrous action-comedy in which he and fellow dead cop Ryan Reynolds, both of whom are now working for the Boston division of a paranormal police department designed to protect our world from the presence of so-called "deados," try to prevent yet another attempt at instigating the apocalypse or some such nonsense.

Essentially an amalgamation of "Men in Black," "Ghostbusters," the infamous "Dead Heat" and the buddy cop epic of your choice, the film tries to provide viewers with some offbeat fun but it never finds the right tone and has been produced in such a ridiculously overscaled and bloated manner that its attempts at weirdo whimsy get buried under the vast but ultimately forgettable avalanche of special effects. Another example of a film so busy trying to set itself up as a potential franchise that it never gets around to creating a story of characters that audiences would want to see even once, "R.I.P.D." is just a massive missed opportunity that is just as dead on arrival as the majority of its characters but nowhere near as likely to be resurrected anytime soon.

The new documentary "Springsteen & I" will be having a couple of special screenings in theaters around the country over the next week and if you are any sort of fan of the rock icon, you should make it a point to find the nearest theater showing it and check it out for yourself. Eschewing the standard documentary format, the film focuses on one of the key elements behind his tremendous popularity and longevity, the intense bond that he creates with his loyal fans through his records and his marathon live performances, and features a number of his followers talking about what his music means to them and telling stories about personal interactions that they have had with him over the years. An Elvis impersonator talks about being invited on stage to sing "Don't Be Cruel," a young woman recounts being selected to dance with him at the end of "Dancing in the Dark" and a street singer tells about how he impulsively joined him on a corner one afternoon for a couple of songs. If these stories sound too good to be true, the film backs them up with home movies and film from the Springsteen archives to back them up.

If it were about practically any other singer, a film such of this might have come across as an epic example of self-aggrandizement but "Springsteen and I" manages to avoid this for the most part thanks to its lack of pretension, the generally interesting nature of the interview subjects and their stories (one guy admits that he only really goes to the concerts to please his superfan wife and thinks that Springsteen should reduce the size of his shows to a more manageable length) and the fact that the singer (who is only seen via performance footage spanning his entire career) comes across as someone who realizes that he would be nowhere without his fan base and who wants to show his appreciation in his own unique ways. It may not sway the naysayers but for the true fans, "Springsteen & I" will come across as a entertaining and touching testament to the object of their admiration. (As part of the program, the film will be followed by a selection of performances culled from a 2012 concert in London--including special guest Paul McCartney on a couple of songs--and an epilogue that revisits some of the interview subjects and springs a big surprise on them.)

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originally posted: 07/20/13 07:50:02
last updated: 07/22/13 07:00:20
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