Summer’s coming to a close, and before any retrospective Best Of goggly goop, I wanted to throw two more movie reviews your way. First, is my review of “The Expendables,” an action movie on steroids (and coincidentally enough, the same modifier applies to a majority of the cast). Further down, is my good friend Nora Kelly’s review of “The Switch,” the latest romantic-comedy to come out, starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. It is fairly apparent to me that I see a limited range in movies, so to be fair to my female readers (not that I can confirm any, but here’s to hoping) I’ve reached out and brought in a new perspective. As always, enjoy.
Due to the Y chromosome I was given upon conception, I was completely psyched to hear about, read about, and see “The Expendables.” I loved the latest Rambo for its gratuitous violence and laughable dialogue and script and hoped, like all other breathing, testosterone pumping males that this conglomerate of action and ass-kicking would literally blow me away. But it didn’t, really. It was a whole hell of a lot of fun, but everything from the character names to the roles they played showed that this was a movie entirely self-aware of its star power, and how heavily it needed to rely on it. Yet, “The Expendables” is almost doomed to fail, in a way, from the start. This is a film, remember, with nearly 10 brooding action stars — how do you fit all of that together cohesively? How do you even fit all of that in one shot, one scene, one movie? Well, the answer is you blow a lot of shit up and laugh at yourself when you can. I mean look at these names: Lee Christmas, Ying Yang, Gunner Jensen, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, and plainly, Paine. It’s almost as if these guys are just playing themselves — Stalone, the old leader of the pack; Jet Li, the small compensating martial artists; Jason Statham, the slick bad boy. Bruce Willis and Arnold Shwarzenegger make appearances, and without spoiling a good joke, they essentially play themselves as well. Which is good and fine, all I wanted to do while watching this was gasp at the gore and laugh at the half-assed writing. I can overlook gaping plot holes and irrelevant side story as long as the bullets rain. And rain they do. The first death (which the movie playfully waits to deliver on) is quite possibly the best, and when the action does arise, it’s rarely kept anywhere less than 11. Hell, Stalone even broke his neck filming one scene. So, “The Expendables” does deliver on its promise, even if all the motorcycle driving, hanging out in tattoo shops, and knife throwing contests are the definition of unimaginative schmaltz. This is who these tough guys are, these bad ass mercenaries all conveniently gathered for the most epic film, I mean, country-saving expedition of all time. Except that, I wanted this to be the absolute pinnacle of gratuitous violence. However unhealthy of a statement that is to make, it’s true, and I was a little disappointed. I laughed, I gawked, but maybe not as heartily as I had hoped to. Earlier this summer, I questioned the place of the action movie and what more could be done with it. “The Expendables” is a perfect action summer movie treat, if only for its blatant-ness. It needed a lot of dynamite to boom though, and even then, I wonder how effective it was.
For a movie based on the inherently messy and little-bit-gross swapping of bodily fluids, “The Switch” manages to be tasteful and winning at the same time. The premise is one we’ve seen before — boy meets girl, boy loses girl to “friend zone,” boy realizes he loves girl after a twist of fate brings them back together. The girl, (Jennifer Aniston) Kassie, is a husband-less TV producer whose biological clock is ticking, and she wants to have a child on her own using artificial insemination. She rejects her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), a financial analyst, as a sperm donor because she claims he is far too neurotic to reproduce with. But one night, pre-insemination, a drunk Wally swaps his “ingredient” for that of Kassie’s sperm donor (Patrick Wilson, of “Phantom of the Opera” fame) –resulting in Sebastian, an awww-inspiring little boy with his father’s hypochondria and neuroses. Although his intense little attitude is meant to be sweet and meant to mirror that of his father’s, at times it comes across as depressing rather than cute. You’ll laugh at his sophisticated lines but even more you’ll want to give the little guy a hug. The characterization of Wally and Kassie is mildly flawed as well. Wally is labeled as neurotic, inflexible and a bit of a nuisance, but to the audience he seems like a normal guy, and viewers have to ask — what’s so wrong with him that Kassie doesn’t want his sperm? Kassie, likewise, is a bit of an empty character. Her personal history isn’t explained well, and she comes across as high-maintenance in her relationship with Wally, even though he’s supposed to be the inflexible one. Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis play the best friends of Wally and Kassie, respectively, and while Lewis provides necessary comic relief to the movie’s more intense moments, Goldblum isn’t all that amusing. Goldblum is a naturally funny guy, but in this role he seems stifled, and all his best lines are in the trailer. That being said, nobody watches rom-coms for character development, and “The Switch” is a perfectly acceptable summer movie — mindless, sweet, a bit tear-jerking. Don’t see this movie if you’re looking for countless laughs — contrary to what you’d think, there aren’t many sperm or sex jokes — but check it out if you’re in a need of some sweet rom-com to balance out this summer’s action-packed movie roster.