JUNE 22, 1998:
DIRTY WORK. Norm Macdonald has the sort of face and attitude
that's funny even if he just stands there doing nothing. Unfortunately,
in Dirty Work Macdonald runs around spewing stillborn half-jokes
and pulling unimaginative revenge schemes on stereotypical villains.
Big dogs hump big dogs, skunks hump little dogs, Macdonald gets
ass-raped in jail, the highly obnoxious Artie Lange (Mad TV)
and highly dead Chris Farley try to squeeze laughs out of their
corpulence, Gary Coleman and Adam Sandler appear for so-over-the-top-they're-under-the-bottom
cameos, Chevy Chase and Don Rickles do what they always do, tiredly--and
none of it is funny. Then again, if you willingly go to a movie
directed by Bob Saget (of America's Stupidest Home Videos
fame), you have no one to blame but yourself. --Woodruff
MULAN. Disney storytelling is catching up to the 21st century,
slowly but surely, by reaching ever farther into the past (about
the 5th century, in this case). Mulan recounts the mythical
Chinese tale of a daughter who disguises herself as a boy in order
to take her aged and ailing father's place in the emperor's army.
The crisis is that the Huns have crossed the Great Wall of China,
with plans of deposing the emperor; and in the Disney version,
a band of ragamuffin peasants, lead by a handsome young captain
(singing voice provided by Donny Osmond) and the heroine Fa-Mulan,
are China's last hope. Say what you will about the Disney empire,
the animation here is so arresting at times--from the magic of
watercolor strokes on the film's opening credits, to the breathtaking
vistas of torches bursting into flame all along the Great Wall,
and the Hun army descending a snowy cornice of the Himalayas--you
may be inclined to forgive all sins, such as the corny contemporary
soundtrack, and the regrettably undignified ending. Eddie Murphy
is a kick as the demoted spirit-dragon Mushu; and The Single
Guy's Ming-Na Wen offers some much-needed spine to the first
Disney character we know of to suggest the girl worth fighting
for might be "a girl who always speaks her mind." This
is the summer action flick for the wee ones. --Wadsworth
POST COITUM. Ah, no one makes love stories like the French!
Director Brigitte Roüan also stars in this sexy, bittersweet
story about the love affair between an older woman and a younger
man. Borris Terral plays the extremely hunky Emilio, an idealistic
youth who begins a passionate affair with the married Diane. Emilio
is a shameless romantic, shining all his charm on his successful
lover, who promptly jeopardizes her family and her job to better
fling herself into the affair. But just when Diane starts to really
like Emilio, he dumps her with no explanation. The grieving scenes
begin to become a bit elaborate, but Roüan has a light touch
that helps keep things from getting too heavy-handed. Ever notice
how much hotter the love scenes are when a woman is directing?
SHOOTING FISH. A cute caper comedy from Britain, Shooting
Fish piles on the winks and smiles and skimps on anything
you might actually feel in your gut. Dan Futterman and Stuart
Townsend play twentysomething orphans who keep pulling off quick
scams so they can save up to buy a mansion. Kate Beckinsale's
pixie hair and perfect teeth star as the guys' perky love interest.
Will Kate fall for the fast-talking, ever-smirking playboy, or
the shy, socially awkward technical wizard? The movie hardly pauses
for an answer, whisking our protagonists off for still more mini-adventures.
For all its mobility, though, Shooting Fish never really
catches you off guard, and gets about as sexy as a science fair.
It would make a nice double feature with Cold Comfort Farm.
Emphasis on the word "nice."