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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 16, 1998: 

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. When you heard about the plot to Life is Beautiful you probably thought "Oh no, not another zany comedy about the Holocaust!" Roberto Benigni plays a Jewish bookstore owner in 1940s Italy who, along with his son, is carted away to a Nazi concentration camp. Benigni seeks to shield his son from the terrors by convincing him that they are on vacation, and that the degradations of the camp are actually part of a game. The first to collect 1,000 points through starvation, hard labor and quiet obedience to "the scary men who yell" will win a tank. Unfortunately, the first half hour of this film is an overwhelmingly annoying series of slapstick routines, but once Benigni and family are carted off to the camps the movie achieves a nearly perfect balance between comedy and terror. It's definitely worthwhile to tolerate the first section in order to see something so rare as the second. This week Life is Beautiful was nominated by Italy as its Academy Award submission. --DiGiovanna

LIVING OUT LOUD. This journey-of-self-realization flick has the same problem a lot of movies have these days: It's entertaining but annoying. The ever-charming Holly Hunter plays Judith Nelson, a wealthy doctor's wife who loses it when she discovers her husband is in love with a younger woman. She slowly pulls herself back together with the help of some quirky new friends, a saucy nightclub singer (Queen Latifah) and the building's elevator operator (Danny DeVito). The ad campaign for this movie points out that director Richard LaGravenese also wrote The Fisher King and the screenplay for The Bridges of Madison County, as though this were a good thing. Living Out Loud suffers from the same gut-kick episodes of sentimentality and overwrought meaning-of-life moments as in LaGravenese's earlier movies, cheap shots all of them. Does anyone really need a movie to show them how to connect more deeply with their fellow humans? Even so, this could have been a decent film if LaGravenese had cut out the kids-dying-of-cancer, crack-baby-rescue subplots. The performances are quite good and the story zips along; yet, at the end of it all, it feels awfully fake for a movie about "authenticity."--Richter

A MERRY WAR. I say, if you must get out of your flat because there's nothing on the telly, perhaps you'd have a mind to pop out and watch something so very English as this slow-moving film. Sadly, itís a bit of a let down, entertainment-wise. Richard Grant plays a poet who writes ad copy, but quits to lead a life of starvation and artistic integrity. Helena Bonham Carter plays the woman who has no rational reason for putting up with his behaviour as he descends into drunken excess and poverty. Like all extremely English films, this one is set in the past, tries for a dry wit, and has an odd chastity about even its erotic scenes. If you like PBS, but would rather pay $7 to watch it, do go to A Merry War.--DiGiovanna

THE WATERBOY. Going into an Adam Sandlar movie, I expected his aren't-mentally-challenged-people-funny persona, an aren't-gay-guys-funny joke or two, and maybe a cameo from a Saturday Night Live cohort. I got all this, and so much more. This is no mindless comedy, it's a message movie--proof that those Hollywood CEOs do care about our futures, and the futures of our children. No one wants that "Mommy, what were trees like?" bumper sticker to come true, so the masterminds behind The Waterboy demonstrate the importance of environmental consciousness by recycling the Forrest Gump script. It killed enough trees, so these eco-friendly folks simply took the story of an oddly athletic man with a IQ of 90 and set it on a football field. And to fill in plotholes without wasting additional paper, there's lots of recycled music, from Rush to Anita Ward, to help you along. For example, when Waterboy is awfully lonely, "Lonely Boy" plays in the background. Get it? Apparently careers are reusable, too, as witnessed by the dynamic screen presence of Henry Winkler as a coach. The funniest parts, though, are the recycled stereotypes. Southerners are especially hee-larious, what with those durn accents and all. --Higgins

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