June 2004

Shrek 2

Shrek 2
Newly married Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) travel to the kingdom of Far, Far Away to meet Fionas parents, the king and queen of Far, Far Away played by John Cleese and Julie Andrews. The king, especially, is not too happy to discover that his daughter has married an ogre and her Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) is furious that Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is out of the picture.

No prizes for guessing how it all ends.

Shrek 2 is an attempt to satirize Hollywood and its conventions. It doesnt even get close to achieving this and instead simply makes the blindingly obvious observation that this is a glamorous, shallow and very commercial place.

Its not a great film, but it does manage to provide plenty of laughs - Eddie Murphy as the Donkey and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots are both on great form - and the nods to a whole slew of films from Frankenstein to Mission Impossible were never less than entertaining.

Its a fun film and worth seeing, but not a patch on the original.

The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After TomorrowMuch has been said already about the flaky - to say the least - science behind Roland Emmerichs latest film. As someone who enjoyed Blade, The Terminator and Spider Man Im the first to admit that Im willing to swallow a dodgy premise as long as the rest of the film builds on this in a logical and believable manner.

Unfortunately, The Day After Tomorrow doesnt really do this.

Dennis Quaid plays a paleoclimatologist who comes up with a brand spanking new theory that predicts a sudden and imminent ice age. He presents his findings to some sort of climate conference in Delhi at which the nasty old US Vice President rejects his theory on economic grounds.

Ummm Right. But the Kyoto treaty does get a mention so we know that this is Serious Stuff.

Quaids boss is less than happy about his challenging the nasty old US Vice Presidents prejudices and gives him 48 hours to come up with conclusive proof of his theory - but denies him access to the computer modelling tools that he would need to do so.

At this point I was almost expecting Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte to turn up.

Of course, with the help of a sympathetic NASA scientist and some entertainingly stoic British researchers, Quaid discovers that not only is his theory true, but the next Ice Age is going to happen. Instantly.

Did I mention that Quaid is an absent father?

His son, Jake Gyllenhaal, is bitter at his fathers constant absenteeism, but a Good Kid. He gets stranded in New York when the inevitable storm hits so that Quaid can heroically trudge up north to rescue him.

Did I mention that the weather is about to get so cold that anyone caught outside - trudging north to rescue their kids, for example - will instantly freeze to death?

It goes on

And on

Plot contrivance after plot contrivance all building up to the big disaster that we know is going to happen because we saw it in the trailers.

Admittedly, the special effects are spectacular. But big effects dont, on their own, make for a good film. There needs to be something more than a CGI show reel to engage an audience - or this member of the audience at least.

In general, Im a characterisation person. There are a fair number of flaws, inconsistencies and contrivances that Im willing to put up with if I find the characters both realistic and engaging.

The characters in The Day After Tomorrow are neither realistic, nor engaging.

Both Quaid and Gyllenhaal do the best they can, but their relationship is so thinly drawn and stereotyped that the resolution was obvious as soon as the first storm hit. And these two are the high point - the supporting cast are given absolutely nothing to work with and end up being a collection of instantly forgettable plot points.

There were a couple of jokes that raised a smile - the argument about which books to burn and the Mexican government closing their borders - but at the end of the day, The Day After Tomorrow is an essentially bland and very predictable disaster movie which fails to create a single character worth caring about.