Down From the Shelf ~ Mannequin

The Facts:

Synopsis: Jonathan is a department store window-dresser who discovers that one of his mannequins is actually a woman from ancient Egypt when she becomes animated one evening. She then inspires him to become the most expressive window-dresser the business has ever seen.

Stars: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader, G.W. Bailey, Meshach Taylor, Carole Davis

Director: Michael Gottlieb

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 90 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  Pardon the pun but in the case of Mannequin, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.  Some detractors might argue that that’s a good thing as overall Mannequin is a pretty silly film with little to no sense of logic or observance of time.  A staple of the tweeny-bopper sleepover since its release in 1987, the film is so sweetly good-natured that try as you might you may struggle to totally dislike it.

Reading more about Mannequin before writing this review, I was interested to see that nearly everything about the movie was crafted in relation to market research at the time.  In other words, it was made specifically for its target audience: young girls.  McCarthy was coming off a string of teen hits so a part originally written for an older man was fashioned as a star vehicle for McCarthy.  Cattrall was over a decade away from her career resurgence with the Sex and the City phenomenon yet still held sway over young men that remembered her from Porky’s and Police Academy.  In the late 80’s, research showed that young girls were most interested in fashion, fantasy, and cute boys and all three are the groundwork for Mannequin’s plot.

In production, the film was scoffed at for catering so blatantly to just one demographic (yet nowadays that’s what nearly all studios do) so when it was released to negative reviews no one was truly shocked.  When the $6 million dollar film opened at number one and went on to make $41 million, heads and minds were turned. It even spawned a terrible sequel (Mannequin 2: On the Move) that seemed to be targeted at no one.

Viewed today, Mannequin is a prime calling card of cinema in the latter part of the 80’s.  Made and released as the country was changing its values and welcoming in the era of greed, it’s oddly stuck in a sort of time warp that doesn’t seem entirely familiar.  I wonder what a teen of today thinks when they see all the fuss about department store windows, shoulder pads, and a healthy dose of classic 80’s music. 

Speaking of music, did you know that Mannequin is an Oscar-nominated film?  Yessir it is!  “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Jefferson Starship may have lost the Oscar to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing but the song retains its power even today.

One look at the cast list for the film and you see what a strong group was involved.  McCarthy and Cattrall both had chemistry to spare, Cattrall in particular looks great throughout and feels right for the part.  Getty got out of her old lady gear from The Golden Girls to play a dotty store owner targeted for liquidation by, among others, a scheming executive (Spader at his greasy best), a dunderhead night security guard (Cattrall’s Police Academy co-star Bailey), and McCarthy’s shrewish girlfriend (model Davis who rightly had a fairly short-lived screen career).  Taylor’s performance as a flamboyant window dresser is so stereotypical it might make your skin crawl, but you must consider the time and place this film was made.  It doesn’t make it right but it makes it easier to understand.

I still have a great affinity for the film even if it starts to lose its charm in a few mean-spirited moments as it reaches its conclusion.  Still, the harmless fairy tale good vibes it gives off are a welcome nostalgic distraction from the present…escapist entertainment for the 80’s teen.

The Silver Bullet ~ Little White Lies

Synopsis: A near-fatal accident leaves one friend in the hospital while the rest go on their annual vacation. But their secrets and personal grief threaten to drive them apart

Release Date:  August 24, 2012

Thoughts:   Filmed in 2010 before Jean Dujardin broke through in his Oscar-winning turn in The Artist, Little White Lies also adds French beauty Marion Cotillard to the mix.  Described as a French take on The Big Chill, this foreign import is aimed squarely at the adult art-house consumer that enjoys regaling their non-suburban friends about “this wonderful little French film you simply must see.”  Clocking in at an epic 2 hours and 34 minutes, I’m hoping that the film isn’t nearly as dramatic as it’s marketing itself as.  I like Dujardin and Cotillard so would be interested in seeing them together but I sometimes resist the urge to run out and see these older films being released stateside as a new release.

Movie Review ~ Bachelorette

The Facts:

Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.

Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Rebel Wilson, Kyle Bornheimer

Director: Leslye Headland

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:   Oh Bridesmaids, what hath you wrought?  The 2011 mega hit made a big buzz because it was a film written by women, starring women, not just for women, and exceedingly funny.  First shrugged off as a female answer to the rowdy popularity of The Hangover, it quickly separated itself from the pack of imitators by matching that film laugh for laugh (often beating it).  Being released the same summer as the inferior The Hangover: Part II, Bridesmaids was one of the most talked about films of the year…deservedly so.

A year later comes another movie that draws obvious comparisons to Bridesmaids in tone, structure, and even casting (Wilson appears in both films but in different roles).  Bachelorette was written and directed by Headland who adapted it from her stage play and it’s not hard to see why the material would have worked well as a live performance.  Ribald humor, male strippers, and catty asides probably provided some nice laughs but having not seen the piece I can’t say how many characters/situations were added/embellished for the big screen treatment.

Providing a few nice laughs, Bachelorette unfortunately gets sunk in its multiple excesses of girls behaving badly.  None of the three leads are crafted as particularly likable characters so it’s tough to get invested in their shenanigans as they prove to be awful bridesmaids and lousy friends.  Without many/any redeemable qualities the women become exhausting cartoons and that creates a rift with the viewer.

It takes a rare performer to make an unlikable character involving and sadly Dunst is far from up to the task.  As the head honcho bridesmaid, it’s never clear why she’s friends with the bride (Wilson, operating in a far less quirky vibe than she has in Bridesmaids, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and the upcoming Pitch Perfect) or why she’s so dang angry.  Dunst just doesn’t have the timing, skill, or commitment for comedy and she’s in way over her head before the film is even half over.

Caplan and Fisher have demonstrated a knack for comedy in the past but here they are each playing such stereotypical roles that you know where they’re going to end up long before they do.  I’ve a feeling that Caplan will regret playing such a snidely clueless doormat and Fisher will wish she hadn’t played yet another total idiot but both actresses at least roll up their sleeves and dig into their parts which is more than Dunst can say. 

Like Bridesmaids, the men operate merely as pawns for the women to chew their scenery with.  It’s too bad that the talented guys aren’t called on to do more than move the show along without much functionality but Scott, Marsden, and especially Bornheimer do the best with what they have.

Headlund makes her directing debut here and perhaps a more experienced director could have taken her paper-thin script and made something of it.  As it stands, there’s not much style on display and the cinematography by Doug Emmett leaves much to be desired.  It’s nearly a point and shoot affair and one wonders if Headlund couldn’t envision her script outside of a confined stage-like setting.

It’s clear from the get-go that this movie got made simply because of the plot description in the hopes of another success with female audiences.  It’s not a total wash of a film, let’s be clear.  It’s just a glossy copycat film that is trying to capitalize on the success of a hit film without having to really acknowledge that fact.

Having been released On Demand before debuting in the theaters Bachelorette has been a surprise hit, moving to the top of the charts…becoming the first film to do so without first being released in theaters.  That may bode well for the film down the road when it’s released in early September…or it may signify that it’s destined to be a Ladies Night In experience.

The Silver Bullet ~ Dredd

Synopsis: In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Release Date:  September 21, 2012

Thoughts: I still remember seeing the 1995 adaptation of the popular comic starring Sylvester Stallone.  A messy affair and box office dud, the film strayed too far away from the character fans came to see so they rightly gave the film a thumbs down.  A second go-around in 2012 is poised to right some of those wrongs…in 3D.  Even I am growing weary of the 3D boom – the trailer makes this look like a darkly lit shoot ‘em out and that doesn’t always lend itself well to the 3D universe.  A less teen friendly R rating should give this a nice little boost for those that like their actioners les sanitized.