Friday, July 31, 2009

Thoughts on Valkyrie

Let's get something out of the way. I've never really liked Tom Cruise. I don't necessarily dislike him, but I don't get excited when I hear he's on the cast for an upcoming movie. Valkyrie does not provide a 180° on my opinion of him, but it does change it up a bit.

Valkyrie tells the story of the 20 July plot, a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler that was orchestrated by the German Resistance. The film's protagonist is Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), a war veteran who lost an eye and a hand during a British attack. Stauffenberg, disillusioned with the Third Reich, joins a clandestine group planning on staging a coup.

Overall, the supporting cast in the coup plot does a decent job but no one really stands out. Particularly alluring, however, was David Bamber's Hitler, who was subdued yet deranged. He doesn't have much screen time, but he works wonders (particularly with his eyes) during that time.

Carice van Houten (marvelous in Black Book) is wasted here as von Satuffenberg's wife, Nina. It's really a shame when a great actress is given a role she can't do anything with. This is not the same as saying small roles should go to bad actors. Dame Judi Dench did marvelous in Shakespeare in Love, despite her limited screen time. Carice's performance doesn't lower its quality standards from her other work, but we just don't see enough of her.

The film is interesting, but it's main flaw is that it is never truly engaging. For a film inhabiting as tired a historical period as WWII, this is particularly problematic. The way I see it, if you're gonna get into WWII, you must either bring something new into the game or be really good at what everyone else has done. The fact that the proceedings play as a thriller in a scenario whose ending we already know further sink this into exercise-in-futility territory. As I've asked before, if a thriller isn't particularly thrilling, is it failing? Maybe as a thriller, but the other thing this film has going on for it is its attempt to inform us; to let us know that not every German (indeed, that not even every Nazi) in WWII was a monster. Some attempted to fight back, to redeem themselves. It's a shame their courage is exploited here with such low quality standards.

Le verdict: **

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thoughts on Terminator Salvation

Let me be the first to say my dislike of this film is my own fault. I shouldn't have raised my expectations. Did I expect anything but loud explosions from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? Of course not. But with other succesful franchise reboots/reinventions still fresh in my mind, I allowed myself a bit of optimism for Terminator Salvation. This turned into excitement when I learned that both Christian Bale and Anton Yelchin were to star in it. Bale's performance in The Dark Knight was still fresh in my mind and I've found Anton Yelchin thoroughly alluring ever since I saw Charlie Bartlett. Alas, all of this would work against me when the film finally came out (a full two months after it had premiered elsewhere, I might add).

For those of you uninitiated to Terminator, the film concerns itself with humanity's struggle against Skynet, an artificial intelligence bent on our annihilation. Skynet became self-aware shortly after being activated and lauched a worldwide nuclear attack. The survivors must now square off against Skynet's machine army. This is the first movie in the franchise that is primarily set in the future, during the war. And what a bleak setting that is. Mankind is outnumbered and facing a ruthlessly efficient foe in a deserted world. Sure, there's the occasional ruined landscape or two, but they're filled with potential hiding places for the machines and as such are more dangerous than helpful; their mere existence being a reminder of Skynet's lowest blow against humanity (the cinematography in these scenes is actually quite good; all cold, gray and sandy, effectively conveying the dead landscape's feel).

On the human resistance we have John Connor (Christian Bale), who was prophetized to be mankind's leader against the machines but is having a hard time rising to that post on account of those who aren't ready to believe him. To say Bale's performance here is a disappointment would be an understatement. He's one-note and uninspiring. This wouldn't be so bad (it is a big budget, summer action film after all) if it wasn't for the fact that we've seen him do infinitely better. Not only have we seen him do better, actually, but the character too. And when your performance doesn't measure up to Edward Furlong's, you know you're in trouble (not to say he didn't do well in T2, just saying he squandered that later. An entry in the The Crow franchise? Hello?). The possibility was there, but he just didn't grab it. Maybe the direction's at fault here too, but I'll get into that later.

Playing (quite literally, sometimes) opposite Bale is Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, a newly resurrected murderer who's trying to make sense of his new surroundings and atone for his past sins by helping out other survivors. Worthington is a breath of fresh air after Bale's listless performance, being both believably heroic and emotionally perturbed. Of particular note is his chemistry with Moon Bloodgood (more on her ahead). All thing considered, he could've let the character flounder, much like Bale, but doesn't. Since the script isn't that more gentle with him (giving him some truly awful lines near the beginning), I'll have to attribute that to Worthington's skill. But let's not get carried away. Opposite Bale, Worthington is nice, but he isn't anything we haven't seen in other (better) shapes elsewhere.

Moon Bloodgood's Blair Williams is one of the highlights of the film. Unlike her female co-star Bryce Dallas-Howard (who portrays Kate Brewster, John's romantic interest), who doesn't have much to do during the film, Bloodgood is pure female action star (inheriting Linda Hamilton's mantle of strong female lead performance). Not only can she sell her combat sequences, she also skillfully shows a more tender side of her around Marcus, resulting in some surprisingly endearing scenes. Plus, the girl can seriously rock the post-apocalyptic wardrobe.

Jadagrace Berry's (debut role) Star is a mute, orphaned survivor who works alongside Anton Yelchin's teenaged Kyle Reese to stay alive. Her role is small and doesn't require much of her, but I still liked her. She goes from a blank face to a very communicative expression aproppiately and doesn't utter a sound throughout the entire film, only occasionaly descending into gimmick territory. For a first timer 9 year old, she did a very decent job.

Last but certainly not least is the film's standout performance. Anton Yelchin's Kyle Reese (the boy who would, through time travel, eventually become John's father) is a testament to his acting skills. I'm a big fan of Yelchin and with each passing role I grow more confident that he has the chops to carve a longlasting, great career ahead of him. He convincingly conveys the furious sense of frustration and despair a teenage boy would feel if his entire world fell apart. He's fierce, and energetic, but doesn't ever descend into overacting. He also, apparently has the skills to pull a thrilling action scene (something Star Trek, his other summer job, didn't require of him). Yelchin continues to show a lot of promise and he's one of those people that gives me hope the future of young hollywood rests in good hands.

All in all, the film wasn't suppossed to be a standout dramatic outing, so we forgive some of it's acting and plot weaknesses. But if, as an action film, it doesn't reach the bar set by its predecessors (Terminator 2: Judgement Day is to this day, one of my favorite action movies), what does it have left? Maybe Joseph McGinty (I refuse to adress him as McG) should have done a better job in the execution department. Maybe someone else should have been given the job. Whatever the cause, this film ended up being an average action film. The disappointment here isn't in what it is, but what it held the promise to be.

Le verdict: *1/2
Le Verdict (Anton Yelchin's performance): **1/2

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Massive Movie Catch-Up: 2008

I am so excited! Today, while perusing my local blockbuster I was blinsided by a sudden 2008 catch-up they're apparently doing. Every (and I do mean each and every one) of the movies I'd been craving (or in the case of Valkyrie, merely curious about) to see from 2008 that didn't come out on theaters (or that I was too busy to go see) here hit the shelves at the same time. Expect an onslaught of posts regarding this in the coming days.

Au revoir,
Monsieur Cinema

Thoughts on My Sister's Keeper

Before you bombard me in the comments with complaints of me being heartless and how could I not feel moved by this film, let me clarify something. I am not heartless. I cried at the end of Atonement, I cry during Stepmom (even if it is a tearjerker much like this one, I'll be damned if Susan Sarandon doesn't sell a melodramatic scene like nobody's business). My point is: I am as emotionally available to a movie as the next guy, but I don't like it when a movie tries to force it out of me. Which is the main problem My Sister's Keeper, the eponymous film adaptation of Jodi Picoult's novel faces. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the fundamentals, shall we?

The film is about a family, a family who, after learning their two year old girl suffers from a rare form of leukemia, decides to have a second daughter, genetically engineered to be able to donate as many body parts as her sister might need. Thanks to this, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva)has lived far beyond her initial life expectancy of 5. Her sister Anna (Abigail Breslin), however, has been in and out of hospitals her whole life, all in an effort to prolong Kate's life. When she was born her cord blood was used to treat Kate. This soon progressed to donating blood, bone marrow, stem cells, etc.; all for the benefit of Kate. She loves her sister, so she's willing to go with her mother (Cameron Diaz) Sara's plans to do anything it takes to keep Kate alive. But when Kate's kidneys fail and Anna is about to be forced to donate one of her own, she decides to end it once and for all. She seeks the help of Campbell Alexander, a notoriously successful attorney, in order to become medically emancipated.

This creates a rift between the different members of the family (those who agree with Anna and those who don't) and Sara (who before discovering Kate's disease was a successful lawyer) decides to go against Alexander in court. Here is near where the film hits its first true problem. The film shows us flashbacks of the family from their various points of view (complete with voiceovers). For a tearjerker, this is not anything new and as such (even if it is a tired storytelling method) I had no beef with it. What really bugged me was the way these flashbacks were introduced. Right as we focused on a particular character, the screen fades to black for a few seconds and then we're in the past. It was lazy, clunky, and repetitive.

But let's forget about the direction and plot for a second and consider the performances. While Cameron Diaz's tough mother act was believable and a nice change of pace from her usual comedic roles, it was still nothing new. This is not to say her acting was flawed, but she didn't really add anything to the character either. Alec Baldwin's Campbell Alexander is a nice mix of cheekiness and heart that I didn't expect from him. He's not an exemplary human being but he cares about Anna and Baldwin's performance makes all the difference between corny kindness and engaging sympathy. The true standout here, however, is Joan Cusack as Judge De Salvo. Her courtroom scenes are not anything we haven't seen elsewhere, but her interview with Anna is a very nice scene. She's recently lost her own daughter in a car accident and talking about death with Anna only brings her pain back to the surface. While most actresses might have gone overboard and turned this into a ham session, Cusack makes us feel her pain in as simple and understated a manner as she can muster.

On the main performances arena we have Abigail Breslin's Anna and Sofia Vassilieva's Kate. Not only do they shine in their individual scenes, their sister dynamic is also believable. Breslin is, of course, the better performer of the two. She's convincing when trying to rebel and when concerned for her sister's well-being. This is one of her first truly dramatic roles in the spotlight, and the promise she shows is truly astounding. Sofia Vassilieva's performance is nice, but, oddly enough, I liked her better during the flashbacks. Even though her performance during the present scenes is decent, her I've-accepted-death-and-am-now-calm act is something that plagues this genre. Is it moving? Yes, but it falls to the worst traits of the tearjerker drama. On the flashbacks, however, Vassilieva strikes a nice balance between likable and bratty. Her teenage rebelliousness is a normal response someone in her situation would engage in. She's tired of her disease and of not living like a normal teen and isn't afraid to show it.

This leads me to a particularly poignant aspect of the film. While in the hospital, Kate meets a fellow leukemia patient named Taylor (Thomas Dekker, he of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles fame). They begin a relationship (both in and out of the hospital) and he even invites her to the hospital's "prom". The scenes detailing their relationship are sweet and touching without descending into sentimentalism. This is all due to the young actors' talent and the script's deft handling of their teenage romance.

Overall, the film is nothing above the standard tearjerker. Some of the problems it has could've been easily fixed by a more skilled director. Also, it's message and sadness are delivered in too heavy-handed a way for us not to feel like it's being shoved down our throats. And what happens when someone shoves something down our throats? We gag and choke, that's what. The film does contain some poignant moments and its honest attempt at portraying the minefield that is bioethics nowadays was not lost on me. Overall, if you're stuck on a bus or plane and this is playing, you won't cringe at it. But you won't exactly be thrilled either.

Le verdict: *1/2

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Let's start by getting the obvious out of the way. This post is futile. Why you ask? Because regardless of what I say, if you're a fan of Harry Potter you've already seen this movie and if you're not nothing I say will make you see it. However, my compulsion to share my take on things pushes me onward and will not be assuaged. So, with that out of the way, let's carry on, shall we?

All things considered, I must say this is my favorite entry in the franchise. While some people prefer the third or fourth films, I felt the third was great but lacked something I couldn't quite place my finger on. The fourth on the other hand, seems to be the most highly regarded by the critics, but as a fan I felt it left out crucial sections of the plot. I understand it's not easy to compress such a large book for a movie adaptation, but it could have done a better job. The fifth was a return to form, but it concerned itself with the teenage first love subplot in too awkward a manner. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, however, David Yates and company have risen to the occassion marvelously. It's the tightest script we've ever seen out of the series, balancing humor with darker sections nearly seamlessly and providing a genuine good time. Thanks to the special attention payed to verbal comedy this time around, the film's two and half hour runtime doesn't feel nearly as long as it should.

Let's start with the three leads, shall we? Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have been on this since the start and I can confidently say this is the best we've seen out of them. Daniel Radcliffe is, perhaps for the first time, truly likeable. He still sells the boy-hero thing, but he also plays the straight man to Grint's (unexpected) comedic chops. He also plays for earnest comedy in the Felix Felicis scene and it works in ways I hadn't realized he could manage. On the other side of the comedy front we have Rupert Grint's Ron, who for the first time isn't just a sidekick, but a star all on his own. Not only is the script generous with him, his comic timing works great with it. And last but not least, Emma Watson's Hermione nicely balances comedy with teen drama without overdoing either one.

If we look past the leads we'll also discover a supporting cast that works wonderfully within the film. Michael Gambon's Dumbledore is as excentric and wise as ever, but the performance is still engaging. Furthermore, this is the first film in the series in which we get to see a vulnerable moment in Dumbledore's life. This is of course during the cave scene, in which his pain and pleading ring true with us, even if we only get a glimpse at them.

Evanna Lynch continues her excentric character (Luna Lovegood)'s use as comic relief. Even if this time around her role is smaller and her use as comic relief is all they get out of her character, she still manages to steal every scene she's in with her quiet demeanor and oddball antics.

Jim Broadbent (so thoroughly different from his role in Moulin Rouge!, I questioned whether it was the same man) portrays Horace Slughorn, a self-serving, connections obsessed professor who's memories are vital in aiding the defeat of Lord Voldemort. The performance is nicely layered, balancing humor, cowardice and shame in such a way that as pathetic a character as Slughorn is, we sympathize with him and even end up liking him.

Helena Bonham Carter's Bellatrix Lestrange, on the other hand, is a dark force of destruction. She doesn't add anything this time, but I'll be damned if it isn't fun (and still somewhat terrifying) watching her destructive vixen act. There's a particular scene near the conclusion of the film where after taking part in a murder conspiracy, she runs through the woods, cackling and twirling like a murderous, gothic dervish.

Another highlight on the supporting cast is Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, who plays the child version of Lord Voldemort. His role is very small, but his performance is still wonderful (specially for a 12 year old with only one other film credit under his belt). His portrayal of the twisted child that would become the series antagonist is dark and subdued. Of special note to me was the gleeful fascination he shows when he realizes Dumbledore really is a wizard. We only get a glimpse of his face, but it shows so much (surprise, glee, wonder, desire, piqued interest). I can't wait to see what he'd do in a bigger role.

Alan Rickman's Severus Snape is at his most menacing here. Even though his wardrobe hasn't noticeably changed throughout the series, his cape looks like never before, like a black cloud of misery trailing behind him. He still balances the darker moments with some dry comedy, as he's wont to do; but it's still a nicely dark (if a tad small) performance.

Which leads us to the film as a visual experience. The sets are beautifully detailed and the wardrobe is still very decent compared to most big budget franchises these days. Deserving particular note is the film's cinematography, which in the final scenes uses cold, metallic colors and light to heighten tension and when combined with the aforementioned sets truly is a marvelous visual thrill.

And speaking of visual thrills, the other thing this movie consistently pulls off better than most big budget movie franchises out there is the visual effects. They're great, of course, but the thing they do remarkably well is blend seamlessly with the rest of the movie. They never overpower scenes they're in unless they have to (as in the ring of fire in the above picture, which is truly wonder to look at). It's refreshing to see a movie where even though there's magic and whatnot flying across the screen every so often you don't wonder midscene how much that digital effect cost or if it even is a digital effect; you just go with the flow.

Overall, I have a very positive opinion of this movie, even if the ending felt slightly truncated. This is not something it could've done better, as the book it's based upon also felt this way. The book's place in the series is a final exposition and setting of plot points before the grand finale. Even considering this, the movie was very entertaining and I applaud its darker plotlines and heightened efforts in every department. I highly recommend it.

Le verdict: ***1/2

P.S. It is a testament to the film's visual delights that this has been my most picture-heavy post. And just because I love you, here's another shot of Bellatrix looking deranged yet oddly alluring, as it should be.

Thoughts on Public Enemies

Public Enemies is not what I expected. As a period film, I expected beauty shots, a lavish art direction and a formulaic structure. Don't get me wrong, I love period films, but even I have to admit it's a genre that's particularly difficult to add anything new to. Leave it to Michael Mann to defy all the trappings and conventions of the genre in this 1930s crime film. I do, however, have mixed feelings about this. Allow me to elaborate.

Public Enemies concerns itself with notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his struggle against FBI agent Melvin Purvis's (Christian Bale) attempts to capture him. Along the way, Dillinger picks up a girl named Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), a coat check girl to whom he reveals "My name's John Dillinger and I rob banks" shortly after meeting. It is unfortunate that this line doesn't sum up or define him; it's everything there's to him. This is not to say Depp isn't in fine form. He gets everything he can out of Dillinger, making him at once menacing and likeably roguish. Ultimately, however, it's not enough to engage us. Paradoxically, even if Depp's performance isn't one-note, his character is much too simple to get anything out of him.

Which leads us to the other side of the equation. Bale's Melvin Purvis is an experienced, driven man who nevertheless can't seem to outwit Dillinger. He admires his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, but can't help disagreeing with him on how the FBI should operate. While Hoover wants a legion of clean-cut men to lead the nation's premier law enforcement agency, Purvis knows that's not what the job requires sometimes. Accordingly, his straight-laced demeanor gives way to a military efficiency once he's on the field. I'd like to say Bale's performance is better than Depp's and becomes the focal point of the film, but that would be a lie. We've seen Bale in finer form recently (The Dark Knight, 3:10 to Yuma), so this performance feels just a tad too listless.

Without strong enough leads to focus on, our focus turns on the supporting cast. A standout here is Marion Cotillard. This is her first role after her amazing performance in La Vie en Rose (Yes, I realize the actual, French title is La Môme, but I've always thought La Vie en Rose just sounded so much better). Her Billie is no more complex than Dillinger. Her life is boring and she feels a need to be protected, so she tags along with him. What Cotillard does beautifully are the simple things. Her interest in him on their first date, her defiance at the officer that question her when she's captured; all of these things are handled superbly by Cotillard. The role doesn't have anything more than what Dillinger's did on paper, but Cotillard's performance elevates it to something else. Perhaps because she's free of the burden placed on Dillinger's shoulders as protagonist her role works much better. After all, Depp also works the little things in his role and it doesn't end up helping him as much as it does her.

Which leaves us with the direction. The movie is entirely shot in HD, something which (coupled with the camerawork) gives it a very distinctive look. It also serves underlines Mann's attention to detail and discipline and the film's realistic angle on the 1930s. While objectively I appreciate all of this and understand the point the film tries to make, it ultimately works against it. By presenting us with nearly two-dimensional characters and an unengaging plot, the film's realism only heightens our lack of interest. The fact that the movie's runtime is over two hours also doesn't help it in this aspect. Furthermore, the film's trailer suggested an epic crime drama. Generally speaking, epics do not benefit from realism. We need dramatic flourish to make the uncinematic cinematic, and this film doesn't work in our favor here. This is not to say realism is bad, merely that we were misled by the trailer and our expectations weren't met. As I left the theater I couldn't help but wonder what else was there to it. I thought that the fact that his name was John Dillinger and he robbed banks was only the circumstance, that there would be more to it. Was there? No, there wasn't.

Le verdict: **1/2

P.S. Just for the heck of it, here's another shot of Marion Cotillard from the movie and a picture from a photo shoot for GQ she did a couple of months ago. Isn't she just gorgeous?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thoughts on 17 Again

17 Again snuck up on me. The day I saw it, the original plan I had was to go see Public Enemies with some friends. With no tickets for that available, we chose the next thing showing none of us had seen. My knowledge of the film covered the basic premise and that Zac Efron was in it. I expected a tired formula, insipid acting and a happy ending. I was actually looking forward to it in a twisted way. I thought I would see it, take it all in, and then skewer it. Yes, my dear readers, I am one of those people who watches horrible films purely as a way to hone my mocking skills (although I do draw the line sometimes. Picture This, anyone?). Well, color me surprised, I actually enjoyed the movie. Now, make no mistake; the movie is a typical summer teen comedy, but it has some things that set it apart from the pack.

The plot concerns itself with Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry), a 37 year old ex-high school basketball star who's seen better days. Not only did he get passed up for a big promotion at work; his wife wants a divorce and his relationship to his kids could be described as distant, at best. During a visit to his old high school, he talks with a Santa Claus-esque janitor who asks him if he would choose to do it all over again, should he get the chance. Mike does the obvious things and says yes, which as we all know can only mean one thing: Body-Switcheroo-Extraordinaire! He falls through a vortex and comes out his 17 year old self (Zac Efron). Newly re-teenaged, he decides to make things right in his life by fulfilling the dreams of basketball success he abandoned to marry his high school sweetheart. His nerdy (as in memorabilia-collecting, rich-through-software-invention) friend Ned (Thomas Lennon) thinks that's actually a bad idea, and that his "spirit guide" (a.k.a. Clean-Up Santa) gave him this chance so that he could set his life right in less selfish ways. One of them being helping his kids right their own paths.

As it is, his daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) is dating the basketball captain, Stan (Hunter Parrish). This being the same Stan that's been bullying her brother, Alex (Sterling Knight). Now, don't get me wrong, I like Michelle Trachtenberg. I liked her geek-turned-princess act in Ice Princess (Don't judge! We all have dark spots in our pasts. I was thirteen and that movie is still surprisingly good.) and I love her psycho-bitch act in Gossip Girl. This movie, however, is not her finest moment. Her character doesn't have much to do as it is, and the few moments she does have for herself are average. Hunter Parrish is treated even worse by the script, which begs the question: if you're gonna have a character that does nothing and is not interesting in the least bit, why waste a talented actor like Parrish in it. The man has a hit show and a critically acclaimed Broadway role under his belt, for God's sake!

Saving the supporting acting on the teen side we have Sterling Knight as the thoroughly adorkable Alex. He was adorable and amusing in every scene he was in. The role didn't require much of him, but I'll be damned if he doesn't make it worth our whiles. It's no surprise he's part of a surprisingly enjoyable comedy show now (more on that later). His deadpan awkwardness at Mike's flirtatious behavior around his mom was at the very least snicker-worthy.

It is a testament to Zac Efron's previously unbeknownst-to-me prowess that the three horrible, clunky monologues the script gives him kinda work. The cafeteria one was funny, the letter was sentimental but not corny and the parenthood one was decent enough. It is things like this that put this movie a notch above most of the teen comedies of recent years. Is it genre defying and above cliché? No, but it is enjoyable and fun. If, like me, you were forced by circumstances outside your control to watch it, you won't suffer through it. If you're free to choose something better at your local rental video place, by all means do so. For me the film represents a glimmer of hope. Hope that future teen comedies can be this good (or even better: Charlie Bartlett, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist et al.) so that I won't have to sit through pointless drivel like Picture This in the future (Yes, I was made to sit through that. We watched it in my O.Chem class during one day the teacher was in a particularly good mood.).

Le verdict: *1/2

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thoughts on The Proposal

For those of you who bemoan the current state of Hollywood and its tired attempts at injecting creativity into the romantic comedy genre; steer clear from this movie. For those of you with some time on your hands and an open mind, by all means go ahead. The Proposal offers nothing we haven't seen before in different shapes and sizes. What it does offer, however, is a rather entertaining and harmless comedy that will brighten a slow day.

The premise is simple enough. Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock, looking mighty fine at 44), executive editrix-in-chief extraordinaire (say that five times fast) at a book publishing company, is the boss from hell; or so the script would have it. While Bullock does a respectable attempt at portraying a cold, calculating businesswoman, its simply doesn't measure up against the still-fresh-in-our-minds Miranda Priestly that Meryl Streep gave us in The Devil Wears Prada. She does much better in the second half of the movie (i'll elaborate further along).

As it is, Margaret is being deported because of her imperious disobedience regarding immigration laws. In response she decides to marry her assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) in order to get the immigration officers off her back. Andrew, of course, hates her, but is forced to play along since his future is tied to hers. This doesn't stop him, however, from using the change in the status quo to cause her humiliation and discomfort. He starts easy on her, just making her bend her knee (in Louboutins and a pencil skirt, no less) outside the immigration office and propose properly. This is followed by making her drag her heavy luggage around his small Alaskan hometown and setting her up for an uncomfortable run-in with a male stripper.

The trip coincides with the 90th birthday of his "Gammy" (a brilliant Betty White) and also serves the purpose of announcing the engagement to his family. Along the way, Margaret begins to feel guilty about the deception because Andrew's family takes her in so well. This is where her key scene happens. She's getting fitted for the wedding dress and Gammy gives her a family heirloom. She begins to tear up at more than the gesture, being reminded for the first time in years what it's like to have a family to depend on (she's an orphan).

As is customary in this kind of comedy, Margaret and Andrew learn about each other on the way and eventually fall in love. You probably know what's coming and I certainly knew what was coming, but the experience was not any less enjoyable because of this. As Roger Ebert puts it, the movie "recycles a plot that was already old when Tracy and Hepburn were trying it out". But the movie still provides legitimately funny moments and executes them with so much cheer and energy that you can't help but go along with it. I recommend it as one of your next i'm-bored-and-don't-know-what-to-rent choices or if you have a light-movie evening with a group who hasn't seen it.

Le verdict: **