It’s common to hear bad movies referred to as car accidents. Because I Said So is an airship disaster. There’s not a scene in it that isn’t awful. Diane Keaton is Daphne, the single mother of three adult daughters who approaches delirium when her youngest, Milly (Mandy Moore), can’t find a steady boyfriend. And so she puts an ad out for appropriate bachelors behind Milly’s back. This means we get one of those would-be comic interview montages where men display their hilarious unsuitability—bad teeth, tattoos, East Indian. In Chasing Liberty, Moore projected a resistance against accepting a shallow lifestyle, a virtue countered by Because I Said So’s upper crust submission. When these women aren’t agonizing over their dating habits they’re eating lunch and shopping. The mother-daughter openness about sex-life details isn’t the endearing trait that Because I Said So (ineptly directed by Heathers’s Michael Lehmann) counts on. It’s creepy. The tone of frantic hysteria Lehmann mistakes for comic gold also highlights the film’s bargain-basement sound design—remove the dialogue and most of the film would be mute. It’s a movie that introduces one character dealing with a crippling anxiety problem, and doesn’t know how to deal with him except by throwing a wedding cake on his head.
The classism of Because I Said So finds its match in Smokin’ Aces criminal glorification. It could be called Gunfire and Yelling. Joe Carnahan’s prominent return after 2002’s Narc has been getting its share of Tarantino comparisons. Really, it’s more in the mode of Robert Rodriguez’s violent visual slapstick, except Carnahan never convinces that this is his way of seeing the world. It’s a desperate reach for “cool”—even the subject of hitmen is the territory of unimaginative film students. Things escalate when both the FBI and a crime family are seeking mob snitch Buddy “Aces” (Jeremy Piven). The exposition only slows down for blood baths and verbal putdowns. Criminal life is treated as a fantasy—something in which Carnahan finds no human entry. The critically maligned Domino at least had cultural satire. Gunfire and Yelling’s narrative is boring enough that Carnahan resorts to keeping viewers distracted by playing Spot the Star Cameos. Buddy is hunted by female contract killers, played by Alicia Keys and Davenia McFadden as her lesbian partner, an angle the filmmaker no doubt thinks is groundbreaking when really it’s a blaxploitation throwback. The movie’s shrill posturing precludes fun. It’s heartless and brainless.
Catch and Release
The one thing saving Catch and Release from being entirely disposable is Jennifer Garner’s down-to-earth charm. She’s made for this stuff. But Catch and Release doesn’t amount to much, because it treads lightly on big emotions. It’s a sitcom appropriation of pathos—even less substantial than We Are Marshall. Gray Wheeler (Garner) is dealing with the accidental death of her fiance. With the living arrangement accompaniment of three of his friends, including a weird turn by Kevin Smith as the fat guy who wears psychedelic patterns and talks about herbal tea, Gray discovers that her fiance had a child from a side affair. The incessant lightness of Catch and Release is easy to swallow. But it never uncovers truth. Designed as an emotional tear-fest, its only working mode is lethargically content.
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