Thor, Pirates, and Bridesmaids

Thor, Pirates, and Bridesmaids

We see movies all year round.  However, I have to admit that the summer has a certain special feeling for movie going.  That goes back to Jaws, of course, when the summer changed from being low budget monster movies to…um…big budget monster movies.  ;)

Here are three of the big summer movies my Significant Other (SO) and I have seen this year.

The three movies are might be presumed to be aimed at three different demographics: Thor for fanboys; Bridesmaids for women; and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for children.

Children?

Yes, that’s an odd evolution for Pirates.  The first movie was surprisingly not aimed at kids mostly, although based on what can be described as an amusement park ride.  Over time, though, Jack Sparrow…boozy, moral reprobate Jack Sparrow has become a popular children’s character.

Despite two lines that are not so subtle sexual innuendo, this movie is squarely in the sweet spot for nine year olds.  Kids don’t need logic…why refer to Blackbeard by his real name of Edward Teach and then give him some bizarre supernatural power over…ropes?  On the one hand you are making him a real person, and on the other, you are making him a super villain with a power more appropriate for the Legion of Substitute Heroes than the Avengers.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun, it is.  You’ve got pirates, zombies (not the brain-eating kind), and mermaids.  I thought the mermaids were handled particularly well, and will undoubtedly shape how kids think about them.  They might be confused about the whole suddenly having legs thing, but it was nice to see them not wearing seashell bras or keeping their hair decorously over their breasts (instead, the breasts are scale-covered…not traditional, really, but a good solution).

Captain Jack has become too capable.  In the first movie, his bragging was much more bravado.  He laid claim to a reputation he didn’t really have, and we weren’t convinced he could actually accomplish what he set out to do.  Now, he’s like Zorro or Batman…his enemies fear him (with good reason) and people want to serve with him as Captain.

Without the welcome presence of Gibbs (Kevin McNally), played by the gravelly-voiced Kevin McNally, we’d lose all touch with his humble beginnings.

Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), Pirate of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a musical.  Instead of songs, though, we get action sequences.  We have the young lovers (a mermaid and a missionary, but young lovers nonetheless) who get touching scenes…and dance-like sword fights.  That pacing works.  Overall, they haven’t damaged Pirates with this movies, and it’s worth seeing…even though it is as familiar as a tenth-year sitcom episode.

If Tides is a musical, Thor is an opera.  That’s not just because of the horned helmets (reminiscent of What’s Opera, Doc? for some I’m sure), but the grand scope of everything.  No one walks across the screen…they stride.  Everything means something…every action has a consequence as broad as “for the want of a nail”.

Part of the appeal of the comics was the contrast between Asgard and Earth…this movie does everything it can to make them same (even explaining the “rainbow bridge” as an Einstein-Rosen bridge…see?  Physics and magic use the same words, so they must be the same thing).  ;)

Chris Hemsworth (who played Captain Kirk’s father in the 2009 Star Trek movie) is fine (in both ways the word might be applied here) as Thor.  He has swagger with a heart: like a high school captain of the football team or maybe Colby Donaldson from Survivor.

He’s the big man on campus…with a group of buds who listen to whatever he says (even when his principles may overwhelm good judgement).

Kat Dennings brings some needed humor as Darcy Lewis…although that seems to go by the wayside pretty quickly as events become EPIC.  I’m sure that will help her upcoming CBS series, Two Broke Girls…although it will take more than that for it to survive.

It’s also too bad that Alan Cumming already had a role in the Marvel universe (as Nightcrawler in X2)…he has always seemed like the perfect Loki, God of Mischief, to me.

That Marvel Universe crosses over here a bit too much…this movie can’t just serve itself, but has to serve The Avengers next year.  So, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye gets a cameo…which I just found intrusive.  Some might see that as clever, but for me, I was thinking, “Renner’s a lead actor…why is he for five minutes?  Oh yeah, to set up another movie.”  That just took me out of this one.  It felt like checking a box…ad that’s how a lot of the movie felt to me.

Bridesmaids, on the other hand, wasn’t a checklister.  I was surprised when my SO suggested it…it’s perhaps more a movie I would have chosen, although that’s harder to say.  We’d seen some related interviews, and that probably helped.

The buzz about the movie shouldn’t all be about gender issues, but I did check out the audience.  The house was about a third full…with three men in the audience.  It was also interesting to me that I would say most of the audience was over fifty.  It has advertised in part as a raunchy comedy…and it was.  Maybe it’s because the over fifty crowd has changed that much since, say, Porky’s.

The movie wasn’t exactly Pride & Prejudice.  ;)  There was one particularly scene where I was literally looking away, hiding my eyes behind my hand…as though shielding myself from a super-bright light.  Let’s say that most of it involved things moving from somewhere dark into the light, and leave it there.

What made it work, though, was the relationships between the characters.  It was well-written and well-acted, and worth seeing.  It wasn’t a great movie, but a good afternoon, and that’s definitely worth something.

While the core of the movie is the BFF relationship of Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, this is a true ensemble piece.  Melissa McCarthy is a stand-out as Megan, but I don’t think you’ll see her and Ricky Gervais in the same room at th same time.  :)  They both have a crinkly-nosed way of saying something is fun and disgusting at once.

Rose Byrne will likely be one of our Most Valuable Players for 2011…if either Bridesmaids or X-Men: First Class breaks $100m dogro (domestic gross).  Bridesmaids probably won’t, although it should climb for some time.  She’s good here, as Wiig’s too perfect rival for the friendship of Rudolph.

It’s worth noting, without getting too spoilery, that this isn’t a case of someone being made out to be a loser…Wiig’s character is objectively slipping off the Hot Wheel track.

That’s part of what makes it work…not that the movie is believable, but that it isn’t cliché .   The characters are improbable, but not impossible, and the situations are hyperbolic: they combine the outrageous moments in a life into an impossibly short time.  It exaggerates, but doesn’t invent out of whole cloth.

We can see ourselves in the funhouse mirror, even if we know the image can’t really be us.

Overall, I wouldn’t avoid any of these movies.  The one that you would probably be happiest you saw is Bridesmaids (given the warning about the crudeness), you’ll want to see Pirates at some point, and Thor is watchable.

Have an opinion about any of these movies?  Do you think I’ve undersold Kennet Branagh’s direction of Thor?  Have  I oversold Bridesmaids, when you think it is just another Apatow comedy?  Do you think Pirates is the best of the series?  Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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