Thursday, October 20, 2005

Day 20: Who's That Girl?

Madonna: “Hey! A mall!”

This is an early Madonna vehicle of little note. The look of the film is a flat, boring, TV look (the director of photography was Jan de Bont!) and this isn’t wholly inappropriate since the proceedings often feel like one of those awful made-for-TV comedies, the likes of which used to air on Saturday mornings after the cartoons. Madonna’s performance ranges from annoying to flabbergasting. About the only redeeming features the movie has are Griffin Dunne (was he angling for stardom?) and an agreeable silliness that keeps most of the sag out of the shopworn plotting.

The movie is a winker, one that tries to tell us that it knows it’s dumb, and that’s fine; it goes down easier that way. It doesn’t linger too long on the inevitable romantic conflicts, and moves through its plotline at a nice, economical clip. But it’s an old story in which an uptight man is coaxed out of his shell by a wild woman of the world. Dunne plays the uptight man; a tax attorney who’s engaged to his wealthy boss’s daughter and oddly charged by this boss with the task of making sure recently paroled Madonna gets onto a bus to Philadelphia, out of New York. If I tell you that his fiancée is rather uptight and that Madonna’s character believes she was framed for murder by some wealthy corporate guy, can you fill in the rest of the blanks? At a very early point in the movie, the only question I had about the plot was whether or not the movie had enough money in its budget to show the wedding get interrupted at the end, or if Dunne’s character would just not show up for his nuptials and declare his love for Madonna's character somewhere far away from them (for the record, the movie had the money for the wedding, but no one fell into the cake).

The movie draws inspiration from screwball comedies of the past (something that took me longer to realize than it should have) utilizing the age-old “they hate each other at first, but then they fall in love!” arc and borrowing the wild cat from Bringing Up Baby. But, honestly, the last thing in the world I wanted to see was Madonna’s annoying character win the heart of anyone, much less Dunne’s non-character. Dunne coasts on a natural comic ability (he’s the only thing that made me laugh in the movie), but he really has nothing interesting to do but goof on the archetype he’s playing. There are some nice, absurd choices at times (the way the bickering cops end up is pretty goofy and the swordfight is fun and dumb), but, you know, I’m just being nice to the movie. I’ve seen what this movie’s doing countless times and much, much better. It’s Something Wild for the young adult set and, as such, the nuance has been drained out of it to make it more palatable for “young minds”.

Really, this is a middling, bad movie, aimed at teens that probably aren’t aware of how many clichés are being recycled. An unscientific survey at work and among friends revealed that this movie was a milestone for many people of my generation. This movie wasn’t part of my landscape when I was growing up, but it reminded me a lot of another movie that was: the Weird Al Yankovic movie, UHF. I liked UHF a lot when I was a kid, but recognize now that it’s middling at best. Both movies are vehicles for iconic 80s singers who have long since outstayed their welcome and have a screen presence that tends to be grating. Both have similarly uneven writing, bursts of inspiration in the casting (Who’s That Girl? has Dunne, UHF has Michael Richards and The Kipper Kids), and boring, TV-style cinematography. And both have an agreeable silliness, a breezy quality that makes it impossible to think about them seriously. The tone pushes the movie into and out of your mind before anything can register, erasing the memories of all you have seen and felt while watching them. I can’t say I don’t like this movie, because it’s too insubstantial to make such a claim. I can’t say I like it or hate it, because that would require it inspiring passion. I can say that at times I was mildly entertained by the film, but also bored by it. I’m bored writing about it now. Though it does make me want to watch Bringing Up Baby, a movie I’ve only seen segments of.

(By the way, this is the second movie in a row that featured a cast member from ALF! All That Jazz had Max Wright a.k.a. Willie and Who’s That Girl? had Liz Sheridan a.k.a. the nosy neighbor next door on ALF and also Jerry Seinfeld’s mother on Seinfeld. Who from ALF will appear next?)


Donny B said...

the only reason I know of this movie is because it spawned two big Madonna hits: "Who's That Girl?" and "Causing a Commotion." But it sounds like I don't need to check out the movie.

great blog!

Euterpe said...

One of the few Madonna movies I never saw. Was never a fan, simply a fairly indiscriminate consumer of movies, especially in the 80's & early 90's. She made some real stinkers - "Body Of Evidence" springs to mind. Other films you mentioned...never seen "Bringing Up Baby" huh? WOW! The recent DVD release has a great commentary track. Do yourself a favor, sit down with this one asap. One of my alltime faves. I too loved "UHF" when it came out. Though not as much as I loved "Tapeheads" and "The Wizard Of Speed & Time." They're all pretty much the same film, with slight variations.

Nice blog!

Raymond said...

I am HUGE Madonna fan, and I must say that pretty much every movie she has ever made has sucked big time! I liked "Body of Evidence"....ok I take that back: it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. LOL!

To be quite honest, the only reason why I even watched this movie was because Madonna was in it, and I ended up turning it off half way through. I just couldn't take her shitty acting anymore.

And why does everyone think that she did so great in Evita? I thought that she was awful! Vocally she was great and even gained an extra octive just by training for the soundtrack; however this film is just another example of how "you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and you can't teach Madonna to act either."

David, I commend you for having the patience to sit through this film without wanting to take your own life. You are a better man than I.

David Wester said...

The only movie I've ever sat through that I thought was worth dying over was Casper.

David Wester said...

Blogmonster: For a long time, I was convinced that I'd made up "The Wizard of Speed & Time" by conflating a bunch of false memories. Imagine my surprise.

Bringing Up Baby may be on the blog at some point.

Roddrick said...

i loved "who's that girl" as a kid and even now i find it nostalgic. it is a rancid piece of celluloid but i do like watching it. i must agree with blogmonster "Bringing Up Baby" is one of my faves

i think the last time i saw "Who's That Girl" i too, finally made the connection with the early movies it tried to emmulate only to fail horridly. but i love me some madonna schlock.

"Dick Tracy" anyone?

i didn't think so

Raymond said...

Dick Tracey was by far THE WORST movie of all time! Well maybe second to Ishtar.

I must say that the only movie that Madonna has done that I actually like is "Truth or Dare". And that was a documentary! Further proof that watching Madonna normally interact with her dancers on tour in a reality show setting is far more entertaining and bearable than watching her play a character. I'd still do her.

Ash Karreau said...

You seem to mention Alf more often than is healthy. As a cure, I think you should watch Permanent Midnight.