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?)

All that Jazz: Part II

I forgot to mention in my review that the cast of All that Jazz includes turns by Wallace Shawn, John Lithgow, and the guy who played Willie on ALF. It's like a kitsch dream come true.

In Dreams

Last night was one of those nights. I was already dead tired at 11 o’clock when I sat down to watch the evening’s movie. I had planned to watch Short Cuts, but when I saw the running time, I knew that no matter how well crafted this Altman film was, I would be in very bad shape while watching it. In desperation, I took a look around the house to find something shorter that I hadn’t seen and what caught my eye? Tara’s copy of Who’s That Girl, starring Madonna, a VHS she’s had since her childhood years. I never thought that my blog would enable me to say I am a person who’s seen Who’s That Girl, and yet, there it is.

Tonight is going to be another late night for me and of the two movies I have from Netflix in the house, there’s Short Cuts with a running time of over 3 hours and Roman Polanski’s Tess which has only a slightly shorter running time. Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt into my TV screen. But, no pain, no gain, right?

The blog is working magic on my brain. Last night, my dreams had something to do with All That Jazz. I can’t wait until my subconscious suddenly mixes Zardoz and Who’s That Girl.