After last week’s separate family plotlines, it was a nice treat last night to see the whole gang back together. Bonus: It was a family trip to Disneyland that had everyone (except for Manny) completely thrilled. Funny — I thought everyone was too old for Disney besides Lily, but apparently I’m just a party pooper (old soul?) because even high school senior Haley found something to smile about.
Of course, her grin probably had less to do with Dumbo the elephant and more to do with her very own Dumbo — ex-boyfriend Dylan was back! Viewers will remember that last she saw her cute and dim boyfriend was over the family dude ranch vacay that opened the season. He proposed to Haley, she turned him down, and he decided to stay at the ranch working to experience life. She had no idea he was back in town. Claire was preemptively pimping out her daughter to a cute college-bound friend of the family, Ethan. Mitchell makes a Downton Abbey reference at Disney, so I feel totally justified in bringing up that Haley and Alex competing for Ethan’s attention was soooooo Lady Mary and Lady Edith fighting over Matthew. (And about a zillion other shows. But I digress.)
While with her mom, Haley discovered Dylan didn’t just arrive in town — he’d been there for a while, working as part of a barbershop quartet, singing a cappella on a bike. As teenagers do. Dylan should be proud — he showed a marked improvement since the last time he tried to serenade Haley. Dylan tried to explain to her (while in costume) that he was trying to make something of himself. It didn’t hurt that Ethan turned out to be a bit of a jerk, shoving Dylan to the ground and leading Haley to happily announce, “We’re back together!” Modern Family fans, I’m guessing you don’t have to worry about the series without a college-bound Haley next season — her relationship with Dylan is bound to keep her in the, no? Glad to have you back, Dylan.
Jay was especially excited for Disney, explaining that he and his ex-wife had planned to take Mitch and Claire when they were kids. Instead, they got into a big, pointless fight before they were about to go and Jay took them by himself. Throughout the episode, he talked in bits and pieces about going to the Robot Lincoln “ride” with them, and at the end of the episode, he explained that he had planned on leaving his wife that day, but hearing Lincoln talk about “being a man” and “responsibility” changed his mind. He decided to stick with a not-so-great marriage for his kids; to be around for them. He then made a joke about the universe rewarding him with Gloria, which was kind of crass, but I think the show does a good job of showing that he does love her for reasons beyond her trophy-wife-ness, so I’ll let a crude comment or two slide. Point is, we got more backstory into Jay’s life before Manny and Gloria. I’ll take it.
NEXT: The night's best lines!
In other news, Phil “King of the Roller Coasters” Dunphy and a just-made-the-height-limit Luke planned on hitting all the major rides. But Phil was getting winded pretty quickly, and came face-to-face with his own mortality. But nothing could get Phil down for long. He’s a cool dad who knows all the dances to High School Musical, after all. Thank goodness he learned he wasn’t getting old, he just had the flu. (Sharing an orange juice jug with a bunch of sick guys at your office will do that.) Never fear! You can’t stop that enthusiasm level.
How did I not mention? Lily is a runner! Which means she was on a leash for most of the episode, until Mitch couldn’t handle the judgment from sock-and-sandal parents anymore. Jay had the perfect solution: He bought her a pair of heels so she couldn’t run. Between this and getting Gloria fun slippers so she could run, Jay was the regular Prince Charming of Disney, providing appropriate, if not life-changing, shoes for every occasion. Approve!
“Claire’s biggest fear was running into the evil queen. Mine was that I married her.” —Jay
“It’s Toontown, not Toonton. You’ve been watching too much PBS.” — Mitchell
“We have a runner.” — Cameron
“It’s a child safety tether.” “It’s a leash.” — Cameron and Mitchell
“I know I can’t run Haley’s life for her, but if she would let me, I would be so good at it!” — Claire
“You date her, that’s the club you’re joining.” — Alex to Ethan about Haley
“So I stuck it out until they were grown [Gloria announces she’s going into the hot tub] — and the universe rewarded me.” — Jay
Did Modern Family’s Disney episode contribute to your Wednesday happily ever after?
[Image Credit: ABC]
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Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.
Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) has it made. His screenwriting career is on the rise his first movie's just been made and he's got a cute girl. Life is good--until the House Un-American Activities Committee mistakenly fingers him as a Communist and he quickly falls from the A-list to the blacklist. Getting dumped by both his studio and his girl is nothing a little drinking can't remedy but after drowning his sorrows he nearly drowns himself when he decides to drive drunk and his car veers into the river knocking him unconscious. When Peter comes to he can't remember who he is or where he came from so he's taken in by the kindly people of Lawson a burg stuck in time and still mourning the loss of many of its sons in World War II. They mistake him for Luke Trimble one of their long-lost boys who went MIA in World War II and are overjoyed at his return. Luke's father Harry (Martin Landau) whose zest for life had dwindled so much that he let his beloved movie house The Majestic fall to ruin but with "Luke's" return he plans to reopen it. Celebrations abound. Peter-as-Luke even returns to his relationship with fiancée Adele (Laurie Holden). Meanwhile Peter may have forgotten who he was but the Feds haven't and they're on his tail.
When Carrey's given the right material like he was with The Truman Show he can exhibit moments of greatness. The Majestic doesn't give Carrey the leeway to show his quirky sensibilities demanding that he play it straight throughout the movie (there are a few--too few--glances at humor that Carrey doesn't play up). To bring off the kind of schmaltz this movie oozes Carrey had to bring something of an edge to his character. Instead Peter is neither likable nor unlikable coming off as a bland confused schmo until the climactic end which after two hours of his weak personality is wholly unbelievable. Landau is unexciting as a caricature of the sad sentimental old man without hope--you want to sympathize but there's something faintly chilly about him. Holden's liberated-woman lawyer might have played better in a contemporary movie; she looks and acts too much like a modern-day actress trying to portray a woman of the '50s.
Was this some kind of vanity project dreamed up by a director too taken with his own greatness and past success? Was Frank Darabont envisioning an It's a Wonderful Life for the next generation? (Psst…it's likely the majority of the modern moviegoing public doesn't know who Frank Capra is and could care less especially when the movie is as slow and as completely unbelievable as this one.) Apparently Darabont's in love with his own direction because hardly a moment goes by without some lingering reaction shot. Darabont took an intriguing story about amnesia and mistaken identity and slathered it with sap. Old-fashioned period stories can be lots of fun but it's imperative they be able to keep a present-day audience's interest by including a bit of modern wit and pace. Unfortunately this sticks to the straight-and-narrow. Nobody's going to buy the two-dimensional main characters the shiny happy townspeople or especially the schlocky my-country-'tis-of-thee finale. In its favor The Majestic's ultimate message is a nice one. The movie does have its heartfelt moments and its '50s feel is authentic if a little polished.