Of course the kiddies will probably enjoy Clone Wars much more than their adult chaperones; it has a certain videogame sensibility that will appeal to them whether they are into Star Wars or not. Taken from the animated TV show this big-screen treatment falls somewhere between Episode II and Episode III before Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader in which Jedi Knights Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are knee-deep in droids in their fight against the Separatists lead by Count Dooku. Anakin Obi-Wan and Anakin’s new Padawan trainee Ahsoka Teno however are called away from the frontlines for a side mission: to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son. That’s correct. The slimy crime lord apparently has a baby slug who doesn’t smell very good (according to Ahsoka). Of course it’s all part of some master plan by Dooku to destroy the Jedi but seeing Jabba’s son is quite something. Wonder what happened to him by the time Return of the Jedi came around? What a change of pace. Besides Christopher Lee who reprises his role as Dooku Samuel L. Jackson who briefly voices his Mace Windu character and Anthony Daniels as C3P0 the rest of the voices are mostly unknowns. That’s probably a good thing because if some A-list movie star had to recite the awful dialogue The Clone Wars dishes out they’d be embarrassed. Wow is it bad. The supposed playful banter between Anakin and the feisty Ahsoka is particularly cringe-worthy. And unfortunately it sort of falls in line with how poorly written Episodes I through III were as well. Which leads me to my main pet peeve about the continuing Star Wars saga: George Lucas has never found another writer on par with Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the two best Star Wars movies Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). God knows the man is great with the visuals. As Clone Wars executive producer you can see all the innovation Lucas pours into the animation. The film has just as much action as one of the live-action films and is quite vibrant--real eye candy for the video-gaming generation. But Lucas gets so caught up in all the details and the universe he has created he forgets about a compelling script--or hiring a good writer to write it for him. It seems like he just figures people will love it anyway because it’s Star Wars. Maybe some will but for others like me we need more. Clone Wars doesn’t give it to you.
September 16, 2005 5:05am EST
The socially inept Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) is a workaholic doctor who never leaves the hospital. Her married sister Abby (Dina Waters) tries in vain to set up with a good man to no avail. But fate is about to intervene. On her way home from a long shift Elizabeth gets into a head-on collision with a semi-truck and suddenly the lines between life and death are blurred. Jumping forward we meet David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) a guy wallowing in self-pity from the death of his wife two years earlier who to find some solitude moves into a fabulous furnished apartment. What he doesn't know is the previous tenant hasn't left not really. That's right it was Elizabeth's apartment and for whatever reason (seriously they don't entirely explain it) Elizabeth--or her spirit I guess--hasn't grasped the idea that she is in well limbo. Only David can see her of course as she yells at him for leaving sweat rings on the coffee table but Elizabeth eventually grows on him. She elicits his help in finding out what happened to her and with a little help from the eccentric Darryl (Jon Heder) a bookstore employee who has the gift for sensing spirits David and Elizabeth find that heaven and earth are not really that far apart.
As our romantic pair Witherspoon and Ruffalo do an adequate job adhering to the staid romantic comedy formula. Witherspoon is one of the more consistent comedic actresses these days and has the sweet but controlling ingénue routine down to a science. But it may be time for her to take a break from the standard fare and head back to the indies getting down and dirty like she did in Election. Ruffalo does a pretty impressive job for his second time as the romantic lead. As he did with 13 Going on 30 Ruffalo at least tries to add some quirky twists to a boring character. Still he should also probably stick to showcasing his dramatic acting talent in cool indies much like he did in You Can Count on Me. It's Heaven's side characters who have all the fun. Waters (The Haunted Mansion) does a nice turn as the caring sister who's own hectic life as a mother of two rambunctious kids always seems to interfere with what she's doing. Donal Logue (TV's Grounded For Life) as David's therapist best friend too has a fun time yuking it up. But the real standout in an otherwise dull universe is Napoleon Dynamite himself Jon Heder in his second feature film. He's still a geek but at least this time he's a mystical one who knows a thing or two about wandering spirits. Of course he also gets the best lines: "I'm 99.9 percent parched here. I need a cola." I'm going to use that one from now on.
As the director of the satirical Mean Girls and the cutesy Freaky Friday Mark Waters may be out of his element with an out and out romantic comedy. The initial idea about a women whose stuck in the spirit world until she finds the true love she never sought after in life is somewhat intriguing. But rather than play with that the film just ends up your standard romantic comedy while also stealing from other films such as Ghost and The Sixth Sense. Just Like Heaven also has some serious logistical flaws. For example seeing how Elizabeth is supposed to be a ghost--that she can't touch anything tangible and can walk through walls tables and just about anything else--she is later seen laying on top of a table. It doesn't make sense as to how she can walk through it at one moment and be on it the next. And the fact you are paying attention to these inconsistencies means you just aren't caring that much about the rest of the film.