It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Cliff and Cydney are happy newlyweds headed to Hawaii for a quiet honeymoon on a remote portion of the island of Kauai. Their marital bliss is abruptly interrupted however when they receive word that just a few days prior a pair of newlyweds not unlike themselves were murdered on Maui and that the killers believed to be a man and a woman were still at large.
Dismayed by the unsettling news Cliff and Cydney nonetheless resolve to move forward with their honeymoon but start to become anxious when they encounter not one but two exceedingly strange couples each of whom seemingly fit the profile of the killers. Miles away from civilization unable to get a decent cell phone signal and seemingly surrounded by possible murderers they begin to wonder if they might be the next victims.
WHO’S IN IT?
Playing the part of Cliff is Steve Zahn a prolific character actor best known for supporting roles in films like Rescue Dawn and Sunshine Cleaning. As a jittery Hollywood screenwriter who too often lets his overactive imagination get the best of him Zahn’s performance is the most credible aspect of the movie. In the role of his wife Cydney is Resident Evil series star Milla Jovovich demonstrating how truly unremarkable she can be when not cast opposite expressionless zombies.
Despite being saddled with most of the film’s worst lines Hitman star Timothy Olyphant proves convincing as Nick a wild-eyed survivalist who claims to have served as an army special forces operative in Iraq. Laying it on a little too thick with the fake Southern accent is Kiele Sanchez who plays Nick’s equally suspicious girlfriend.
Director David Twohy (Pitch Black The Chronicles of Riddick) makes an earnest attempt at crafting a modern-day murder mystery and for the most part he does a commendable job of messing with audience expectations setting the stage for a major second-act plot twist that proves every bit as surprising as advertised.
Twohy is one of the more likable Hollywood directors and it’s good to see him back from the dead after the Riddick disaster set fire to his career. Unfortunately he falls headlong into the M. Night Shyamalan trap with A Perfect Getaway focusing too much on pulling off the big twist and forsaking just about every other element of the movie. To be fair Twohy’s film isn’t nearly as dreadful as Shyamalan’s recent Razzie-amassing efforts like The Happening and Lady in the Water but its deficiencies are similarly multifaceted. Awkward dialogue mediocre performances by Jovovich and Sanchez and an excessively aimless pre-twist plotline are just a few of the problems that plague the movie.
But my biggest gripe with A Perfect Getaway is that Twohy fills the story with so many seemingly important plot devices which end up going nowhere that the film could very well be re-titled Red Herring: The Movie. At a certain point you throw up your hands and ask “Well then is any of this s--t real?” And the answer is: No probably not. But isn’t Kauai beautiful?
Admittedly the twist is pretty darn clever. Too bad we have to wait over an hour to see it.
The climax features an excruciating scene in which a key character’s cell phone previously assumed to be out of service receives a sales call from an Indian-accented telemarketer. Rather than simply hang up and dial 911 the character pleads with the befuddled phone company rep to alert the police with predictable lack of success. All this while a deranged killer stalks the vicinity. Characters that stupid deserve to die.
The Associated Press reports Dawson's Creek star Joshua Jackson was arrested and charged with assault on Saturday after getting into a drunken fight with a security guard at a hockey game in North Carolina. While at a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jackson allegedly grabbed a guard around the neck and hit him. Tests show the actor's blood alcohol content was 0.14. The 24-year-old actor, who plays Pacey on the WB series, posted $1,000 bail and will appear in court Dec. 4.
A woman was arrested Monday in connection with the shooting death of actor Merlin Santana, though the Los Angeles police have not released the identity of the woman at this time, the AP reports. Santana, 26, who starred in the film Showtime and made appearances on TV series such as Moesha and The Steve Harvey Show, was killed while sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car early Saturday morning in South Los Angeles.
Halle Berry may be getting her own super-spy movie. After her stint as the tough-as-nails Jinx in the upcoming James Bond film Die Another Day, Reuters reports there are now talks between Berry and Bond producer Barbara Broccoli to make the first spin-off movie in Bond history, based on the beautiful but dangerous U.S. agent. According to Reuters, cable network E! Entertainment quoted Berry as telling its reporter that if a spin-off was planned, "I would do it in a heartbeat."
Roberto Benigni's newest film Pinocchio, which hits theaters Dec. 25, will be Italy's official entry for the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Film category. Benigni's endearing Life is Beautiful took home that award in 1999 and earned him the Best Actor award as well.
Volatile director Larry Clark's (Kids) edgy and sexually explicit film Ken Park will have to find a new U.K. distributor after he punched out the president of the film's distribution company, Metro Tartan. Variety reports Clark got into a brawl with Metro executive Hamish McAlpine over the Arab-Israeli conflict last Thursday in a London restaurant. The company announced Monday it was dropping the film, which follows a group of California skateboarders, after Clark told Variety he was going into an anger management program. Probably a good idea.
Howard Stern's comic sidekick Artie Lange may get his own sitcom at NBC. Variety reports he is developing the DreamWorks pilot for the network with veteran Simpsons scribe Sam Simon. The series will star Lange as a successful sitcom star who has to continually deal with his blue-collar roots.
ABC and Steve Martin's production company Martin/Stein Co. are developing a gay version of the hit '80s show Hart to Hart called Mr. and Mr. Nash, Variety reports. The show's premise revolves around two interior decorators who stumble upon a murder each week. British thesp Alan Cumming (Spy Kids) has already signed on to play one of the leads. "I am proud to be a part of Mr. and Mr. Nash, especially the part where it's a big hit," Martin told Variety.
Variety reports ABC News is denying a claim from rival networks that it paid Paul Burrell, the butler to Princess Diana who has been causing much controversy in the U.K, for an interview. A U.S. broadcast rights deal reportedly includes Burrell's documentary, Diana's Rock, which will appear on Good Morning America next Monday; an interview Burrell did with British journalist Sir Trevor McDonald; and a one-on-one interview with Burrell for 20/20. ABC News insists, however, that it does not pay for interviews and that the one-on-one was arranged separately.