Movie Reviews

BE COOL

Be Cool is the most ironically named movie since What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Crass commercialism rarely exhibits any sign of the finesse, reserve, or hip theatricality inherent to modern definitions of cool. This flop is no exception.

Be Cool, the lackluster sequel to Get Shorty—both based on titular novels written by Elmore Leonard—orbits around the galaxy of popular stars clustered by production company MGM. It would seem that they have strategically selected a performer to appeal to the broadest range of audiences.

Director F. Gary Grey clearly developed The Rock’s characterization of Be Cool’s only homosexual as so flamboyant that he makes Elton John look like Ronald Reagan. Uma Thurman is a strong female executive but still melts immediately into the hands of a strong masculine presence. This collective clamoring to be over-the-top suggests that perhaps the performers were somehow under pressure to be the most noticed and outshine the rest of the cast. (SAW)

GUNNER PALACE

In a war rife with college-aged American casualties, the ivory tower provides thick insulation against the realities of our peers living on the front line. Gunner Palace, Michael Tucker’s new documentary about the war in Iraq, is a potent reminder that most of the soldiers on the front lines could be behind us in line to tap a keg—if only they weren’t in uniform.

The product of 60 days spent with soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, a.k.a. “The Gunners,” the film consists of everything from interviews to impromptu freestyle sessions, punctuated by mortar fire and MTV-style editing. The movie doesn’t quite shock and doesn’t quite awe. But it does achieve a subtler success: it captures the difference between the disjointed world of war and the smooth, clearly-labeled sound bytes of the coverage on the nightly news. (SEM)

ROBOTS

Robots is a tale of a world populated by robots, in which a young bot named Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor) small-town life with his poor parents (Dianne West and Stanley Tucci) leaves him unsatisfied. He travels to the prototypical big city but is overwhelmed by the bustle of city life and corporate greed. Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) and his conniving, demonic mother (Jim Broadbent) look to suck every penny out of the outmoded robots.

The innovative Rodney becomes a hero to the downtrodden and, with the help of love interest Cappy (Halle Berry), takes on the bad guys and saves the day.

On its chrome surface, the movie seems to have all the right parts: a top-dollar cast, writing crew, and animation budget. But it regrettably squanders all of it. Its few attempts at trite comedy give a well-assembled cast no direction or boost of energy. That the writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (responsible for A League of Their Own and Parenthood) couldn’t give good material to Robin Williams and Mel Brooks doesn’t bode well. (KMM)

—Movie reviews written by Susan E. McGregor, Kristina M. Moore, and Scoop A. Wasserstein.