Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rubber baby buggy bumpers

Last Action Hero (1993)
I've been both dreading and looking forward to this one.  Dreading it because I've seen it, and looking forward to it because I was hoping I was remembering it too harshly.  This is a challenging one to try to watch objectively, particularly where Arnold is concerned, owing to how odd the middle of the movie is.  I think the filmmakers accomplished what they set out to do, and I do think this is a very clever idea for a movie, they just needed to have another couple of months to edit and re-shoot a good portion of it. 

I'll sidestep all the usual criticism of the believability, cheesiness, and overall merits of the narrative and focus on the thing that wound up bothering me the most:  This movie is way darker than it should be.  It's particularly noticeable coming off of True Lies, which has a much more even tone throughout and is just damned fun.  You have to work at this one to be entertained and just when you start settling in, they smack you with something else.  The scene where a robber breaks in and handcuffs the kid to the toilet is flat out uncomfortable and for me, doesn't really server the narrative.  There were plenty of other ways we could have gotten a handcuff key into his hands and I don't really need to be reminded that the real world isn't as carefree as the movie world.  I get that they were trying to make a big contrast between the movie and real worlds, but honestly those worlds do that just fine on their own, we don't need to beat the point home with un-fun dark scenes. 

I'd also forgotten how long the movie world section of the movie is.  That really drags on about twice as long as it needed to and we spend way to much time on the completely irrelevant plot details of the movie world.  He's in a movie, I don't care what's going on, I just want fun character interactions.  The plot is getting him home and stopping the bad guy from running amok in the real world.  We didn't need to spend an hour setting that up.  Even within the movie world, things get pretty bleak near the end when we see Arnold at his empty apartment and get both barrels of his disillusionment.  In this movie, of all movies, I'd expect to have some lighthearted fun.  We do get glimpses of that, and there are some genuinely clever and fun moments, they're just lost in the noise.

That's not to say I hated all of it, I really like most of the time when Arnold is back in the real world, and that's where this movie really shines.  Learning how the real world works and the scene with the kid's mom are fantastic and well done.  But then we have to go all dark with Arnold and the kid splitting up and blah, blah, blah...  Sigh.  

How to rate Arnold's performance on this?  That's a tough one.  He's effectively acting in two separate movies, so let's break it out that way.  In the last part where he's come from movie to reality, he's excellent with a very genuine delivery and some real fun and banter.  Perhaps that's again because that gives him a chance to do the fish out of water bit where things don't work quite as they do in the movies.  Regardless, he was very fun and I really enjoyed him in the end of the movie, so it's a little puzzling why I didn't care for him in the majority of the middle.  Given how he was at the end, he's definitely on top of his acting game here as he was in True Lies, so I have to concede that whatever's going on in the movie world part is intentional.  The movie world is heavily satirized, so obviously his character needs to be even more of a caricature and completely over the top, it's just pretty grating to watch.  He's really going full Ahnold through most of the middle and I usually enjoy that, but I think the kid constantly pointing out that he's doing it detracts from the entertainment value.  If we could have redone the middle part with less of that, less of the boring mob plot, and more of the fun kid observations ("I'm a comedy side kick!  It's not going to work!!") I think this could have worked really well.  Would be an interesting exercise to edit down the middle section and see if it's more enjoyable.

Of special note is how well Arnold played himself in the real world.  I'm not an actor, but I have to think that's not necessarily an easy thing to pull off.  He comes across exactly as he does in real life interviews and the bits with Maria are incredibly funny, if a little sad in retrospect now.  Very good stuff and, coupled with the overall fun in the last part of the movie, really gives a nice finish.  It's just a pity that by that point, I'm mostly just waiting for it to end.

Ahnold Quotient - 10
This is a good example that a high AQ doesn't necessarily mean an great movie.  There's certainly no lack of glares, gunplay and explosions, cheesy one-liners, etc.  They pretty much threw it all at the wall to see what would stick, and Arnold does his best to do as he's asked, it ultimately is without much spark and falls flat.

Rewatchability - Er....
If you'd asked me 5 minutes after watching it, I'd have said an easy "no thanks" but even just the time it's taken to write this has me wanting to give it another try.  There's an awful lot going on in the movie and it seems like there's more fun to be had here.  It's just hard to distinguish whether that's wishful thinking on my part or the movie just hasn't yet clicked with me.  I think I'll be back to this one again, if for no other reason than the thin hope that at some point I'll enjoy it more.

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