Saturday, 28 January 2012

How stupid does Hollywood think we are?

I’ve had the unfortunate experience recently of watching not one but two much-vaunted Hollywood productions – one TV series, one movie – that made me absolutely bloody furious to have wasted my good money and time on them. (Again.)

The first was Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova, which debuted on DStv earlier this week. As usual, MNet ran and reran its teaser for weeks in advance, until every time I saw it I wanted to smack a teenager. I’m repeatedly reminded by my children that neither of them is a teenager any more, so I had to be satisfied with screaming at the TV “For chrissake we’ve seen this four hundred fucking times already!” which is nowhere near as satisfying.

It didn’t help that when the series finally aired, much of the cast was made up of unbearably irritating teenagers. When one got eaten by a dinosaur, I cheered.

But that was the only high point. Oh, and the set’s pretty marvellous, mainly because it was shot on Australia’s Gold Coast, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Other than that, from the storyline to the script to the actors to the score, it was bloody dismal.
The clichés came so thick and fast that I have to wonder if the writers were either stoned or taking the piss. There are plot holes so big (and some holes that are plugged with explanations so facile) that you could ride a Tyrannosaurus rex through them. And even for a non-scientist like me, the ‘science’ (which is, annoyingly, spouted by the Hollywood-cliché nerdy teenage girl) is just silly.

When it comes to the characters, I have no problem with the fact that they’re mainly extraordinarily goodlooking – in fact, I expect my movies to be populated by gorgeous people. But, really, it stretched the steel cables on which I tried to suspend my disbelief to breaking point to accept that Jim Shannon (played by Jason O’Mara) spent 2 years in solitary confinement in a ghastly prison breathing poisoned air, only to break out and into the future clean-shaven, pink of complexion and with a body that screamed good nutrition, plenty of exercise and piles of pampering.

As for Commander Taylor (Stephen Lang), the father-figure of Skye Tate (another teeth-grindingly irritating teenager, played by Allison Miller), he’s so freakishly creepy that I wouldn’t leave him alone in a room with my dog, never mind a nubile 17-year-old, no matter how annoying she is.

The musical score (by Brian Tyler) is blatantly used to evoke emotion – and I can only assume this is because the makers of the series realised that their plot, script and characters never could. So it’s soaring orchestral music – cue awe and wonder; short sharp violins – cue fear and loathing; and so on. It’s simply shameless.

The other movie I watched was The Hangover Part II. I loved The Hangover with its quirky (although not exclusively gorgeous) cast, ridiculous story-line and wicked (if at times tasteless) script, so I was looking forward to the follow-up. And when comic-gangster Leslie Chow (played by Ken Jeong) came into the movie penis-first (and shortly afterwards with his underpants around his knees), I assumed it was going to be more of the same.

I was wrong. It was as if the script of The Hangover had been handed over for rewriting to a group of male college students along with a large supply of Klippies and Coke and several baggies of dagga. And the change of location, from spiritedly sinful Las Vegas to the depraved and dissolute backstreets of Bangkok, set the scene for a film in which almost everything was both unfunny and offensive.

Casual cruelty to an animal, the tattooing of a 9-year-old boy, the kidnapping of a Buddhist monk and subsequent noisy invasion of the monks’ sanctuary, the stereotyping of a Thai father with unreasonable expectations of his children, the blatant bigotry, the selfish, snobbish stupidity (as opposed to simple cluelessness in the first movie) of Alan (Zach Galifianakis)… I sat there open-mouthed, wondering how this load of rubbish had actually made it onto the screen. And in a film crammed with low points, the very lowest was the graphic description of Stu (Ed Helms) being ‘fucked in the arse by a ladyboy’ while being watched by his friends and Chow, who was being jerked off by a nicotine-addicted monkey. No matter which way I spun this, I just couldn’t find the humour in it.

There was one sequence that, in this sad shambles of a movie, entertained and (almost) amused me. It’s when Alan – who we have to assume has some sort of mental disorder that causes him to see the world through the eyes of a 12-year-old – has a flashback to the previous night, and all the characters are played by young boys. In Alan’s memory, these naughty, out-of-control tweenies (he is one of them, of course) wreak havoc in the tawdry bars of backstreet Bangkok. Unfortunately, this sequence also revealed the movie’s ideal audience: pre-teen boys. Assuming, that is, that their mothers wouldn’t mind them seeing full-frontal shots of ladyboys and being subjected to play-by-play accounts of how these ladyboys have sex with their off-their-tits clients.

·    Oh, I also tried to watch X Men: First Class. It’s populated largely by teenagers. I managed to sit through 20 minutes of it before I had to switch it off and pour myself a large whisky. Which was much the way I made it through my own children’s teen years.

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