Saturday, January 24, 2015

Of Goyas and Marmalade

Two new releases that seem very different, yet are tied together by a definite sense of Britishness, are the focus for this post.

First up is Mortdecai, headlined by Johnny Depp and a X-ray-thin Gwyneth Paltrow. (Seriously, a person could be injured if her collarbones get any more distinct!) Depp is having immense fun in this role, which allows him to cut loose with his silly side as he plays Charles Mortdecai, a titled ne'er-do-well who is well known in the seedier side of the art collecting world. Deeply broke, Charlie is blackmailed into using his connections to find a stolen Goya masterpiece and, along the way, save his estate from financial ruin. The script shows a deep appreciation for broad British and Brit-based comedy, including Mike Myers' turn as Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery. There's a bit of James Bond in here, along with some Monty Python and just a touch of Inspector Clouseau. I also noticed a nod to a few Indiana Jones licks, as well. The supporting cast, which includes Paul Bettany as Mortdecai's ever-faithful manservant, Ewan McGregor as the straight-arrow school chum of both Mortdecais, and Olivia Munn as a woman of, shall we say, flexible morals, is outstanding. The humor is not for everyone, as it relies far more on nimble patter and far less on gross-out gags (although there's some of that as well), and reviews have been less than kind. I, on the other hand, thought it was great fun and laugh-out-loud funny in several places. Not a film for the ages, but this one will make a fine rental. Rated R, but a relatively soft R.

Next is the charming Paddington. I saw this in a theater that was absolutely crammed and the enjoyment of the audience was audible. Paddington is right next to Pooh in terms of "bears our children trust" and the film is a delight. Paddington comes to London when his home in Peru is destroyed by an earthquake. He is young, frightened, and alone. Trying hard to abide by a code of behavior he finds bizarre, hilarity ensues and, since he has a good heart under all that fur, things turn out all right in the end. Along the way, though, there is much trouble and misunderstanding, along with Nicole Kidman looking like a family-friendly version of Emma Frost. Paddington has some lovely things to say about what makes a family and how sometimes, in our quest to be good people and do the right thing, we can become rigid and fearful. The kids in the audience clearly loved the picture and I can wholeheartedly say I did as well. And when you go (although this, too, could wait for rental season), watch the "Lost & Found" sign at Paddington station when the bear first meets the Brown family. Rated PG for some mild scary elements, including an unhinged taxidermist.

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