This week in theatres: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde star in Disney’s 3-D spectacle, Tron: Legacy; plus a look at Yogi Bear, Rabbit Hole, and How Do You Know.
Tron was a revolutionary movie when it came out in 1982. Not only was the film one of the first productions to feature computer-generated images–Tron also told its tale inside the world of computers–a place few had imagined.
Jump ahead to 2010 though and the film’s concept sounds just a little quaint. After all, we’ve seen games and movies follow in Tron’s footsteps for years. Tron: Legacy has a lot to prove, but I’ll happily admit I was dying to see what first-time director Joseph Kosinski could dream up within this digital world.
Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn, the young, brilliant son of Kevin Flynn–the man responsible for finding a way to digitize himself and enter the computer world, played in the sequel once more by Jeff Bridges. Looking back at Sam’s childhood we see him briefly bonding with his father, who promptly vanishes, leaving the world to wonder what happened to him.
Jumping ahead 25 years and Sam is a daredevil who is the majority stakeholder of Encom, the company Kevin Flynn controlled before he vanished. Alan Bradley, played once more by Bruce Boxleitner, has stayed with the company, but he is not the important man he once was and he hopes Sam will one day step up and take on the role he deserves.
The story gets moving after Sam performs a big stunt at Encom’s latest board room event, making the company look foolish during a big product launch. Alan visits Sam to find out why he did it, and to tell him he received a random pager message from Kevin Flynn’s old arcade and he wants Sam to go visit the arcade and see if his father might have returned.
Sam of course doesn’t find his father sitting there waiting inside the old arcade. Instead he finds his father’s dust-covered computer still running in a hidden back office and inadvertently activates the system that catapults him into the digital world where he is immediately sent to the Game Grid to compete.
This starts off Sam’s adventures in his father’s world where he meets the effervescent Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, who leads the user to meet her Zen-like guardian: Sam’s father, who has been stuck in the system since he disappeared 25 years ago. Kevin is hiding out with Quorra, avoiding his alter ego–a twisted program known as Clu who is a clone of Kevin Flynn and was charged with creating the perfect world.
Aside from the film’s seemingly computer-generated script, which is a bit too lean in a lot of areas, and has very little character development, the major flaw in the sequel, which is my most notable issue with Tron: Legacy, is that it quite obviously is a film that was made after The Matrix.
When the original Tron debuted there was nothing else like it, but in 2010 it’s impossible to miss the similarities between Tron: Legacy and The Matrix. Whether it was intentional or not, the films have a lot of similarities, and Tron: Legacy is simply the lesser of the two films.
Tron: Legacy will never be regarded as the unique cult classic that it follows, whether you’re talking about the original Tron or The Matrix, but this is still a solid, entertaining action-adventure all the same. The characters are drawn well enough to stand on their own, and while you could complain that Bridges offers both the highs and lows of the film’s sometimes zany dialogue, he’s also clearly the reason the film works. (Although it’s worth mentioning that the film also works thanks to a near-perfect score by Daft Punk, who I would say earned themselves the prize of best movie score of the year.)
As a fan of the original film, I enjoyed Tron: Legacy and I’m looking forward to another sequel, whenever they get around to it. My only hope is that whoever is involved takes the script more seriously and aims for a classic story that does the film’s concept justice, as well as the characters. After all, if you’re going to name your film Tron: Legacy, it would be nice to see more of Tron.
Other films opening this weekend…
My memories of Yogi Bear are vague at best, but I recall he was that mildly amusing character from Saturday morning cartoons who kept stealing “pic-a-nic” baskets and getting into trouble.
In Eric Brevig’s remake he’s back in Jellystone Park once again, this time voiced by Canada’s own Dan Aykroyd, with Justin Timberlake voicing his sidekick Boo Boo. As they embark on their latest schemes to steal lunches and keep out of trouble with Ranger Smith, they discover that the city’s mayor is selling the park to loggers, which leaves them fighting to save their home.
Earning dismal reviews from most critics, Yogi Bear is rated just 13% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel slagged the film, writing, “Weak as they’ve been, the ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ movies are operating on a higher plane than this.”
While Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “There’s nothing particularly inventive in the plot or grade-school humor, but the movie skates by on the timeless, undemanding charm of watching a tie-wearing bear try to steal people’s lunches.”
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in Rabbit Hole, a drama about a family coping with loss and turmoil in any way they can after their son is killed in a car accident.
Becca finds solace with her mother and the teenager involved in the accident, while her husband, Howie, tries to push away the pain with another woman. At the same time, the couple copes in very different ways, with Becca reaching to move away from the painful memories, while Howie tries to relive the past.
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell, of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame, Rabbit Hole is a touching drama with wit that is easily the best reviewed film this week.
Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called the film, “A perceptive and sympathetic film by John Cameron Mitchell that looks at grief by way of selfish reasonableness.”
Meanwhile, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “The canniest thing about it is that it carves shrewd and lively dramatic arcs out of souls who are too damaged to feel their own feelings.”
Lastly, in this romantic comedy from director James L. Brooks, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson star as a trio of troubled professionals who find themselves in a love triangle as their lives fall apart.
Reese Witherspoon plays Lisa, a softball player who is fired when she turns 31; Paul Rudd is a corporate executive who works for his father and is being investigated by the government; and Owen Wilson is an all-star baseball player who loves playing the field.
With poor reviews from many critics, the film has not earned Brooks much respect this weekend. Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com was one of the few positive reviewers, writing in his column, “Is ‘How Do You Know’ schmaltzy and manipulative and not entirely convincing as a portrait drawn from real life? Sure — and it’s also richly, goofily funny, loaded with terrific actors and delicious moments…”
But Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle wrote, “A dour sort-of romantic drama with an A-list cast, a few comic moments and the disjointed sense of talented filmmakers flapping their arms in an effort to make it fly.”