Happy New Year to us all! I just did a count and was suprised to find that I actually viewed some 25 films (!) in the fortnight since I last wrote. I'm not counting those films shown for the entertainment of my younger guests, one of whom wanted to view "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" three days running, despite having been given a copy in her stocking at home. As for my own choices, not much stands out from the morass which included some stinkers like "All About Steve" (pitsville Sandra), "Post Grad", and "St. Trinian's 2". Two Jackie Chan movies "The Spy Next Door" and the rather better "Robin-B-Hood" were entertaining enough if you like Jackie, but hardly Chan classics. I didn't think that "Up in the Air" lived up to its hype and Julian Fellows' "From Time to Time" played more like a TVM than a big-screen directorial debut. Four French flicks were not overly wonderful either, although Romain Duris' "Arsene Lupin" was sufficiently stylish to make me want to dig out my 1932 version with Barrymore brothers, John and Lionel -- not that I've done that yet. As for the rest, including several oldies (but not particularly goodies), there is little to recommend.
But back to the film under discussion. Feeling rather housebound over the holidays, we had a cinema day out on New Year's Day. There wasn't much that tempted me amongst the available choices, but since a good laugh is always welcome, we chose the above-mentioned movie which seems to have tickled a few funnybones. Unfortunately I was only very moderately amused; perhaps I am losing my sense of humour in my dotage -- or perhaps it just wasn't that great a film. Mirroring the rather superior "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" from 1987, chronicling the cross-country journey of mismatched travellers Steve Martin and John Candy", this movie paired the usually reliable Robert Downey Jr. with flavour-of-the-month Zach Galifianakis. Directed by Todd Phillips after his breakout hit "The Hangover", which also starred Galifianakis, the studios were obviously hoping for more of the same.
Downey was probably miscast as the uptight executive trying to get back home before his wife is due to give birth to their first child, who finds himself lumbered, though rather contrived circumstances, to having to travel with shlubby pothead Galifianakis, after he finds himself on the airlines' "no-fly" list and without any money or identification. It becomes a road-trip from Hell insofar as just about everything that can go wrong, unsurprisingly, does go wrong. The rather simple Galifianakis fancies himself as an actor making it big in Hollywood -- the zenith of his ambition is to appear in "Two and a Half Men" -- and he is travelling with his late father's ashes in a coffee tin and his titchy pet dog. I'm tempted to say that the dog was the best thing in the film, were it not for the fact that we are treated to a shot of the animal "masturbating" in time with his master as the best way of falling asleep. As for the fate of his dad's ashes during a coffee break at the home of cameo-ing Jamie Foxx, don't ask!
Downey bears the brunt of the film's physical indignities, being bashed up in a car crash, beaten by a paraplegic, shot, and arrested by Mexican border control, while the chubby galumph just sails through the chaos. Naturally the two bond by the film's end, although one would have thought that the twain could never meet. However loveable one was meant to find Galifianakis, his would-be appeal was completely wasted on me. The one possibly unintended, although probably deliberate, bit of irony in the film occurs when Downey, having inadvertently switched cases with his fellow traveller, is arrested for drug possession. He swears to the authorities that he has never, ever, ever touched drugs. Ho, ho, ho, given the now clean Downey's checkered past -- now that's funny!