Movies

Top One Movie of the Week: Grown Ups, Knight and Day, Restrepo, and Wild Grass

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Our critics choose between Grown Ups, Knight and Day, Restrepo, and Wild Grass.

Restrepo

Grown Ups 

SCOTT: We’re not quite at the halfway point of 2010, but already the debate is raging: is this the worst movie year in the history of cinema? I’ll reserve judgment on that question until at least Thanksgiving, but it can’t be a good sign that it’s now considered news when studio executives put the call out to agents desperately seeking some of this "original material" they’ve heard about. Hell, even Entertainment Weekly recently took a break from humping the Twilight franchise long enough to bemoan this summer’s parade of creatively bankrupt retreads. But things must be looking up, because this week brings no sequels or remakes of any kind! It’s all original stuff, beginning with this comedy teaming SNL veterans Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. Whoa, we’ve never seen that before! Chris Rock is also on hand, making a total of one actual funny person in the cast, although you’d never know it from his dismal big-screen track record. And then there’s Kevin James as the fat guy who got an invite because Chris Farley died twelve years ago. How about it, Andrew? Are you laughing yet?

ANDREW:  Well, that blue pee in the pool gag from the trailer is kinda funny. But aside from Sandler — who, in addition to his four-quadrant hit The Wedding Singer has also appeared in several underrated gems in his career — the combined non-documentary, non-standup cinematic output of this cast is second only to the Wayans Brothers‘ oeuvre in face-palming stupidity. (That assessment, I should note, only applies to the male leads, since I’m guessing more interesting supporting players like Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Steve Buscemi will barely get enough screen time to register.) And yet, if the film captures even a fraction of the fun the cast apparently had making it, this classless reunion comedy (see what I did there?) might be a relatively painless way to get out of the summer heat for 102 minutes.

Knight and Day

ANDREW: On the other hand, if I wanted empty-calorie popcorn fun this week, Knight and Day would be far more likely to get my vote. Not only was the romantic spy comedy directed by James Mangold (who’s previously balanced inventive action sequences with decent character work in above-average genre flicks like Copland and 3:10 to Yuma), but all the kiss-kiss bang-bang plays out in and around our old Boston stomping grounds (as opposed to the usual L.A. freeways and the mean streets of Vancouver-as-Manhattan). Heck, they even blew up a damn 727 just down the street from my parents’ house (in neighboring Bridgewater, Massachusetts — a town that hasn’t witnessed so much big-time movie action since Titicut Follies). Plus, Cameron Diaz (as an innocent civilian caught up in the secret-agent shenanigans) is one of my favorite contemporary ingénues, and for all his cocky arrogance and goofy Scientology pronouncements, I’m glad to see Tom Cruise back in A-list mode (as opposed to all the dopey Pattinsons and LaBeoufs who’ve been slouching about in his absence) — though I’m guessing you’re not exactly jumping up and down on your couch with enthusiasm for the film.

SCOTT: Not necessarily, since I have a hard time with Tom Cruise trying to be funny on purpose, as I wrote here two years ago when everyone else was going crazy over his latex-encrusted Les Grossman performance in Tropic Thunder. (And now, of course, we hear that a full-length Grossman feature is in the works, proving once again that I’m not cut out to be a studio executive.) Still, it does appear that he’s supposed to be at least a little creepy in Knight and Day, and that I can accept from His Cruiseness, particularly since he’s reunited with Diaz (who was the best part of Vanilla Sky as the crazy jilted ex). So I won’t entirely rule this one out yet.

Restrepo

SCOTT: This documentary from National Geographic Entertainment won’t be confused for feel-good summertime fluff anytime soon; it’s the first you-are-there combat doc from the front lines in Afghanistan. Co-directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm), Restrepo took the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has been described (somewhat unimaginatively) as a real-life Hurt Locker. It looks fascinating to me, although I’m sure it’s not everyone’s idea of a fun night out at the movies.

ANDREW: I’m trying to decide whether this documentary is something I want to see or something I should see as a well-informed, troop-supporting American. In truth, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Any reminder of the Middle East quagmire is sure to be a downer, and yet I’m always gripped by tales of hard-working professionals grappling with monstrous challenges — especially in documentary form, where the raw humanity on display can often be more fascinating, moving, and unpredictable than even the best of fiction, sometimes while trumping entrenched political opinions on the topic in question (see also: 2008’s Full Battle Rattle and 2009’s Afghan Star). Plus, it’s hard to argue with Junger’s resume, so Restrepo is definitely on my radar (and also my Top One Movie of the week).

Wild Grass

ANDREW: And finally (speaking of "good for you" cinematic roughage), there’s Wild Grass, the latest from Alain Resnais, which (according to the reviews in the trailer) is "ravishing," "beautiful," "hallucinatory," and "sublime," although for some reason the trailer mostly just filled me with ennui. But perhaps you are in the mood for a little of ze mature French amour, oui? Or non?

SCOTT: I guess the first thing to be said about this one is "Holy crap, Alain Resnais is still alive?!" And the second thing is, although I respect his importance to the French New Wave of the 1960s, I can’t say I’ve ever connected with his work (Last Year at Marienbad, the very epitome of the impenetrable foreign art film, twice defeating my attempts to watch it). Our former Nerve colleague Nick Schager accuses Wild Grass of "free-form (read: haphazard) plotting, and excessive aesthetic tomfoolery," which sums up my experience with Resnais nicely. I’ll pass on this one and double down with you on Restrepo.

The Top One Movie of the Week: Restrepo