By Eleanor Ringel Cater
When the top four movies at the box office are (in descending order) “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “The Croods,” “Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” and “Olympus Has Fallen,” which do you choose to write about?
Why not take a stab at all four?
“G.I Joe” is based on a doll — I mean, action figure — first popularized in 1964. He has gone through several incarnations since then, including movies, comics and video games. He has even, like Alice and her mushroom, changed sizes: 12 inches originally, then shrunk to 3 ¾ inches, then released in both sizes.
This has very little to do with the movie which itself has very little to do with anything especially credible or fresh. As far as I could make out, The President has been replaced by a double (both played by the once distinguished actor, Jonathan Pryce) as part of a plot to rule the world.
The Joe’s, who include People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Channing Tatum; a well-muscled and ironic Dwayne Johnson, a well-built, irony-challenged G. I. Jane (Adrianne Palicki); and Bruce Willis, in an extended cameo that must have been extremely lucrative.
What happens….? Well, they fight a whole lot, including one well-choreographed action sequence that combines zip lining and rock-climbing and lots of CGI bravery. Other stuff, too.
The director is Jon M. Chu (born Jonathan Murray Chu) whose credits include some “Step Up” movies and the Justin Bieber documentary.
“The Croods” are The Modern Stone Age Family for the 21st Century (sorry Fred and Wilma and little Bamm-Bamm). Their adventures are reasonably entertaining, as is the dialogue and voice characterizations. I especially liked Lily Tomlin who has found a new career playing crazy little ol’ ladies (see “Admission”).
Because the movie springs from the same, um, loins (?) as the dread — and dreadfully successful — “Ice Age” series, I feared the worst. But not only is it less overbearing (I mean, Ray Romano as voice talent vs. Emma Stone?), but it has a clunky charm. Not one for the ages, but, thankfully, not one for the “Ice Ages” either.
“Tyler Perry’s Temptation” is just more of the same-old, same-old. And why not? He has a very specific audience who lap this stuff up.
Still, Perry himself seems bored with his ham-fisted morality tales and without his alter-ego Madea on hand, it’s easier for us to get bored too. A tale of a married woman’s, um, well, temptation (dreamy single guy with money to burn), the film is full of fine-looking folks and performances that are fine enough.
To his credit, Perry has tried to branch out. I was impressed by his “Alex Cross,” but viewers and many critics weren’t. It would be great if his core audience cut him some slack and let him try a few new things. If this were the first movie of his I’d ever seen, I’m certain I would’ve been more impressed. But…been there…seen that…
And talk about been-there, seen-that, “Olympus Has Fallen” is a dismal retread of more lone-hero movies than I can begin to count. Again, we have an endangered President (Aaron Eckhart) and a rule-the-world crazy (this time, from our newest movie villain of choice, North Korea). And again, we get to see some familiar places blown up (London, in “G. I. Joe;” Washington D.C. here).
In the Bruce Willis role, we have Gerard Butler who has proven astoundingly resilient ever since his cruise to the A-list (the long-awaited movie version of “The Phantom of the Opera”) stalled out around the B-minus level.
Cast as a disgraced agent who let the First Lady (Ashley Judd, so it doesn’t really matter) fall to her death in an icy river (it’s in the previews, so, no spoiler here), Butler is the only guy with the guts and smarts to get inside a now-occupied White House.
There are worse movies out there, but there are better ones, too.
So, that’s how I spent my week. And you?