This is a competent, amusing, even mildly affecting film, but ultimately, it is no great shakes. It presents the story of Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a mysterious no-talent who bankrolled, directed, wrote and starred in his own film, The Room, which was so terrible it became a cult classic. Wiseau is indeed awful in all respects, so there is a lot of cringe-worthy viewing. His idiosyncrasy and idiocy, however, travel only so far, and when there is nothing more to plumb from this weirdo wannabe, the mind wanders. There’s nothing to root for (Wiseau is a bit of a cretin to his cast, collaborators and friends) and the film doesn’t compensate with enough humor. So, it’s fine, but forgettable.
This is a dinosaur, a sweeping, big budget 70s war flick loaded with A and B+ stars of the time, directed with an accomplished economy and flourish by Sir Richard Attenborough (Gandhi).
Imagine the equivalent of this cast in one movie today:
The picture is appropriately cynical for the post-Vietnam era, as the movie depicts the tragic clusterfu** that was World War II’s Operation Market Garden, an ill-fated attempt to cripple Germany quickly post-D Day via a lightning paratroop strike into Holland. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, due in no small part to bureaucratic incompetence and the willful ignoring of intelligence.
This is a solid, meticulous picture that manages to let stars be stars while incorporating the performances seamlessly into a well-thought out and accomplished military drama. William Goldman’s script is also very moving, empathetic to the plight of the foot soldier and bereft of a lot of hoo rah! There is only one casting weakness. I get that you wanted “young” for General James Gavin, who was 37 years old at the time of the operation, but O’Neal is just too pretty and soft for the role, and his attempt to overcome it (being stern) is unavailing.
Some fun tidbits: The stars took a pay cut, agreeing to a $250,000 weekly fee. Also, with two lines, and a spot right behind Redford on a collapsible boat in a brutal river crossing, it is none other than John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin from Cheers). Spoiler – Cliff doesn’t make it
Yes, yes. I have no one but myself to blame. It’s like eating 6 Zingers and expressing displeasure at the ensuing bloat and shame. But there is awful, and then there is awful on just an entirely different level.
When I was watching Mission Impossible on the IMAX, I saw the preview for The Meg and thought, “A shark the size of a tug boat!? When he eats bathers, they’ll be like krill. What can go wrong?” And fronted by Jason Statham? As a friend mused, “How is he going to be able to drive a car into the mouth of the shark?”
I expected camp, calamity and chaos. I got a dead-straight, cookie-cutter snoozer that still managed to entertain, only because the film proved to be so bizarre. I’ve concluded it was written by someone who just learned English and directed by someone under the influence of Quaaludes. I have to say, I enjoyed it, even though:
- The lead actress, Li BingBing, is so bad, she’s good. She is beautiful, but her acting chops can be best equated to the work of Siri. I laughed loud and often.
- The comic relief, Page Kennedy, is almost as bad. It’s not that he can’t act, but as the sassy, African-American, tell-it like it is, I hate the water stereotype, he was given an impossible task. Be Kevin Hart. He’s not Kevin Hart. He’s not Gary Hart.
- Statham seems like he was actually never present for filming. I mean, he’s there, but his mannerisms suggest that he’s acting to a green screen.
- Statham’s first 15 lines reference beer. He has to be coaxed to risk the depths “one last time” after his last dive ruined him. And he is coaxed from some backwater Thai sea town bar, where he drinks a lot of beer and licks his wounds. And apparently, talks a lot about about beer. And offers everyone beer. I have never seen the beer Statham is hawking, but I assume it is Asian, as the film is up to $150 million globally (and $60 million domestic).
- The driver – the reason Statham is licking his wounds in the bar until he is called upon to perform “one last time” – is nonsensical. The film opens with Statham and two fellow rescuers extricating survivors of a downed nuclear submarine from the ocean floor. Statham has to make a split second decision when his fellow rescuers are trapped – go back to save them, or shove off. He shoves off. Now, there would be conflict if we, the audience, never learn the fate of the fellow rescuers. Or better, we are provided information that they died a slow, long harrowing death. But in The Meg, 2 seconds after Statham makes his fateful decision, the subs blows up. So, he was right. Verifiably, provably correct. And yet, he is pilloried.
- BingBing has a child, a precocious sweetheart of a daughter, who stays with her on the underwater research center. The Meg appears at that center. Thereafter, for some unknown reason, the child is brought along on almost every mission.
- That said, I don’t think the child was in any real danger, because people are not eaten like krill. In fact, this picture has a body count just north of Murder on the Orient Express.
- But the visuals, you say. The CGI! They must have made it worthwhile. Unfortunately, no. Most of this flick looked like it as filmed in the shallows of Rockaway Beach.