Thursday, December 21, 2006
VP! Arts and Entertainment
I remember playing Red Dawn in my backyard as a kid. Russ Hill always played Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze), while I was stuck playing his younger brother Mattie (Charlie Sheen). Together, we fought the encroaching Soviet army as they threatened the strategically vital Fort Buckley nestled deep within the suburbs of Mobile, Alabama.
For years, I've claimed that I loved this movie. I think I was even one of those guys that, when someone would say they had never heard of Red Dawn, would exclaim "Wolverines!" and proceed to badger the uninitiated for their ignorance of an essential part of 80's-dom.
Watching it last night made me realize that I've never actually seen this movie. Or if I did, I never watched it very carefully. Red Dawn wasn't the teen-aged Rambo that I expected; instead, it provides a relatively nuanced look at patriotism, rebellion and war. Later in the film, Red Dawn even suggests a moral equivalency between the Americans and other 20th century rebels, drawing parallels to the Afghan mujahideen, Sandinistas and Viet Cong.
As an added bonus, you get to see Ferris Bueller's sister unloading an AK-47 on the Soviets, securing Red Dawn its ranking as a four break flick.
Bruce Willis in a mullet wig. That alone should be sufficient for a 1 break ranking, but the 2.5 hour length, plus the completely ridiculous premise that Cate Blanchett would fall in love with both Billy Bob and Bruce, earns Bandits the lowest ranking yet.
On second thought, I suppose Billy Bob and Bruce parading through scene after scene donning bad wig after bad wig, should have been funny.
So, Bandits gets grade-inflated from 1/2 break to 1 mullet.
Southern accents are notoriously difficult to pull off. Like Nicholas Cage's in Con Air or Keanu's in The Devil's Advocate, a flunked southern accent is, well, as irritating as a creaky porch swing. Ewan McGregor's Ed Bloom, Jr. is no exception. However, I can at least appreciate Ewan's attempt. His drawl erred on the side of being slightly too melodic, instead of slightly too stupid, which the former actors seemed to prefer.
In spite of the accent issue, the movie still works. Partly due to the presence of Albert Finney (Ed Bloom, Sr.), who anchors the movie with both strong acting and credible southern drawls, and partly to Tim Burton, who weaves Big Fish with an ethereal gravitas using his signature blend of macabre fantasy and everyday pathos.
Southerners should also appreciate Burton's portrait of the South. While he pokes a little fun in his rendering of the fictional town of Spectre, Alabama as a Whiteman's paradise, chock-full of front-porches, barefooted hoedowns, and apple pie, Burton pays homage to an aspect of the culture that is sometimes not fully appreciated: Southerners' love of talk, tall stories and hospitality.
Now if I can just get my woman to bake an apple pie...