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Movie review: The good and the not so good

Posted: August 14, 2013 - 3:59pm
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This publicity image released by  Disney Enterprises, Inc. shows Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook,center, in a scene from the animated film, "Planes." (AP Photo/ Disney Enterprises, Inc.)  AP
AP
This publicity image released by Disney Enterprises, Inc. shows Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook,center, in a scene from the animated film, "Planes." (AP Photo/ Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

“Planes”

DisneyToon Studios

1 hour, 31 minutes

“2 Guns”

Boom Entertainment

1 hour, 49 minutes

What to see? What to see? A goofy, high-flying aerial adventure from the people who bought the people who brought you “Cars?” Or, a goofy no-one-can-tell-who’s-shooting-at-who action comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.

One doesn’t look very good, but the kids would like it. The other looks OK, but given the sad state of action movies these days, is probably terrible. What to see? Hey — it’s still summer for a few days. How about both?

Disney’s “Planes,” you’ll note the conspicuous lack of the Pixar modifier, looks pretty lame, and at least in that sense, doesn’t disappoint. Dane Cook, the low-rent comedy version of Ryan Reynolds, stars as Dusty Crophopper, a feisty little crop duster who yearns to be a world-class racer, despite the fact that he’s made with cropduster parts. Didn’t we just have this movie, starring the actual Ryan Reynolds as a snail with delusions of grandeur?

Anyway, after just barely eking through the qualifying rounds for a race around the world, Dusty is off on a globe-trotting adventure encountering a slew cardboard characters along the way. There’s the passionate Mexican plane, the zen-like Indian plane, and the British racer with the stiff upper lip. There are a few cars as well, though, oddly, most of the non-plane characters in the film are fork-lifts. Even the Statue of Liberty is a fork-lift, though I don’t know what that implies. There are near misses and lessons learned, though I can’t imagine that any element of the plot will come as a surprise.

The aerial cinematography in this film is certainly slick, but for the most part the movie feels like a brightly colored plastic facsimile of a Pixar movie. The script has no spark, no creativity, and no depth whatsoever. “Toy Story 2” was famously supposed to be a quickie direct-to-video knock-off before the studio realized that it was too good to go straight to the at-home market. “Planes” feels like the same kind of thing, only in reverse. If only someone had come to their senses early on.

Actually, someone did. Pixar, known for a high standard of quality, did not produce this film, nor do any Pixar characters appear in it. The de rigueur vocal appearance by John Ratzenberger, which does occur, feels low-rent and forced, almost contractual rather than clever.

Aerial enthusiasts and pilots may find elements of the movie to enjoy — inside jokes and references lost on the rest of us, but aside from the occasional entertaining moment, “Planes” was pretty much a crash and burn.

Grade: C-

“2 Guns,” on the other hand, while containing many crashing and burning elements, is actually very entertaining, owing mostly to great chemistry between Wahlberg and Washington.

Wahlberg is Stig, a hotheaded sharp-shooting wisecracker, who, along with his crafty, smooth-talking unflappable partner Bobby Trench (Denzel), crafts plans to rob a bank and rip off a drug kingpin named Poppy, played with good humored malevolence by Edward James Olmos. What Stig and Bobby don’t know is that bank doesn’t contain Poppy’s money, nor do they know that each of them is playing the other.

Bobby is really a DEA undercover agent, while Stig is Navy Intel, a special forces spy posing as a small-time hood. And the money? Well, that belongs to the CIA, and they’d really, really like it back. To try and outline the rest of the plot would spoil the fun, and it’s too complicated to spell out here anyway. Suffice it to say that it’s a mess, but a fun mess.

“2 Guns” is one of those comic book films that doesn’t seem like a comic book film, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Comic books are at least half writing, and for one to be successful, it usually has to be well written. “2 Guns” retains the clever writing from it’s original source and combines it with some great casting. Wahlberg and Washington are both at the top of their game, and Olmos seems to really be enjoying the role.

In addition you have Bill Paxton as the worst CIA agent ever, chewing up the scenery, but also having a blast. James Marsden rounds out the company as a Navy commander. I’ve always liked Marsden — he manages to be earnest and funny without ever becoming a joke.

Paula Patton, as the love interest Deb is one of the few weak links. I never really bought her character, but it’s a minor issue.

“2 Guns” is a B-movie, but a very entertaining B-movie, which makes it a lot more fun than most A-list slogs. It was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who has, with this picture, almost made up for the dreadful “Contraband.” Hopefully “2 Guns” is indicative of where he’s going next.

Grade: B+

“2 Guns” is rated R for nudity, graphic violence, and pervasive language.

“Planes” is rated PG for mild action and mild rude humor.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lies in Nikiski.

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