Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

The Producers and King Kong

Jerry Stratton, December 26, 2005

I love going to the movies when only the most dedicated fans are there. Seeing The Producers on December 25th was one of those experiences. None of the stores were open, the room was barely a third full, and nearly everyone stayed to the bitter(ly funny) end. It was a great show with a great audience.

The last time I saw a movie with the same ambience was seeing another Nathan Lane vehicle, Isn’t She Great, on Superbowl Sunday, January 30, 2000. In fact, few reviewers later would admit to enjoying that movie as much as I did; perhaps the audience boosted the movie for me.

No such boost was necessary for The Producers. Based on a broadway musical version of the original Producers, this is a hilarious story of a man who is such a failure that he decides the only way to be successful (that is, make money) is to work to his strengths: make the most colossal failure ever shown on Broadway.

Remakes are in season right now, and most of them aren’t worth the expense of thinking about them, let alone making them. I saw a trailer in front of King Kong that was so bad, and so badly eighties, that I blurted out that it looked as bad as Miami Vice. Of course, it was Miami Vice. Why do we need a remake of that television show? The original said everything that needed to be said about that illusive corner of the eighties--which wasn’t much. The best thing to come out of that show was ex-Eagle Glenn Frey’s rather forgettable “Smuggler’s Blues” from his The Allnighter album. Used in one episode, the song rather encapsulated the futility of Miami Vice’s approach to the drug war. Despite this, the series went on for four more seasons before cancellation.

Shopgirl is remaking a minor subplot from LA Story. Aeon Flux remakes an MTV animation. Doom remakes a video game. Final Destination, Saw, and Underworld are remaking their own previous versions.

Aeon Flux is perhaps the most disappointing of these. You would think that Hollywood could make a movie that at least pretends to be as edgy as some shorts that appeared on music television ten years ago.

I saw Peter Jackson’s King Kong about a week ago, and King Kong is not one of those remakes. This is a great movie on its own, and it is a great remake, one that both embraces the original and successfully uses modern technology and culture. They wisely do not change the period. The Great Depression was an important part of the original King Kong. Removing it is one of the things that killed the seventies remake. If there is anything worse for a movie than being remade, it is being remade in the seventies (Body Snatchers? A Star is Born?), but few movies get a second chance at a remake.

The top billings go to Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody, and Jack Black, who all do great jobs in their roles as ingenue, scriptwriter of the movie within the movie, and director of the movie within, respectively.

Jackson seems to understand that despite what computer technology can do to increase the scope of a movie, acting and story are still paramount. In Kong, Jackson makes use of Andy Serkis’s phenomenal body-acting to bring Kong to life just as he did to bring Gollum to life in Lord of the Rings. Serkis also plays the ship’s cook, but of course it’s the title character that movie-goers will remember him for. Though he doesn’t get top billing, Serkis is the star of King Kong.

A friend of mine called this movie a “Star Wars moment”: the recognition that the scope of movie-making is expanding so much that we don’t know where tomorrow’s movies will go. We’ve had this technology for a while, but we haven’t known how to use it for acting and story. Now our use of the technology is catching up to the technology itself. And nothing shall be withheld from them, that they have desired to do.

The question becomes, what is it that we desire? Do we want more King Kong, Star Wars, and the Matrix? Or do we want more Aeon Flux, Revenge of the Sith, and Revolutions?

  1. <- Clerks II
  2. Dazed and Confused ->