Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: September 23, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr decides he’s going to learn history from Hollywood. After all, why not when three out of the four major releases are based on or inspired by a true story.

He learns about the true history of baseball with Moneyball (and was sorely disappointed it wasn’t called Monkeyball because a movie about monkeys playing baseball would have been awesome). Then he learns all he needs to know about marine mammals and depressed children in Dolphin Tale. Finally, he faces the cadres of screaming tweenage girls to see Taylor Lautner in ABduction. That’s based on a true story, right?

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below the show goes international with Andrew Robinson from Gmanreviews.com in the Magical Studio in the Sky.


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Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for some strong language

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

Directed by: Bennett Miller

What it’s about: Brad Pitt plays real-life Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who finds a math whiz kid in Cleveland to help develop a championship team using statistical analysis rather than the normal big money and star power of other ball clubs.

What I liked: I don’t give a hoot about baseball. Oh, I’ll watch the Cleveland Indians if they make it to the World Series, but I don’t follow the game, players or the stats. So this film had a huge chance of boring me to death from the opening frame. But it didn’t, and that’s a testament to it as a film.

When dealing with the art and science of baseball, the movie shines. Both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill carry the film (though sadly, Hill takes a back seat as an actor and character throughout the entire experience). It shows there’s more to the game than what you see on an average broadcast on ESPN. In fact, there’s a scene where they negotiate a series of trades that makes no sense whatsoever to me, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a compelling scene.

While not entirely a feel-good, inspirational sports movie, it does hit a lot of these buttons. And like many great baseball movies (e.g., Field of Dreams and Bull Durham), it’s not so much about the way the game is played on the field, but how it plays out off the field.

What I didn’t: Like many of the movies we’re going to be seeing released over the next few months, Moneyball has its sights set on awards. Thus, we get longer, more dramatic films. Unfortunately, this hampers the movie at many points. The running time is a bit bloated, filled with scenes of Brad Pitt looking longingly into the distance. There’s also an entirely extraneous subplot involving Billy Beane’s daughter which took me out of the movie every time it reared its head.

One final thing…I have to say, I got tired of watching Brad Pitt eat and spit. I’ve seen the Oceans movies, so I’m fully aware the guy can pound down food and act at the same time. And while I know chew and spit is as much a part of baseball as bats and balls, but do we have to watch Pitt squirt tobacco juice into a cup in half of his scenes? Gross.

Who is gonna like this movie: Baseball fans and even those who don’t care about the game but enjoy a good drama.

Grade: B+

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG for some mild thematic elements

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson, Nathan Gamble and Winter the Dolphin

Directed by: Charles Martin Smith

What it’s about: While dealing with a broken home and forced summer school, an eleven-year-old Florida boy discovers a beached dolphin. When a local marine hospital helps the animal, they end up having to amputate her tail. The boy helps inspire the dolphin to live, and together he and the hospital try to develop a prosthetic tail to allow it to swim again.

What I liked: I’ll admit this is a cute movie. Were it a direct-to-DVD flick or something I swerved into on ABC Family one Saturday afternoon, I’d be more impressed. On the whole, it works and tugs on the right heartstrings. In short, the intentions of Dolphin Tale are entirely in the right place.

Like this year’s Soul Surfer, Dolphin Tale doesn’t just involve a sense of wonder, the ocean and tragically lost appendages. It also aims for the same crowd, which is families and kids. So, as a kid movie, it’s pretty good. Hell, if I were eleven years old again, I’d probably think this was the best film of the year.

Oh, and aside from Morgan Freeman who owns every movie set he steps onto, the best acting was done by Winter the actual dolphin from the real-life story. She was great and swam circles around her human co-stars, tail or no.

What I didn’t: But I’m not eleven. And even though it was fun to watch my eight-year-old son enjoy this movie, it was just laid on so thick. The cheese isn’t even good cheese. It’s gooey, syrupy Velveeta spread.

Like most inspirational movies of its kind, it tries too hard and goes for connections and relevance that muddy the waters. Isn’t it enough that there’s a dolphin whose life is threatened by the loss of her tail? Do we really need the cliched story about the boy’s father who left long ago? Or the dead mother story of one of his friends? Or the story of the shady developer wanting to turn the marine hospital into a beachfront hotel? Or the story of a family friend who loses partial use of his arm in the war?

Not only do these stories detract from the real focus of the film – this poor dolphin struggling for her life – but it also bloats the running time to close to two hours, and that makes it hard to sit through in a theater filled with young kids.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids, families and dolphin lovers.

Grade: C

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying

Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver and Jason Isaacs

Directed by: John Singleton

What it’s about: Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner takes off his shirt three times in the first 30 minutes. Oh, and he also plays a high school kid who learns he’s adopted, and when he starts looking into his real family, these dangerous men from a dark government force send him on the run.

What I liked: For as painfully bad as ABduction is (and I call it this because Lautner is best known for his abs rather than his acting), it’s not a terrible movie. The once-promising director John Singleton throws down some nice action and fight sequences. When those come on screen, you might be able to convince yourself that this is a low-rent The Bourne Identity for the Teen Wolf crowd. So if you turn off your brain and throw it away, you can enjoy at least part of the film.

What I didn’t: Unfortunately, while this movie isn’t terrible, it’s far from good. It’s not offensively bad or insulting, but it is forgettable, and that doesn’t bode well for Lautner’s star power beyond the realm of Forks, Washington.

No one ever accused Lautner of being a good actor, and together with Lily Collins, they deliver some of the most stilted and wooden dialogue you’ll ever hear. Even the veteran actors like Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina, who should know better, struggle through their scenes. I blame this on Singleton, who can’t even pull a good performance out of good actors.

The movie is ludicrous if you think too hard about it, like a CW executive cutting and pasting a screenplay together from classic movie scripts and a couple episodes of The Vampire Diaries. And it’s so clear that the film relies on Lautner’s Twilight power because it nods to that franchise a little too much, featuring him shirtless or walking around the woods or waking up on the ground after sleeping for a night outside.

Who is gonna like this movie:Tweens who wet themselves at the sight of Taylor Lautner..

Grade: C-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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