Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: March 2, 2012

Kevin Carr's Weekly Report Card

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr grabs his camcorder and tries to find the biggest all-night party in Pasadena, filled with slutty, dancing high school girls who looks amazingly like they’re in their early twenties. Of course, he never finds that because this sort of 15-year-old wet dream fantasy doesn’t exist. So he sets his sights on finding something far more realistic than any of the events that take place in Project X: the short, hairy peanut with a mustache and Danny DeVito’s voice known as The Lorax.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by Nick Herum from MoviesHateYouToo.com to talk about the movies that end with X.

Studio: Universal Pictures

Rated: PG for brief mild language

Starring: Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift and Rob Riggle

Directed by: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda

What it’s about: Based on Dr. Seuss’ 1971 book of the same name, The Lorax tells the story of a boy in a overly plasticized world who discovers a decimated forest beyond the outskirts of town. There, he learns from the mysterious Once-ler of how this was once a lush forest of Truffula trees. However, when the Once-ler starts to cut them down to manufacture a miracle product, a mysterious forest creature known as the Lorax appears and tries to stop it from happening.

What makes the grade: It’s hard to believe that this is only the fourth Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a feature-length film. And after two ugly misfires (with How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat), the medium of computer generated animation (which gave us the charming and loveable Horton Hears a Who) appeared to be the best place to do this sort of thing.

Like Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax looks beautiful. The impossible physics and design of Dr. Seuss shines in this film. The 3D, while not completely necessary, looks slick and makes the anchor action scenes even cooler to watch. Plus, the movie has a brisk running time that moves along at a good pace.

Is there a pushy environmental message? Well, there’s a message that does get pushy at times, but that message was there when the book was written in the 70s. To leave that message out at this point would be intellectually dishonest and offensive to the memory of Dr. Seuss. So check your politics at the door in this one. Conservative or liberal, I think we can agree that there’s nothing wrong with telling kids not to harvest a resource into oblivion.

What fails: Even though this is a cute movie and the second best feature-length Dr. Seuss adaptation made (out of four, mind you), it’s got some tough story issues. The original book The Lorax is really just a short picture book that takes about ten minutes to read. However, to reach feature-length, a lot had to be added to the script to pad out the picture.

This is nothing new when it comes to adapting picture books. The Polar Express is mostly padding that doesn’t impact the actual story. Both How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat pad themselves so much it pretty much ruins the original spirit of the books. The padding that takes place in The Lorax, which includes everything that happens in town as well as various musical numbers that are more out of place than Tex Richman’s rap in The Muppets, doesn’t destroy the film but ultimately amounts to little more than fluff.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids, families and fans of Dr. Seuss.

Grade: B

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens

Starring: Jonathan Daniel Brown, Miles Teller, Alexis Knapp, Thomas Mann and Martin Klebba

Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh

What it’s about: A completely unrealistic beer commercial disguised as a found footage house party in Pasadena gets out of hand.

What makes the grade: Boobs.

What fails: You know those raunchy teen sex comedies like American Pie where the characters show up to a party and later continue to the rest of the movie? Well, Project X is sort of like that, only without the rest of the movie thrown in. The story is solely about the party, how epic it is and how it’s going to make the kids throwing it the coolest kids in school.

The problem is that without the rest of the film (i.e., plot, characters, dramatic arcs or human decency), we’re left with an insipid, mean-spirited 90 minutes of decadence that has no redeeming or entertainment value at all.

The characters are all awful people, not the least of which is the racist and homophobic friend who escalates the party out of control. He’s painted as the wing-man to his “boyeee!” whose birthday the party is celebrating. The kids in this film are the embodiment of the over- privileged, entitled assholes who have had everything (except coolness, manners and a sense of morality) handed to them by their parents.

The found footage style is supposed to make it seem like a real high school party… only bigger. Sadly, this film reeks of douchebag teenage boy fantasy as much as Twilight reeks of sullen teenage girl emotional fantasy.

Even the party itself, as it gets out of hand, is a mockery of anything realistic. It’s flooded with twentysomething hotties playing “average” high school students. Kids are taking enough drugs to put a rhinoceros in a coma and everyone refuses to leave even when the cops show up. (Hint… when the cops showed up at the parties I went to in high school, the kids scattered like cockroaches when you turned on the lights.)

But the worst part of Project X is the complete and utter disregard for anything remotely resembling right and wrong. I suppose a lot of it is meant to play for laughs, but it ends up looking like a recruitment video for sociopaths who think home invasion, physical assault and even a drunken plan for attempted murder just might be okay if you want to give the finger to society.

Finally, the movie attempts to shoehorn in a John Hughes-style romance between the dorky kid and his unbelievably gorgeous best friend since childhood. Again, this is meant to ground the film, but speaking as someone who grew up with John Hughes movies, I imagine he’d weep at the thought of this emotionally and morally vacant film fills the niche he left behind.

Who is gonna like this movie: Teenagers and douchey suburban “ballers” in their early twenties who think their “epic” and “sick” birthday party was as cool as this movie’s.

Grade: F

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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