JULY 8, 2007
One of my favorite movies is A Few Good Men. Story-wise, it’s a fairly standard courtroom drama, but it’s also a pretty damn funny movie. Kevin Pollak, Nicholson, hell even Tom Cruise pull off more naturally funny moments than you get in most ‘actual’ comedies. “You’re a fucking lousy softball player, Jack!” kills me every time. I was reminded of this movie when I watched Joshua in one of the 6 goddamn theaters that are actually playing it (I sure love living in LA, but still, what gives, FOX??), because I was laughing a lot at a movie that I thought was going to be a fairly standard killer kid movie. Can a movie be considered a comedy if you find yourself laughing more than just a few times? No, because it all goes back to tone. But still, it’s kind of sad to think that a movie about a murderous little kid would have more genuine humor than, I dunno, License to Wed. And in a strange coincidence, both Joshua and A Few Good Men feature small roles by Spinal Tap members (Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, respectively), both of them more or less playing the least amusing character in their respective films. Weird.
Most of the laughs come courtesy of Sam Rockwell and Dallas Roberts, playing his brother-in-law. I’ve never seen Roberts in a film before, but he was damn good. He floored me during an otherwise serious scene when he suddenly stops to ‘people watch’ a couple walking by and silently mock them (that the guy can convey that without saying a word is a pretty good testament to his abilities as an actor). The film is chock full of moments like that, and yet it’s never distracting; instead it fits the off-kilter feel the entire movie has. But unlike say, Family Guy, the laughs don’t work out of context, hence why I’m not repeating any lines here. It would take too long to explain why “The building must have a hundred rats” is laugh out loud funny, so just see the damn thing.
The acting is good across the board, even the little kid (too bad they didn’t find him in time for the Omen remake). Of course, Rockwell is always great (even in Clownhouse), and he's probably one of the few actors who can pull off locking his kid out of the bedroom (for starters) and remain sympathetic (plus get a laugh out of folks in the process).
Despite the unexpected humor, the movie is still pretty creepy. I still wonder if it was only toys inside Joshua’s giant bag of stuff for good will. And the scene of him pretending to mourn the loss of the family dog is definitely one of the most unsettling scenes in a horror movie all year. Hell, even the normally upbeat Dave Matthews contributes a depressing and, again, creepy song for the end credits. Come on man, eat drink and be merry!
The only problem I had with the film was that it strangely fell apart once Joshua finally goes all out and kills someone. The creepy tone was gone, and rather than at least build to an exciting climax, the film more or less just sort of fades out from there. Then it suddenly ends, not on a big showdown, but instead on a somewhat bizarre notion, hinting that Joshua’s behavior may be a result of his possible homosexuality. I don’t know if this was the intent, but it sure seemed that way to me. But since the movie also takes a wholly NOT vague stance against (gay-hating) Christianity, one must wonder why George Ratliff would seemingly choose to condemn both sides. Maybe he’s just a jerk.
Also the movie co-stars Vera Farmiga, which automatically gives the film no less than a B. Besides being incredibly beautiful, she is one of the most ‘natural’ actresses I have seen in ages. In this, Departed, and Running Scared, she plays entirely different characters (well, they’re all hot women, but that’s about the only link) and never comes off as forced, or worse, ACTING! the way several of her peers do (I’m looking at you, Jolie and Theron). Plus she stars in genuinely good movies (unlike, again, Jolie and Theron), which is always nice. I tend to find that the more visually appealing an actress is, the less appealing the rest of the movie will be. Come on, name a good Halle Berry movie (X-men doesn’t count). Rachel McAdams is another exception, though I won’t cite examples. I don’t have enough readers as it is without risking turning some away by saying I liked The Notebook.
Oh well, what say you?