Now in theaters: Holes, Bend It Like Beckham and A Mighty Wind.
Holes Holes is based on a huge, Harry Potter-like, best seller, and it took me less time to read the book than it did to watch this movie — not a good thing.
Director Andrew Davis did The Fugitive and Steven Seagal movies. But kids' films need, shall we say, a lighter touch. Characters have to be played straight, even when they're played by Jon Voight and Sigourney Weaver, two of the best actors in film. Voight, especially, mugs his way through Holes unmercifully.
The convoluted story takes us through four generations and, yes, there are holes in the script big enough to bury the Chrysler Building. The film actually gets it names from the ditches kids in a Texas camp for juvenile delinquents are forced to dig.
There are flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, a kissing bandit, a Latvian curse, a father who's trying to invent a way to recycle sneakers, a kid who ends up on a chain gang. It does all come together in the last reel. Remarkably. And tearfully. But by that time, they've lost everyone who isn't a fan of the book. Grade: C.
Bend It Like Beckham Opening in more theaters every week, Bend It Like Beckham is being marketed like My Big Fat Greek Wedding — building word of mouth. I call it My Big Fat Sikh Wedding.
It's about an Indian girl named Jess who lives in East London. She's a terrific soccer player, but her mom doesn't want her playing soccer. She wants Jess to settle down, learn to cook, and marry a nice Indian boy.
Her mother sighs the guilt-inducing sigh sighed by thousands of mothers of every ethnic type — with a wonderful Indian twist: "What did I do in a past life to deserve this?" A top contender for the best line of dialogue of 2003.
An exquisite coming-of-age film, Bend It Like Beckham will remind you of My Big Fat Greek Wedding because that's the last time watching a movie made you feel this good. Check your medical plan. This movie will make you feel so good, your medical plan might pay for the tickets. Grade: A-.
A Mighty Wind Here's the movie I couldn't wait to see. A Mighty Wind combines the comic talents of the band members from Spinal Tap (Harry Shearer, Chris Guest, Michael McKean) with the crew (Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, McKean again, Gene Levy who wrote, Guest again who wrote and directed) that did Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show — two of the funniest movies ever. And I mean that.
Wind — a reunion of '60s folk music heros — works the same way as Guffman and Show: The story's outlined, and the great cast ad-libs their lines. Some of it is fall-down funny. Here's what works: the look, the costumes, wigs, beards, album covers, and the music.
A Mighty Wind is more gentle than Guest's previous outings, maybe because folk music is a more sympathetic target, and some of the characters just don't work here.
But the film's faults don't break a mighty wind. It's still one of the most brilliant comedies of the year. The CD soundtrack is genius. It's just that Chris Guest set the bar so high with his first two films, this one's a bit disappointing. Grade: B+