Movies: 'The Campaign,' 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' & 'The Queen of Versailles'
Published 3:47 pm, Friday, August 17, 2012
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
Opening with Ross Perot's oft-quoted 1988 campaign statement, "War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules," the story introduces a firmly entrenched North Carolina incumbent, slick Cam Brady (Ferrell), who is challenged for his congressional seat by idealistic, insecure Marty Higgins (Galifianakis), the dim-witted, squeaky-voiced son of a local landowner (Brian Cox). Higgins' campaign is financed by the manipulative Motch brothers (John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd), who are secretly planning to build a factory in his district and "in-source" a cheap Chinese labor force. To prepare Higgins and his hapless wife (Sarah Baker) for the race, stern, black-suited Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermot) is dispatched as his campaign manager.
Based on a flimsy story by Adam McKay, Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell and broadly directed by Jay Roach ("Austin Powers," "Meet the Fockers"), it's raunchy and low-brow with an anti-corruption platform. With its satirical slogan, "America -- Jesus -- Freedom," the absurdist political mockery is nonpartisan, although there are obvious references to Anthony Weiner's crude Internet gaffes and John Edwards' sexual promiscuity and $400 haircut.
The "punching-a-baby" gag from the trailer is used not once, but twice, the second time involving Uggie, the lovable pooch from "The Artist." But the biggest laughs come when pseudo-religious Brady is asked to lead the Lord's Prayer and he riffs into, "Give us this day our daily pizza." And the Motch brothers reference the influential, real-life Koch brothers/financiers.
Television commentators Chris Matthews, Mika Brezinski, Bill Maher, Joe Scarborough and Wolf Blitzer cement the scandal-drenched coverage as Cam Brady candidly confesses, "I have made, in my lifetime, probably over 100,000 phone calls -- of which maybe 1 percent have been inappropriate."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Campaign" is a vulgar, mildly amusing, stupid 6, an uneven, superficial "Saturday Night Live" skit that goes on too long.
"THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN"
This wish-fulfillment fantasy fable centers on a despairing couple, Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim (John Edgerton) Green, who are trying to adopt a child. Told that they cannot conceive, they nevertheless envision just the kind of son they'd love to have, scribbling his various character traits on bits of paper: He'd be "honest to a fault;" "Picasso with a pencil," and "score a winning goal," just once. Tenderly, they put these scraps of paper in a box and bury it in their front yard. That night, a storm erupts -- just over their house. And, miraculously, from their garden emerges mud-caked, 10-year-old Timothy (Cameron "CJ" Adams).
While Timothy certainly has all the qualities they'd hoped for, they manifest themselves in ways his naïve, inexperienced parents never could have imagined. While Timothy lacks a belly button, he does have bright- green leaves that inexplicably sprout from his ankles. That concerns his overprotective parents because their bizarre appearance makes him look "different." Yet, having been, literally, willed into existence, Timothy serenely overcomes that obstacle, raising his arms in salutation to the sun, and becoming friends with Joni (Odeya Rush), a teenage girl who rides him around on her bicycle.
Wise beyond his years, Timothy is, indeed, quite special, teaching his doting parents several valuable life lessons before his leaves begin to brown and fall off.
Working from a somewhat muddled story by producer Ahmet Zappa (son of legendary guitarist Frank Zappa), writer/director Peter Hedges ("About a Boy," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?") uses magical realism to reveal how precious the element of time is, particularly in childhood. That's set against the dire economic stresses caused by the impending demise of the Stanleyville pencil factory, where Jim works for sleazy Franklin Crudstaff (Ron Livingston) and Cindy conducts museum tours under rigid rules set by crusty old Mrs. Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest).
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is a uniquely enchanting 8. Does it make sense? Perhaps not, but neither did "Mary Poppins" or "Peter Pan."
"THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES"
F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."
That's never been more evident than in filmmaker/photographer Lauren Greenfield's socially relevant documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges, including foreclosure, in the wake of the economic crisis.
Contemptibly irritable 73-year-old David A. Siegel made his money selling subprime time-share mortgages to people who couldn't afford them and brags about how he got Republican George W. Bush elected president in ways that were not necessarily legal. Clueless, 43-year-old blonde, botoxed and otherwise surgically enhanced Jackie acquired an engineering degree, modeled and was crowned a beauty queen before becoming Mr. Siegel's trophy third wife.
In 2007, they decided to build a 90,000-square-foot mansion in Orlando, Fla., modeled on France's Palace at Versailles. Larger than a 747 jet hangar, it's the biggest private residence in America. Designed with 30 lavish bedrooms, 23 Jacuzzi-equipped bathrooms, 10 kitchens, a ballroom, a cavernous 60-by-120-foot long central grand hall, theater, bowling alley, roller rink, two tennis courts, full-sized baseball field, separate wing for their seven children (plus a niece) and a grotto with three spas behind an 80-foot waterfall, it has his-and-her offices with a 12-foot aquarium, formal gardens, an underground garage for 20 cars and family portraits in royal robes.
Out of the 19 servants they originally hired, 15 have now been fired, prompting Jackie to candidly confess: "If I'd known I wasn't going to have nannies, I wouldn't have had so many kids."
After flying on a commercial plane rather than a private jet for the first time in decades, she rents a car from Hertz and guilelessly inquires about the name of her driver.
Since this film's release, David Siegel has filed restraining lawsuits, alleging misrepresentation, and others have questioned the legitimacy and ethics of Greenfield's shrewd editing techniques.
Nevertheless, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Queen of Versailles" is an extravagant yet surprisingly compassionate 8, a unique chronicle of the collapse of the real estate market.