Monday, October 19, 2009

Whip It and Couples Retreat

Neither of these are adventure movies in the strictest sense, but they're both -- well, one of them's very good and the other one was entertaining enough. Anyway, they're what I've seen recently, so here's what I thought about each.

Whip It

At last I get roller derby. I always knew it was potentially awesome, but now that I know a little more about it, I want to know a lot more about it. Whip It is funny and touching without ever falling back on easy clichés to sell its story and it makes the sport look like a blast. Minnesota has a team that plays in Saint Paul and I am so going to a game.

Ellen Page continues to be my hero. I love how she can make characters into individuals without having to make them quirky in the process. To paraphrase King Missile, she never wants to be different just like all the other different people. Maybe it's her; maybe it's the roles that she picks, but I never feel like I'm watching a character when I'm watching her.

I also very much appreciate that her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) - though trying to push Bliss (Page) into beauty pageants she doesn't want to be in - never comes across as the villain. Mom and Bliss don't see eye to eye and there's plenty of real drama in that without their having to cartoon it up. Bliss is awesome, but she's no saint and I love that other characters call her on it. She's as much to fault as her mom when it comes to the difficulties in their relationship.

I'm not sure I've ever really liked Daniel Stern, but I loved him in this as Bliss' dad. He and Harden have a lot of chemistry. They're playing a blue collar family in a small, Texas town and it would've been easy to play them as sort of trashy and pathetic. Instead, they seem to have a really good - though certainly not perfect - relationship. I liked them almost as much as I liked Bliss, which made the family conflict very interesting to get invested in.

This might also be my favorite Drew Barrymore role ever. She deserves a ton of credit for the movie because she also directed it, but her small part as Smashley Simpson (one of Bliss' team-mates) was also a huge highlight. She was awesome every time she opened her mouth.

Even people whom I don't usually care for (Juliette Lewis and Jimmy Fallon, for example) were fantastic in this thing. Great performances, great characters, and great story.

Five out of five Babe Ruthlesses.

Couples Retreat

Went to this one because I like Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and Kristin Davis. And of course the island setting. Came out of it with a much greater appreciation for Malin Ackerman and finally seeing what everyone else sees in Kristen Bell (I never watched Veronica Mars, so I'm behind the curve). Faizon Love's got a ton of charisma too.

There are some pretty nasty plot holes (eg, Faizon Love's character is supposed to be broke, so how does he afford the trip?) and some of the conflicts are too quickly and unconvincingly resolved, but the movie has enough else going for it that's it's still a good movie. It's funny, the cast is charming, and the scenery is gorgeous. I also like the general message that - as hard as relationships can be - it's better to have a partner than to be out looking for one.

Of course, having the right partner is important and I'm not sure that all of these characters do, but the movie also has something to say about following through on your commitments and I like that too. It's definitely a movie aimed at people in a certain age and/or stage of life, but I'm right in that demographic.

Four out of five hot tubs by the sea.

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