'American Reunion' lacks laughs, 'Titanic 3D' still has magic
Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse
Published Thursday, April 5, 2012 7:58AM EDT
Richard's Review: 1 star for the movie, 3 stars for Eugene Levy, 2 stars overall
In the latest installment of the "American Pie" franchise it's the 13th high school reunion for some very recognizable characters: Jim, Oz, Kevin, Stifler, Finch, Vicky (Tara Reid) and Michelle. The question is will their 13th anniversary be bad luck for them, moviegoers or both?
Since their graduation in 1999 the old gang has gone their separate ways. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married with a son. Oz (Chris Klein) is an L.A. sportscaster who once appeared on a reality TV dance show. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a stay-at-home dad. Stifler (Seann William Scott) is an office temp and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a man of mystery.
Their weekend back in East Great Falls, Michigan brings back old memories, creates some new ones and uncovers some long-held secrets. But plot is not one of "American Reunion's" strong points.
I expected something more from "Harold and Kumar" helmers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who also wrote and directed "Reunion." None of the surreal feel of their best-known comedy seeped into this movie. Instead, we get a by-the-numbers high-school reunion flick with enough "we're not as young as we used to be" shtick to fill a textbook on how not to write a high-school reunion comedy.
Luckily Eugene Levy is along for the ride. He rescues every scene he's in, adding in some touches of real humor. Ditto for Seann William Scott as Stifler. He's a classic moron character, but there is something about the commitment Scott shows to Stifler's idiocy that makes his shameless mugging and language one of the movie's pleasures.
Aside from that, only one set piece really works. It's an extended sequence with a drunken girl young enough to call the Spice Girls "classic rock."
As for the cast, everyone is in full-blown "American Pie" mode, à la 1999. No surprises there, although the movie could easily have been subtitled, "What Ever Happened to Tara Reid?" She has a small supporting role that plays more like a cautionary tale of faded success than a comeback role in a Hollywood movie.
At almost two hours, "American Reunion" feels longer than the lectures given by my old history teacher, Mr. Parker. But it may appeal to fans of the series and of Eugene Levy. Otherwise, this is a direct-to-DVD movie that lacks the lreal aughs to qualify for theatrical release.
Richard's Review: 4 stars
Fans of Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) needn't worry that James Cameron has tinkered with their story of love, loss and icebergs. His massive 3D redo of "Titanic" hasn't altered the movie, it's enhanced what was already there. There are no extra scenes, Winslet's American accent is still dodgy and Celine Dion still croons that ear-wormy song. But the movie works better now than it did when it rode the top of the box office charts for 15 weeks in 1997.
The first hour remains as clunky as ever with its wooden dialogue and manipulative story. Once the ship starts to sink, however, the power of the movie becomes clear.
Cameron's crew of 3D artists breathed new life into this film by meticulously remastering every frame of the picture. Unlike the shoddy 3D retrofits of films like "Clash of the Titans" -- which Cameron has very publicly railed against for their dark look -- the "Titanic" upgrade is a triumph. It's bright, in sharp focus and beautiful to watch.
The 3D ups the drama and terror in this story. As the ship hits the iceberg water gushes everywhere in a way that 2D simply can't convey and the scenes of the dead and dying floating in the cold waters of the Atlantic really come to life.
Standout moments include Rose's suicide threat (the sense of depth as she looks over the railing is startling), the swirling camera work on the grand staircase and, of course, Winslet's nude scene. Thanks to the 3D it's more eye-popping than ever.
You may have already seen "Titanic." It grossed $1.8 billion, so chances are many of moviegoers saw it more than once. But you've never seen it like this.
Richard's Review: 4 1/2 stars
Bullying is one of the more commonplace examples of bad behaviour. It can manifest itself as a belittling remark at work, intimidation in the locker room or, if you are Alex, one of the subjects of the new documentary "Bully," in physical abuse that makes the bus ride home from school everyday a harrowing experience.
Director Lee Hirsch shows us the bullying on the bus -- Alex is slapped, punched, choked and even stabbed. But what is almost more disturbing is the aftermath of these encounters. Blank-faced Alex listens to his mother as she says, "These people are not your friends." He replies, "If they aren't my friends, then who is?"
Moments like this and others are the thing that give "Bully it's power, especially for parents of kids who have killed themselves as a result of bullying or for one family who are now considering leaving their Oklahoma town to protect their gay daughter from abuse.
This isn't a Michael Moore style doc, with a glib host walking you through the issue at hand. This is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that coolly observes and reports on its subject. Occasionally the detachment can be frustrating. Watching the kids torment Alex is difficult, but it's crucial to the story.
No stunts are required to amplify the impact of the message. In its raw, unadulterated form, "Bully" shines a light on a social problem and while it doesn't offer many solutions (it does refer viewers to a website), it makes us look at the problem in a new way. Seeing the ugliness of the bullying and its impact here is a revelation.
There are heroes here, like the Oklahoma farmer who responds to his son's suicide by starting a youth movement to battle bullying. There are villains, like the teachers who dismiss parents' concerns with a wave of their hand and a "We're doing everything we can" attitude. But it is the bullied kids who will stick in your mind long after watching the film.