“The Words”

Richard’s Review:  0 stars

The structure of “The Words” is mind-bending. It’s the story of a reading of “The Words,” a novel about a young writer who commits a great literary sin. This makes up the narrative thrust of the movie -- until a second narrator shows up and takes over the story from the first one. Like that M.C. Escher painting of one hand drawing another, it’s hard to tell where this story wrapped-in-a-story, wrapped-in-a-moral dilemma begins or ends.

Dennis Quaid plays Clay Hammond, a bestselling author speaking in front of a black-tie crowd. Reading from his book “The Words,” he spins a tale about struggling author Rory (Bradley Cooper) who is so desperate for success that he submits a manuscript he didn’t write to a top agent. He found the yellowed, typed pages tucked inside an antique briefcase he bought while on honeymoon in Paris.

The book is a work of genius and gets published. Soon Rory is being treated like the next big thing.

Here’s where things get confusing and a bit mind-bending. As told by Clay, Rory meets the old man (Jeremy Irons) who wrote the book after the war while he was married to a French national. Then, in a terrible accent, Irons tells the tale of how the book came to be written. It’s a story within a story that was already being told through the framework of the film’s narrative. Before dropping a major plot point the old man says, “Wait! This is where things get interesting.”

If only he were right.

The film continues with yet another subplot about a young woman named Danielle (Olivia Wilde) who tries to seduce Clay at the intermission of his book reading. There are also more flashbacks (which have all the charm of documentary reenactments) and even more of Rory’s moral dilemma.  

As for the rest of the story, well, words fail me. Or should I say, “The Words” failed me.

As might be appropriate for a film called “The Words,” the script is wordy.  Trouble is, very few of the words are terribly interesting. We are supposed to believe that Hammond is a great writer, capable of filling a theatre with people who will be transported by his brilliant way of turning a phrase and telling a story. Too bad there’s no evidence of that in the film. There’s no artfulness on display in the considerable amount of narration Clay vocalizes. For the most part Clay sounds like he’s reading a police report. “And on a Friday afternoon, they were married at City Hall. They honeymooned in Paris.”

Clay isn’t the only character saddled with trite words. The old man, apparently a genius wordsmith, can only seem to offer up platitudes like “You can’t escape the past.” Or bad writing, as it turns out.

At the centre of most of the action is Rory, and although he disappears for 20 minutes in the middle of the movie he keeps the story chugging along. Perhaps Cooper is trying to distance himself from his most famous character, the smarmy Phil of “The Hangover” fame.  But I found myself wishing for that masturbating monkey from those films to show up and liven things up.

“The Words” is too earnest by half. It is set in a world where people weep after reading the book, where the romantic myth of the troubled, drunken writer banging out his masterpiece on an old Underwood typewriter is a reality and where we’re told that great artists must choose between life and fiction. “They’re very close,” Clay intones seriously, “but they’re two different things.” Thanks for clearing that up.

This bizarrely plotted, ponderous movie yearns to be an important take on the creative lives of artists. Instead, it’s simply pretentious and dull.   

“High School”  DVD

Richard’s Review:  3 stars

A story of a MIT-bound student (Matt Bush) who concocts a plan to get everyone in his school high to avoid detection in a mandatory drug test is a slight, but funny stoner comedy. High points include Michael Chiklis’s hilarious anti-drug principal, Adrien Brody’s Psycho Ed and Colin Hanks as a reluctant authority figure. It feels a bit like things we’ve seen before -- think “Superbad” with a hint of “Harold and Kumar.” But “High School” has a decidedly anti-pot message which I found surprising given the movie’s premise.

“Piranha 3DD”  (DVD)

Richard’s Review: 2 1/2  stars

Any movie with a title like “Piranha 3DD” comes with a certain level of expectations. Does it meet them? Well, yes. There are piranhas; it’s in 3D and the double entendre extra D is amply on display.

This movie takes place some time after an underwater tremor unleashed thousands of prehistoric piranhas, turning the nubile teen swimmers of Lake Victoria into fish food. This time the cold-blooded killers get all bitey at a family water park -- where apparently topless women are encouraged to jump up and down. The park is run by a sleazy business man (David Koechner) who refuses to believe that the fish could migrate into his pool through the illegal well he dug to save money on water. Pretty soon, however, the waters run red and as beach bunnies are being gobbled even David Hasselhoff, the world’s most famous lifeguard, goes to battle against the hungry fish.

Here’s some advice for visitors to the Big Wet Waterpark: Don’t order the fish fingers at the lunch stand. You won’t like what you get.

Whether moviegoers will like what they get in “Piranha 3DD” depends on your level of expectation. This sequel to 2010’s “Piranha” contains more horror than humour.

Gallons of gore are spilled, there’s the strangest, bloodiest sex scene of recent memory and there are some tense scenes of piranhas almost nipping at the heels of the usual assortment of hotties that populate these kinds of movies. But the fish are so fake looking its hard to imagine getting this worked up over a dollar store rubber piranha.

This film might have worked better as a Saturday matinee movie -- if it was funnier. Ving Rhames gets a laugh as a deputy whose legs were eaten in the first movie when he bellows, “Bring me my legs,” before going to war on the fish.  Hasselhoff also tries to raise a smile in his extended cameo, but the laughs are as water logged as the premise of the film.

“Piranha 3DD” delivers on the promise of its title, but little else.