Friday, February 27, 2009

And the winner is--

Right after The Golden Doorstops are the one series of awards I really care about, The Razzies. And nominated for a full complement of awards including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Actress and Worst Screen Couple (winning the last two awards) is The Hottie and the Nottie, which I had happened to write about, but failed to publish.

So without further ado, etc., etc.--here:

I loathe Paris in the summer

It's not as if the basic premise of The Hottie and the Nottie (2008) was actually amusing (grade-school boy has undying crush on grade-school girl, seeks her out ). The Farrelly brothers did this sort of thing much better with their monstrous boxoffice success There's Something About Mary (1998), only the Farrellys had the inspiration to cast Cameron Diaz (a genuine beauty with a comically unstoppable sense of good cheer) and surround her with a rogue's gallery of comic performers (Ben Stiller, Lee Evans, Christ Tucker, and a wonderfully underhanded Matt Dillon).

(That said, I don't even think Mary is the Farrelly's best work--that would be Kingpin, made two years before their breakout (and to my mind more mainstream, hence more diluted) hit: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray (ad-libbing all his lines which, incidentally, are the funniest in the picture) in a hundred and thirteen minutes of sheer mean-spiritedness (Vanessa Angel does capable supporting work as the movie's surprisingly level-headed two-legged erotic joke).

Speaking of erotic jokes, the main (perhaps only) reason to see this particular picture would be Ms. Paris Hilton herself, and while her charms--both of them--are on abundant display, I for one am unmoved: who wants to worship a pair of silicon implants, a nose job, and a bottle of bleach anyway? Mind you, I don't consider plastic surgery repulsive, straight out--I like, say, Filipino movie star Rosanna Roces, who's been candid about the work done on her by local celebrity surgeon Vicky Bello (and who is especially fine in comic roles, or in one of her handful of good films (La Vida Rosa (Life of Rosa, 2001)))--it's just that Paris is such a featureless, characterless blank on the big screen you don't have much else to look at, save for the aforementioned 'charm,' both of them.

So the opening joke is that Cristabelle Abbott (Hilton) jogs down a park path, and all the males around start losing their composure, balance, concentration, what have you; the joke actually has a double layer of meaning (a layer more than the moviemakers intended): Paris is such a self-absorbed, uncharismatic, unappealing presence (like a black hole, she just sucks all the good will from the surrounding air) you don't believe the men's discomfort for a second (think of, say, the pop star Madonna--her star power's undeniable, so long she has the thick makeup, carefully angled spotlights, outsized concert stage and sound equipment--in short, all that wealth and power and technology--around to make her look good).

Enter Nate Cooper (Joel David Moore), who has geeky features and a geek's way with women (as in: not much). His hot girlfriend had just left him (Kathryn Fiore, most notably from the Charmed TV series--which makes you want to ask: if he can land someone who looks like that, why settle for Ms. Hilton?), and he has just realized that the only woman in the world for him was the girl he fell in love with back in first grade (a girl who, as it turns out, is more than willing to return his affections). The picture shares something with Judd Apatow's Knocked Up (2007): boy-men who refuse to let go of their childishness, land in comic fantasy situations (a pregnant hot chick; a nymphomaniac childhood friend), and somehow muddle through just fine. This is comedy without teeth much less a spine, or any semblance of believability.

Rom-coms (what the romantic-comedy genre is called nowadays (the term makes it sound like a disk drive)) must have some kind of obstacle in the way of true love, and here it's June Phigg (Christine Lakin), a cute brunette made up (a huge chin mole, bad teeth, various skin rashes, granny clothes) to look hideous. Cristabelle has made herself the promise that she won't go out on a date until her best friend June has found the man of her dreams (what would you have to be smoking to make a promise like that, anyway?). So what are the chances that June will ditch her prosthetics, and clueless Nate will promptly forget Cristabelle and realize the identity of his true true love?

Surviving this movie is a matter of finding a grace note or two to focus on (otherwise you'll be ramming popcorn up your nose, in an attempt--futile one, I might add--to choke to death). Johann Urb plays Johann Wulrich, an unscrupulous dentist-slash-model who seems to be Nate's romantic rival--Urb, unlike Hilton, seems to know how to make fun of his ridiculous prettiness. When he declares that he's a dentist, male model, airplane pilot, then plucks a guitar from Nate's hands and turn the discussion into an impromptu group singing session, you can't help but like him for laying all that out with a straight face. Later, in the movie's only truly funny joke, Nate (running after his true love) confronts a shirtless Wulrich at his front door; the two are speechless, the moment electric--you almost expect them to fall into each other's arms and forget Ms. Hilton. I wish I could.

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