Bringing up Baby:
This is widely considered the classic Screwball comedy, which is kind of like being the best exhibit at the World's Fair. Congratulations, you kick a whole lot of ass...or would if it were fifty years ago and I were driving an Edsel*. It's not that it's a bad movie, it's just that it isn't particularly funny or original seeming. The latter may be because it has been ripped off so often but the former is an issue that can't be so easily ignored. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are still hilarious today, so it's not just that comedy doesn't age, it's that comedies back then were more like dramatic comedies than films played for laugh. They were lighthearted films that ended happily, and Bringing Up Baby fits this bill perfectly.
Unfortunately being lighthearted without being funny means that it ends up being somewhat pleasant to watch, but not much more. It doesn't help matters that strong independent woman of the time Katherine Hepburn comes off as a flighty idiot. The love between Carey Grant's character and hers is entirely unbelievable and kind of boring. It's not a bad film, not at all, but it doesn't hold up for me like so many other classics. You can see the genesis of a lot of American comedy in films like these but I for one am glad that we've moved on to stuff like The Producers or even Old School.
On the Baldwin Rating Scale it gets an Alec in historical context and a reluctant Steven for the modern viewer.
This weekend seemed like a good time to dive into Tom Cruise's catalog of excellently homo eroticism free film performances (in which he personally, PERSONALLY, cures film goers of their drug addictions through the power of his acting.) I decided to start with this one because it was one of those movies I'd been looking forward until I read reviews, and sometimes those turn out to be better than the press. This one wasn't.
It started reasonably well, though I'm not a fan of the jittery hand-held camera work in a film like this, it feels cheap and distracting. The opening sequences establishing the characters were engaging and interesting. Then the actual film starts and it begins to unravel. The problem is with the script, Mann directs the long stretches of dialog with enough skill to keep things interesting and the action sequences are tight and entertaining. On the other hand the characters are all sketched in with Mamet sparsity, but without Mamet's gift for dialog or tense relationships. You don't really care about what's going on or what's going to happen, and that's a big flaw in a film like this that wants to be a thriller. The world of L.A. at night is also rendered in a flat style that makes it seem almost dead. This may be intentional, but it was not a good choice.
The film's climax is as absurd and ridiculous as you've probably heard, and really takes it down a few notches. It makes what worked earlier, the cold professionalism of the Assassin's rounds seem almost accidental and it leaves you rolling your eyes and waiting for the credits. It's almost as if the studio let Mann make 3/4 of the film he wanted and then asked him to turn the end into a standard big-budget picture. "Make it like Die Hard in an office building!"
As for the acting? Pretty decent. Tom Cruise does a believable killer and his gray hair and beard work well to ameliorate his boyish charm. On the other hand when he's asked to talk all fancy and stuff he comes off as a little flat and vapid. I don't think that's current events weighing on my opinion, though the fault, dear Brutus, could lie with the script.
Up until the end Collateral had a decent change at being a Steven, but when you start going all ridiculous blockbuster on me and don't even give me some fancy stuff 'splodin' well...
*Edsels are like kryptonite to the ladies, and don't let anyone tell you different.