HOLLYWOOD — My kingdom for the horse.
As a moviegoer, my last hope as I sit through one summer picture after another is “Seabiscuit.” Indeed, after enduring everything from “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” to “The Hulk,” I’m left wondering: Is there nothing made for grownups anymore?
Where’s this year’s equivalent of “Sleepless in Seattle,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “The Sixth Sense” or “Gladiator”?
Maybe “Seabiscuit” will restore my faith in the ability of moviemakers to tell a story with flair, evoke a historic period or create some genuine dramatic tension.
Word has it the pic is lashed with liberal sentiments and uplifting messages, a cross between “Chariots of Fire” and “Hoosiers.” Even so, it sounds more promising than the trailers I’ve seen for “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “The Whole Ten Yards” or the other horse movie, “Hidalgo.”
I’m not trying to be overly critical here — it’s hard to put together even the flimsiest of movie concepts, let alone marshal the men and machines necessary to mount a major studio tentpole.
But, still, why is it so hard to be properly entertained by Hollywood’s finest from June to September? Why can’t the good movies be parceled out a little more evenly during the year so that everything geared toward adults isn’t released between Nov. 23 and Dec. 25?
I went to see “The Hulk,” and quite frankly it was a clunker — with its main character so cardboard and its supposedly “deep” insights so excruciatingly obvious.
I thought “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” would be the appropriate antidote. After all, I had heard the three lead actresses go on and on about “the empowerment of women” and all the fun they had making the pic.
But it, too, seemed targeted to the same audience of 14-year-old males as “The Hulk,” lurching as it did from one musicvideo-like sexual fantasy cliche to another.
Of course Demi Moore looked great — and that’s inspiring, since she’s 40 and in Hollywood that’s old. Less surprising, perhaps, were the unrelentingly upbeat, stiletto-heeled perfs of the principals: They ran the gamut from A to B, as Dorothy Parker once quipped about a long-ago femme thesp (Kate Hepburn, to be exact).
As for “Legally Blonde 2,” the sequel felt like a souffle that failed to rise; the Bel-Air Barbie was stuck with witless dialogue and a dog of a subplot. Reese Witherspoon was relentlessly pert, but even she couldn’t disguise this one-trick pony.
I couldn’t bring myself to fork out the cost of admission to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” since it’s based on a theme park ride, so instead I took in “Alex and Emma,” which had Dostoyevsky in the credits and Rob Reiner — he of “When Harry Met Sally” fame — at the helm. It was targeted to female baby boomers, but was ultimately insulting even to 12-year-olds.
Finally, I decided I had to take in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which, in true summer tentpole fashion, is in thrall to the special effects machines that produced it.
The pic comes across as humorless and metallic, though there are nice performances by Nick Stahl and Claire Danes; and having a female cyborg Terminatrix, played by Kristanna Loken, is a nice touch.
Despite these occasional pleasures, “T3” eventually pulverized my spirit as it numbed my eardrums.
The portentous one-liners delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in that unmistakable Austro-Californian cadence made me think Arnie may in fact be just what the state needs in politics. At least we wouldn’t have to sit through a “T4.” (The moviemakers themselves were careful to protect Schwarzenegger’s other career prospects by making sure he spills no human blood in this latest sequel.)
One movie that was appealing — and which I suspect could end up being the highest-grossing movie of the year — was “Finding Nemo.” That one I saw with my niece, my sister and my mother, and we all liked it — the first time that’s ever happened for us (age range 12-82).
Leaving aside the delightful look of it, the acting of Ellen DeGeneres as that ditzy Dory has so far put everyone else’s perf to shame.
Of course no moviemaker need care what I think, but they should care that there must be millions out there like me who are frustrated by what’s been churned out like this season. After all, some of these movies cost upwards of $150 million. To recoup, they’ve got to attract at least some folks over 18. (Moviegoing is down 6% so far this summer over last.)
So if “Seabiscuit” doesn’t do it for me, I’m going to give up on the multiplexes for a while. While all the teens are flocking to “Bad Boys,” I will be curled up on my sofa watching “The Philadelphia Story” for the umpteenth time.