GUEST POST: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

There are few, if any, straddlers on the Wes Anderson Fence.  People either love his work and celebrate his relentless attention to detail and characters or they loathe him for what usually amounts to superficial reasons (‘That stupid font!’ they cry.  ‘Oh, another slow-motion sequence set to a song from the ‘60s’ they moan).  But, whether you adore or despise him, there is no mistaking that Anderson is a director in the truest sense because his films are unmistakably his, a feat easier said than done.  It’s apparent that every frame of his movies are painstakingly prepared for, obsessed about, and executed to match his vision.  How many other directors working today can you say that about?*

I, like the fine editors of this website, love Wes Anderson.  The Royal Tenenbaums is a movie I’ve watched countless times, a cinematic comfort food for my brain.  I’m normally terrible at remembering quotes from shows and movies but I have vast chunks of dialogue from RT safely lodged upstairs for instant recall.

RT opens with Alec Baldwin providing the voiceover for a faux book by the same name.  Here we learn about the ‘family of geniuses’ when they were at their apex, growing up at the house on Archer Avenue**.   In a sprawling, 15-minute montage that opens the film we meet the children – Chas, the business genius, Richie, the tennis savant, and Margot, the budding playwright (shown as ‘grown-ups’ as Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow, respectively).  And, naturally, we meet Royal (Gene Hackman), who makes an immediate impact as the aloof patriarch who would put his foot in his mouth if he was conscious of just how unintentionally offensive he could be (he introduces his daughter as ‘This is my adopted daughter, Margot’ without fail; he chuckles after shooting Chas with a BB gun in an act of backyard treason).  The dream cast is rounded out by: Anjelica Huston as Etheline, Royal’s wife by title only; Danny Glover as soft-spoken accountant and bullshit-sniffer Henry Sherman; Bill Murray, donning a Freudian beard and eyeglasses as Margot’s psychologist husband Raleigh St. Clair; and Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the film) as pseudo-intellectual hanger-on Eli Cash.

And that’s one of the great commonalities in all Wes Anderson films: a wide cast of characters who are simultaneously ridiculous and yet totally relatable.  In the kids, we’re shown the promise of youth; as adults, expectations left unfulfilled.  Eli Cash (co-writer Owen Wilson), the drug-addled friend from across the street who “always wanted to be a Tenenbaum” is jealousy/approval-seeking personified.  Who, as a kid, hasn’t wanted to join another family?***  Royal, a man who just wants to put a nice bow on a life where he misplayed a number of hands, is man’s want for redemption and closure.

The plot finds the entire family back under one roof in a perfect storm of circumstance; Chas is worried about the safety of his sons, Ari and Uzi, an extension of his grief over losing his wife the previous year.  Margot’s severe writers block can’t be salvaged by secretly chain-smoking in the bathtub anymore and needs to recharge.  And Richie, who post-tennis has traversed the world trying to get over his (adopted!) sister, decides to come home as well.

Meanwhile, Royal gets kicked out of the hotel where he has taken up residence for not paying his bill and decides that the only way to get his family back is to fake having stomach cancer.  True to his character, Royal’s intentions are both well-meaning and ulterior; he wants to make things right with his family only because it conveniently coincides with his eviction.  When he’s found out to be a faker, the family is not so much mad or disappointed as they are mildly unsurprised; it’s just Royal being Royal.  It’s only after Richie attempts suicide (forever making Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle In the Hay’ one of the most depressing songs ever since it foreshadowed Smith’s own suicide…. and yes, this is still a comedy) that a switch is really flipped in Royal.   That’s what makes RT  my favorite Wes Anderson movie (a Sophie’s Choice on steroids if there ever was one): seeing Royal finally figuring things out by the movie’s end is proof that an old dog can learn new tricks, but they might take a whole lot of practice to get right.

– Baron

*Here, in the cowardly confines of the footnotes, I’ll make a confession – the first time I saw Rushmore I didn’t ‘get’ it.  I was also a dumb college freshman whose horizons were about as broad as dental floss, still a few years off from realizing there was more to cinema than what the Blockbuster New Releases section had to offer.  Not to mention that so much of really appreciating movies is circumstantial.  The when/where/who with can really effect your perception, especially when your brain is still in kind of an embryonic state.  So maybe half-watching it in a stuffy dorm room was not my best introduction to old Wesley.  Watching it again a few years later I felt ridiculous for not having embraced it immediately, the same way someone who voted for Ralph Nader might feel.

**The Royal Tenenbaums takes place in a weird, timeless Manhattan (save for the tombstones in the cemetery, which let you know that this takes place in the early 2000’s… though everything else in the film would lead you to believe its the 80’s.  That could just be due to the Tenenbaum childrens’ clothing choices [Chas’s Adidas jumpsuits, Richie’s Bjorn Borg-inspired outfits] as an outlet for their arrested development).  The Tenenbaums’ house on ‘Archer Avenue’ (of which there is one in Queens) is actually on 144th Street in Harlem.  Royal recoups after being kicked out of the house at the 375th Street YMCA (no such thing).  Even the shot in Battery Park where Pagoda (the ultimate wingman, if not for the whole stabbing thing) is telling Royal about Mr. Sherman’s proposal to Etheline was done so that he would block the Statue of Liberty (see below).

*** Particularly when you get a narrow glimpse of what it’s like in someone else’s house, where dysfunction is stowed away just enough to make you question your own family’s normalcy (when, it turns out, everyone is a little nuts in the end).

Baron is an editor at the sister website, Music’s Okay (I Guess). Click on the hyperlink to read his thoughts on all things music.


Bottle Rocket (1996)

The Royal Tenenbaums was my first Wes Anderson film, and with a cast like that, how could I not love it? Well, I guess there was a possibility I wouldn’t, as numerous films have proven that having the right actors does not necessarily a good movie make. But this was not the case, and I made sure to watch all of his subsequent films as they came out, and have enjoyed each of them (some more than others) in turn. I also made sure to hit up his preceding film, Rushmore, but his first full-length feature, 1996’s Bottle Rocket, was the only one of his films that I simply hadn’t gotten around to. What better excuse to tie up that loose end than a week of Wes Anderson here on Film’s Okay (I Guess)?

Bottle Rocket centers around Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson), the latter assisting the former “escape” from a voluntary mental ward. Dignan is obsessed with planning out anything and everything he does, and this naturally includes anyone working with him. After a test heist on Anthony’s house, the two ask Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave) to be their getaway driver, the main reason for this being that he’s the only one of the three who owns a car. After successfully robbing a small bookstore (which is comic in its casualness between the robbers and the victims, including chasing down Rob who’s supposed to be in Literature but isn’t), they decide to lay low at hotel now that they’re “fugitives.” Here Anthony meets Inez (Lumi Cavazos) and is immediately smitten. Despite the fact that she speaks little to no English, Anthony manages to woo her.

Bob suddenly must leave after finding out his brother has been arrested following the discovery of Bob’s marijuana plot in their backyard, and sneaks out in the middle of the night, leaving his partners in crime on their own and Dignan incensed that Bob “stole” his own car. After using an exasperated dishwasher as a translator, Inez tells Anthony that she can’t come with him, nor does she want him to stay. Heartbroken, Anthony gives her an envelope that, unbeknownst to her, contains the majority of their recent spoils, and leaves. Inez decides after the fact that she does indeed love Anthony, and asks the aforementioned dishwasher relay to Dignan this information. Unfortunately, Dignan thinks that the dishwasher is confessing his love for Anthony, and dismisses him outright.

Afterwards, Anthony decides to try living an honest life, only to find himself dragged back into another one of Dignan’s plans along with Bob, this time with a larger group and backed by the well-to-do Mr. Henry (James Caan). As Anthony and Dignan prep themselves for the heist, Dignan mentions the dishwasher’s message, and Anthony, realizing what has happened, contacts the now English-fluent Inez, and they decide to start their relationship anew. Anthony returns to the heist, and naturally everything begins to go wrong, culminating in one of the group being shot in the arm by Bob and Dignan’s arrest while he attempts to help the injured member of the team as the rest of the group flees.

Later, it is revealed that Mr. Henry robbed Bob’s house, but this has apparently brought a form of peace between Bob and his usually abusive brother. Bob and Anthony visit Dignan in prison, and after leading them on with an elaborate escape plan, reveals that he’s only joking, and comments on the irony of how he’s in jail but Anthony is no longer in the nuthouse. He then heads back into prison with a slight grin on his face.

The best part of Bottle Rocket is probably seeing the beginnings of Wes Anderson’s signature style emerging, even at this stage, his trademark camera work, writing (although half of this is Owen Wilson, a frequent collaborator) and quirky characters are all present. While some filmgoers may dismiss Anderson’s work as “pretentious” and “indie hipster trash,” it’s important to note that this type of argument is used by those who don’t understand the kind of film Anderson creates. He practically dissects his characters right in front of us, lays open their eccentricities and flaws, and takes us (and them) through situations that tend to only exacerbate their problems. We really get into the meat of the characters, we relate to them, and to put it in another way, it’s simply very human.

Some have described Bottle Rocket as their least favorite Anderson film, so I was somewhat wary. But one must keep in mind that “least favorite” does not imply in any way that the film in question wasn’t up to par, rather, that in the company of great films, being at the bottom of the totem pole isn’t a bad thing. Interestingly, at the time Bottle Rocket was made it reportedly scored the lowest of any film during a test screening at Columbia Pictures, and while I can definitively say that there are other Anderson films that I like more, I’m pleased to say that I personally found Bottle Rocket to be just as well-crafted as the director’s other offerings, and in many ways, a look at the beginnings of great things to come.


Rushmore (1998)

While I loved my time in Boone and Appalachian State, going to school in a small, Western North Carolina town wasn’t without its drawbacks. The more time you spent in the area, the more these caveats seemed to decrease in severity—except for two, at least, in my experience. The first was the cold. Specifically the wind and its chill which cut through my skinny ass like Machete’s blade cut though racism. The second and more egregious fault I had with the town was its lack of movie theater options, which made it next to impossible to bring any art house or limited release films to Boone. For a movie buff like me, this was the kiss of death. Later on in my college career, regular trips to the Queen City or Asheville would help alleviate this dire circumstance that I found myself in, but those first couple of years got to be brutal.

Luckily, I had a good support system of likeminded movie fanatics and we would obsess over the films that we would never get a chance to see theatrically. Ben Bailey was the first cinephile I met during my freshman year of college, and luckily for me, he lived right next door to me in the dorms. Despite living only one door down from Ben, I didn’t actual meet him until Halloween and I don’t remember the circumstances that caused us to talk about movies until the wee hours of the morning, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Ben had, at the time, the largest DVD collection I had ever seen (this was 1998 and he had somewhere between 50–100 flicks on a medium that had only been out a short while), a kick-ass sound system and TV to view them on, a love for movie trailers, and an encyclopedic knowledge and love of film that lead to a discussion of Kevin Dunn’s acting prowess. This would lead us to watching a ton of movies—both terrible and amazing—oftentimes in double or triple feature mode, fostering a rather enormous preoccupation with movies that had yet to be released, scouring the Internet for early reviews, random casting news, and trailers that would hopefully give as a good look at what all the hype was about.

One such movie was Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, a film I wouldn’t be able to lay eyes on until the following summer when it came out on VHS (remember those?) and DVD. Since the movie was released in time for Oscar consideration in 1998 and then went wide in early 1999, this was a wait that seemed like it would never come to an end. On the Tuesday it came out for purchase, I drove out to the local Circuit City (remember those?) and plunked down $30 bucks blindly; that’s how much faith I had in the director’s sophomore effort. I had been a big fan of his first film, 1996’s Bottle Rocket, and I could tell from the preview that Anderson had taken his game to the next level. I got home and for only the second time in my life, I watched the same film twice in a row. The next day I watched Rushmore twice more, each viewing taking place with a friend or family member present that I just HAD to share this newfound film. Yes, it was pure, unadulterated love at 24 frames per second, and it washed over me instantaneously, creating that full-body film buzz that only the great films can supply.

Rushmore follows the exploits of an eccentric teenager named Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman), a student of a prestigious academy that bares the same handle as the film. Max is best described as a doer rather than a thinker. He’s also a self-proclaimed collector of activities and along with his best friend, Dirk Calloway (Mason Gamble, Denis the Menace in the early ’90s film adaptation), act as creators of a plethora of clubs in which the duo appear to be the only members of. Max is a sharp kid but his grades don’t reflect it, and he is running the risk for expulsion from the school he invests so much of his time in. Rather than buckling down and focusing on his grades, Max begins to try to pull strings that he thinks will help him stay in his beloved school, all the while becoming distracted by his infatuation for a teacher, Mrs. Cross, played by Olivia Williams. This new-found obsession replaces his old one and is complicated by the presence of an industrialist millionaire by the name of Herman Blume (Bill Murray), at first a friend and mentor, later a rival in the quest for the affections of Mrs. Cross. A deadly game of one-upmanship breaks out between Blume and Fisher, with increasingly outlandish and near-deadly pranks occurring at a rapid-fire pace, further jeopardizing Max’s standing not only in his beloved Rushmore Academy, but his relationships with Dirk, Blume, and Mrs. Cross as well.

With Rushmore, Anderson was able to fully flush out the motifs and style he began establishing in Bottle Rocket and would carry with him throughout his career. His themes that explore the dynamics of family and community are well established in his second outing and his visual style and general aesthetic choices come into their own. The elaborate set designs (later to be dwarfed by The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums, especially), the attention to detail and self-aware nature that helps to foster an informed perspective for whatever or whomever he points his lens at, meticulous framing and camera movement, eloquent, signature slow motion shots, and his ability to explore the melancholy of human nature without sacrificing an inch when it comes to investing his art with humor that forever remains true to characters he unmistakably loves with all of his heart. Yet all of the reasons I love Rushmore and Wes Anderson’s work are precisely the same reasons that his detractors rant and rave against him. Their major argument—and one that I couldn’t disagree with more—is that his style has ossified. Personally, I love that his style is consistent from film to film. I LOVE the fact that I know what I’m going to get when going into his latest effort, and in a way, it’s like catching up with an old friend–all that changes are the stories that he’s relating. Like it or not, his talent always shines through.

At its heart, Rushmore is a coming-of-age story focused on the pursuit of the unattainable, a manifestation of one’s own will in relation to the out of reach, glorified conquest. The film revels in its indie sensibility and even helps to refine and embellish the traits in Bottle Rocket that I was so taken only a couple of years prior. Once again Anderson pairs with his University of Texas classmate, Owen Wilson, for writing duties, and the tone the duo creates still reigns as their clearest balance of the authentic and the uncanny, creating a storybook vibe the best of his films impart to their audiences. In order to achieve these results, they frame the film almost like a play, with seasons replacing acts by way of drawn curtains. They give the gift of juicy dialogue to the wonderful troupe of actors they assembled, who in turn help to relate the feeling of growing up with all its angst, rebellion, snootiness, embarrassment, and yes, even the thirst for revenge.

Originally conceived as a British exchange student, the character of Max Fisher should have been nothing like what we have today (the British Invasion–focused soundtrack is all that’s left to remind us of this original narrative thread). To that I say thank God for allowing the director to take a risk with Jason Schwartzman. In his first film role, the actor manages to drive down deep into the heart of Max and all his quirky personality traits, creating a fully rounded character that’s hard to like at times but always human. It became obvious early on the first time that I watched the film that Schwartzman would be around for a long time, with his humorous line readings and the wealth of chemistry he possesses with the cast (that he holds his own with by the way, no easy feat considering some of the powerhouse thespians that show up in supporting roles). As I mentioned before, one of those supporting cast members is none other than Bill Murray, a legendarily prickly actor who had fallen on hard times prior to the release of Rushmore. The star’s last two headlining efforts—The Man Who Knew too Little and Larger than Life—were less than stellar, and when watching them it became obvious that he was tired of the same old shtick and needed a change of pace. As Herman Blume, Murray found one of his best roles and he knew it, crafting one of his signature performances. Anderson knew Murray would nail the role and requested him outright. Much to his surprise, Murray responded with a yes almost immediately (an ultra rare occurrence as any response at all is a long-shot), creating a long-lasting, fruitful artistic relationship between the director and actor and establishing a second act for Murray’s career: go to indie actor.

While I enjoy and own all of Wes Anderson’s films, Rushmore has managed to remain my favorite—and his best effort, in my opinion—of his oeuvre. Recently several of my friends and I took part in a nerd exercise of the highest order in which we listed our top 100 films of the ’90s. After much hand wringing, I’m pleased to report it clocked in at the number 6 spot. While it’s hard for me to imagine the auteur creating another film that could knock Rushmore off its perch, I know that if any director is capable of it, it’s Wes Anderson. The reviews coming out of Cannes this year for the director’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, are certainly promising, so yet again it appears it’s time for me to scour the Internet for any tidbits I can find. The trailer has been viewed ad nauseam and anticipation has reached a fever pitch. And I would be willing to hazard a guess that Ben Bailey, the rest of the Film’s Okay (I Guess) editors, and film buffs the world over feel the same way.


The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

A dazzling display of the talents of Wes Anderson. Inspired by a screening of Jean Renoir’s The River with Martin Scorsese and the works of Satyajit Ray and co-written by Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, The Darjeeling Limited is the tale of three brothers who reunite about a year after their father’s death in order to reconnect with each other, reunite with their absent mother and quest to find spiritual enlightenment.  It’s also a masterclass in screwball comedy, sibling rivalry and brilliant character study.

The film technically opens with the very European short “Hotel Chevalier” in which we are first introduced to one of the three titular brothers, Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and his tumultuous relationship with his ex (played by Natalie Portman) as they reunite in a French hotel room. Their relationship recalls a little Last Tango in Paris a little Bad Timing as they interrogate each other on their recent paths (he has been residing at the hotel for some time, she appears with mysterious bruises on her body). The short sucks you in with their mysterious relationship and leaves one pondering many questions. I often wonder what the correlation is between Jack wearing a full suit but bare feet and (in the final shot) his ex fully nude but wearing socks. The short features many items which will appear prominently in the feature film including a briefcase marked with the initials J.L.W., an expensive ladies’ perfume and Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” cued up on Jack’s iPod. The short climaxes with one of my favorite Wes Anderson moments to date. His signature slow motion shot, this one involving a nude Natalie Portman perched against an armoire as Jack crosses the room and covers her with a yellow bathrobe.

The real feature kicks off with a marvelous Wes Anderson bang. A taxicab rushes in and out of traffic. Its nervous passenger is an American businessman (Bill Murray in a nearly wordless performance). In a hilarious display of physical comedy and Murray’s prowess we watch him desperately attempt to catch a departing train and as he fails to reach the train’s rear entrance the film slow mos into Adrien Brody running along side of him and leaping aboard. He looks back, removes his sunglasses and gives a long look at the middle-aged, well-dressed and now stranded stranger. A reminiscence of his father? More on this to come.

Once aboard the train, The Darjeeling Limited, we witness the reunion of Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Schwartzman) and a brilliant chemistry of three male leads is quickly revealed. Trivia: The names of the brothers are taken from Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Jack Nicholson. We quickly learn that its been some time since these three were together: Francis sports a head bandage from a motorcycle accident, Peter has a child on the way and Jack has been living in Europe hiding from his past for nearly a year. Francis has a plan to talk to each other “like they used to” and travel India in search of a spiritual experience. Secretly he also plans to track down their mother (Anjelica Huston) who has moved to a convent somewhere in the Himalayas.

The first half of the film is absolute hilarity. The brothers clash over everything from Francis’ fake tooth, to the length of Jack’s short stories to Peter’s wearing of their father’s glasses. The quest for enlightenment falls apart in a series of events as the train gets lost (“How can a train be lost, its on rails?”), a local shoeshine boy steals one of Francis’ designer shoes, and Jack pursues the girlfriend of the train’s chief steward. The combination of non-prescription Indian painkillers, a poisonous snake and a physical fight between brothers gets the trio kicked off the train and stranded in the desert. It is at the seeming end of their relationship that their true journey begins.

Despite all of Francis’ planning and attempts to get a spiritual connection with his siblings it is not the beautiful temples of India that bring the trio together but real life itself. A horrific incident at a river brings the boys into the heart of a small Indian village and for the first time they get the connection they’ve been looking for. The reluctant father-to-be Peter is emotionally tested and the problems between the three begin to fade away. Immediately following a slow motion take of the newly bonded threesome we see a brilliant flashback of the family just before their father’s funeral that expertly displays what separated them in the first place. Its a perfectly choreographed segment and placed elegantly within the film, giving this viewer a deeper emotional response.

Anyone who writes off Wes Anderson’s films as style over substance is pure bullshit. First off anyone who complains about Anderson’s signature camera moves, framing, color palette or quirky dialogue being too similar or typical to his other films is missing the point of being a filmmaker. To direct is to be an artist and to be an artist is to have your own style. To be a great director you must have a style that is unique to you, a way of standing out from all other films. When you watch a Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg film you KNOW your watching a Tarantino or Scorsese or Spielberg film. If it wasn’t for Scorsese’s dolly shots or Spielberg’s lens flares or various other trademarks then every movie and its director would look the same. And yes Anderson pays a lot of attention to detail: the train was built specifically for the production, each plate or silverware on board is hand crafted, each wall paper designed with hand painted animal designs. But the work of cinematographer Robert Yeoman, production designer Mark Friedberg, art director Aradhana Seth and original artist Eric Chase Anderson would be all for nothing if the film wasn’t packed with lovingly written and fully fleshed out characters. If Anderson and his cronies weren’t such masters at dialogue, character development and the emotional beats of a scene and where to hit them. But they are. And if you don’t get the references to Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus and Satyajit Ray’s ‘Bengal Lancer’ in the film’s climax then your just not operating on the same plane that Wes Anderson and I are.


Cinematic Putrescence #1: Titanic: The Legend Goes On…. (2000)


At great personal risk to my own mental stability, or whatever is left of it, I’ve decided to watch some of the most god awful pieces of roadkill passing for films that I come across. Just for sick amusement, just for your entertainment, just for the hell of it, just for the taste of it…..well maybe not that last bit. Everyone has seen movies they wish that they hadn’t seen, or walked out of movies 45 minutes after being bored to tears. Of all the movies I’ve ever seen in a theater, I’ve only walked out of one movie, Pearl Harbor. Perhaps one day I will revisit Michael Bay’s soap opera like exploitation of an American tragedy, but not today. Today I subject myself to another exploitation of loss of human life.

I will branch out to multiple sources of information, but one of the highest concentrations of unwatchable films has to be IMDb’s Bottom 100. It it sometimes unreliable in the sense that some films get railroaded to the bottom purposely. There are standouts of reliability, however. Time tested bombs that will never disappear from the public’s scarred retinas like Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Beast of Yucca Flats, From Justin to Kelly or Battlefield Earth. I’ve decided to start with a real doozy which currently resides atop the dung pile called Titanic: The Legend Goes On. It’s an Italian produced animated musical retelling of the sinking of the Titanic. What is it with Italians and sinking cruise ships lately? I’m never going anywhere near an Italian ship after the real-life wreck earlier this year, and the cinematic wreck caused by everyone involved with this.

Animated films often get a pass for having musical numbers that may be out of place given the time period the film is supposed to take place in. This anachronism is easy to gloss over when it’s done for fun in movies like Shrek. In Titanic: The Legend Goes On, we are blindsided by an unprovoked musical attack unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Nearly 10 minutes into the film after saving some mice from a cat, a dog just starts rapping for no reason. I was going to include the trailer for the film in the post, but the rapping dog is straight money. Every movie should have rapping dogs. Just imagine how much better The King’s Speech would have been if there was a rapping dog in it! As much as I love this, the filmmakers are way off here. The Titanic sank in 1912 and rap music was clearly invented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938, when he was well into his 2nd term as President. The dog suddenly appears dressed in a backwards hat, basketball jersey, gym shorts and sneakers. The filmmakers apparently thought that giving him a boombox to go along with this modern dress was just a little too much, so he has a small, wooden antique style radio up to his ear instead. If the rapping dog isn’t enough for you, he’s accompanied by a trio of Hispanic mice that look like the mentally handicapped offspring of Speedy Gonzalez. They have their own song later in the film where the last word of every line in the song is made to rhyme with gusto.

Rapping dog aside, this film rips off multiple Disney film characters and story lines. The plot mimics Cinderella complete with wicked stepmother, stepsisters, douchebag cat and helpful mice. There are two dalmatians on board along with a Cruella DeVille look-a-like with two henchmen. There is also an altogether different version of the famous spaghetti scene from Lady & the Tramp. When they share the spaghetti and kiss in the Disney film, its cute and sweet. Here they have changed the spaghetti into a bunch of sausages linked together. Animals sucking sausages into their mouths has no place in a kids movie. It’s all well and good for Lindsay Lohan, but this was just inappropriate here.

The film itself is sloppily animated, directed, editing, scored, dubbed…..pretty much everything about this is wrong. The animators seemed unsure of how to portray emotion of their characters’ faces so everyone just looks either angry or constipated, and the voice acting doesn’t help there either. The only thing they did right was they actually have about 70 minutes of images to watch, which technically constitutes a feature film I suppose, though they even cheated on that. The animation is slowed down so it takes more time. The same scenes are reused multiple times during the film. The film actually ends after 55 minutes, but the remaining 15 minutes are credits featuring a montage of the movie you just watched and the music that under normal circumstances you would only hear again in your nightmares . I can’t really give you a reason to watch this entire thing, unless you want to test yourself. Consider yourselves warned.

– Wes Kelly


In order to celebrate the release of Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom, the editors at Film’s Okay will be focusing on the director’s oeuvre starting the week of May 28th. Helping us out in this task will be two of the editors over at Music’s Okay (I Guess), both super-fans in their own right. And who knows? Maybe even a new header will be designed and make an appearance. In the meantime, please enjoy this American Express ad. I promise, its way better than all the other ads in the history of the company. And how could it not be? Wes Anderson directed it, after all.

-Editors 1/2/3/4

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

Remember how I was talking in a previous post about getting burned? Well, this movie – The Garbage Pail Kids Movie – did just that. It is, of course, based on the popular trading cards / stickers of the mid-80’s, which featured children that were either hideously freakish or suffering from a mishap, and had a humorous name to go along with it. The artwork was usually grotesque (as was fitting) and the cards themselves were collected extensively by many children. Despite their popularity, one has to wonder what was going through someone’s mind when they felt like this would be good movie material, aside from the desire to simply cash in on a fad. I had seen the cards as a child and even had a few as I recalled, but I never knew a movie had been made until a few years back. The fact that it was live action intrigued me – the children were people in rubber suits, and from the images floating around online it looked rather nightmarish. Curiosity got the better of me, and seeing it for fairly cheap when out DVD hunting with John and David, I made the purchase.

Consider my curiosity sated. The Kids themselves, named Ali Gator, Greaser Greg, Foul Phil, Nat Nerd, Valerie Vomit, Windy Winston, and Messy Tessie, are kept in a magical garbage can by Captain Manzini (Anthony Newley), until they are accidentally released by Dodger, a 14 year-old boy (Mackenzie Astin) during a fight with a local ruffian named Juice (Ron MacLachlan). Why a guy that looks 20 years old is beating up 14 year-olds for whatever spare change they may have is beyond me, but that’s how it is. Anyway, Dodger befriends the Garbage Pail Kids, despite their… eccentricities. He eventually enlists their help in making clothes to impress Juice’s girlfriend Tangerine (Katie Barberi) whom he has fallen in love with. Dodger and Captain Manzini warn the Kids to not go outside, lest they be rounded up and put into “The State Home for the Ugly.” They of course ignore this and take a tour around town, watching the Three Stooges, eventually befriending some bikers at “The Toughest Bar in the World.”

After they return, they meet Tangerine, who, despite being disgusted by their repulsive appearance, decides to use both them and Dodger to make clothes for a fashion show where she will pass the clothes off as her designs. During the show, the Kids are captured by Juice and taken to the State Home for the Ugly. When Dodger realized what has happened, he and Captain Manzini bust out the Kids, who then proceed to trash the fashion show in their trademark style. Dodger realizes that despite being beautiful on the outside, Tangerine is ugly on the inside. Hooray for ham-fisted moral lessons.

The backing music for this train wreck is some instantly forgettable synth music, punctuated by a song sung by the Garbage Pail Kids about working together. This movie is painfully 80’s, in that everyone is wearing some of the most ridiculous things that you’ve ever seen, and the fashion show scenes only emphasize this. Honestly, the choice of attire in the film may be the only thing that’s actually funny in the movie, because none of the comedy elements are.

The main reason I wanted to see the film, that is, the Kids themselves, look suitably hideous at first blush, but the face masks are completely void of expression and barely move, even when the Kids are speaking, which, combined with terrible acting from everyone involved really makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. The special effects are simply ineffective. I was hoping for something vaguely disturbing, given the subject matter, and maybe even entertaining in an overlooked, 80’s cult-classic kind of way, but my initial interest waned fairly quickly once the yawn-worthy storyline kicked in. By the time the Kids burst into their song I was more or less done with the film, but I’m not one to quit on a movie, even if it is terrible.

There’s a reason this film used to be on the bottom 100 of IMDb, and unless your curiosity for cheesy special effects overwhelms you and you can’t stop yourself, I’m going to recommend you pass on The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.