(Attempting to restore regularly scheduled programming, which is more than I can say for the plumbing here.)
Before watching the movie:
So I guess the joke is Kevin James is a fat, self-important security guard? And probably most of the comedy is going to come from Blart being fat or overstepping his station? I never expected this to be a great movie, or all that interesting. But it’s available, and it’s probably got some actually funny parts.
I just don’t know how they can make a feature length movie out of that concept.
I saw this movie in a theater, but it wasn’t one I chose. A friend had a movie party for his birthday, and I don’t think I knew what we were going to see until we got to the theater. It seems like the kind of movie that was selected more based on what was playing on the date they wanted to have a party than because it was anyone’s first choice, but I remember it was fun in a very late 90s/early 00s Nickelodeon way. I must have recognized Chevy Chase at the time but I completely do not remember him. Actually, the main thing I remember about this day aside from some shots of kids and adults in snow is that it was the first time I heard of Superman ice cream.
In a small neighborhood in upstate New York, an unseasonably warm winter suddenly gets a massive snowfall, and to the delight of all the kids in town, a snow day is declared. Hal and Natalie Brandston’s father Tom Brandston, the third-rated meteorologist in a three-station town, is hoping that having been the first to predict and report on the storm will be his ticket to pulling ratings over showboat weatherman Chad Symmonz and escaping the demeaning costume stunts his producer keeps forcing on him. Natalie’s friends Wayne and Chet make it their mission to stymie the Snowplowman, and maybe for once get a second snow day in a row. Hal spends all day trying to get the attention of Claire, the most popular girl in school, seeing it as destiny that he found her bracelet on the day that Claire broke up with her bully boyfriend Chuck, and drags his friend Lane along in his stunts even as she tries to get him to see how delusional he is.
In rewatching this movie, I didn’t come up with any concrete memories of how I felt at the time, but all the same, the sinking realization that the younger kids’ vendetta with the Snowplowman was relegated to the B-plot behind the high school boy’s quest for unrequited love that doesn’t at all need a snow day to take place on felt very, very familiar. In 2000, I was about the age of the younger kids in the movie, and while I never had the magical adventures this movie invokes of snow days with rose-tinted screenwriter glasses (as an indoorsy kid who lived on unwalkable roads nowhere near any friends, snow days were spent in our house probably watching TV under a blanket and meant relaxation), I think I was very disappointed that the whole concept of “kids having a snow day” got sidelined for a romance plot. They say kids are most interested in the next step up as a preview of what they can expect, but in this case, why would you have a movie called “snow day” and not center actual snow day adventures? It’s hard to push past that fault plus how tired the “guy can’t see the girl right next to him because he’s only got eyes for the unobtainable girl” plot is and get too objective on whether Hal is as lacking in relatability as it seems.
While the movie makes a point of saying how close Hal and Natalie usually are, and how they would usually be playing together on a snow day but he ditched her to go chase his dream girl, I really wish we’d gotten to see that somehow, so it means more to us to see them separate. When they’re together they speak warmly to each other, aside from Natalie being kind of resentful of how obsessed Hal has gotten, but the most significant interaction they have is Hal telling Natalie not to play with his collection of action figures that he wants to keep in pristine condition so he can sell them as a set. Oddly, Natalie acts like they’ve previously played with them before since she identifies him with a specific member of the group of figures.
Natalie’s friends are another missed opportunity. Wayne is marked by being the fat, wimpy kid who’s good for getting damseled and letting the filmmakers substitute farts for jokes, while Chet is… also there. Apparently Wayne and Chet made a snow cave that they were going to hang out with Natalie and Hal in that they brought a video game console out to, but it’s only used in one scene and destroyed by the Snowplowman to make him an extra-personal villain. The snow cave is the kind of thing one would expect to make up the main focus of the movie.
I think I need to come to the conclusion that the best part of this movie, at least as an adult, is Chevy Chase’s subplot, because it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be/ought to be. I think he won the crowd a bit too easily in the end, but this is a movie for middle schoolers and there isn’t really time for something more realistic.
While this is fun, especially for kids, it’s definitely an unbalanced script and isn’t primarily interested in what it claims to be interested in. It’s really hard to put aside all the small ways it disappoints and enjoy it for what it is when it isn’t even concerned with being what it says it is. There are some good seeds of movies in here, but the execution was almost entirely lacking.
What is this movie? Pointing a money canon at the screen. Probably billions of dollars to tell one of the oldest stories we have written down. Big battles, bigger stars, almost three hours of runtime for them to compete for like cinematic gladiators. Pretty and exciting and violent and maybe it even resembles the source material, but at least it’s Epic. That’s the impression I’ve always had of this movie as a former Latin student.
After watching the movie:
The city-states of the Aegean are at constant war, and Agamemnon of Mycenae intends to build an empire by conquering them, despite owing every battle to Achilles and his leadership of the Myrmidons. Meanwhile, as Trojan crown prince Hector has just finished negotiating a peace with Menelaus of Sparta, Hector’s brother Paris, infamous ladies’ man, took up an affair with Menelaus’s wife Helen. When Hector and his Trojans set sail for home, Helen leaves with them to stay with Paris. Seething from the insult, Menelaus goes to his brother Agamemnon to ask him to bring all the Greek armies together to take Helen back from Troy so he can kill her himself, which Agamemnon readily agrees to as the perfect excuse to add Troy to his collection of subjugated kingdoms. As the Greeks lay siege to Troy, Hector tries to find the diplomatic solutions that lead to the least harm done to his country and his people, but still accepts that Helen is a Trojan princess now. Meanwhile Hector’s father King Priam insists that everything is in the will of the gods and nothing can be done to change whatever fate is in store for them. While most of the Greeks loyally fight for Agamemnon, Achilles fights more for his own personal glory, and loathes being in service to a king that hides behind his troops.
I feel like 2004 is really late for a movie about Ancient Greece that’s been cast from a Who’s Who in British Acting with some pretty Americans thrown in for domestic appeal. While it was still too early for anyone to have considered it, I’d be much more interested in an all-Mediterranean production where people speak with actual Greek accents instead of pretending Ancient Greece was a Royal Shakespeare Company show. There’s at least one scene that takes place in a stone ruin, and while I guess that those were not unheard of in those times, it seems more like it was included because “Ancient Greece means broken columns scattered around the hillside, right?”
While this movie credits that it is “based on The Illiad“, Troy is sympathetic and they include an Aeneas cameo, so it feels more heavily influenced by the Aneid. The Illiad was written by Greeks to illustrate Greek glory, while the Aneid was written by a Roman to concoct a Trojan pedigree for Rome and therefore Troy was the nobler kingdom and Greece only won because they cheated. Greece is clearly the aggressor in the wrong here, and while Paris is also in the wrong, the rest of Troy is just caught cleaning up his mistakes. Paris isn’t even all that wrong because the first thing we learn about Menelaus is he ignores his wife to play with prettier, younger women right in front of her.
The main exception to the Greeks being the villains is the bad boy antihero Achilles, who only wants his own personal glory while chafing under his kingdom’s obligation to serve at the call of Menelaus. And yet despite his personal motivations he’s also shown to be one of the most honorable Greeks through his protection of Briseis, a captured priestess who happens to be Hector’s cousin. From the quick research I did, it sounds like they cleaned up the relationship a bit to make Achilles more noble, but I was surprised she was in the original material at all since the main thing I knew about Achilles’ personal relationships going in is that a lot of people enthusiastically read Patroclus as Achilles’ one true love and for all I knew, Briseis was created to give him a safe heterosexual love interest while playing Patroclus as his surrogate son.
While the last people who deserve a happy ending are the final couple, there’s a strong sense that the best ending isn’t to live happily ever after, but to get a prominent death. All the people we care most about get a classically tragic and noble death. All the people we like least get an exciting death at a hero’s hand. Paris and Helen just survive by hiding in the city until they escape while everyone else goes out and dies for them, and I guess they have to spend the rest of their lives with that knowledge.
There’s a ton of story in the fight sequences and for once I can actually follow what’s happening really well, and I can’t just tune out until the music dies down and I look up to see what the outcome of all the punching is. This is somewhat rare for modern action movies, and the prevailing theory is that a generation of cinematographers grew up on pan and scanned video making it impossible to read the fight scenes and decided that shaking the camera and cutting too quickly to get any useful information is how to make things exciting. But I think more than that, in this case the Illiad details a lot of events that happened in battle, so they actually had story beats to include in the sequence instead of just scripting “a fight scene happens and it’s the choreographer’s job to fill the next five minutes”.
This is one of the most engaging action movies I’ve watched in a while, especially considering the runtime and how much of it is action sequences. This is a throwback to the gigantic productions of the classics from the golden age of cinema, and while I’m pretty tired of cinematic epics casting white people with British accents and togas as Greeks and Romans (or proto-Romans here), they sure do make it almost worth the 2 hours, 40+ minutes.
As much as I lean into popular criticism of Adam Sandler, I have to admit I’ve been a little interested in this movie since it came out. It has to be pretty sweet if it’s a romantic comedy about a guy so dedicated to his relationship with a woman that he keeps getting her to fall in love with him every day. There’s usually at least a kernel of a good story in an Adam Sandler Comedy, at least the ones that don’t get immediately forgotten.
I have no idea what to expect. Apparently it’s a comedy, but the very little I read up front didn’t really give that impression outside from the “comedy” tag. So… I assume there is martial arts, and something about gang violence?
While the red and orange background isn’t all that unique, this poster design doesn’t do much to communicate that this is Spy Kids but with less imagination and more Jackie Chan. I’m probably always up for a Jackie Chan comedy, but the bar’s been set pretty low.
I had no idea that Billy Ray Cyrus or George Lopez were in this movie until I started looking for posters. I would’ve expected George Lopez to get more promotional focus, especially considering when the movie was made.
I’m just now noticing just how big a genre “kids doing superspy stuff” is. The ones that I think of, Spy Kids, “Kim Possible”, and Agent Cody Banks, are all early 2000s, but it seems to have come back recently with My Spy, and I know there are other notable examples from before the 90s, so I’m not sure if it’s an evergreen movie subject or if this is very late to cash in on some successful franchises.
While the first description I saw for this movie was just about a journalistic rivalry, the second source I saw had the more interesting information that the socialite one journalist invented to meet deadlines appears in real life impersonated by the other one. So this is much less of a His Girl Friday relative than I thought, and sounds about as wide open in terms of production as it can get.
This year more than any other year, I’ve been finding myself with less time or energy than I need to do a full review. I’m getting busier and older, but even so, I’ve still made at least some kind of post once a week, more Yesterdays and back catalog collections than ever before. Some of them were work I felt I did some good or at least fun writing with, but mostly, I consider them filler.
In that spirit, I’m dropping the ball one more time this year by counting down my ten favorite actual reviews of the past year.
I hope in the new year to have less filler but also more branching out with opportunities to make social commentary though movies. Maybe only ten people read this blog regularly, but I made a commitment to myself if nobody else, and I have no intention of just fizzling on this project.
I recall this movie coming into the house through a joint garage sale with my aunt’s family. Or rather, I remember seeing the tape at one of the garage sales, and then I remember finding it in our collection months or years later. I don’t know why it didn’t interest me for a long time, but I think I didn’t get to it until I was in my 20s or late teens. I can’t recall now if the portion I saw on TV (I mainly remember hearing “Mele Kalikimaka” for the first time) got me interested, or if I was just going through the video collection and connected it with the Christmas movie everybody liked and decided to watch it for that reason. I’m a little surprised I didn’t seek it out when I was in my significant “all the traditions” phase, but I think I would’ve been scandalized at the time if I had.
Clark Griswold and his family is hosting Christmas for the extended family for the first time, and Clark is determined to make it perfect. He marches his wife Ellen and their children deep into the forest to find The Perfect Tree, he blankets the house in 25,000 lights that he can’t get working, and packs every room with family members, including the son and daughter of his wife’s uninvited cousin Eddie, who drove the rusty trailer they live in to join the family. Clark is also starting to wonder where his Christmas bonus check is, which he badly needs to cover the deposit he already laid out to install a swimming pool.
I seem to recall that before I first saw the movie,I didn’t think the poster was very much help in understanding what it’s about, but the problem is that it’s an extremely episodic movie that doesn’t have a more significant overarching plot than “Clark tries to make a perfect Christmas for his extended family”, which is hard to convey on a poster. Just about every scene is a vignette of a crazy family Christmas, but the lights and the bonus check are the most consistent throughlines. So a lighting accident it is.
While it’s a Chevy Chase vehicle with many scenes stolen by Randy Quaid, this is the first time I noticed that Clark’s son Rusty is played by a young Johnny Galecki, best known for The Big Bang Theory. Even at the young age, there were moments where I recognized his acting style. My wife also pointed out that Beverly D’Angelo has a strong resemblance to Amy Pohler. I don’t know if any of the elderly uncles and grandparents are notable actors, but many of them are also doing very memorable character work.
This movie is somehow pitched to the point of absurdity yet relatable to the point it at times feels almost like a set of generic scenes of the Christmas experience. John Hughes may have hit a bigger classic with Home Alone, but I think this is better at creating the adult experience of Christmas. I suspect that there are people for whom it’s so relatable, it’s too stressful, like my experience watching The Long, Long Trailer so soon after driving a trailer across the country. It may not be a Christmas staple to me, but it’s always welcome. Because while we have plenty of opportunities to remember warmth and generosity at Christmas, it’s also just a real catharsis to have a laugh at the hassle we impose on ourselves too.