December 27, 2006 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight: December 2006

Shockingly early for a film fight, here it is for December.

We begin with an unusual piece starring Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction. Toning down Ferrell’s normally over-the-top comedy stylings, this instead has him running through a fairly surreal scenario (that of his life being narrated accurately and presciently, with his death impending). We get a delightful love interest in the form of Maggie Gyllenhall, a slightly over-done neurotic in the form of Emma Thompson, and an out of place but interesting English professor (Dustin Hoffman). Quietly funny, well-written, but spoiled by a slightly weak ending, the film is breezily watchable without being trashy.

On the other hand, Big Nothing is about an accurate a title as you get. Simon Pegg doesn’t get the room he needs to prop up David Schwimmer in this dark, farcical comedy. This film bulges with half-finished ideas, shoved together like pieces from different jigsaw puzzles, barely seeing the picture in any of them. Mistimed and lacking many redeeming moments, an entirely forgettable film.

Guillermo Del Toro goes in some interesting directions with Spanish film, Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a modern day retelling of fairytales of old, where beautiful fantasy set pieces and morality plays are contrasted starkly by brutal moments of horror (i.e. before Disney stripped them for consumer production). In this case we see a little girl challenged to retake her place in the underworld while her cruel step-father tries to savagely quell a rebellion. The entangling of these two threads, and the world illuminated so brightly and darkly, culminates in an excellent work.

Finally, Deja Vu is an action/sci-fi piece about changing the events of a terrorist attack in New Orleans. While Denzel Washington handles the role as confidently as he can, the film makers cannot say the same. Plastered with some cack-handed but very Hollywood pseudo-science, the film suffers from a lack of conviction. Instead of following through with the rigid world that is set-up and you can see tragically but grippingly playing out, there is a distinct taste of a last minute happy ending rewrite; the film suffers greatly for it. Could have been better.

The final finalist for the film fight is, obviously, Pan’s Labyrinth. The finale has already been written, meaning of course that I have selected my film of the year. Expect it soon.