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Silly Cinema

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometimes one is in the mood for something completely silly, and sometimes not. Here are several recent silly releases.

American Wedding (2003, Universal)
How this stupid series ever got to a third film is beyond me. The cast gets themselves in more brain-dead trouble, involving bodily fluids, bodily functions and embarrassing situations. The disc comes in an un-rated cut, which features lots of choice footage of the gorgeous Nikki Ziering, who plays the dominatrix at the boys' bachelor party.

Beyond Therapy (1987, Anchor Bay)
Robert Altman adapted Christopher Durang's play for this peculiar comedy that can't ever seem to find its rhythm. Jeff Goldblum stars as a neurotic bisexual New Yorker who answers an ad and meets equally neurotic Julie Hagarty. It turns out they both see shrinks next door to each other in the same building, and the shrinks aren't much better. Tom Conti likes to sleep with his patients, and Glenda Jackson constantly blurts out the wrong words. Christopher Guest co-stars as Goldblum's jealous lover. Altman's exploratory style doesn't quite have the zing this material requires, and it's not helped by the fact that the New York settings were filmed in Paris. Anchor Bay's new DVD boasts a nice new transfer and a theatrical trailer, but no subtitles or audio options.

Bring It On Again (2003, Universal)
This straight-to-video sequel to the Kirsten Dunst hit follows a group of misfit cheerleaders forming their own squad and taking on the snooty school regulars. Neither Dunst nor her co-stars from the 2001 original are on hand.

Comic Book: The Movie (2004, Paramount/Miramax)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars) directs and stars in this mockumentary about a movie studio making a film out of a beloved comic book hero, but updating him for modern times. Hamill plays a nerdy comic book expert who is called in to consult and wants to keep things the way they were. It's not a bad idea and Hamill looks like he's having a great time, but the laughs just aren't there.

Intolerable Cruelty (2003, Universal)
Producer Brian Grazer got his mits on Joel and Ethan Coen's script -- which had been making the rounds in Hollywood for years -- hired two other writers for a re-write(!) and essentially diluted whatever greatness might have been there. George Clooney does his best as a crack divorce lawyer who falls in love with a dangerous woman (Catherine Zeta-Jones), looking to earn a fortune by divorcing her rich husbands. Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Herrmann and Cedric the Entertainer provide some amusing support, but this comedy just never clicks. The individual parts seem to be running at different speeds along different tracks. The DVD comes with some excellent outtakes assembled by the Coens.

Johnny English (2003, Universal)
Rowan Atkinson stars in this James Bond-type spoof aimed at kids. And it¹s pretty lowbrow stuff. Atkinson is better in small roles -- or not speaking at all. Extras include a 24-minute "making of" documentary, 9 minutes of deleted scenes, "spy tips," character bios and a Peter Pan preview.

Scorched (2002, Fox)
This comedy went straight to video but actually fares much better than some recent theatrically released stuff. Three bank workers individually plan to rob their place of work over the same weekend. Alicia Silverstone does it to get revenge on her boss with whom she's had an affair, Woody Harrelson does it to get revenge on a particular customer (John Cleese) who hunts and kills ducks and Paulo Costanzo plans to borrow some money, go to Vegas, double it and return it before anyone finds out. Rachael Leigh Cook and Marcus Thomas also turn up to cause trouble, but don't quite fit in with the rest of the movie. The clever twists, excellent cast and occasional laughs make this one definitely worth renting.

Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2003, Universal)
This very silly sequel takes place in the Old West and concerns the great-grandfather of the character from the original 1990 film. A hired gunslinger (Billy Drago) comes along to help defeat the giant earthworms when they turn up in a mineshaft. I'm a fan of the 1990 original as well as a fan of Westerns, but Tremors 4 still has very little to offer outside the usual clichés. Die-hard fans (if there are any), will love this disc, which includes outtakes, deleted scenes, a director commentary track and featurettes.

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