Finally. The summer movie season has redeemed itself.
Ever since the release of Cars (and if you can overlook the superhyped Nacho Libre) the summer blockbusters of recent weeks have been worthy entries. Last weekend’s two big movies, Superman Returns and The Devil Wears Prada, are very good, strong summer popcorn flicks that give hope for movies yet to come this summer. I enjoyed them both.
Superman Returns is proof that fanboys can be good filmmakers if they follow the footsteps of Bryan Singer. Not only does he have a solid knowledge of comic book folklore, he knows his craft well. Superman is a visual dazzler, with inspired cinematography and effects. This Brandon Routh guy hits all the right notes as the Man of Steel/Clark Kent. He can probably use an ounce of charisma but that’s only if you compare him to Christopher Reeve (and it’s impossible not to because the boy looks so much like him). Kevin Spacey is an inspired choice for Lex Luthor and it’s always fun to watch a great actor rip up the scenery and chew away! John Williams’ themes are kept intact, even the “Can You Read My Mind” Love Theme, which I must admit, gave me goosebumps when I heard it in DTS/THX Dolby Digital.
“I’ve eaten much of the scenery. Can I chew on this crystal too?”
The great thing about Superman on celluloid is that you can pile the humor generously because the idea of a superhero as great as Superman is so farfetched. You can’t help but plant your tongue firmly in your cheek. Perhaps that’s my biggest issue: it never really captures the joyous spirit of the first two Superman movies of the 70’s. The film falls flat at parts, stretching out certain scenes, particularly scenes in the third act. It’s a film that, unlike our hero, doesn’t really soar but flies at a reasonable height. Perhaps the questions left unanswered will be brought to light in the obligatory sequel that lies ahead. Nevertheless, it still flies and it’s a great way too cool off the summer heat.
Now The Devil Wears Prada was a delightful surprise.
“It’s not your suit that bothers me, it’s the print of this damn couch!”
Thanks to a great trailer, favorable reviews and a different target audience than fanboys, the movie is a surprise hit. And why not? Meryl Streep has never been funnier (and bitchier) and Anne Hathaway holds her own amongst Streep and a scene-stealing Stanley Tucci. Streep plays top fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (think Anna Wintour) who hires fresh-faced, Northwestern kid Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) as the assistant to her assistant (Emily Blunt). Soon enough, Andrea gets wrapped up in the glamourous world of fashion, learning style and poise, even if it means sacrificing her earnest inner qualities.
The Devil Wears Prada is after all an expose into the multimillion dollar fashion industry, and based on my experience and conversations overheard in swank parties I’ve attended with my sister’s friends who work in the industry, the film seems totally on point. With such names being thrown here and there (Dolce & Gabbana, Manolo Blahnik, Tom Ford) you get the sense that it’s an industry far more demanding (and more painful) than the entertainment industry. It’s fun, no doubt, and exciting but the movie spares no expense at pointing out the industry shallowness. For example there’s a great monologue that Miranda delivers about the style evolution of Andrea’s blue polyblend sweater. By the time she gets to the end of it, you’re at a loss. It’s a sobering fact at how shallow fashion really is, but somehow it manages to be a striving industry.
“Hi! I’m Simon Baker. Somehow I’ve managed to be in every single romantic comedy movie lately.”
There are very good performances that in my opinion save the movie from being an overblown episode of Sex and the City and believe me, once or twice during the movie, I felt like it was. Maybe it’s because I saw it with my big sister who owns the show on DVD.
The movie is clever, littered with zippy one-liners (my favorite: Tucci’s “Gird Your Loins!”) and “stylish” editing. It’s a breezy romantic comedy/fish-out-of-water movie that’s a great alternative for the testosterone-driven summer movie fare.
That’s if you’re willing to hang up your superhero cape for a nice Givenchy leather jacket for a night.