Sunday, July 12, 2009
This 2009 animated flick is by Carlos Saldanha, the Brazilian director who brought the world Ice Age and Ice Age: The Metldown. Yeah, you get it. The Ice Age movies tell the tale of an unlikely 'herd' of a Mammoth (a second Mammoth that joined in the sequel), a sloth and a sabertooth tiger (and two opossum that also joined in the second film). The characters are likable enough and the stories are usually sweet and enjoyable, but it's getting old. Why not take all that money, those resources, personnel, writing talents and come up with something new. Well, there's nothing new here. It's the same characters doing the same stuff. In the first movie it was a baby they find, in this one it's three baby dinosaurs. In the first one they go on an unexpected journey to save the baby, in this one they go on an unexpected journey to save Sid. Snore, snore, snore. If it's on on a Saturday afternoon and you happen to come across it, you may enjoy it and especially if you haven't seen the other two, but don't bother driving out to the theater and shilling out the big bucks (even more expensive than normal since it's in 3D). Better yet, just go rent the first one.
Walt Kowalski's life seems to be changing and falling apart all around him. This is a big problem for Walt, as he's a crotchety old fart who doesn't like change at all. In fact, Walt doesn't like much of anything. He has a handful of friends at the bar, a barber he likes and goes to regularly and then, it's sitting on the porch drinking PBR's with his dog. And, of course, there's his love, his Gran Torino, a car he actually helped build years ago at the Ford plant. Well, his job is gone, his neighbors are almost all gone and his wife has just died. Nothing seems the same and this grumpy guy has just gotten even crankier. The Gran Torino serves as the perfect centerpiece of this movie. It is a car that he works painstakingly to keep in perfect condition and, more importantly, the same condition as when he took it off the line decades ago. You never see him drive this car. He just polishes it. The reason this is important is because it serves as a physical manifestation of Walt's problem, namely, that he's delusionally holding onto some ideal from the past that doesn't really exist and most likely never did. And to make matters worse, some non-white kid actually tries to steal the Gran Torino from him. You see, I mention that the kid's not white because Walt is a bigot, though really he just doesn't like anything different and other races are different. But there comes a moment where he realizes that it's not about where we're from or what language we speak, but how we live our lives. He realizes that he has more in common with the traditional Hmong family next door than he does with people from his church or family. This movie finds him going through the pains of an old dog learning new tricks. He simply must let go of that ideal he has, because, in reality, it's crap and he knows it. This 2008 drama by Clint Eastwood is well shot, well written and, while a simple story, has a depth and richness that makes it really stick with you. It also has a great message, being shallow and petty is a universal language that transcends ethnicity, but, lucky for us, so are other attributes like being honorable and just.