Pinocchio

Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful) wrote, directed, and stars in this live-action adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s late-19th-century novel, with his partner Nicoletta Braschi cast as the Blue Fairy. The recut American version is truly awful, but a good 75 percent of the awfulness is attributable to Miramax, the film’s distributor. Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio is so quintessentially Italian that it loses much of its meaning and most of its flavor when its Italianness is removedwhich is precisely what’s accomplished by the slipshod and badly lip-synched dubbing here, leaving the remainder of the film a wreck. The 1940 Walt Disney animated feature also took away many of the Italian elements, but at least that film had a vision of its own. This one seems bent only on reducing and confusing Benigni’s eccentric vision with poorly matched American and English accents (from Breckin Meyer, Glenn Close, John Cleese, Cheech Marin, and Queen Latifah, among others) and reediting that ironically slows the brisk pace of the original. I found the latter overly sentimental, like much of Benigni, but still an honest effort to approximate Collodi’s story, which is a good deal rougher and creepier than the Disney version. 108 min. (JR)

Published on 30 Dec 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Episodes From {pee-wee’s Playhouse}

Paul Reubens’s colorful and nightmarish TV kiddie show, with talking appliances and lots of manic giggling. (JR)

Published on 27 Dec 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Catch Me If You Can

Steven Spielberg’s portrait of a 60s teenage con artist (a nimble performance by Leonardo DiCaprio) is based on the real-life exploits of Frank W. Abagnale but played more for myth than believability. Spielberg’s gripping patriarchal obsessionsseen in Abagnale’s relationship with his father (Christopher Walken) and the stolid FBI agent (Tom Hanks) pursuing himcarry this jaunty picture for its entire 140 minutes, and it’s nice to see him returning to a relatively light mode. In fact, the pacing is so agreeable you might not notice the blatant contempt for the women charactersall of whom turn out to be betrayers, whores, bimbos, or combinations of sameuntil after you leave the theater. Jeff Nathanson wrote the screenplay; with Nathalie Baye and Martin Sheen (2002). (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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An Angel In Krakow

The sound on the preview tape was so defective that I gave up watching, but I caught enough of this Polish feature’s striking visuals and wacky humor (both somewhat Felliniesque) to regret the loss. The goofy plot concerns an angel named Giordano (Krzysztof Globisz) who loves rock so much and spends so much time in purgatory with singers like Elvis that he gets banished to earth with instructions to perform one kind deed per day. In Krakow, where he remains in phone contact with the folks upstairs, he meets a single mother and street sausage vendor (Ewa Kaim). Artur Wiecek Baron directed and cowrote this feature, in Polish with subtitles. 89 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Antwone Fisher

It’s hard to think of another movie named after its screenwriterAntwone Fisher giving us a version of his real-life story. Denzel Washington’s directorial debut reminds me of a 60s British movie called The Mark: it’s liberal minded, heartwarming, sincere, and consequently somewhat old-fashioned and stodgy. It’s the story of a black sailor (Derek Luke) with a violent temper who plumbs the depths of his bleak and abusive past aided by a sensitive psychiatrist (Washington). The sincerity and seeming authenticity of this effort carried and even moved me, though I’m not sure whether it taught me anything I didn’t already know. With Joy Bryant. 113 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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