Anchor Bay's July '05 Releases
Freaked (July 7/05)
Freaked casts Alex Winter (who also co-wrote and co-directed the film) as Ricky Coogan, a failed actor who agrees to become the spokesman for a toxic fertilizer. But when he's captured by mad scientist Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid), Ricky soon finds himself transformed into a hideous sideshow freak (a plight shared by two friends, played by Michael Stoyanov and Megan Ward). Though it's wildly creative and occasionally quite funny, Freaked nevertheless wears out its welcome somewhere around the halfway mark (and even at 80 minutes, the film feels overlong). This is despite the presence of an eclectic, memorable cast, which includes Mr. T as the Bearded Lady, Bobcat Goldthwait as the appropriately named Sockhead, and an unbilled Keanu Reeves as Ortiz the Dog Boy. But in the end, Freaked is just too weird for its own good - though it's obvious that there's something here that appeals to a certain audience, judging by the film's cult following.
Max Dugan Returns (July 8/05)
It seems obvious that Max Dugan Returns - directed by Herbert Ross and written by Neil Simon - isn't aspiring to be anything more than a heartwarming, easy-going fairy tale, and on that level, the film absolutely works. Marsha Mason stars as Nora McPhee, a single mother who's trying to raise a teenaged son (played by Matthew Broderick) on a shoestring budget. But when her long lost father Max Dugan (Jason Robards) returns with a suitcase full of money, it would seem as though Nora's problems are over. Typically, it's more complicated than that, as Simon peppers the storyline with a variety of obstacles - including a nosy suitor for Nora, who just happens to be a cop. Despite the film's reliance on clichéd, shopworn conventions (ie Nora's son goes from talentless baseball player to power batter within the space of a couple of weeks), Max Dugan Returns remains entertaining throughout thanks to Simon's obvious talent for authentic, funny dialogue and the top-notch performances (Broderick, making his film debut, is just as engaging and charismatic as one might expect).
Moving Violations (July 8/05)
Between the two of them, screenwriters Pat Proft and Neal Israel have been involved with a whole host of successful comedies - including Police Academy, The Naked Gun, and Hot Shots! While Moving Violations (written by the duo) is nowhere nearly as funny as any of those films, there are enough laughs to be had here to warrant a mild recommendation. The movie revolves around a group of misfits who are sentenced to a week's worth of driving school after crashing their cars in a series of comical fender-benders. Their leader is Dana Cannon (John Murray), a sarcastic landscaper who's made an enemy of a hard-nosed cop (James Keach). Moving Violations is packed with instances of over-the-top, silly humor, but that's the sort of thing that one expects from Proft and Israel. That the film never becomes anything more than a reasonably diverting way to kill 90 minutes can be attributed to the less-than-fascinating characters and unusually spotty joke-to-guffaw ratio. Murray seems to be channeling his brother Bill, and delivers a performance that's essentially a carbon-copy of some of the elder Murray's early work (ie Caddyshack and Stripes). Yet it's impossible to completely resist the film's emphasis on wacky hijinks, primarily because such antics are disappointingly absent from most contemporary comedies.