The Films of Les Mayfield
Miracle on 34th Street
Flubber (April 24/18)
Significantly worse than one might've anticipated, Flubber follows Robin Williams' absent-minded professor, Philip Brainard, as he invents a miraculous, rubbery substance that possesses almost magical qualities - with complications ensuing after several villainous figures (including Raymond J. Barry's Chester Hoenicker and Christopher McDonald's Wilson Croft) attempt to get their hands on the titular concoction. There's little within the entirety of Flubber that wholeheartedly (or even partially) works, as director Les Mayfield, working from a script by Bill Walsh and John Hughes (!), has infused the proceedings with a juvenile, geared-towards-small-children sensibility that grows more and more grating as time progresses - with the somewhat episodic narrative riddled with unreasonably over-the-top, desperately unfunny sequences. The ensuing lack of momentum is hardly surprising and it's disappointing to note, too, that the talented cast is left floundering within their respective roles, which is a shame, certainly, given that the supporting cast boasts an impressive assortment of talented performers (including Clancy Brown, Marcia Gay Harden, and Ted Levine). By the time the frantic yet completely underwhelming climactic stretch rolls around, Flubber has confirmed its place as a particularly ineffective Disney reboot that wastes the talent of its cast and crew.
There's ultimately little doubt that Blue Streak would've fared a whole lot better without Martin Lawrence in the central role, as the actor delivers a hopelessly broad and relentlessly grating performance that proves effective at single-handedly negating the film's few positive attributes. The storyline follows jewel thief Miles Logan (Lawrence) as he emerges from a prison stint determined to retrieve the valuable diamond he hid two years earlier, with complications ensuing as Miles is forced to assume the identity of a detective to retrieve said diamond (which is now sitting inside a police station). It's a can't-lose premise that admittedly does ensure that the movie generally comes off as an affable piece of work, yet the unwarranted emphasis on silliness becomes too much to bear almost immediately - as Lawrence seems to have been given free reign to indulge in his every comedic whim. The resulting spree of mugging and overacting is nothing short of painful, with the collective efforts of Lawrence's talented costars (ie Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, and William Forsythe) at picking up the slack falling almost entirely flat. Exacerbating matters is the egregiously action-packed third act - which, naturally, kicks off in an abandoned warehouse - that starts off well enough but grows increasingly tedious as it progresses, and although screenwriters Michael Berry, John Blumenthal, and Stephen Carpenter deserve credit for steering clear of melodrama at the film's close, Blue Streak is simply unable to overcome the scenery-chewing excess of Lawrence's hopelessly incompetent turn.
Everything about American Outlaws is mediocre. It's watchable all right, but instantly forgettable. Colin Farrell stars as Jesse James, and as the movie opens, he and his buddies are coming back home after fighting in the Civil War. But they soon find out that more trouble is waiting for them, as an evil tycoon needs their land to complete his cross-country railroad. So, James and his band of outlaws decide that the easiest way to impede the development of this construction is to rob the banks where said tycoon keeps his cash. An evil henchman is close on their tail, though, and the boys are finding that their newfound celebrity is making it harder and harder to keep a low profile. American Outlaws isn't bad, really - it's essentially entertaining and the performances are good - but it's just so plain and dull that it never quite makes any kind of impact. However, Timothy Dalton (as that crazed henchman) is quite entertaining, especially since the many screenwriters have decided he should have some sort of bizarre respect for the outlaws. There's a sequence in which he and his minions attempt to strongarm the boys into selling their homes, but are met with several cocked guns. Dalton practically turns to the camera and says, "well played." That just might make the whole movie worth watching.
Though it's clearly been designed to replicate the experience of watching an '80s buddy comedy (as evidenced by, among other things, the Eurotrash villain and finale that transpires in an abandoned warehouse), The Man - saddled with an unfortunate PG-13 rating - ultimately comes off as a watered-down and egregiously silly example of the genre. The premise - which finds Samuel L. Jackson's grizzled cop forced to team up with a chatty dental salesman (Eugene Levy) - is certainly sound, but it becomes increasingly difficult to look past the inclusion of overwhelmingly puerile comedic elements by scripters Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman, and Steve Carpenter (such shenanigans might've been easier to swallow had the writers been aiming for the vibe of a flat-out parody). That both Levy and Jackson are trapped within the confines of extremely one-note characters doesn't help matters, although the two do admittedly work well off one another (the film's few laughs come courtesy of their expectedly off-the-wall arguments, including Levy's suggestion that Jackson say "for crying out loud" in place of a certain curse word). But the film's relentlessly toothless atmosphere ultimately renders its positive attributes moot, with the end result a mindlessly diverting yet wholly forgettable piece of work.
Code Name: The Cleaner