Two Comedies from Touchstone Pictures
Calendar Girls (March 1/07)
Although comparisons to The Full Monty turn out to be fairly apt, Calendar Girls suffers from an uncomfortably familiar and thoroughly predictable third act that virtually obliterates the effectiveness of everything that's come before it. Helen Mirren stars as Chris, a rebellious member of a local women's institute who comes up with an idea to raise money by posing nude for a risque calendar. Chris enlists several cohorts - including Julie Walters' Annie and Linda Bassett's Cora - to drop trou alongside her, and the calendar quickly becomes an international media sensation. Director Nigel Cole - working from Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi's screenplay - has infused Calendar Girls with precisely the sort of light-hearted touch that one might've expected, although the filmmaker's reliance on increasingly heavy-handed elements is lamentable (ie there's an extraordinarily pointless subplot revolving around a dim-witted character who slowly comes to the realization that her husband is having an affair). But as entertaining and engaging as the first act is, there's just no overlooking the needless vibe that follows; Firth and Towhidi force the ladies into one eye-rollingly predictable situation after another, with Annie's ridiculously overwrought jealous streak the most egregious example of this. And while Mirren and her costars do turn in uniformly effective performances, the latter half of Calendar Girls leaves an aftertaste that's simply too bitter to ignore.
Though there's never mistaking Wild Hogs for anything other than an inordinately silly, entirely forgettable piece of work, there is - initially, anyway - simply no overlooking the effectiveness of the film's various performances and Brad Copeland's sporadically amusing screenplay. The seemingly can't-miss premise - which follows four middle-aged friends (John Travolta's Woody, Tim Allen's Doug, Martin Lawrence's Bobby, and William H. Macy's Dudley) as they embark on a cross-country motorcycle trip - is slowly but surely stretched to its breaking point, with the episodic, light-hearted atmosphere of the film's opening hour followed by a third act that's unusually stagnant and flat-out dull. Problems emerge once the would-be bikers roll into a small town and mix it up with the exceedingly quirky locals; the freewheeling vibe is thereafter dropped in favor of melodramatic life lessons for each of the central characters (ie Lawrence's Bobby must learn to stand up to his wife, etc). In the end, Wild Hogs reveals itself to be as disposable an effort as its promotional materials might have indicated - although, admittedly, it's hard not to get a kick out of some of the cameo appearances (including, among others, Stephen Tobolowsky and John C. McGinley).