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Wednesday
Aug052009

A Perfect Getaway

There's been no shortage of terribly good films recently, movies that are so laughable you kind of enjoy them. Just in the last few weeks we've received the cheerily cheesy Orphan and the abysmally bad, yet hilariously dissected, The Collector, which now join the ranks with February's Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, the best (worst?) of them all. Well, chalk another victim up on that list because A Perfect Getaway is ludicrously stupid, sometimes on purpose, though unintentionally more often than not.

The film follows newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) who embark on a honeymoon trip to Honolulu hoping to relax and celebrate finding each other. With the desire to reach a secluded beach, they decide to take an 11 mile hike, meeting up with Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez) who accompany them along the way. Eventually they run into a group of girls who have just found out that nearby a different newlywed couple has been murdered and the only information the cops have is that they were killed by two individuals, a man and a woman. Each couple begins to suspect the other, but someone seems to be following them. Could it be the hitchhikers Cliff and Cydney rudely shunned earlier on their trip, their newfound friends, or is someone else behind it all?

Though not bereft of minor incidences, A Perfect Getaway fails because of two mammoth flaws. The first is that it has tonal problems, at times showing its evil, plotting, serious side and other times showing its goofy, fun side. I did find myself laughing at its sometimes humorous, yet utterly stupid jokes, but I never found myself scared or worrying for these characters. When it's over-the-top (hilariously evoking memories of cheesy 80's action flicks like First Blood), it's a genuinely entertaining film, even if only tepidly so. When it takes a serious turn (of which there are many), it fails so miserably that I found myself continuing in my laughter, though inadvertently. Not a single scene works during these moments, especially once the twist is revealed.

Which brings me to its second blunder, and it's a big one. A Perfect Getaway has a preposterous twist so utterly absurd that it stretches the credulity of the film to an irredeemable level. Part of the fun of a "whodunit" is attempting to figure out who the killers are. Like so many other films before it, a flashback occurs after the reveal to show you all of the clues you may have missed in your effort to put the pieces together. I can make a guarantee that you will miss nearly all of them. You know why? They weren't there to begin with. Most of the "clues" are revealed in the flashback, which consists of nearly all new scenes not shown before the twist. According to dictionary.com, a clue is defined as "anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem, mystery, etc." Therefore, those aren't clues. They don't cleverly guide the astute viewer to an answer because there's no way of figuring it out, short of a lucky guess based on the few legitimate tips the film throws our way.

Now, this shouldn't be a big deal because yes, the few minor hints that are there are fairly clever (though extremely miniscule). The problem is that no scene prior to the reveal signals who the killers are. In fact, the twist practically negates some of those scenes because the two characters in question talk in seclusion about their suspicions despite knowing it is they who are the murderers. Some will argue the "brilliance" of these scenes once they know the twist, giving one quick explanation that, although sensible, holds little ground.

The film just doesn't play fair, stringing you along a certain path only to spin you around with a quick slap in the face hoping you'll be dazed enough to not realize you've been dishonestly duped. It's not necessarily a bad twist, but there's nothing indicating it will happen, and that is its problem. It jerks you around until you've simply had enough.

But like I said, it's so bad at times that you can't help but laugh and enjoy the stupidity. While mostly good in the first half, the last act (featuring that insipid twist) suddenly makes each actor joyfully over perform, seemingly switching characters on the fly and overstating each and every moment. The sole exception is Timothy Olyphant who remains consistent throughout. His character is written more like a caricature. He exaggerates every move and delivers every line so insincerely that it makes it look like he's the only one in on the joke. Everybody else seems clueless, unaware of the farcical nature of the film they're in and amusingly overdoing it.

When all is said and done, A Perfect Getaway ends up as one of the least thrilling thrillers I've seen in quite some time. Want a slow, boorish pace, a stupefying twist and oafish tonal transitions so abrupt you'll wonder if another movie got caught in the reel? This one is for you. Its runtime is just over an hour and a half, but boredom will set in long before that. While not a total waste thanks to its sometimes lively humor, the paltry ending ruins this getaway.

A Perfect Getaway receives 2/5

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