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Entries in Jon Lovitz (2)

Friday
Sep282012

Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania may pretend to be something other than an Adam Sandler movie, but make no mistake, it is an Adam Sandler movie from beginning to end. It stars all of his usual movie pals and has the same obnoxious toilet humor he always seems so drawn to. If you haven’t liked his other recent films, there’s really no reason you’ll enjoy this, but I’ll give it one thing. At least it doesn’t hide under the guise of adulthood. The immature humor and forced messages are still here, but at least they fit the targeted audience. Aimed largely at children, the film stresses the importance of accepting others regardless of their differences and if lowest common denominator humor is the only way to get that point across to the little ones, then I guess it succeeds.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is an overprotective father. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), wants nothing more than to see the world, but he insists leaving will only bring her harm because the humans she’ll run into are evil. To protect her, he has built a giant mansion (that doubles as a hotel) far away from humankind and protected on all sides by haunted forests, zombie graveyards and more. Only monsters, ghouls and goblins can get in and boy, do they. Mavis is about to turn 118 and monsters from all over flood in to celebrate. There’s Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) and many more. However, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) has somehow infiltrated Dracula’s hotel. His presence threatens to ruin both his daughter’s party and the hotel’s patronage, given that he promised security from those awful human beings.

If Adam Sandler’s movies could be judged solely by how few poop and fart jokes they contain, then Hotel Transylvania would be his best in quite some time. It has, I don’t know, probably less than ten (and at least four in the first ten minutes) in the entire movie, which may be some sort of record for the man who is seemingly obsessed with all kinds of bodily fluids and secretions. Luckily, the movie has more merits than its reduction of poop jokes (in comparison). It may have a simple premise like many of Sandler’s other movies, but the idea of bringing classic monster movie creatures together into one building allows for more creativity than the one-joke idea of slapping a wig and some make-up on Sandler and trying to pass him off as his own sister.

Hotel Transylvania, though hardly visionary, at least manages to make good with its source material, in particular evoking memories of “fire bad” from the Frankenstein monster (which is more a reference to a Frankenstein spoof on Saturday Night Live than the actual Frankenstein movies themselves) and having fun with the whole idea of the Invisible Man, like the question on everybody’s mind: if you put your hand in the Invisible Man’s mouth, would it disappear? Further fun includes pantsing the Invisible Man, which exposes his invisible genitals, and a Twilight reference (“Is this how we’re represented?” asks Dracula) that’s bound to make the more cultured movie fans chuckle.

But aside from those humorous moments that spoof classic monster movies, there isn’t much here for adults. Hotel Transylvania is a kids movie through and through. It’s one of the more tolerable ones, mind you, and it teaches a valuable lesson that is too often ignored in a world full of hate: none of us are monsters and we all deserve love and respect. You could do a whole lot worse this weekend than taking your kid to see it, but despite its good intentions, it feels too much like mild spoof when it should be intelligent parody to be recommendable.

Hotel Transylvania receives 2/5

Wednesday
Dec222010

Casino Jack

If the name Jack Abramoff sounds familiar to you, it’s because it probably is. Convicted in 2006 of fraud, he pulled off one of the biggest con jobs in American history, practically stealing money from and destroying American Indian tribes who had hired him to do the opposite, protect them. However, if you aren’t aware of the finer details surrounding Abramoff’s story, no worries. I’m not either. Although I like to think I’m more in tune with what happened than the average person, the details can prove a bit confusing.

Casino Jack, the newest biopic of the corrupt lobbyist (as portrayed by Kevin Spacey) attempts to give those details without providing the necessary context to back them up, scarcely explaining key things like the “gimme five” scheme he pulled off with his partner in crime, Michael Scanlon, played by Barry Pepper (who drops the word “dude” in this movie more than Matt Stone and Trey Parker in BASEketball). Much like the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money earlier this year, the film throws out names and information so fast that it can be hard to keep up. Just in the first few minutes, most of Abramoff’s cohorts are introduced and it speeds through important points that led to his eventual conviction, like his work on a textile mill on the Marianas where employees were basically treated as indentured servants. Everything that is detailed in Casino Jack has already been explored in the documentary and most of what is new is purely speculative, like conversations that happened behind closed doors or over the phone.

Basically, the documentary did a better job of presenting us this man. It was done more in depth and without the speculative nonsense. However, it is how they present him that offers up the largest change from film to film. The documentary deals with facts and doesn’t attempt to go into the personal life of Abramoff. Casino Jack does. It takes a wholly wretched man and attempts to make him (at least somewhat) likable. He is shown as a family man. He quotes movies. He does impressions. He makes jokes. By the end, they try to make his situation sympathetic, but I could find no sympathy to give. He knew what he was doing and deserved everything that was about to happen to him.

The clear attempt at empathy for Abramoff sinks the movie because he’s a man who is clearly self involved, though he pretends he’s not. He calls himself “a man of faith” and thinks he’s doing God’s work when in reality he’s swindling people out of their money. When he arrives at his prison cell, his biggest concern is whether or not they serve kosher. When the scandal is breaking and he is told he is on the front page of the Washington Post, he simply asks, “Is it above the fold?” Although he surely didn’t want to go to prison, he’s a person one could see as liking the attention because he could show America just how smart he thinks he is.

If you couldn’t tell, I hold Jack Abramoff with the highest contempt. Just thinking of the corruption in all areas of the world is sickening to my stomach and it’s because of people like Abramoff and his lackeys that our country finds itself in dire straits. Of course, that’s why knowing this story is so important, but I find myself leaning away from Casino Jack and towards the superior documentary.

If you do watch the documentary first, one of two things will happen. You’ll either enjoy Casino Jack because you’ll be going into it with a better understanding of the actual man, or you’ll dislike it because you'll realize how much unnecessary drama and speculation there is in its telling of his story. At the end of Casino Jack and the United States of Money, I was enraged that someone could do something so destructive, but I also found hope in the idea that corruption could be uncovered and punished. At the end of Casino Jack, I felt nothing.

Casino Jack receives 2/5