Baby Mama

[Christianity Today Online, April 25, 2008) Summary: In this comedy a single thirty-something organic foods executive can’t sustain a pregnancy, so she hires a ditsy surrogate to carry her baby to term. Stars: ** Rated PG -13 Genre: Comedy Released: April 25, 2008 by Broadway Video Directed by: Michael McCullers Runtime: 96 min. Cast: Tina Fey (Kate), Amy Poehler (Angie), Greg Kinnear (Rob), Dax Shepard (Carl), Romany Malco (Oscar) Baby Mama By Frederica Mathewes-Green When Chinese food was first becoming popular in the US, some decades ago, a saying quickly became a cliché: it tastes great, but an hour later you’re hungry all over again. Some comedies are like that. As long as you’re in the theater, you could be laughing more or less continuously.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

[; March 7, 2008] Stars: 2 Cast: Frances McDormand (Guinevere Pettigrew), Amy Adams (Delysia LaFosse), Ciaran Hinds (Joe), Lee Pace (Michael), Shirley Henderson (Edythe Dubarry) *** Miss Guinevere Pettigrew does have quite a day. It begins on a blustery London morning in 1939, as Miss Pettigrew awakens on a bench in a London train station. She had lost her job as a governess the day before, and no job prospects are in sight. She gets a meal in a soup-line but it is knocked out of her hands; she collides with a stranger, and her suitcase spills across the sidewalk. With nothing left to lose, Miss Pettigrew forms the bold plan of trying to pass herself off as the applicant sent by an employment agency to be social secretary to nightclub singer and social luminary Delysia LaFosse. (The film is based on a 1938 novel which was reissued in England in 2000, making the author, Winifred Watson, a minor celebrity at 94.)


[; February 29, 2008] [Cast: Jessica Lange (Arvilla), Kathy Bates (Margene), Joan Allen (Carol), Tom Skerritt (Emmett), Christine Baranaski (Francine)] Oh boy, a movie about a 1966 Bonneville convertible! That’s the car my sisters and I learned to drive on. Ours was silver with a black interior, purchased brand-new off the showroom floor with every possible extra. We called it the Batmobile. It’s in retirement at Louisa’s place now, but I like to think of it as resting up. I went to see the cinematic “Bonneville” filled with hopeful nostalgia, but, I regret to say, it’s a really crummy movie. Though the car appears in the film, it’s mere eye candy for a story about three middle-aged women (“middle,” that is, if you know lots of 120-year-olds). They’re using the spiffy vehicle to make a road trip from Pocatello, Idaho to Santa Barbara, California. Though road-trip movies have been overdone, it could still have been enjoyable, especially as a comedy retaining down-to-earth, wisecracking Kathy Bates. But “Bonneville” is also burdened with a *serious* plot element, one that feels contrived and manipulative.

Hannah Montana

[First Things; February 5, 2008] Even if you go around with one or several fingers stuffed into each ear, you will not be able to exclude the words “Hannah Montana” from your field of consciousness. No American citizen is permitted to be unfamiliar with the words “Hannah Montana.” What you are permitted is to be uncertain of what the words mean. Unless you made the decision to have a seven-year-old granddaughter about now, without taking sufficient forethought for the consequences. I’ve resisted learning about the Hannah Montana industry until recently, despite the acquisition of my own seven-year-old granddaughter, herself a Hannah.

The Air I Breathe

I love movies like this. But, sad to say, I didn’t love this movie. I hoped I would, but one clunker after another kept accumulating—a hackneyed character here, a stupid line of dialogue there—until it was sounding like a sneaker in a dryer. That’s too bad, because this format has been the foundation of some terrific, thought-provoking films. You take a sizeable number of characters, most of whom have never met, and set their stories in motion. As the multiple plots unfold, each character is being drawn closer to the center, where a resolution awaits that, in the best of these films, can be simultaneously unexpected and inevitable. Let’s coin a term and call them “drawstring” movies, a subset of the genre known as “ensemble” films.

Walk Hard

[Christianity Today Movies; December 21, 2007] This will sound like an odd thing to say about a comedy, but “Walk Hard” is an ambitious movie. It starts with 6-year-old Dewey Cox picking up a guitar in a rural general store and belting out a blues number, and proceeds to show…

Grace is Gone

[Christianity Today Movies,  Dec 7, 2007] Movies are great at sweeping an audience up into intense emotions and experiences; even when a plot is flimsy, a good roller-coaster ride can be worth the price of admission. It’s not so easy to make a movie about something that isn’t happening. In “Grace is Gone,” what doesn’t happen (at least not for a very long time) is a dad breaking the news to his daughters that their mom is dead. We watch him not tell them in the living room, in the car, in restaurants, in motels, at an amusement park – he doesn’t tell them all the way from the upper Midwest to Florida. He grimaces and weeps, he calls his own answering machine to hear Grace’s recorded voice, but he can’t bring himself to get it out to the girls. The whole movie is like being stuck in bed with a cold.


[National Review Online; November 21, 2007] I’m going to try not to gush, but it’s hard when a movie is this delightful. “Enchanted” is even more than that, it’s original—lovely, fresh, funny, and charming to a princely degree. And this is where you and I can start to lose each other, because there’s no reviewer so smitten as the one who expected to endure a so-so movie and was surprised to find something really very good. Gratitude produces a review with a rosy glow, but if you read that review and buy a ticket expecting to see the best thing next to “Citizen Kane,” you could well be disappointed. It’s the very same movie, but it depends on where you’re coming from. That gap between discovery and verification is a communications hazard for readers and writers of all kinds of reviews. I know all that, but I can’t help it. “Enchanted” knocked me out.

What Would Jesus Buy?

[National Review Online; Nov 16, 2007] The Church of Stop Shopping? The name might ring a bell. During last year’s pre-Christmas shopping season, this parody gospel choir roamed the country, stopping in places like Mall of America to offer carols rewritten to warn of the evils of consumerism. The music-and-comedy troupe was founded by “Rev. Billy” (Bill Talen), who preaches the Stop Shopping gospel (“We’re on a mission to save Christmas from overconsumption”) while costumed and coiffed to resemble the most terrifying wide-eyed faith healer on TV. (Actually, the Anglican-style clergy collar doesn’t go with this character, nor the pre-Vatican II Catholic confessional, but we’re not asking for historic accuracy here.) “What Would Jesus Buy?” is a documentary about that cross-country pilgrimage,


[Books & Culture; Novv/Dec 2007]  “Idiocracy” is the most thought-provoking bad movie I’ve ever seen. But, stand warned, it’s pretty bad. No kidding. The plot is flimsy, the characters are flat, and the minutes fly like hours. You’ll be desperate for it to end, long before the 87 minutes run their course. Tedium, thy name is “Idiocracy.” And yet it lingers in the mind. The day after you see it, you’ll see it everywhere.