August 9, 2008

X Factor’s Missing From Movie Version


"Don't give up" is David Manning's advice to those who wonder about the chances of success of a movie picking up from a successful television show. -------------------- The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly. Directed by Chris Carter. M.

* * 1/2

I wanted to believe. To believe that The X-Files could be successfully resurrected a decade after its first feature film and six years since the nine- season TV series ended.

Mulder and Scully, conspiracies, the Syndicate, aliens, black oil, killer bees, the Cigarette Smoking Man . . . they captured the imagination and mystified the mind as the odd couple FBI agents investigated paranormal phenomena.

Alas, this revival is no return to X-Files mythology; instead it's like an extended TV episode, with only a tangential storyline element to make it barely qualify as an X-Files case - the inclusion of a psychic.

Mulder (David Duchovny) is summoned from exile and, with Scully (Gillian Anderson), is asked to help solve a case involving missing women, human organ transplants and barking dogs.

The plot in parts recalls the TV episodes Post-Modern Prometheus (Frankenstein) and Home (scary rural killers, here Russians) - but too often it gets bogged down in a seemingly unnecessary secondary storyline involving Scully trying to save the life of a boy with a rare brain disease, while also futilely trying to develop interest in Mulder and Scully's own personal relationship. Too much angst and soul- searching.

Mulder and Scully are back in their traditional roles - Mulder as believer, Scully as sceptic (even though in the TV series Scully became the believer to agent Doggett's sceptic). They are yin and yang, chalk and cheese, once again searching for monsters in the dark.

The reason for their involvement - in a case that would seem better suited for one of the CSI or Medium TV shows than X-Files - is a paedophile Catholic priest who has visions relating to the missing women and is played, with a mane of grey hair, by comedian Billy Connolly.

While Connolly showed acting ability in the movie Mrs Brown (1997), you still half expect him to break into one of his rambling monologues at any moment or tell Fox and Dana where to go in his inimitable stand-up comedy style.

But Connolly's playing it straight; indeed, the movie is light on humour - one brief moment is a photograph of George W Bush accompanied by the X-Files signature six-note musical opening.

However, it is Connolly's priest who offers advice that could join "The truth is out there", "Trust no one" and "I want to believe" as X-Files slogans: "Don't give up," he tells Scully, adding "I'm telling you the truth".

Since X-Files creator Chris Carter - who co-wrote and directed this film - reportedly hoped to make a third movie based on the alien invasion (if so, December 22, 2012 would be the ideal opening date, considering that's when a TV episode said such an invasion would occur), perhaps "Don't give up" is timely advice for all those X-Philes and other moviegoers who feel let down by this movie and find themselves becoming more sceptic than believer.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Starring Jason Segel, Kristin Bell, Mila Kunis. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. R16.

* * * 1/2

Judd Apatow started a fashionable fantasy trend in romantic/sex comedies - ordinary-looking guys trying to make it with attractive women.

Call them no-hunks or, if fond of Yiddish, schlubs. They're usually slackers, a bit overweight and a bit of a slob. Or sometimes skinny and awkwardly nerdy.

Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up had Steve Carell and Seth Rogen, respectively, seemingly mismatched with beautiful woman; then Michael Cera played a similar role in the more teen- oriented Superbad and Juno.

Now comes Jason Segel, who was one of Rogen's mates in Knocked Up, in this Apatow-like comedy, written by Segel and directed by Nicholas Stollerr (Apatow was only an executive producer, as he was for Superbad).

Segel plays Peter, the background boyfriend of Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell), the star of a TV crime show for which Peter writes the accompanying music.

When she dumps him for British rocker and notorious Lothario Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), Peter escapes to Sarah's favourite resort, Hawaii, where Sarah and Aldous just happen to be vacationing - but where Peter also meets lovely resort receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis) who befriends him.

Segel's Peter is a sad sack standing still in life, passing the time "working" on a rock opera about Dracula and eternal love to be played by puppets and humans.

As a breakup comedy, the movie has its tender moments but still has enough raunchy content - the full monty on a couple of occasions from Segel plus some sex scenes to earn an R16 and thus make it a naughty attraction - but it also avoids gross-out and lewd jokes.

At times it feels more like a series of sketches and skit scenes weaving around a storyline about whether Peter will be able to successfully break away from, and forget, Sarah or instead might find a chance to mend their relationship.

Kunis is mainly eye candy and you wonder, aside from pity, what attracts her to Peter, while Bell has a few moments spoofing what it's like to be the star of a TV show (she starred in Veronica Mars) and yet aspire to be a movie star. But the scene-stealer is easily Brand. Whenever he's offering his self- conceited views or lazily lounging around like a lascivious lizard in leather, the movie becomes more buoyant and fun.

The best of the supporting cast is Paul Rudd as a stoned-out surfing instructor.

Overall, though, this is an Apatow copycat - in the same mould, entertaining enough but more ordinary than exceptional.

r The Nelson Mail uses a star rating for its reviews, from one star (abysmal) to five stars (the very best).


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