CHRIS TOOKEY: Ruby Sparks shines in the dust
00:02 GMT, 12 October 2012
Ruby Sparks (15)
Verdict: Bright idea doesn’t catch fire ★★★✩✩
On The Road (15)
Verdict: They said it was unfilmable. How right they were ★✩✩✩✩
Hotel Transylvania (U)
Verdict: Don’t check in ★✩✩✩✩
With high-quality entertainment such as Homeland, Downton Abbey and Strictly back on our TV screens, cinemas will have a fight on their hands to attract audiences on cold, dark evenings.
And they’re going to have to do a lot better than this week’s releases.
The only one worth seeing is Ruby Sparks, the second film by husband-and-wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (the first being Little Miss Sunshine, six years ago).
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Bright couple: Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano light up quirky romantic comedy Ruby Sparks
It’s not as funny or enjoyable as their debut, but it’s easily the best movie of the week, thanks to an ingenious central idea.
A struggling novelist (Paul Dano) dreams up a perfect girl and starts writing about her . . . and then she shows up, alluringly played by the film’s writer Zoe Kazan.
At first everything goes well, and the author revels in the fact that he can change his romantic partner’s mood merely by writing her a new one. But then he becomes exasperated by her neediness and lack of an independent personality. His dream-come-true turns into a living nightmare.
Though recognisably a variation on Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, it’s a daringly unconventional idea, and Ms Kazan has written endearing roles for herself and her real-life boyfriend, Mr Dano.
But her lack of experience shows in the failure of the screenplay to develop in interesting or humorous ways, and one is left with a sense of frustration. I couldn’t help feeling that Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) might have done better.
Prominent actors including Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Elliott Gould are wasted on minor caricatures. Overall, however, the exercise seems a bit lightweight and pointless. Is it an attempt to show the egotism and self-absorption of creative people If so, it succeeds.
But in the end it doesn’t so much subvert the cliches of romantic comedy as embrace them. In striving to be cute, it becomes cutesy. All the same, there’s unmistakably talent here, along with no little charm. I could easily bear to see it again.
On The Road might as well be called Off Its Head. It’s a car-crash of a movie.
Unfilmable: Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund make a charmless trio in On The Road
Most of the time, the characters in this rambling, repetitive, unrewarding shambles are high on marijuana or Benzedrine, and in order to appreciate their aimless antics a drug-induced high is probably essential.
Fifteen minutes have been cut since this yawn-a-thon flopped at Cannes, but it still runs at an unendurable two hours.
Director Walter Salles — whose best film was Central Station — made a successful road movie in the Che Guevara-adoring Motorcycle Diaries, and that, at least, had character development and an intrinsic attraction in showing us the making of a Leftie pin-up.
On The Road gives us various pretentious, thieving nonentities and completely fails to make us care about them or suggest why they were important as icons of the Beat Generation. They learn nothing and behave with alienating selfishness throughout.
It misses out the one thing that makes Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel worth reading — his voice — and has no insights into sex, drugs, music or beatniks.
Watch the official trailer for On The Road
Salles’s name and the book title have attracted a marvellous supporting cast — Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Terrence Howard, Steve Buscemi and Viggo Mortensen — but their contribution is minimal.
The film is dominated by a trio of
young actors — a preening Garrett Hedlund (Tron), a drippy Sam Riley
(Control) and Kristen Stewart (Twilight), whose droopy
passive-aggression is becoming one of cinema’s most tiresome mannerisms.
Their lack of charisma, along with the hopeless script, makes the film one of the year’s most obnoxious ordeals by tedium.
Hotel Transylvania is not to be confused with two good animated comedies around featuring horror monsters — ParaNorman and the Frankenweenie.
Actor-producer Adam Sandler’s second venture into animation is almost as unfunny as his horrendous Eight Crazy Nights, ten years ago.
Unfunny: Actor-producer Adam Sandler's second venture into animation, Hotel Transylvania, is almost as unfunny as his horrendous Eight Crazy Nights, ten years ago
He’s cast himself as Count Dracula, who’s become a grovelling hotelier to fellow monsters. Survivors of Sandler’s previous efforts will know what to expect, even in a film bearing a U certificate: iffy gags about flatulence, excrement and sex — a grim determination to lower the lowest common denominator.
So if the concept of a fat, farting mummy appeals to you, this will tickle your funny bone. And some children may be amused at the idea of a sponge that gets a perverse pleasure from sucking up urine.
But adults who wish to preserve the innocence of their children may well feel like marching on cinemas where this monstrosity is showing, carrying flaming torches.
Watch the official trailer for Hotel Transylvania