Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plain Dumb Fun

It's really nice to have Roger Ebert writing movie reviews on the Internet. I hardly ever got to see his reviews on TV, and would thus only see the one nice sentence he might say about some otherwise terrible flick, carefully carved out of context and plastered across the back of the DVD case.

I hardly ever go to the movies anymore. Let's face it, homeschooling moms--by the time we arrange for a babysitter, arrange for an easy dinner for the kids, arrange for the house to be clean enough that we're not embarrassed for the babysitter (in my world, always a family member) to come over (and by "arrange" I of course mean clean it personally) and arrange to have something clean and relatively non-frumpy to wear, the last thing we want to do is waste all that effort on a two-hour "date" that lacks the one thing we can't get enough of: conversation.

My husband enjoys going to the movies, though, and looks forward to my being less tentative about doing so more often at some point in the future. The handful of movies we have seen at theaters since the girls were born have been carefully selected for maximum entertainment (with one exception) value, and have nearly always lived up to the hype--since one of the things I will do is ask lots of people if the movie's worth seeing in the theater before I'll even consider it.

Since one of those movies was, indeed, one of the "Mummy" franchise, I really enjoyed reading Roger Ebert's review--his superb writing ability and keen insights made the review glitter with passages like this:

The emperor is a shape-shifter, able to turn himself into a three-headed, fire-breathing dragon, which coils, twists, turns and somehow avoids scorching himself. He speaks in a low bass rumble, just like Imhotep, the mummy in the two earlier pictures (whose name continues to remind me of an Egyptian house of pancakes). But moving the action from Egypt to China allows a whole new set of images to be brought into play, and the movie ends by winking at us that the next stop will be Peru.

Now why did I like this movie? It was just plain dumb fun, is why. It is absurd and preposterous, and proud of it. The heroes maintain their ability to think of banal cliches even in the most strenuous situations. Brendan Fraser continues to play Rick as if he is taking a ride at Universal Studios, but Mario Bello has real pluck as she uses a handgun against the hordes of terra-cotta warriors. The sacrifice of the sorceress in relinquishing not only her own immortality but that of her daughter permits love to bloom, although would you really want a bride who was 4,000 years old, even if she was going to die?

I think I've figured out why I'd so much rather rent movies than go see them in theaters, most of the time: the movies I like to see in the theater are "plain dumb fun," and alas, that's a dying genre.

I can, and do, watch serious films at home. My husband (should I start calling him "Mr. M." now, or will that be confusing?) is a movie enthusiast, and he'll rent everything from documentaries to blockbuster hits to little-known indie flicks. I'll admit that I've seen a lot more challenging, interesting, meaningful and relevant films because of him.

But as a character in one of my favorite mystery novels says, "I don't go to the theater to be crushed by gloom." Given how rarely Mr. M and I go out alone together, and given how rarely those evenings out include a movie, I want to be sure that the ticket price is going to include some entertainment, some laughs, and some plain dumb fun. I'm all for movies that have social themes and conscious-raising efforts and literary qualities and moving stories based on real life and documentary/docudramas and so forth--but for those, we have Netflix.

So maybe we'll go see the third "Mummy" offering on a big screen with plenty of surround-sound and the full impact of all the special effects--though if we do, I'll probably still be chuckling over Mr. Ebert's "pancake" joke on the way into the theater.

No comments: