In theaters: WALL-E follows what is becoming a traditional pattern for Pixar releases: rapturous hosannas from critics, followed by gripes from moviegoers. The complaints leveled at this film have been more than the norm: it's too quiet; too dark; too anti-American, etc. I'm somewhere in the middle of the crossfire. It's more sweet, less manically exhausting than most of their movies. I'm with the conventional wisdom that the first half is the best, putting us deep in the lonely world of its robot protagonist and his budding romance with the trigger-happy EVE. The second half, when the two characters board the star cruiser populated with overweight humans, is more satirical but also flat. Both halves are incredibly derivative,
Catching up on DVD: Blades of Glory, the Will Ferrell/Jon Herder figure skating spoof, is intermittently funny and gleefully silly, less enjoyable than Walk Hard but Ferrell's hilarious machismo-on-ice shtick elevates it above just about every other comedy out there. Cloverfield, the hyped-up before it bottomed-out monster-on-the-rampage movie, is very clever and viscerally effective, darker than expected, but ultimately not very fun. The creature is a disappointing blank (as are its giant arachnid-like spawn). Better actors would have better conveyed the 9/11 emotionalism that the filmmakers were going for; as it stands, their anonymity would make them representatives for ourselves were they not all pretty pin-ups.
Maybe Cloverfield could have used the casting director of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, who deserves a bonus for persuading Ed Harris, Helen Mirren and Bruce Greenwood (best of all, as a President one can only dream of) to join the likes of Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, and of course Nicolas Cage for another ridiculous sub-Indiana Jones/Mission Impossible romp through historically-themed puzzles and clues a notch or two more complicated than the Daily Jumble. Nevertheless, the director, Jon Turteltaub, livens the pace more than the original National Treasure, which I couldn't get through. This sequel held my attention all the way to the big finish, in an ancient subterranean dwelling beneath Mount Rushmore, where Turteltaub somehow persuaded his ensemble of esteemed actors to play in neck-deep water. Also now on DVD, National Treasure 2 is no big deal, but unlike The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it bothers to create characters and set up plot points with actual payoffs. You know, kooky stuff. Perhaps I have things backwards: maybe Spielberg and Lucas are now sub-Turteltaub.