VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes

Green mist, blue stars, dissolving slaves, and stow-away little girls! Seven magic swords that must be laid together on Aslan’s table to defeat evil and bring peace to all men! Where have I heard this story before?

Not in anything C.S. Lewis wrote, that’s for sure.

I hate to do this to you, because I know you’ve been waiting for this movie as long as I have, that is, since Prince Caspian. However, they say that  all good things must come to an end,  and in this case, I think we need to write finis over the Chronicles of Narnia, at least so far as making movies goes.

Or, if these  people feel that they must bring us Silver Chair, let’s make  them to promise that they’ll read the book first.

In the much-better Prince Caspian, Caspian ousts his evil uncle Miraz the Usurper with the help of the Ancient Kings and Queens and, of course, Aslan, who Himself destroys the bad guys with a supernatural rising of the River. Those who repent are saved; the unrepentant are destroyed.

Years before,  Miraz had exiled Caspian’s father’s seven friends to the East. Now that Caspian is king and the land is settled in peace, he must go find them, alive if possible.  The book takes us from one find or rescue to the next without any logical progression. The next thing just happens.  Because of the lack of linkage, making the movie was bound to be tricky. Something had to be added to make these disparate adventures cohere.

They chose a green fog. Reminiscent of the Death Angel in Ten Commandments, it floats along the ground and corrupts people. Scares people.  Tempts people to evil.   It even dissolves people who are sacrificed to it, and therein lies Caspian’s Quest. He must seek the source of the Green Mist and destroy it by gathering the 7 magic swords of the 7 missing lords and laying them on Aslan’s table. When the Power  of the Swords is thus assembled, evil will be vanquished, the lost  captives  will be found, and Caspian can go on to the Utter East with Reepicheep, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace.

But wait, you say. Caspian doesn’t go to the Utter East with them.  He returns to Ramandu’s Island so he can kiss the girl and then take her back to Narnia. Yes, yes, that’s what happens in the book. You must leave what you know about the book behind when you come to the movie. Otherwise you will be irritated by all the things they made up and stuffed in here.

Not only do lots of things happen that don’t happen in the book, many of your favorite parts are left out, including (importantly for Christians who enjoy the Christ-allegory of this series) the important spiritual points, such as the sovereignty of God in salvation (tearing off the sin nature). Here, we learn only that you should love what you have, not seek for what you do not have, and be your own best self.

Here is a sampling of things that don’t happen in the movie. (These are just off the top of my head; I haven’t read the book in two or three years, so I am probably missing some.)

Trumpkin is not mentioned as having been left as Regent. Governor Gumpas does not rule the Lone Islands. In fact, Governor Gumpas  is not in the movie at all. The Lord Bern does not rescue Caspian from slavery, nor is he made Governor. The Lord Drinian does not signal to the “rest of the fleet.”  Eustace does not fling Reepicheep around by his tail. Master Rhince is not an original member of the crew, and Lucy is not the only girl on board. Eustace does not find himself in a dragon’s cave with “another” dragon whose movements and breath terrify him. Eustace does not tear off layers of skin. Aslan does not tear off Eustace’s dragon skin, but twirls him around in the air while his body transforms (think Beauty and the Beast here). The Lord Octesian’s ring does not tear into Eustace’s flesh. The Dark Island is not dark. Men do not experience their dreams. Lucy does not go to the fighting top to call on Aslan.  Aslan does not speak to her in the form of the albatross. No shoe-tips turn gold.  The Duffelpuds do not “yessir” their Chief. Reepicheep does not show them how to sail. Lucy does not say a charm to make her more beautiful than the lot of mortals, but only wants to be as pretty as Susan (an odd thing, since Lucy knows what she will look like when she grows up, having already been grown up). The Lord Rhoop does not find rest at Aslan’s table because he is picked up later.  No one wants to stay on Ramandu’s Island. We do not go into the Darkness because Reepicheep says, “Let it never be said that men of Narnia failed to undertake an adventure because they were afraid of the dark,” but because Ramandu’s daughter told them they have to go. The Sea Serpent is not pushed off the Dawn Treader. Caspian does not send off the children and Reepicheep with tears. We do not turn and watch the Dawn Treader until we can’t see it any longer.  Caspian is not in love with Ramandu’s daughter, nor does she tell him, “In this world, you must win glory and honor first and then you can kiss the girl.” (Sorry, I don’t have the wording right on that). Caspian’s crew does not attempt to talk him out of traveling to the World’s End, but apparently just lets him go. Aslan does not appear to Caspian in his cabin, but actually gives him an opportunity of leaving Narnia forever.

The end is not emotionally charged like the ends of the other two movies. I think Edmund and Lucy are too old, and Georgie Henley has not yet learned to deliver a convincing line.  Eustace is unbearable as he should be. Caspian seems to have lost his faux-Spanish accent.

Edmund’s flashlight  battery is still good. They  must have made super long-life batteries during the War years.

Also, strangely, the War is still on in London, but Mr. and Mrs. Pevensie and Peter and Susan have all gone to America on (presumably) the lecture tour.  It’s odd that Peter and Mr. Pevensie can be spared from the War effort at this critical juncture when there are long lines at the enlistment office.  In fact, Edmund and Lucy have gone to the Scrubbs’ house because of the War. This is all very mixed-up. (In the book, they are only there for the summer while the lecture tour is on.)

In a moment of hope-for-the-future, the moviemakers put this line at the end:

Mrs. Scrubb calling up the stairs: “Eustace, Jill Pole is here to see you!”

I think they will be disappointed if they think moviegoers will want to give them another chance with Eustace and Jill fighting off Bad Kids and throwing The Head out on her can.  I think that people who are not already fans of the Lewis books will not bother with this movie. And those (like me) who are fans (except for the ending of The Last Battle, which is blasphemous) will likely be annoyed by the stark, fundamental  differences between the book and the movie.

[Speaking of blasphemy, there was an advertisement just prior to our movie  for Left Behind: the Rise of AntiChrist, the videogame. I kid you not. Now you can play your way through Revelation with, seemingly, a magic guitar that wards of evil spirits. ]

FAIR GAME, starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts

In the rancorous two-party system in which we find ourselves, even seeing a movie designed to make President George W. Bush look bad can bring people from certain circles  into disrepute, let alone writing about it.  But hey, I’m nothing if not a risk-taker, so here goes.

Fair Game is a disturbing movie about America’s war in Iraq. Sure, it’s also about the disgraceful outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame,  but the main question asked in the movie is not, “Did Scooter Libby (or Karl Rove or Robert Novak)  screw up?” but “Did we have any real basis for shocking and aweing these people out of their country?”

The irrelevant question of Saddam’s general culpability for mass murder and the flip-side question, “Don’t you see that regular Iraqis are far better off now than they were?” are untouched. What is touched is this searing question:  Did we have the goods on Iraq or didn’t we?

That’s the question posed by this film.  I’m no operative (at least I can’t admit to being one), but I’m thinking that even illegal identification of spies is a foreseeable occupational hazard of working at Langley.  It’s not enough to make a movie out of.  So although the movie is called Fair Game, because Ms. Plame was declared “fair game” in the attempt to smear her husband (and, presumably,  because she is a lovely woman and also “game” in this hunt),  her identification is not the central point of this movie.

This movie is about why we went to war in Iraq.  It’s about Joe Wilson—Valerie Plame’s husband—who took a trip to Niger and found that there was no evidence of a reported sale of 500 tons of uranium to Saddam for use in his supposed nuclear program. When President Bush announced that there was such a sale and that on account of this sale we had weighed Iraq in the balance and found them wanting a good bombing, Mr. Wilson lost his cool, wrote up the facts about the non-existent uranium sale and published the piece in the New York Times.

In retaliation for this bit of Bush-whacking, Joe’s wife, Ms. Plame, is identified in the national press as a CIA agent. Her cover blown sky-high, all her numerous overseas covert operations are compromised, including the evacuation of Iraqi nuclear scientists from Iraq.  America abandons these men and their families to sure disaster and then bombs Baghdad’s lights out.  The Wilson-Plame marriage frays around the edges, then unravels as Joe insists that Valerie defend herself, while Valerie says, “It’s the White House, Joe. Do you think you can stand up against the most powerful men in the history of the world?”

In the end, Scooter Libby—the fall guy in the Vice President’s Office—is indicted, convicted, and sentenced for leaking Ms. Plame’s creds, and the President commutes the sentence, so no harm done.  To him. Scooter scoots off scot-free, except for the $250,000 fine, which he presumably can pay out of the royalties from his mass market paperback thriller, The Apprentice.

The Wilson-Plame family now lives in New Mexico. Scooter Libby has been disbarred.  Four thousand American soldiers have died in Iraq. George W. Bush lives in Texas.

Sean Penn as Joe Wilson is at the top of his game. Naomi Watts  as Valerie Plame is lovely and convincing.

If you’re a Democrat, you’ll love this show. If you’re a Republican not overly-drenched in tea, you can probably see it, but if you’re a talk radio devotee, my friend, do yourself a favor and stay away: you’ll give yourself an aneurysm.

NUTCRACKER, starring Elle Fanning

Animated by the premise that I disagree with everything Roger Ebert says, I tried as hard as I could to enjoy this movie. I completely failed.  This may not be the worst movie ever made, but it is surely the worst movie I have ever subjected myself to, and I’m including here the disastrously awful Jurassic Park III, in which I hoped that horrid ungrateful little boy would be torn apart by T-Rexes.

At the very beginning of the movie, I was informed that this movie is a “UK/Hungary production.”  I smiled, because I am myself a UK/Hungary production if you go back only two generations! (That we were always called “Reynolds” as opposed to “Goldberger” is a family shame…but I digress. The point is that I thought the UK/Hungary thing was neato and portended at least a watchable show.)

Let’s be clear that the original story of the nutracker is horrible–there’s a hairy Rat King and a wooden soldier who becomes a Man in Tights–and that only the music and the ballet save it. Sans the ballet and with inane words added to the music, all the beauty is gone. Add in toy crematoria and an effeminate, tap-dancing Hitler with a wig-changing mother who casts curses and drinks rat juice,  and you have the ingredients of an utter disaster. That someone thought of this is not surprising–artists think up all sorts of nonsense.  That someone financed it is simply not forgivable, may they lose all their money.

I suppose a sort of parlor game could come of this movie. People could sit around munching pretzels and someone could say, “I know! Let’s play, ‘List the top 100 bad things about Nutckracker in 3D.‘”  There are at least 100.  In fact, this could be a real reason to watch the movie. Sort of a What’s Wrong With This Picture exercise.

Enough said. This is a tremendously bad movie.  I went alone, and when I got home, my middle son said, “Mama! Are you okay?” I looked that bad. Speaking of looking bad, Mary (played by Elle Fanning, Dakota’s little sister)–don’t ask me why her name isn’t Clara–goes to tremendous lengths, climbing conveyor belts of toys on their way from the Ghetto to the incinerator to save the Prince, who then says to her, “You look awful.”  Poor kid, he didn’t have a good part, but he played what he had woodenly. Can’t blame him, I suppose, as he plays a nutcracker named NC who is voiced by Shirley Henderson, the young lady who brought us Moaning Myrtle.  He appears again later. This time Mary is awake and her parents have come around to the realization that their daughter’s nightmares are an integral part of her waking life. Mary walks up to the boy who is introduced to her as Nicholas Chance. He says to her (wait for it)…”Everyone calls me NC.”  Deep groan from me, but no one heard it.

That’s because I was all alone! I actually had a private showing!  This was not, sadly, because I am a much-read movie blogger, but because everyone else had the sense not to show up. It did make the movie even creepier than it would have been to be a woman sitting alone in a dark movie house.  On the plus side, at least I could pay attention and not have people rush past me on their way to demand refunds. Nor did I have to listen to any crying children.  Anyone who brings their children to this movie is served right if the poor kids cry all the way through.

Not to beat a dead rat, but this is an awful, horrible movie (did I mentioned it’s in 3D???).  Not an analogy of WWII. Not a way to introduce your children to the horrors of war or the Final Solution. If you want to do that, for goodness’ sake, show them Schindler’s List.  No one should see this movie.

TANGLED, starring Mandy Moore

Tangled is a delightfully updated retelling of the classic fairy tale Rapunzel. The film is lovely to watch, the plot is engagingly re-imagined, so you don’t feel as if you are simply walking through a story you’ve read a thousand times before. It’s new enough that half-way through, I was on the edge of  my seat asking: 1) how are they going to get out of this predicament? 2) how is Flynn going to redeem himself enough to be acceptable to Rapunzel? and 3) how are they going to bring Rapunzel home at last?  The answers to these questions are the story, of course, and Disney has outdone itself in crafting a wonderful movie that adults will love and little girls will go bonkers for.  There were several little girls in full princess get-up in our theater. They were so cute!

At first I worried that it was too up-to-date, but I calmed all the way down and enjoyed this film from the first scene to the happily-ever-aftering.

The answer to the question: Why is this Disney princess musical rated PG? I don’t know. It’s certainly not as scary as some of the earlier princess movies. Gothel is nowhere near as frightening as Maleficent.  There’s the violence to be expected when a princess is being rescued, and the villain dies as most or all Disney villains die–by falling off something very high. There is nothing objectionable here–no potty humor, no innuendo, no nothin’–and happily, all the motivations are correct. This happens so rarely in film that it is really something when it is done right: people (and horses and chameleons) do the things they would do, and you can understand why they do them.  (Worst offender ever here is War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, where there’s this horrendous evil red goo growing all over the world and people are running toward it.  Dumb!) We can understand, given her situation, why a woman keeps a girl locked in a tower for years and years, why a man would become a thief, why a child will return to an abusive home after being freed.

As for big-picture morality and universal themes, you’ll get a packful. Tangled is full of hard choices, delayed happiness, honoring parents, seeking truth, and noble self-sacrifice.  Importantly, truth must be grappled with and understood, and self must be forsaken before ultimate happiness is won.  Disney has not always been consistent here, remember that self-seeking, father-disrespecting mermaid who marries a man she hasn’t even spoken to? Not here. Here we have a strong woman who wants to know who she is and who is willing to fight to get to truth.

The chameleon is adorable.  He doesn’t speak or go all spirit-world on us like the sidekick in Mulan. The horse Maximus is heroic. The music is wonderful–lots of good, fun songs. Tangled is a definite yes for the whole family.  Fun enough for little children, interesting enough for mom and dad. Lots of good talking points for follow-up conversations.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Part 1, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

(Because of my Fundamentalist/Reformed/Calvinist position–and knowing the anti-Harry feelings held by many of my friends who might read this, there are two main parts to this post: 1) the whole idea of  Harry Potter and 2) my thoughts on the movie. I hope you will either read the entire post or not read it at all, as it is all one piece. Thank you.)

There is a wildly popular children’s book series taking up space in every library, every school, and most evangelical homes in America. The protagonist of the stories is self-willed and naughty, scoffs  at religious training, and is jealous of those who find happiness in doing right. As the series progresses and our protagonist grows up, a romantic alliance is made with an opportunistic liar who withholds life-saving food from starving people for his own advantage. Our protagonist castigates and ridicules the town’s religious leader, an unloved teacher, and a childhood enemy—using those people’s true names.  And yet, people love these books, some even making pilgrimages to the several towns in which the family lived (note: restless, wandering father who at one point forces his hungry, overworked family to live in an underground cave).

In another wildly popular children’s book series taking up space in every library, every school, and most evangelical homes in America, we learn that there is no difference between Jehovah and false gods, that it doesn’t matter what you believe, but that you believe. In the final scene of this 7-book series, a man who worships a demon is welcomed into heaven because (so it turns out) when he was worshipping the demon, he was actually worshipping God.

My dear, dear faithful and godly friends, you can have your Laura Ingalls and your Last Battle. Give me Harry Potter every time.

Give me Harry—with the clear black-and-white/good-versus-evil every time. Where Voldemort is always evil, and Harry is always pursuing good: not perfectly, but consistently.  Where the might of the Evil One is trained and focused on Harry’s destruction, and where Harry is protected because of the self-sacrifice of his mother. Where, when Evil is near and getting nearer, Harry has acute physical pain. Where Harry consistently seeks to go it alone so that his friends will not have to suffer with him as he faces Voldemort. Where friendship is true, enduring, strong, and lasting.  Not to mention that the entire work is fun, delightfully clever, creative beyond imitation, endearing, suspenseful, frightening, poignant, and (most importantly) satisfyingly finished as it should be: with good decisively triumphant over evil.

In late 2000, I became aware of Harry Potter when an article opposing Harry appeared in a major Christian news magazine. Shortly thereafter, I began to receive emails from godly friends who were sincerely afraid that this new series was not just another set of fantasy books, but was the Devil’s own tool to take over the hearts of our children and lead them down the frightening road to the occult and Satanism.

It has been my habit to try to avoid band-wagons. I wanted to know the answer to my question: “What in the world???” Why would so many good people be so freaked out about a children’s book? So, we went to the bookstore at the mall (back when malls had bookstores!), and I put a copy of Goblet of Fire on the counter. The lady said, “Have you read the other three?” When I said I had not, she told me to replace number four, and start with number one. Obediently, I purchased Sorcerer’s Stone, took it home, sat down, and read this line:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Delighted by this lovely, simple opening, I immediately called the family down and read the whole book aloud to them.  The next day, we bought the second and third books. When we had finished reading those aloud, I bought Goblet of Fire, a wonderful read. Since then, we were in line at Wal-Mart at midnight each time a new book was released, always buying three copies so we didn’t have to share.

Here’s a story: Spring of 2002. I’m teaching Special Ed. English at a public intermediate school in Hawaii. There’s a boy in my class named Gomez. He’s never read a book voluntarily in his life. After hearing me read books one and two aloud to the class, he picks up my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban. Three days later, I notice he is still reading it during classroom reading time, and that he is making good progress through it! I told him, “Gomez, if you finish that book, I will buy you your own copy of Goblet of Fire.” His eyes grew enormous.  “Really, Miss???” (They call you Miss in Hawaii—or Auntie—it is delightful.) A few days later, he finished book three. The first book he had ever read for pleasure, and it had over 400 pages. The next day I brought him book four. He said, “I never knew reading could be fun.”  This was not a child about to dive into any evil pursuit. This was a kid who didn’t know what it was to enjoy reading.

Okay, so this is supposed to be a movie review.

If you aren’t a fan, it might be too difficult to follow. The movie does not over-explain. It expects its audience to know what it is talking about, to know what has happened up til now.

If you haven’t been a fan, but think you want to give it a try, start back at Book One. Notice I didn’t say Movie One. Read the books first, for crying out loud! Then see the movies. Doesn’t everyone have that rule for their kids? Of course you do.

If you are a fan and you have read all the books and seen all the other movies, listen to me extremely carefully:

THIS MOVIE IS WONDERFUL. It is beautiful. It is frightening. It is riveting. It is heart-wrenching. You will have tears in your eyes before five minutes have passed—if you have children, you will cry.  There is a scene in the tent that is sweet beyond explanation.  There is heroic self-sacrifice. There is courage in the face of insuperable difficulties. There is Dobby with the cutest shoes ever.  And because this is Part 1, this movie ends exactly how it should. Intense, scary ending.

The music is wonderful, throbbing; the scenery vast. The child actors are children no longer, and their problems are gigantic and far-reaching. Muggles are being killed, Mudbloods tortured.  There are understated, beautiful performances by many secondary characters. The little we see of Draco is telling, if ambiguous. We wonder. We hope. Same for Snape whom I rooted for all through the books: something about him made me care and hope that in the end he would turn out to have been good all along.

NOTICE:  NOT FOR CHILDREN. This is a movie for adults. Please, at least preview it if you think your kids are all that mature. I told my children to put this one on their ten-year-calendars for their 17th birthdays. At 14, they’re watching Mississippi Burning, so that should tell you something. (Because everyone should watch Mississippi Burning and I mean it, but that’s another post, isn’t it?) There were little children in our theater, but this is a mistake. There’s no Hogwarts here. No Nearly-Headless Nick.  No Howlers. No Sorting Hat. School’s out: this is the real world, and it’s frightening. (There is an unexpected “skin” scene that is muted and unfocused, but obvious. Do not bring children.)

One more note: I have a dear, dear friend whom I love who said she could not even try Harry Potter because the “one Christian family” is made ridiculous. I think she was referring to the Dursleys, and I want to say that whoever told her that the Dursleys are a Christian family has slandered Christianity in every possible way. The Dursleys are the opposite of even horrible hypocritical Christians. They are cruel, heartless child abusers. Nor do they claim to be Christian, attend church, or do anything remotely connected with Christianity.   But that’s an example of unjust stones that are flung at Harry. There are many, many more. People are just trying to protect their children, and my goodness, it’s certainly not important that kids read Harry Potter. It’s just a set of books, after all. But they are loads and loads of fun. I have greatly enjoyed all seven books and all seven movies. July 15, 2011, is on my calendar for sure: I’m going as Molly Weasley, of course!

UNSTOPPABLE, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine

Silly me. From watching the previews for this movie, I thought it was about a trainful of children in mortal danger who are saved by the combined efforts of Mr. Washington and Mr. Pine.  The children are never in any danger, and although a big deal is made out of them during the first few minutes, they disappear from the movie fairly quickly and we never hear from them again.  They are not even afraid.

I have been in love with Denzel Washington since A Soldier’s Story, through Glory, and on through Inside Man, as everyone in my family can affirm, but whatever the man was paid for this flick was too much. He sits in a chair and talks to Mr. Pine, with the lone exception of the bit at the end where he’s fist-pumping the air in a Pennsylvania take on Leonardo’s king of the world stunt.  Yeah, there’s the bit with running on top of train cars, but I’m guessing they have expert train runners to do that sort of thing.

Speaking of love, Chris Pine and I go way back to 2009. I think it was the yellow shirt and the “Bones, buckle up,” that did me in, but whatever. Here, although he wears a yellow vest, it’s not the same thing. He’s a newbie train conductor with marriage problems that don’t make sense and a restraining order against him that would never have been granted, let alone increased by 30 days. This information (the extension of the TRO), by the way, is given to us by a man with a cell phone who is never identified and has no other purpose.

Okay, okay, I’m getting to it. Here’s what happens (Don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens at the end): There’s this train, and a fat guy lets it get away because he’s too fat to run fast enough to jump back into the cab after jumping out to throw a switch. The train rolls off, but no one tells anyone for a while. Then for a while longer, no one tells anyone that the train is not coasting, but is actually under power. Then they don’t know what to do. They say they’ll evacuate all these places, but all you see is a bunch of people crowding the train tracks.

Stanton, Pennsylvania may blow up in a cloud of molten phenol combined with explosions from giant gas tanks that are certain to be destroyed when (not if) the train falls off the deadly S-curve there. However, everyone is just standing there looky-looing for all they’re worth. No one runs for cover. No one covers his face. Mothers even bring their children. Huh?

Chilean mine rescuers know to have three rescue operations going at once, but here in the US, we have just two men running down a train that’s about the destroy a city of over 700,000 people.  A funny man with a fast truck appears from time to time, we are not sure why. But, good thing he’s there (his name is Ned) because at the end, he drives his truck parallel to the engine, so Will (Chris Pine) can jump onto the engine, pop into the cab and put on the brakes. Why did we have to wait through an entire movie if all they had to do was drive up next to the train so someone could scoot into the front seat?

If indeed someone just had to go up front, and the train is 1/2 a mile long, and Frank (Mr. Washington) is already running from the back of the train to the front of the train, why not just go all the way and get in the driver’s seat? Even I could run 1/2 a mile in the time they have, although I do have to admit that jumping from car to car is something better left to Agent Salt (see earlier review) who can do this sort of thing with her shoes off. (This sounds like one of those old-fashioned math problems: A train is traveling out of control at 70 miles per hour. The man on top can run the length of one train car in about 15 seconds. If there are 80 cars, how fast will he get to the engine, and will it be in time to keep the train from bursting into flame and consuming a major city on the Eastern Seabooard?)

There are annoying helicopters throughout, and this is because Frank’s daughters  and Will’s wife have to be able to see what is going on on television. Hence the need for TV helicopters. I’m no expert in any kind of aviation, but I don’t know that helicopters can travel in fairly tight spaces at 70 or 80 miles an hour for a couple of hours at a time while staying about 20 or 30 feet off the ground. They have eye-level shots of the people on the train. In several scenes there are mutliple helicopters all flying in very tight quarters. You’ve got to think that the TV station owner is going to weigh The Scoop against the probability that he’s going to lose a news crew and a helicopter if he keeps up this nonsense. Safety first! However, if we didn’t have this “footage,” we would miss out on the emotional connection, such as it is, from the wife and the daughters.

So, the train makes the curve okay, no one is killed, no molten phenol explodes or oozes or whatever molten phenol does, and then the train gains speed again. Here, I thought, was where there would be the Moment Of Intense Suspsense where the train is stopped just inches from slamming smack into the children’s field trip train (or whatever), but nothing of the sort happens. Will gets into the cab, slows the train, and stops it. Everything is fine. We learn who gets fired, who gets promoted and that the fat guy who caused it all now flips burgers and gets fries with that.

Here was the best part of the movie: afterwards, in the restroom, I overhear two 70-ish lady-friends talking to each other stall-to-stall. One says to the other: “My father was in railroads. They had a very nice pension plan. But there were a lot of alkies.”  The other lady says, “There are a lot of alkies in railroads.” The first lady says, “There are a lot of alkies in construction too.”  Her friend replies, “There are quite a lot of alkies in landscaping.”  The first lady says, “I know a lot of lawyers are alkies.” There was then a pause, and then the second lady says, “My hairdresser is an alkie,” and the first lady says, “A lot of hairdressers are alkies.”  It was worth the whole movie to overhear this conversation.

See this one if you want to–it’s not a complete failure, and the actors are very good looking–but you know, of course, that HP7.1 is coming out in a few days. You might as well wait for that one.

(My kids won’t see it. There’s  a little language and a couple of inappropriate conversations, but nothing really awful.)