Sunday, March 04, 2012

Movies: "Don't Judge a Book by its Cover" Double Feature

Today's double feature reviews two heartwarming movies that subvert stereotypes. Bonus points if you're in a crowd that doesn't mind watching these films back-to-back (cf. UF Law's legendary Ziggydrome movie nights)...

The Help

Watching the 2012 Academy Awards was painful for a lot of reasons, chief among them seeing Meryl Streep win her sympathy Oscar over Viola Davis's strong work in "The Help":

"The Help" is about the Mammy stereotype, specifically black maids in 1960s era Mississippi. In this JFK/Jim Crow parable, the white people are almost all obnoxiously racist, the black maids are put-upon angels, and there's nary a shade of grey to be seen. When the protagonist (a modern young woman named Skeeter) decides to write a book about the plight of these maids, she learns more than she ever bargained for about life, love, and family.

Okay, so the plot's about as complex and nuanced as an episode of "Quantum Leap" (seriously, I can almost see Sam Beckett in drag rebuffing Stuart Whitworth's hamhanded advances), but it's still a decent feel-good movie about overcoming racial prejudice. I wish it were about half an hour shorter, and that the actual story wasn't so stupefyingly preachy, but the performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (along with the unsung hero of the film, Sissy Spacek, and Bryce Dallas Howard) make the movie watchable. Doesn't that deserve an Oscar?

Rating: 7/10

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

One of the most common threats in the horror movie bestiary are hillbillies. Whether they're cannibals, deviants, or just plain murderous, rural folk are looked at askance on the silver screen. So it goes with Tucker & Dale:

It's a sly satire of movies like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes." Tucker and Dale are two good ole boys who are renovating their vacation house in the woods. A series of hilarious misunderstandings with a group of college kids lead to gruesome death after gruesome death.

The casting in this movie is pitch perfect - the audience immediately sides with the two lovable hillbillies, played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, and against the shrill group of twenty-somethings attempting to defeat them. Against all odds, it's even half-believable too; it's not hard to picture today's millenials forgetting that chainsaws and wood chippers are useful for work, in addition to murder.

T&DvE loses steam in the third act, since by then the movie's run out of genre conventions to reverse. Instead, it concludes with a by-the-numbers showdown. Overall, though, this is a fun movie that's best enjoyed with fellow horror fans.

Rating: 8/10


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