Is Love in the Air for Matt Damon, Vanessa Hudgens, Topher Grace—or Two Cranky Guys?
Bruce Fretts: So, Bret, it seems I’m not the only one who’s been enduring romantic travails lately. Forbidden love is the theme of three new films: The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly and Take Me Home Tonight. The question is: Did any of these flicks score with Two Cranky Guys?
Bret Watson: Romantic travails? Now I know why you resorted to seeing The Adjustment Bureau with me. Did you find dates for the other two? I thought the movie was a lot of fun, even though you wouldn’t buy me cheesy pretzel nuggets. (Cheapskate.)
Bruce: Alas, I saw the other two alone. Even my kids wouldn’t stoop to seeing Beastly with me. And I didn’t buy myself cheesy pretzel nuggets either—got to get back into dating shape. Were you surprised by how much of The Adjustment Bureau, based on a sci-fi story by Philip K. Dick, dealt with the attempts of the titular angels/agents to thwart politician Matt Damon’s romance with ballerina Emily Blunt? They should’ve called this movie Cockblockers.
Bret: Ouch! Maybe there is a band of men in suits and fedoras adjusting your romantic life for the worse. As a New Yorker, I was most fascinated by these agents’ ability to go between distant parts of the city just by walking through certain doorways. Enter a laundry in Chinatown, wind up in Yankee Stadium. Is Bloomberg working on this?
Bruce: They have the ultimate power: to cut through New York City traffic. The way they kept referring to their boss as “The Chairman,” I started to wonder if they were talking about God or Frank Sinatra. That would explain the fedoras.
Bret: It’s Frank’s world, we just watch Matt Damon movies in it. He seems like he can do no wrong lately. He’s as good as ever in this movie, and he’s got great chemistry with Blunt. Maybe you should study him for pointers. Or just buy a fedora.
Bruce: Damon and Blunt’s chemistry felt a bit forced—I hate when screenwriters create a shortcut to convincing us a couple is really hitting it off by having them laugh at something that’s not funny, like spilling coffee on each other. The whole movie felt a little silly to me, but it was harmless enough, and I do like Damon.
Bret: It starts off as essentially a romantic comedy, then in Act II heads toward tragedy. The shift happens when jaunty adjustment bureau rep John Slattery hands off to morose Terence Stamp. Slattery may be the best thing in the movie—I love his light touch. He makes the concept fun. But then he recedes, and the movie gets somber.
Bruce: Yes, Slattery’s fantastic, as is Anthony Mackie as a member of the bureau who develops a conscience and tries to help Damon. I didn’t mind Stamp so much—I just thought the movie dragged on a little too long. But that’s the way I’ve been feeling about almost every movie lately.
Bret: You’re seeing too many crappy movies, my friend. It’s unfortunate that this movie in the end devolves into another overlong chase scene. I imagine the script says something like: “Characters run. 15 minutes.” After setting up many snares, the movie in the end just sort of gives the couple a free pass. “Oh, you’re cute: forget all that ‘Stick to the Creator’s plan’ and ‘We have almost infinite power to stop you’ stuff.” Love conquers all, including plausibility.
Bruce: It didn’t stick to its own internal logic, which is often my beef with sci-fi movies. Still, it was a hell of a lot better than Beastly, a teen version of Beauty and the Beast with High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens and I Am Number Four‘s zero-charisma Alex Pettyfer.
Bret: What compelled you to see Beastly? Were you feeling like a beast in need of coaching?
Bruce: The blog made me do it! I was looking for another movie to pair with Bureau, but I could only take about 20 minutes of Beastly before I walked out. Pettyfer’s character wins election as class president—before witch Mary-Kate Olsen (I kid you not) curses him with ugliness until he can get someone to fall in love with him—thanks to the slogan “Don’t Embrace the Suck,” and I decided to heed that advice.
Bret: “Don’t embrace the suck” is more insightful than Rango‘s “You can’t walk out of your own story.” I wish I’d walked out of Rango, taking my friggin’ story with me. But I digress.
Bruce: I walked out of Beastly just after Neil Patrick Harris showed up as the blind tutor hired by Pettyfer’s vain-anchorman father (Peter Krause, slumming) for his hideous son. This proves my theory that Harris doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no.” He’s also in this summer’s Smurfs movie. Or maybe, since Beastly was released by CBS’ fledgling film division, his boss Les Moonves forced him to do it. Perhaps he has pictures of Harris with a woman or something.
Bret: Gadzooks. I heard that Harris was the only good thing in the movie.
Bruce: I didn’t stay long enough to find out. After sneaking into Beastly—I bought a ticket to Barney’s Version, because I was too embarrassed to say “One for Beastly” to the teenage girl behind the counter—I snuck into Take Me Home Tonight and enjoyed it. You might’ve too: It stars Topher Grace and was written by his former That 70s Show bosses Jackie and Jeff Filgo. They should’ve called it That 80s Movie, as it’s set at an all-night party in 1988. Or did you only like That 70s Show because your beloved Mila Kunis was in it?
Bret: I like Topher Grace, but this movie sounds like a retread of two decades’ worth of movies in which a college grad has to break out of his shell and, with the help of a zany overweight pal, goes bonkers on one long night and wins or loses the sweetheart he always wanted. I’ve seen that movie 20 times already. And he looks too old for the role. Sort of like you trying to sneak into a teen movie.
Bruce: Well, you pretty much nailed the plot, and I’m not a fan of Dan Fogler, who overplays the zany overweight pal. But Grace is charming, even if he’s a bit old for the role—he’s supposed to be just out of college. And Teresa Palmer, who plays his seemingly unattainable high-school crush, is terrific. Plus, the soundtrack is killer, dude. Everybody Wang Chung tonight!
Bret: So maybe people should just buy the soundtrack and flip through their high school yearbook. You know, what you do most nights.
Bruce: Jeez, kick a guy while he’s down, whydontcha? People must’ve decided to stay home, since Take Me Home Tonight totally tanked at the box office. I blame the generic title. Then again, I thought The Adjustment Bureau was one of the worst titles I’ve ever heard, and it opened at a strong No. 2 behind Rango.
Bret: At the box office, Grace is less than amazing. (See what I did there?) Damon can open a movie.
Bruce: Apparently so. Still, for a date movie, I’d suggest giving Take Me Home Tonight a chance. At least it’s intentionally silly, unlike Bureau or Beastly.
Bret: I thought Bureau was fun, and I liked how it played around with ideas about fate and chance in an interesting way. So I’d recommend that as a date movie over a John Hughes retread (he said boldly, not having seen the movie).
Bruce: So why’d you go see Adjustment Bureau with me instead of taking the wife? She’s a sci-fi buff, isn’t she? She must be, if she’s married to an alien creature like you.
Bret: She caught my cold. She wanted me to give you a chance to catch it. Which you would have, if we’d shared cheesy pretzel nuggets. But let’s not overlook the most important conclusion of this blog: Ladies, Bruce Fretts is a single man again! Please, I need someone for him to see movies with instead of me! Just add your phone number to the comments section below. Bruce, you should walk around wearing a “Take Me Home Tonight” t-shirt.
Bruce: Better than the one your wife wears: “I’m with Beastly.”
Did you love The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly or Take Me Home Tonight? Post a comment, and Two Cranky Guys will respond!