Movies in Theaters on July 22, 2011
Now that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 has effectively destroyed every box office record there is to break, it's time to get back to just regular ol' summer movies. This weekend's new releases contain some truly All-American elements: rowdy patriotism (Captain America: The First Avenger), Nazi-smashing (ditto), sex without commitment (Friends With Benefits) and hot single moms (A Little Help).
Now that we're all (more or less) used to the bizarro (and perhaps ill-advised) sight of Chris Evans made small n' skinny via CGI, I guess we're ready to actually watch this movie -- and, hopefully, take it as seriously as it seems to be taking itself. Marvel is making no apologies for the rousing, rowdy WWII-era patriotism that's churning through the veins of this latest warm-up to The Avengers, though even for a movie called Captain America, it looks to be a bit much -- but hey, if you're going to take on a splinter group of Nazi super-villains led by a guy with a red skull for a face (called, appropriately, Red Skull), then how can you not help but vigorously wave the flag through sea, land and air? Joe Johnston can be a good director (Jurassic Park III has some pretty tremendous moments) and a pretty bad one (The Wolfman, though he's not entirely to blame for that mess), and Captain America looks to be somewhere in the middle, next to The Rocketeer -- at this point, though, we'd be happy with just skipping right to The Avengers and dropping these now-obligatory stand-alone adventures.
Movie characters -- especially young, attractive ones -- are apparently unable to indulge in simple "NSA" relationships, as the central conflict of Friends With Benefits (and, indeed, No Strings Attached) seems to be that a "just-sex" relationship is pretty much impossible, as actual pesky "feelings" for one another eventually end up getting in the way. Really, this is an asinine premise to begin with, and an even more asinine way to see it through (gee, you think they're going to be an actual traditional couple by the closing credits?), but if anyone can salvage -- and transcend -- such tacky material, it's Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. These two look to have an easy-breezy chemistry that was sorely lacking from No Strings Attached (Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher didn't even seem to be in the same room together half the time), and if there's a genre that so desperately needs a good dose of "sexy" lately, it's the romantic comedy. The wonderfully weird collection of supporting (fore-) players includes Andy Samberg, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson and even the long-lost Jenna Elfman, who really needs to hang out more.
Jenna Fischer is a funny gal, as we know from The Office and even Hall Pass. She's earned the lead role in a major studio comedy. Unfortunately, A Little Help doesn't look like the movie Fischer deserves, with her as the mother of a difficult 12-year-old just trying to keep it all together after her probably-philandering husband (Chris O'Donnell, President of the "Where the Hell Have They Been?" Thespian Club) drops dead of a heart attack. The trailer features Jenna reduced to yelling (and barking) at the neighbor's dog and dealing with a chatty parrot at her place of work (she's a dentist... so yeah, parrots) to show that hers is an exasperated and difficult life; we can only hope that Sons of Anarchy's Kim Coates and the rest of the supporting cast provides "a little help" to what looks like an extremely uneven and shrill portrait of widowhood. This is probably the first movie that features an argument that contains the exclamation, "9/11 is cooler!" It will probably be the last, too.