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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spirit (The)

I wanted to believe, I truly did. And I wanted to close out the year with a “Wow” movie, so I really wanted The Spirit to move me, but I have to be honest and tell you that it sucks eggs.

And speaking of eggs, the only funny bit in
The Spirit is an on-going and going-nowhere fixation that villainous Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson; Lakeview Terrace) has with the vision of anything egg-like. Why? Who knows, but then who knows much about anything that motivates anyone in this silly sort-of-superhero-dead-guy-good-guy-vs.-bad-guy movie.


My son, his husband and my perfect husband went to see
The Spirit while “the boys” (as I call them even though they are both in their 30s) were visiting from Paris over the holidays. I don’t think they or my husband were particularly enthusiastic to see it, but I played “the mother card” AND “the wife card” with a bit of a quivering chin, well, both of them actually, and they folded easier than an origami swan.

About thirty minutes into the film, my son-in-law, Jean Luc, whispered in my ear that he didn’t get
the point of this movie. And this is coming from a Frenchman, mind you. They have movies that need movies to explain their movies, but I assured him that if it didn’t make much sense then he needn't worry, he was not alone. It’s not all that important because this is really all about flash and a dash to earn some cash before audiences realize the whole thing’s trash.

The truth is, I thought the story was pretty straight-forward; it just got bogged down in tons of way-too-florid narration by
The Spirit himself (Gabriel Macht; Because I Said So), who, my son tastefully informed me in the middle of a scene “makes (him) harder than calculus.” Some things a mother doesn’t need to know.

As I was saying, the story is not that complicated.
The Spirit is a dead cop, who has returned from the grave and because he is apparently immortal, he can do things for the police that they can’t. Hey, you can’t charge a dead man if he breaks ‘a few rules’ while investigating a case, especially if nobody knows he’s snooping around in the first place. Obviously, since he is dead, he and his former supervisor, the hard-boiled Chief Dolan (Dan Lauria; Donna on Demand) decide to keep his resurrection a secret between the two of them and so ~Ta Da! ~ on comes the tiniest of masks and a chic chapeau. Suddenly nobody recognizes the former Denny Colt as The Spirit, not even Dolan’s daughter, Ellen (Sarah Paulson, best known from tv’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”), who quite fancied Denny and now finds that The Spirit makes her hard, er, um, well, you know, she likes him a lot now, but suffers from “Lois Lane Syndrome” and can’t recognize that her one boyfriend is also her other boyfriend just wearing a little something over his eyes. Oh, and, by the way, she is an emergency room doctor. Would you trust your life to someone this naïve? God save us all.

So Central City, “(his) city, (his) mistress, his blah, blah, blah” as
The Spirit reminds us over and over in his tepid voiceovers, is being assaulted by a series of very blatant jewel heists at the hands of a beauty known as (get this) Sand Saref (Eva Mendes; The Women). Besides being a “font” of sexual innuendo, Sand just happens to be Denny’s boyhood flame. Awkward. Arresting someone you’d rather bed than bust always a bother, but in the midst of this dilemma The Spirit also has to contend with The Octopus, who is on a bizarre quest to get a chest from Saref and recover its contents, which will guarantee him god-like status. Along the way, he and his moll, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson; Vicky Cristina Barcelona), do their best to torment and kill off The Spirit, which includes a bizarre interlude with both of them dressed in Nazi officers, and with a French belly dancer named Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega; The Human Contract) present who wants to chop the hunk into prime beef cuts. My mind wandered a bit and I whispered to Jean Luc the obvious question “What do they call plaster of Paris in Paris?” to which he responded with the even more obvious answer “Plaster.”

This potpourri of pinheaded foolishness was written and directed by Frank Miller in the same style as his 2005 hit Sin City. The graphic novel with its heightened-color, heightened-reality look is the inspiration that gives the movie an edgy, gritty feel, but in this case with the acting so over the top and the make-up and costumes practically cartoonish, the color-changing and hue manipulations only make matters more distracting from the actors and their work, although this may not be such a bad thing. Why Scarlett Johansson is even in this picture is a mystery than needs an investigation by some federal agency, and this definitely cements Samuel L. Jackson’s well-deserved title as the star that will do anything for money. Damn, he is no better than a common trollop, willing to demean and degrade himself for a few million dollars here and there. At least there were no Snakes on a Plane this time around.

What began as a comic strip in 1940 created by writer-artist Will Eisner, to be inserted into Sunday-newspaper comics sections, The Spirit faded in 1952 and wasn’t revived again until the mid-1960s, when reprints of the strip were turned into comic book form for a short while. Then he came and went sporadically over the next several decades, but The Spirit has never caught on and joined the ranks of the big superheroes in the same realm as Batman, Spiderman, or Superman. This cinematic cesspool isn’t going to help his cause. Sadly, The Spirit has been dampened thanks to this mess. If he rises again I’m calling an exorcist.

When the lights came up and looked encouragingly at my group to get their opinions. My perfect husband was fast asleep, so his apathy was duly noted. As for the boys, when I asked what they thought was the best part, they both responded in unison “It’s over.”

And so’s 2008. Happy New Year! May it bring us many more Dark Knights and many less
Speed Racers.

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