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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


There are a lot of great things to be said about going to prison. Oh, I know nobody wants to go to prison, but if you end up there you can learn some handy survival tips that will make life all the easier when the world comes to an end in2012.  My cousin Henry has spent most of his worthless life incarcerated for one sleazy scheme or another, not the least of which involved attempting to rob a liquor store after just purchasing a bottle of Limocello from the clerk using his personal American Express card. Nobody said he was smart, okay? Despite this and his multitude of other failings, he has at least been able to impart his knowledge about some things that may actually prove useful in the new world order. For instance, how many of you know how to make stereo speakers out of empty soda cans or who can make a toilet bowl full of wine out of rancid oranges and a handful of ketchup packets? These may not seem like important life skills today, but wait until you’ve survived the Apocalypse and you may change your mind. Most of you may just think of prison as a good place to give up smoking or get a hepatitis-encrusted amateur tattoo, but Henry insists that when the rest of us are tits-up in a world covered in mud, it’s the inmates who will flourish. They know a lot of important survival skills that John Cusack (who stars in the film 2012) has ever heard of before. 

While Cusack’s character proves to be quite resourceful as the world is literally falling into pieces around him, there’s no indication that the writer/limo driver would know that if he needs something to eat AND to clean up with after a tsunami has just ravaged all of the Midwest he can always eat the bar soap they provide in prisons. It’s true. Since inmates were constantly eating soap to make themselves ill in order to be sent to the infirmary, the Department of Corrections now uses an edible soap that can’t make a person sick. Okay, so it’s not caviar, but come2012 every Taco Bell between here and Bratislava are bound to be 

That’s one of my biggest gripes with 2012, the movie. While the special effects truly are spectacular, the entire hullabaloo about THE BIG DAY coming is simply followed by the end credits once the CGI budget has been shot, and the aftermath of the tragedy is left to our feeble imaginations. I’m not lobbying for 2012 to be any longer by any means (Dear God, no! It already clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes), but it would have been nice to see some practical realities addressed, like how the survivors are going to recover and rebuild their lives (and civilization) in this strange new environment. I mean, it’s not like anyone can run to the nearest Cumby’s for a Diet Coke and a microwaved burrito when the urge strikes.

Nevertheless, 2012 really is a mammoth accomplishment for director Roland Emmerich. He blew up the White House in Independence Day, then froze the east coast in The Day After Tomorrow, so now he finally gets the opportunity to ruin the entire world as we know it. His mama must be so proud. 

The film is based on the ancient Mayan calendar’s coming to an end on December 21, 2012, at which time all of the planets in our solar system will be aligned in a configuration that happens only once every gazillion years. Somehow, by this happening, any number of people have extrapolated that this means the world is ending since, without a Mayan calendar, we’ll all be too stupid to figure out that the next day will be December 22nd.  It’s based on the same principle I use with my bank account. If I still have checks then I must still have money, so I’ll just shop ‘til I drop.

Alright, so if you suspend your disbelief, you’ll enjoy the concept of 2012. Thanks to unprecedented solar flares in 2009, government scientists alert the President (Danny Glover; The Harimaya Bridge) of the oncoming disaster, and so a secret multinational effort is put into effect to build ginormous arks to save at least a fraction of mankind once the planet is savaged by all types of natural disasters. Totally by coincidence, of course, the President just happens to have a gorgeous brainchild of a daughter, Laura (Thandie Newton; W.), who is verycompatible with the senior geophysicist on the case, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor; Endgame). So ~ yadda, yadda ~ we get a whole little soap opera romance going with them, which seems a tad bit of a distraction from the beaucoup fires, tidal waves, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions bearing down on the earth. 

Meanwhile, Cusack’s (1408) Jackson Curtis is a divorced father or two precocious movie-cute children, Noah (Liam James; tv’s “Psych”) and Lily (Morgan Lily; Pornstar). Of course Jackson still has feelings for his ex-wife (Amanda Peet; The X Files: I Want to Believe), who is now married to a nice-guy plastic surgeon named Gordon (Tom McCarthy; Duplicity). Do you smell more soap opera coming? You know it. This movie has more suds in it than a month of “The Bold and the Beautiful.”  This is the problem with 2012. It’s got way more plot than is necessary for this type of film. While it wants to humanize the effects of the worldwide calamity, it aims too much on humor (Woody Harrelson of Zombielandshows up as a nut-case doomsday-spouting radio host) and schmaltz rather than focusing on the actual devastation to the spirit of humanity that would be inevitable in such a situation. 2012 is far closer to an Indiana Jones adventure than aSchindler's List, not that’s there’s anything wrong with that. It just doesn’t feel “real”, and so don’t expect to see 2012 and leave petrified of the possibility that these events could ever actually happen, unlike the proceedings portrayed inParanormal Activity which seem to have rattled some folks to the core.

The effects in 2012 are as special as they can be, and that’s the main reason to see the film. The performers are all secondary to the destruction of Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Rome, but that’s okay. The CGI will have you puckering with the same excitement as a full body cavity search but without those unpleasant long-term effects, at least that’s what Henry told me to say, and he ought to know.

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