Harry Potter and the Goblet of Decaf
Copyright 2005 Jonathan Zap
Have you ever wondered what a day in middle school would be like—-a very, very, very, very long day in middle school—–if it were dressed up in a $100 million dollars worth of CGI ? This movie successfully answers that question.
The HP movies labor under two enormous weaknesses, either of which would be enough to sink them, and whatever buoyancy they do have comes from the cinematic sparkle that gigantic sums of money can purchase and a guaranteed fan base of loyal readers of the HP series, who are about as sympathetic an audience as you can get, given that they have been able to endure volumes of really thin, light weight fantasy over the years and keep queing up for more. It’s almost as if the cast of orphans from Oliver Twist were reincarnated in more prosperous times and now line up with big hungry eyes for this thin sugary gruel and say, “Please Miss Rowling, we’d like some more!” And in this society if you like crappy stuff, and have the money to pay for it, you are bound to get exactly what you want.
The HP films actually looked like they were improving because the previous one was darker and tighter than the two previous ones. The other enormous weakness these movies struggle under is the lead actor, Daniel Radcliffe, who is in just about every frame of every one of these films. I don’t want to pick on this kid, he’s probably a very nice young man who is no doubt doing the very best he can, but the casting director obviously had no clue that acting ability is something to look for when choosing actors. DR, unfortunately is a frog in Prince’s clothing when it comes to acting ability. Sure he may look the part, but six out of seven kids you find on the street having more natural acting ability. To some extent all human beings are actors, and while exceptional acting ability is exceptional, some kind of acting ability is probably the most common of all creative gifts. Unless your name is Daniel Radcliffe that is, who never acts, he always indicates, and what really sets this off painfully is that just about everybody else in these films, young or old, has both charisma and acting ability of some sort. In the first couple of films this complete lack of both acting ability and charisma was actually painful to watch, DR was like this blank spot constantly moving across the screen sucking what little confectionary vitality these films could have had like a heat sink.
But, come to think of it, maybe he is synchronistically the appropriate personification of a fantasy world that is so hollow anyway, just as Elijah Wood and Ian McKellan were such perfect personifications of the incredibly rich fantasy world of the Lord of the Rings. Sure if a younger Elijah Wood had been cast as HP he could have helped breath a bit of life into this plastic confection, but that would almost be like giving a mannequin a transfusion of live blood to make it appear more life like. No, come to think of it, HP and DR belong together, there are no accidents.
Yes, there is a lot of expensive eye candy in this film, my eyes, when I could keep them open, were in a visual sugar coma. Occasionally I was able to remain awake enough to note the occasional unintentionally hilarious and appropriate line of dialogue—-my favorite was: “ Harry, I almost forget you were here .” Tell me about it. Really absurd was watching Harry Potter holding his own against a dragon and then a powerful back magician. That would be like watching the Pilsbury Dough Boy go twelve rounds with Mohammed Ali in his prime, or W holding his own in a debate with Noam Chomsky. These must be the weakest black magicians in the multiverse if they can’t over power a 14 year old non entity. It was like watching Gary Coleman fight off a Balrog, and then over powering a tag team of Darth Vader and Sauron. If you’re having a problem with Harry Potter I think it’s time to go back to black magic school.
Somehow I survived the two and a half hours and wondered if I was the only Scrooge that didn’t like Tiny Tim and the whole plastic Christmas show. I looked behind me and the whole audience, two thirds of them kids, looked completely dazed and sunk into their seats. The first voice I heard was a young boy speaking to his dad: “That was the looooooongest movie ever.” So, if you want to dive into the world’s most expensive goblet of cold sugary decaf, go ahead, be a muggle-headed muggle.
Later in the day, to get that artificially flavored sugary taste out of my head, I went to see a pretty good movie—- Jarhead , about the life of a marine who gets sent to Iraq by the first President Bush. A year or so ago I read the book, which like the movie, made me glad I wasn’t one of the few, the proud, the scatologically obsessed, high school locker room sex talking, hyped up sadistic homoerotic pranksters known as the Marines. Yeah, Semper Fi, whatever, like so many other Americans I have done my time, proudly so, in front of television and movie screens, facing the horrors of war, and therefore I “ support the troops ” the easiest of proclamations ever made—-hell if I had a giant SUV I’d even go the extra mile and blow $1.79 on a magnetic “ I support the troops ” ribbon decal, I figure it’s the least I could do since my suburban assault vehicle is burning up the very resource that these boys trade their blood for. But unlike the army where you get to be “ An Army of One ” where you really don’t have to deal with other people, nobody tells you what to do, you are more less a free agent that can invade whatever country you want to as an Army of One , when you are in the marines, you pretty are much constantly surrounded by other marines, and that means putting up with nonstop obnoxious marine behavior 24/7. (Life in the Navy, on the other hand, is more like “ a rapid-fire montage sequence of high-tech action and thrill ride adrenaline bursts…..” see this first hand portrayal reported by the Onion: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/42609.
Anyway, Jarhead does a great job of portraying the famous maxim that, war is 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror , but unlike most war movies, it focuses in on the 99% part. Naturally, that will be a bit slow- moving and anti-climatic, but that’s the point. By the time you ever get near an enemy you are so pissed off at being a marine that you are ready to fucking kill somebody(ies). The tough part is getting that far without killing one of your own. A major theme of Jarheads seems to be: “ Marines, can’t live with them, can’t frag them .”
So if a giant goblet of cold sugary decaf isn’t your cup of tea, if you’d rather eat an MRE with some sand in it out in the desert with a bunch of testosterone driven guys farting in your face, then watching Jarhead won’t be a job, it will be a fully realized adventure into the boredom and obnoxiousness of war.