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March 29, 1999 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-29

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re roses
Lorna Goodison reads as part of the Visiting Writers
Goodison will be reading from "To Us, All Flowers Are R
book of poetry. Rackham Ampitheater, 5 p.m.
TD' doesn't
want to be
'Truman'
By anLark
Daily Arts Writer
Yes, "EDty" bears a resemblance to "The Truman Show."
As the comparisons are inevitable, it's best for critics to get
them out of the way quickly.
And audiences would be well-served doing the same.
"EDty" is not "The Truman Show"
Where "Truman" was a contemporary moral fable about
the often trapping trappings of celebrity, "EDty" is a light,
taffy truffle of a cautionary tale that happens to cover similar
s ect matter as Peter Weir's Oscar-nominated, Jim Carrey-
driven fairy tale.
But "EDtv" in its concern with the instant fame of Truman-
like 24-hour live television everyman Ed Pekurny (Matthew
McConaughey), possesses a director and star of a separate but
equally talented class.
Directed by the breezy, jokey, popular-minded hand of Ron
Howard, the biggest asset to "EDty" is Ed himself, as
McConaughey proves he's an original comedic presence, an
affable ready-made, worn-in screen hero.
Though he's best known for being intense in his much-hyped
lr Wing-man coming-out party "A Time to Kill" and his second-
b na turn as a conflicted preacher opposite Jodie Foster's sci-
entist in "Contact," McConaughey first displayed his laid-back,
ingratiating comic style in 1993's "Dazed and Confused."
Like his Wooderson in "Dazed," a 20-
something loafer with a penchant for
high-school girls, Ed Pekurny is a likably
aimless fellow, a transplanted Texan
EDtV whiling away his 31st year on Earth as a
San Francisco video clerk who idolizes
Burt Reynolds.
At Briarwood - The TV to McConaughey's Ed comes
and Showcase courtesy of Ellen Degeneres' Cynthia, an
executive at True TV, a fledgling cable
network that sets out to boost ratings by
televising the unedited life of a lucky
John or Jane Doe.
Said John is Ed, who charms Cynthia
and her assistants with his seductive
drawl and disarming comfort in front of
the camera - audiences will likely appreciate the same quali-
ties in McConaughey.
ut McConaughey isn't the only draw of this witty and win-
ni yarn that finds out what happens when people stop being
polite and start tuning in to every detail of Ed's life, from the
politics of his dysfunctional family to his treatment of the male
phenomenon known here as "the morning chubby."
Though McConaughey's chubby presumably plays itself,
d's extended family and the adversarial True TV are played
y one of the best ensemble to grace a studio comedy in quite
ome time.
First, and most fascinating, is Jenna Elfman as Shari, the
bject of Ed's illicit affection - she's dating his brother Ray
Miwdy Harrelson).
Mhan, as the independent UPS delivery person Shari, gets
'Chess' dull to wi
Jenni Glenn plotting of these spie
y Arts Writer fusing due to this inec
As a silent game with little action, Even if all of thes
any people find chess dull, particularly been fixed, the mi

o watch. Similarly bogged down by a chance due to its pro
aqf energy as well as technical diffi- lighting and sound.
u s, MUSKET's production of first half, the audienc
'Chess" realistically recreated the pace of to hear the performe
n actual chess match, slow with lots of tra. Microphone fee
ead time between unimportant moves. ering singing scarre
Judging from the amount of movement Even when the act
uring the songs, the actors appeared to lights frequently hig
chess pieces. The whole musical had part of the set. In o
nly a couple of dance numbers, both of focus between the
which contained American and Russia
y ~ dancers embar- American room rer
rassingly out of dark well into the sc
synchronization. ers tried to continue
Chess The singers stood Too many set cha
still while deliver- performance. The s
Power Center ing their tunes. more stage time than
Most of the per- ers, since the change
Mar. 26.28, 1999 formers appeared to the three hour run
to be exerting an That was for the 1
effort to remember ence members laugh
the lines rather than any of the line
than going beyond scene where the acto
that to create a vator received a lot
-$ - - character. of the elevator doors
Only Linsell's The costumes, alth
cocky American chess challenger to redeem the show
Freddie captured the audience's atten- subtle designs con,
ion, but he disappeared from the main Richard Nelson wrou
plot by the second act. His absence left a the characters chang
void that Joanna Wasick, as the costumes changed t
American trainer, and Bradley But ultimately, th
Whitfield, portraying the Russian cham- capture the tension
pion, failed to fill with their bland per- even a real game of
fo ances, in spite of Whitfield's fantas- problems with the t
kinging voice. show and the lack o
The villains never created any sense of tional acting, "Chess
e Cold War tension that was supposed fate worse than that
be the center of the play. Matthew
Urban and Tommy Ryan blundered
hrough these roles, seeming benign

Series.
oses," a

A~r iRTSw kf

Check out Breaking Records for reviews of the latest
releases by Regia and Cherokee.

Monday
March 29, 1999

5A

'Squad' refuses to have fun

.

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
If Hollywood had its way, we'd be
seeing film adaptations of
"Blossom" or "Doogie Howser,
M.D." before the year is out. There
have been so many piss-poor rework-
ings of television series recently
("Lost in Space" and "The Avengers"
primary among them) that in com-
parison, "The Mod Squad" almost
looks good.
I say almost because while the
original "Squad" series was good,
clean, campy late '60s fun, some-
where along the way to the big
screen it lost its sense of humor and
decided to take itself seriously, save
a few rare moments of self-reflexive
introspection that point more to an
identity crisis ("Should we make a
'Scream' or a 'The Haunting,"'
MGM execs might have asked them-
selves) than a sure-footed update.

Courtesy of MGM

Omar Epps and Claire Danes take "The Mod Squad" too seriously.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew McConaughey play lovers
whose every move is televised In "EDtv."
the chance to play a character that can't described as wacky or
kooky - as her TV alter ego Dharma Finkelstein of "Dharma
& Greg"so often is - and plays it well and subtly, wearing her
wide range of emotions on the sleeve of her UPS browns (in
which she looks darn good, thank you very much).
Also top-drawer are Degeneres' jittery Cynthia, Woody
Harrelson as the coattail-riding show-off Ray, Sally Kirkland as
Ed's very Blanche Dubois mother, Rob Reiner as the tyrannical
network suit, "Saving Private Ryan" grunt Adam Goldberg as
Ed's best friend John and'Elizabeth Hurley's sultry vixen who's
hired to boost more than Ed's ratings.
But best of all among the supporting cast is the incomparable
Martin Landau, who as Ed's curious, ailing stepfather Al, gets
the film's best, most fantastically droll line - promised to be
finny in context - saying as the crew arrives to meet Ed's
mom: "I'd call her myself, but I'd die."
The film itself is nowhere near that verge, as director
Howard keeps the twists coming while expertly handling his
large ensemble, a delicate balance he's perfected on such
engaging, large-casted films as "Apollo 13,' "Backdraft"
and "Parenthood."
Howard remembers, above all, that Hollywood movies must
be entertaining but he never panders to the lowest common
denominator here; Howard's streetwise sensibility manifested in
"EDtv" is delightfully mainstream.
Once again, "EDty" isn't "The Truman Show"
And "EDty" isn't likely to polarize viewers as "Truman" did,
sharply dividing those who admired Peter Weir's tragi-comic
vision and those who bemoaned Carrey not talking out of his butt.
Matthew McConaughey's butt figures prominently in one
early scene of"EDtv, in which Ed encounters his own rear end
on television.
Ed's reaction to his derriere should be echoed by any
prospective viewer of "EDtv;" just as Ed inquisitively enjoys
the image of his own ass, "EDty" should be enthusiastically
checked out.
atch Read the Daily
atch g
every day for
became more con- coverage of
it acting. important events
issues could have i_
sical never had a in Lie arts on
blems with the set, campus and
During the entire
-~ . 1~alround the world.

The Mod
Squad
**I
At Briarwood
and Showcase

Big mistake.
The film is
nearly destroyed
by its choice to
move away from
the camp aspects
of its source
material, sad-
dled by one of
the worst plots
ever to disgrace
the screen.
Operating under
the auspices of
Greer (Dennis
Farina), ex-juve-

tionally reminds us of his role in
"The Other Sister") remarks that the
imbroglio the kids find themselves
in the middle of is "one of those
dirty cop drug things" - really,
that's all you need to know - and
there's a glimmer of hope that per-
haps the dirty cops 'n' drugs plot is a
parody of itself after all. Only it's
not, and all of the ass-kicking in the
world carried out by angry, young
sensitive vixen Julie (Claire Danes,
in a major departure from her previ-
ous work) or the pathetic running
joke in which Pete constantly crash-
es Linc's (Omar Epps) car can't
make this palatable.
On the plus side, the film looks
pretty good, sort of like a glorified
MTV video with a lot of stylized
shots and some seriously mod cloth-
ing. Like the film itself, though, the
soundtrack is rather hit or miss. And
there are some good scenes, such as
Julie berating Pete for getting kicked
out of the club they were staking out
or discussing the surreality of their
situation.
But then there are the bizarre
scenes where, for instance, Linc is

made to randomly dance with a
rotund middle-aged music promoter
(Michael Lerner), and once again the
movie travels down a path better left
unwalked. Josh Brolin, playing a
man from Julie's past, is an abomina-
tion better left undiscussed. This is
unfortunately characteristic of the
movie in general, as Julie and Pete
are given the best material and Linc
is given little to do other than stand
around and look alternately bored,
smoldering or beautiful.
"The Mod Squad" could have been
oodles of fun had the right angle
been taken - the thought of Claire
Danes and Giovanni Ribisi totally
making fun of themselves and their
surroundings is a nice fantasy to buy
into.
But the most we get is a couple of
conversations in which they bemoan
their feeling that they're "too old for
this shit" and remark upon the
stereotypical nature of the corrup-
tion conspiracy-laden world that they
find themselves in, and it's just not
enough to make us forget that the
half-baked, hackneyed plot inexplic-
ably believes in itself.

nile delinquents Julie (assault), Pete
(robbery) and Linc (arson) become
the prime suspects when he turns up
dead. They spend the rest of the
movie trying to catch the real bad
guys (because there are always real
bad guys, aren't there?) and are
swept up in a laughable corruption
story that bores to tears.
At one point Pete (Giovanni
Ribisi, who could have had so much
fun here and at times almost does -
his entrance is marked by him bark-
ing at a wall, a move that uninten-

v7
e51

Aka

Be

a

4

ce constantly battled
ers over the orches-
back and overpow-
d the second act.
ors were audible, the
ghlighted the wrong
ne scene switching
hotel rooms of the
in chess players, the
-mained completely
ene as the perform-.
with the show.
anges hampered the
tage crew received
nthe actual perform-
es added a great deal
nfing time.
best, since the audi-
,ed more at the set
s. In particular, one
ors waited for an ele-
of giggles when one
disappeared.
hough clever, failed
. Lana Boroditsch's
veyed the tension
te into the script. As
ed allegiances, their
)oo.
he musical failed to
of the Cold War, or
F chess. Between the
echnical side of the
f direction or emo-
s" was doomed to a
of the USSR.

eaee

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We have:

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