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March 28, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-28

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Monday
March 28, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ARTS

8A

Kutcher, Mac propel comedy

01

"Pink-feathered hats. Yes, my career has come down to this."

ARMED AN
BULLOCK'S PRESENCE FAILS
By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

D

TERRIBLE

The only thing standing in the couple's
way is Simon's race - which Theresa
conveniently forgot to tell her father
about. Percy can't accept Simon, and as
incident after incident begins to mount
against Simon - a la "Meet the Parents"
- it begins to seem like he never will.
Primarily a showcase for Mac and
Kutcher's comedic talents, the film
has its share of laugh-out-loud funny
moments, especially in the first act
where the premise still feels fresh.
No topic is taboo here; racial jokes,
stereotypes and generally un-PC
titles get tossed around in a desperate
attempt at levity that serves to mask
the film's inevitable conflict. Be that
as it may, "Guess Who" is all too for-
mulaic and predictable - but these
traits naturally go with the genre, even
if the touching heart-of-gold comedy
isn't a remake of a far superior film.
And, though undeniably funny, the
movie ends on a sour note as Kutcher
and Mac (in an attempt at seriousness

courtesy or

that actually ends up coming off as
quite funny) both drop monologues
so melodramatic that they could be
pitching a pilot to the WB.
In their defense, Mac and Kutcher
both perform well: They have a natu-
ral chemistry in their scenes together,
most of which are centered around
Mac's flustered father riffing at the
expense of Kutcher's eager idiot. After
"The Butterfly Effect," it appeared that
Kutcher wanted to distance himself
from the dimwitted funnyman roles he
is famous for. Although "Guess Who"
may look like a return to the actor's
comedy roots, his turn as Simon is a
departure. This comedic role is like
nothing he's ever played before: he gets
laughs through genuine comic timing

Not exactly the same as waking up next to Demi.

and subtle delivery instead of slapstick
physical comedy.
Though funny and occasionally
touching, this adaptation loses much
of the edginess of the original film.
In 1967, interracial couples were stig-
matized and a taboo topic in popular
media. Now that they are more accept-
ed, audiences are more apt to be glanc-
ing around to make sure it's all right
before laughing at one of the politically
incorrect jokes, rather than empathiz-
ing with the awkwardness and humili-
ation of the couple on screen.
Though it makes the fatal blunder
of an eleventh hour attempt at serious-
ness, "Guess Who" is a downright funny
movie, much of which is well worth the
price of admission.

0

It's been five years since "Miss Congeniality"
turned Sandra Bullock's hard-boiled ugly duckling
into a tiara-wearing swan. The
follow-up, "Miss Congeniality
2," arrives a good two years too MISS
late, missing much of its origi- Congeniality 2:
nal cast as well as any real pur- Armed and
pose. Yet for all this, the film Fabulous
does have one really great joke. At the Showcase
Too bad it's on whoever bought and Quality 16
tickets.
The movie picks up shortly Warner Bros.
after the events of the first film,
determined to repeat its predecessor's formula. Revert-
ing back to her slovenly ways after being crowned Miss
Congeniality at the Miss United States pageant, FBI
agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) has to endure yet another
makeover at the hands of another witty stylist (this
time played by "The Drew Carey Show" alum Died-
rich Bader). She's then summoned to duty when her
friends, the new Miss United States and pageant pro-
_1oter Stan Fields (William Shatner), are kidnapped by
a pair of hooded thugs. Regina King ("Ray") co-stars
as her belligerent sidekick.
While the first movie unified its funny scenes around
a mildly clever concept ("Pygmalion" at the pageant!),
"Miss Congeniality 2" plays like a crude patchwork of
sketch comedy sequences compiled to mimic the tim-
ing of the first movie's trailer. Diving foolishly into
a crowd? Check. Snorting? Check. Groin jokes and
falling down aplenty? Oh yeah.
The film avoids becoming downright offensive for

TO SAVE POINTLESS SEQUEL
about half an hour, mostly because the actors carry
their material so well. King is ferocious and funny;
Bader is much sharper than his lame, rehashed mate-
rial warrants; and if Shatner doesn't get the laughs he
should, it's because audience members are too busy
thinking about low-cost airfare instead of watching
the movie.
Screenwriter Marc Lawrence ("Two Weeks Notice")
has a knack for tailoring absurd, quick-turning dialogue
to Bullock's deadpan delivery; she elicits consistent
chuckles during the film's first act. But charming as
Bullock is, she's on the wrong side of 40 for this role,
and her close-ups don't hide it. Eventually she won't
be able to compete in a niche market with actresses
like Reese Witherspoon, and movies like "Miss Con-
geniality 2" do no favors for her fading career.
Bullock also loses much of her low-key appeal with
the outlandish physical comedy she's reduced to by
the end. In an embarrassing, overlong scene placed
uncomfortably mid-climax, Bullock and King per-
form a Tina Turner song at a drag club in Las Vegas.
Agent Hart declares in earnest tones that the only way
to find their perp is to win the karaoke contest and get
backstage. Apparently flashing your badge and saying
"FBI" just doesn't have the same pizzazz.
What follows is a tedious rescue sequence in which
Bullock outwits the entire FBI but can't quite conquer
her frilly showgirl outfit. All the loose ends are tied
up with brevity if not conviction, and Shatner gets off
the best line in the film ("There's a cannon in my port-
hole!") before the movie flounders to its predictable,
but not unwelcome end.,
During the course of the movie, Hart seems to
gain confidence, composure and a deep sense of self-
respect. But it's hard to shake the feeling that when
"Miss Congeniality 3" rolls around, she'll be a neu-
rotic and unkempt loser once again.

Strong voice, characters save novel

By Melissa Runstrom
Daily Arts Editor

Personal turmoil, terrorism, a haunted past and a future
that's slipping away like a fistful of sand: Steven Gillis has
made a valiant attempt with his second novel, "The Weight of
Nothing." While the Ann Arbor native's
first book, "Walter Falls" was met with
critical acclaim; his second endeavor The Weight
struggles to deliver a repeat perfor- of Nothing
mance. By Steven Gillis
Gillis' latest work details a rough Brook Street Press
patch in Bailey Finne's life. A talented
musician, he languishes in graduate
school far too long because he refuses to finish his disserta-
tion. Readers learn the details of Bailey's mother's death and'
his father's inability to overcome it, as well as the impact the
situation has on him and his older brother. Bailey finds him-
self in and out of troubled love and facing a looming expul-
sion from his graduate program. He befriends Niles Kelly,
a troubled somnambulist and philosophy student, who must
cope with losing his true love as well as his father after a
terrorist explosion. Both Bailey and Niles lack the stability
of loving parents and lose themselves after the loss of their
loves. Bailey wanders around aimlessly, while Niles slashes
himself in his sleep. The two seek out closure together in
Algiers but end up on different paths.

Overall, Gillis effectively weaves together seemingly
unrelated narratives. For most of the novel, his writing feels
effortless as he combines layers from at least three perspec-
tives into a rich and in-depth narrative. His strong voice never
gets in the way of the story and is subtly nuanced with impor-
tant additions that create a third dimension of the two main
characters.
An exciting plot strengthens "The Weight of Nothing." The
micro-stories that make up the larger narrative are compelling
in their own right, keeping the reader interested. But Gillis
eventually loses steam, disappointing involved readers with
an ending that seems too contrived. Bailey and Niles' behav-
ior in the end seems out of character. Gillis lets the puppeteer
strings show as Niles' story climaxes and Bailey's resolution
ignores the emotional weight instijpdtin previous events ,
One wonders about the stereotypes that this work could
perpetuate. The terrorist responsible for the death of Niles'
father is as flat a character as they come. Fox News migh
advocate this kind of portrayal, but educated readers shoul
be insulted. Osamah Said Almend, an anti-American engineer
cast as a Muslim, is driven not just by his hatred of American
greed and wastefulness, but also apparently a bad one-night
stand. He is never developed into a real character - he's just
a bad plot device that Gillis tries to legitimize by giving him
stereotypical traits. This unfortunate choice detracts from the
overall effectiveness of the plot and can make Osamah's story
tedious to read. Overall, Gillis writes well, and his main char-
acters are believable. "The Weight of Nothing" is a quick and
enjoyable read despite a few significant shortcomings.

0

Filmmakers undermine impact of documentary

footage and interviews as they joke,
lament and even freestyle about their
experiences. The scenes -that allow
soldiers to dominate the screen and
express themselves are when the film's
value is most apparent.
. The film's drawbacks are entirely the
making of directors Michael Tucker and
Petra Epperlein, who manipulate their
own footage into the manic mess that
is "Gunner Palace." They jeopardize its
impact in order to push their own per-
sonal commentary on the war that, in
the context what is on the screen, is irrel-
evant. The narration, spoken in a heavy
monotone, along with the film's frag-
mented structure, intrudes whenever the
film seems to be onto something. Not
only are Tucker and Epperlein unable to
construct the movie with any purposeful
development but they ultimately take it
down the completely wrong road, forc-
ing it into a contrived antiwar testimo-
nial that lacks solid foundation. Given
the material, "Gunner Palace" has only
its moments of candid observation to
salvage it. Unfortunately, their power
alone doesn't make up for the directors'
overbearing tone.

0
0

"Gunner Palace" stands out. The film
takes viewers to Baghdad, examines
the daily lives of American soldiers,
including a stark visual survey of what
the area looks like today. It offers one
ofthe most intimate views of soldiers in
Iraq that's currently available to Ameri-
can audiences.
That fact alone shows the value of
"Gunner Palace": It places audiences
in the midst of a war that's still going
on. But the movie does very little with

Courtesy of Palm Pictures

Members of Persian Students Association perform a dance called "Dagheh
Dagheh" at the Persian Culture Show at the Power Center on Saturday.
Persian Culture Show
highlight family, dance

Soldiers and Iraqi children interact.
such potential. Clocking in at a scant
85 minutes, the film shows no sense of
purpose - the filmmaker's obtrusive
voiceover and the jumbled structure
takes away from their otherwise singu-
lar footage. "Gunner Palace" has much
to say, but no idea how to say it, and it
ends up botching what could have been

the most revealing look yet at what it's
like to be a soldier in today's Iraq.
The film's title refers to the nick-
name for the mansion that belonged
to Saddam Hussein's son Uday; it has
become a sort of semi-official haven
for troops in the war. The film follows
soldiers there through the use of raw

By Victoria Edwards
Daily Fine Arts Editor
Te N a A IrsiR ECuw
The Persian Culture Show that

I i I

The Witness

Leo more...
J DUQUESNE
SU NIVE RSITY
GRADUATING SENIORS
MEDICAL SCHOOL CAN STILL BE WITHIN REACH!
DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY CAN HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
Duquesne University's distinctive Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program
(PBPMP) can help qualified, motivated graduates in any major meet the
requirements for medical or professional school admission through two
curriculum tracks: a Career Changers Plan for graduates with non-science
mainmnr anFnhan tPlan fnr -aduatewith-,a2.cience bcround

took place on Satur-
day at 7 p.m. in the
Power Center dis-
played the Persian
culture's long his-
tory and traditions
of dance. Wearing
beautiful costumes
in vivid colors, the
performers in each
piece dazzled the
audience with deft

Seventh
Annual
Persian
Culture
Show
Saturday, March
26 at 7 p.m.
At the Power Center

performance, contained humor
that seemed to be too particular to
Persians and was not necessarily
understood by non-Persians. This
made sections of the skit drag on.
However, the messages of hard work
and sacrifice for a new generation,
although somewhat clich6d, reso-
nated well with the viewers and pro-
vided an emotional centerpiece for
the whole culture show.
The two narrators, who acted
as a mother-daughter team, fur-
ther expanded the themes of family.
Unfortunately, there was little chem-
istry between them and their timing
was sometimes off. Despite these
shortcomings, however, the MCs pro-
vided a sense of cohesion to the Per-

0
0

Award winning film about activism

I moves and bold spirit.

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