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November 28, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-28

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 28, 2005

ARTS

Courtesy of Paramount

"What am I holding?"

Derivative family
comedy slips up

0

By Mary Kate Varnau
Daily Arts Writer

Courtesy of Focus

"We're so British, bitches."

AUSTEN POWERS
COSTUME ROMANCE MAKES FOR REDUNDANT CHARM

Piggybacking on the recent suc-
cess of similar family-oriented fea-

tures, "Yours,
Mine & Ours"
drew in mil-
lions of rugrats
and reluctant
parents over the
holiday weekend.
Although the film
is a remake of the

Yours, Mine
& Ours
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Paramount

By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

Period pieces are too often susceptible to the

inauthentic. There's something
bodice-bound heroine stand
in the rain and poutingly pro-
claim her fiery disregard as if
she's been up all night study-
ing for the GRE - something
that feels inescapably unreal.
Director Joe Wright's beau-
tifully executed new version of
Jane Austen's "Pride & Preju-

about watching a
Pride &
Prejudice
At the Michigan
Theater, Showcase
and Quality 16
Focus

the second of five sisters all obligated to marry well
for their own salvation. Elizabeth, the bookish and
free-spirited type, becomes prejudiced against a rich
young man named Mr. Darcy (newcomer Matthew
MacFadyen) for his prideful demeanor. He falls hard
for her spunky personality and the two meander
through a few hundred pages of antiquated social
commentary to arrive at a wedding.
Even for those who never made it to English
class, the story is so ingrained in our culture
- apart from the 10,000 Austen adaptations, the
basic plot is the godmother of the modern romantic
comedy - it doesn't bear repeating by someone
who has nothing to say. Though screenwriter Deb-
orah Moggach is spectacularly competent at adapt-
ing Austen's intricately plotted opus to a two-hour
form, she doesn't bring anything new.
And that's particularly sad considering that just
10 years ago, the BBC released its heralded mini-
series version of the novel. Apart from launching
Colin Firth as a lake-diving rock star for 40-some-
thing British women, the five-hour series remains
the pinnacle of Austen recreation. The artistic logic
in trying to create another straightforward adapta-
tion is lost in the whirl of gossamer gowns and the

cacophony of quick, clipped tongues.
But despite its inherently flawed inception, the film
is remarkably well-made. The cinematography is out-
standing, the direction sure-handed, the script light
and witty. Problems of scope - the film takes on far
too much far too superficially - speak to a desire to
please Austen groupies who can project their own
connection between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. And
for those who can manufacture the proper emotions at
the proper moment, the film is pretty much perfect.
Even Knightley, normally feisty and one-dimen-
sional, makes for a fitting Elizabeth. She imbues
the character with the same irreverent energy as
her literary counterpart, though her commitment
to exposing Elizabeth's youthful confusion often
makes her vapid and giggly. MacFadyen has a
world of absence from the screen, but is effectively
brooding with what he gets.
Those who hate the books are still bound to be less
than enraptured sitting through empire-waist gowns
hopping around a ballroom and a lot of politely
accented Brits acting a little bit distressed. But those
who come to the film with familiarity not tainted by
old book reports should find it a pleasant diversion in
the playful pageantry of it all.

1968 version starring Henry Fonda
and Lucille Ball - its part in the
"Brady Bunch"-like comedy craze
has had critics calling it "Cheaper
By the Dozen 1 '/." This punchline
doesn't stray far from the truth.
After his wife dies, Coast Guard
Admiral and aspiring Commandant
Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid,
"The Rookie") moves his eight
"military brats" to his childhood
hometown.
Just a few days later, he's reunited
with high school sweetheart, Helen
North (Rene Russo, "Two For the
Money"), a free-spirited purse
designer who, inconceivably, sup-
ports her 10 children by creating
frilly handbags before marrying
into the strictly regimented Beard-
sley family. What follows is a 90-
minute slapstick battle for territory
between the 18 new brothers and
sisters.

The 2005 version of "Yours, Mine
& Ours" only vaguely resembles its
predecessor. The plot is essentially
the same, although this film takes
some liberties with the personali-
ties of the main characters, gross-
ly exaggerating the laissez-faire,
hippy-esque parenting style of the
mother.
The housekeeping habits of the
new family are overplayed as well;
a mess is one thing, but in an early
scene, the pet pig runs through the
front yard gobbling pizza while an
army of kids and other family pets
slip and slide chasing after it.
The new version plays up the silly,
physical comedy moments. It focus-
es more on the animosity between
the children and even adds a subplot
where the 18 kids conspire to break
up Mom and Dad. The film is packed
with "Parent Trap"-style pranks,
which may add some appeal for the
five-year-old demographic. But for
anyone else, the obtuse, obvious
humor transforms the Quaid/Russo
rendering into the "Yours, Mine &
Ours" minus charm.
Even so, the writers really crank
up the sentiment near the end. Even
if viewers are completely turned
off by the film's flat, pseudo-come-
dic aspects, they'll turn teary-eyed
when the saccharine starts flowing.
It's an unavoidable reflex; you might
sniffle through the last few minutes
of the film, though theexpense is
bound to be a healthy dose of self-
loathing when the lights come up.

dice" tries to grime and grit its way into believabil-
ity, but slavish devotion to the novel skips over all
the dramatic tension. Unfortunately, that excessive
faithfulness alone makes the emotional core of this
film resonate with exactly the same artificiality as
the corsets and petticoats that embalm it.
To those who sat through more than a few days of
high school lit, the story is familiar: Elizabeth Ben-
nett (Keira Knightley, "Pirates of the Caribbean") is

.:. .

1 1, - -: ------------n~s - iiU'

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