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November 13, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-13

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Monday, November 13, 2006 - 5A

A bit duller
than 'Fiction'
WINNING PLOT ESCAPES DIRECTOR
FORSTER'S GRASP

By KRISTIN MACDONALD
Daily Film Editor
If ever there was a subject ripe
for mockery, it's literary preten-
sion, and the
premise of *** r
"Stranger
than Fiction" Stranger
seems, at Than Fiction
least on paper, At the Showcase
like a terrific and Quality16
opportunity Columbia
to riff on fic-
tion's affectation: A man wakes up
one morning to discover his life
suddenly and inexplicably supple-
mented by the voice of an omni-
scient narrator (who describes his
every action "accurately and with
a better vocabulary").
Harold Crick, however (Will
Ferrell, "Talladega Nights"), does
not actually have the kind of life
that would seem to merit such
comment. In fact, he's deadly dull,
a mild-mannered IRS auditor who
compulsively regulates his daily
* routine right down to the number
of strokes in his tooth-brushing. So
R when Harold's sudden chronicler
starts relating back the details of
his life with her authorial degree
of careful observation, the change
she inspires in him actually ends
up as testament to the power of
the literary voice: She doesn't just
wittily illustrate the humor in his
everyday routine, but makes him
consider it for the first time at all.
While "Stranger than Fiction"
boasts one of the year's most excit-
ingly inventive situations, it ends
up a sweet-natured fable instead of
a more acerbically minded satire.
Forgoing the belly laughs in favor
of heartstrings, "Stranger" lends
little suspense as to the direc-
tion of Harold Crick's character
development - a man so steadily
soligry is ,osnd by movie law to
encounter a spirited female will-
ing to add some spice to his life.

To that end there's feisty baker
Ana Pascal, a first-nate Maggie
Gyllenhaal ("Sherrybaby") and
her healthy dose of sugar. When
Harold admits to never having
experienced a homemade, fresh-
from-the-oven cookie, Ana comes
inevitably to the rescue.
Meanwhile, of course, there's
still that narrator droning on in
the back of Harold's head. With his
psychiatrist at a loss, Harold turns
to English professor Jules Hilbert
(Dustin Hoffman, "Hook"), and
together they eventually discov-
er the narrator's identity: Karen
Eiffel (Emma Thompson, "Wit"),
a famously reclusive novelist with,
unfortunately for Harold, a pen-
chant for killing off her main char-
acters.
Thompson gives Karen all the
neurotic nobility of a struggling
artist, suffering through writer's
block, pounding on her typewriter
and chain-smoking enough to put
a chimney to shame. Dedicated to
realism, Karen sits on a rainy riv-
erbank to imagine acar wreck and
stands at the edge of her desk to
get the feeling of a suicidal jumper.
She frets. She panics. Karen may
be thoughtlessly cruel to her char-
acters, but she makes sure to suffer
just as much for her art.
The how and why of Karen's
voice in Harold's head is never
actually explained, but it doesn't
need to be. Zach Helm's safe script
shies away from the situation's
metaphysical complications,
meandering instead into the syr-
upy realm of sentimentality. When
Karen and Harold finally meet, the
focus turns to Karen's moral reluc-
tance to kill off a character she's
now met as a man, rather than the
more interesting life-versus-art
issue of Harold reading her book
and realizing how beautiful his
death could be.
The film's characterizations,
unfortunately, are considerably

Here's to Trey. Get out your lighters.

Trey lowers the 'Bar'

Ron Burgundy wouldn't be caught dead in that sweater.

less original than its conflicts.
No one does affability quite like
Will Ferrell, and it's thanks to his
impeccable timing and undeniable
likability that the holes in Harold's
character (such as a distinct lack of
back story) are never gaping. Ana,
meanwhile, veers toward preachy.
She isn't just a free spirit baker
with a love for cookies - she's an
anarchist who opposes paying all
of her taxes on principle (willing
to pay for playgrounds and pothole
fixes but, as she explains, not the
military). The movie abrasively
cheers on her self-righteousness,
but the inappropriate political
statement lacks payoff.
It's Marc Forster's uninspired
direction that finally keeps the
film from realizing its full poten-
tial, playing every scene at face
value without catering to its sub-
tler comic possibilities. Bland

production design favors commer-
cial Hollywood's creative license
where a more realistic tone would
have only found more humor:
Ana's home and bakery are bright
and roomy to the point where any
contempt for paying taxes seems
downright selfish, while Professor
Hilbert's university office is larger
than anything you've ever seen in
Angell Hall.
"Stranger" does benefit from an
assured supporting cast, relaxed
pacing and, of course, a refresh-
ingly literary wit. At one point
Karen's voice zeroes in on the
sound of Harold's office folders as
he files them away. She notes how
they mimic the gentle lap of ocean
waves on sand.
It's a perfect example of fine-
ly observed minutiae - absurd
though it may seem, it's actually
rather beautiful.

Afterl
tasio has
from th
mal res
to his
album,
to r
another
attempt.
Phish
mer fror
on his n
all of us
endearm
jam ban
dismiss 1
Like
musician
previous
ten to Ba
ing to hi
a doll or
wolfman
unfair tc
of thosel
that con
20-year
best kno
two dec
Ana
for v
cho
The fi
Potomac
starting
easily b
of a Gho
diehard
ference.
lyrics lik
"skyroci
bcgin to
even Jo
keys an:
can't sav
even wec

By ANNA ASH Disappointment is firmly estab-
For the Daily lished by track three, which, aside
from a trumpet part, essentially
less than a year, Trey Anas- consists of four repetitive minutes
already recovered enough of Trey's strained voice attempting
e dis- to sing "boots and your dragonfly"
ponse * < q over and over. This is not a matter
2005 of misunderstood lyrics. There is
Shine, Trey a distinct difference - a difference
elease Anastasio that many of these lyrics fail to
solo Bar17 recognize - between thought-pro-
Rubber Jungle "eking bizarreness and incoherent
's for- meaninglessness.
ntman refuses to give up Certainly no album can be dis-
nusical endeavors, and for missed solely on poor vocals and
who still hold a morsel of banal lyrics. Before even listening
tent for our high school to Bar 17, the laundry list of musi-
d obsessions, it's difficult to cians on the inside of the case sug-
his efforts. gests a very different type of albunr
most solo albums from than is expected from a rock musi-
s better known for their cian.
group work, it'shard tolis- Once the initial vocal letdown
r17 without secretly want- sinks in by track four, a new outlet
ear a circus-like tale about for Trey's composition skills begins
a 14-minute jam about a to emerge. Even the most critical
i's brother. Yes, it's slightly listener can't deny Trey's virtuostic
Trey, but this is just one talent. And even though there are
unfortunate repercussions glimpses of songwriting potential
nes hand-in-hand with a in the quietly fingerpicked "Empty
stint as a guitarist for the House," Trey's gasps for breath and
awn jam band of the past swoops for pitch distract the com-
ades. petent ear. While admitting he's
not a vocalist or a lyricist might be a
hard concession to make, it's prob-
ably the best decision for Trey.
staslo looking This is most evident in the last -
rision singing three tunes of the album, whenF
it becomes unclear as to whether
ps on 'Bar 17' the music was meant to be part of
a soundtrack or a solo recording.
In the final track, "Cincinnati,"
the first two minutes of jazz-laced
rst track, "Host Across the orchestration (fit for a theatre pro-
has exciting potential, duction) are so dissimilar that you
with an intro that could may wonder if you're even listening'
e slipped into The Story to the same album. At two minutes
rst without even the most and 40 seconds, you're thrown a
Phish fan noticing the dif- depressing reminder when Trey's
But as the song continues, voice punctures the song with a
e "streets of molasses" and chorus line of "I cannotbelieve you
kets alive and breathing" sailed away to Cincinnati so soon."
cover the guitar riffs, and Seriously, Trey. Not only will the,
hn Medeski's support on alliteration make you cringe, but
d Mike Gordon's on bass the ridiculousness ofsailingin Ohio
ve Trey's weak vocals and will make you desperately miss the,
aker lyrics. days of golgi apparatuses.

* Young Frankie set to hit the Michigan

By MARY KATE VARNAU
DailyArts Writer
Forget "Scream." Forget "Scary
Movie."
DirectedbyY n
Mel Brooks Young .
and featuring Frankenstein
Gene Wilder Tonight at 7 p.m.
as the prog- $65forstudents
eny of Mary $8.50for public
Shelley's Dr. AtlThe Michigan Theater
Franken-
stein, "Young Frankenstein" is
the scary movie spoof. Brooks and
Wilder adapted the screenplay
from Shelley's horror masterpiece,
blending elements of the original's
blood-chilling terror with the
zany, "Blazing Saddles"-trade-
mark Brooks-and-Wilder comedic
sensibility.
Gene Wilder is Dr. Frederick
Frankenstein, a neurosurgeon
who inherits the estate of his infa-
mous grandfather, Dr. Victor von
Frankenstein, and consequently
pays it a visit. Having dealt with

the professional ramifications of
being the grandson of a monster-
obsessed doctor, however, Freder-
ick insists that his name instead be
pronounced Fronkensteen:
"Well, why isn't it pronounced
Froaderick Fronkensteen?"
"It isn't. It's Frederick Fronken-
steen."
"I see."
"You must be Igor."
"No. It's pronounced 'eye-gore.'"
The house staff of Franken-
stein's castle proceeds to lure
Frederick into his grandfather's
lab, where the young doctor inevi-
tably becomes obsessed with the
family pursuit of tissue regenera-
tion. Wilder's character struggles
against this fascination with the
macabre endeavor, but not too
hard and not too long: "All right,
you win. I give. I'll say it! DES-
TINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING
THAT FOR ME!"
Studded with comedy's leg-
endary figures of the screen and
television, the cast of "Young

Frankenstein" features Marty
Feldman (a staple of British tele-
vision) as Igor, Peter Boyle (TV's
"Everybody Loves Raymond" )
The definitive
spoof of horror
films.
as the monster himself, and the
impressive Brooks roster of terrif-
ic comediennes: Cloris Leachman
("Beerfest," "Malcolm in the Mid-
dle") Madeline Kahn ("History of
the World: Part 1," "Blazing Sad-
dles"), and Terri Garr ("Tootsie,"
"Dumb and Dumber").
"Young Frankenstein" is both
a tribute to classic horror and an
irreverent parody of its conven-
tions, with plenty of awards as
clout. The film was nominated for
two Oscars, received two Golden

I - ---- - ---I

Globes, won ive Golden Scrolls
from the Academy of Science Fic-
tion, Fantasy and Horror Films
and numerous awards from other
guilds, both nationally and abroad
Discover it tonight at The Michi-
gan Theater, where it's playing as
part of the Comic Masters Series
by the University's department of
screen arts and cultures.

Get above the crowd.
SUBURBAN HUMMER'
1.888.385.8388 comeroksoandWanrR.
351s Jackson Rd. * + -- --

bWiGtM-rWiTH 91:AU LRA?
siGNScr?
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