City; the Melting Pot; Gotham; the Big Apple; the Capitol of the World.
It's big, brassy, noisy, exciting, expensive, and
absolutely irresistible to movie producers, especially the ones who
want to destroy it. Since King Kong shinnied up the Empire State
Building in 1933, Hollywood moguls with big budgets have hit the
metropolis with every imaginable (well, maybe not yet)cataclysm.
I suppose it's a tribute to the resilience of the
American spirit, if not its ghoulishness, that we've recovered enough
from the real horrors of 9-11 to once again relish on-screen images of
the Big Apple in Big Trouble. Currently screening are no fewer than
three films set in New York, and two of them are not kind to the place.
As we've remarked, the retrovirus in “I Am Legend”
has depopulated the city, except for Will Smith, Rin-Tin-Tin, and some
“Cloverfield” pits the usual military forces of
bazookas and tanks (and where do they stable the tanks in Manhattan?)
against a monster. I call it “a monster” because it's big and mean and
we don't know anything else about it except that it drops little
monsters that are kind of spidery and crabby and toothy. The movie is
told entirely, and I mean entirely, through the images of a recovered
video camera, formerly wielded by a Bud Light kinda guy who, instead of
throwing it down and running for his life, filmed his friends'
reactions to the whole attack. If you liked the headache you got from
the hand-held camera in “Blair Witch Project” you're going to love this
movie. (Memo to “Cloverfield” producers: there's a reason every monster
movie has a scene with scientists and generals in a bunker filled with
blinking computers, trying to find out what It is, where It came from,
and how to stop It. That's because THE AUDIENCE WANTS TO KNOW TOO.)
Fortunately, the third Manhattan-based movie this
summer is what's technically known as a Chick Flick. That means there
are no monsters, serial killers, gun battles, or car chases. It's
called “27 Dresses,” and it's a charmer.
Katherine Heigl, who was badly mismatched in
“Knocked Up,” plays Jane, a savvy but unpretentious urban professional
who has been maid of honor at the weddings of 27 of her closest
friends. She hasn't given up on the idea of traipsing up the aisle
herself, she's just waiting for her boss to ask her, because she's had
a secret crush on him for just ever. On cue, two people arrive in
Jane's life at just the wrong/right time.
The first is her kid sister Tess, a bombshell who
puts all the right moves on the boss and ends up engaged to him in
about a nanosecond. Tess is played by Malin Akerman, an authentic
Swedish blond. (She really is from Stockholm, and in her spare time
fronts a rock band called Ozono. Good grief.) Edward Burns plays the
boss in ways that give new depth to the term stolid; the poor sap
doesn't stand a chance.
The second arrival is James Marsden as Kevin, a
wedding columnist who hates weddings so much he writes under an assumed
name. He is really, truly smitten with Jane, but she can't see past
his cynicism and museum-quality cheekbones to the lonely little
If this all sounds queasily smarmy and sentimental,
it would be except for three things. First, Anne Fletcher's direction:
she hasn't directed a whole lot of movies, but she has done a huge
amount of work as a choreographer, and it shows here in the light
touch, the fluid camerawork, the quick but not choppy cutting,
and the real care she takes with her actors. And she makes New York
look like a really nice place.
Second, Aline Brosh McKenna wrote the script. She
was the screenwriter for “The Devil Wears Prada,” and though this
is a much sweeter story, the dialogue flashes a lot of the same edgy
Third is Judy Greer as Jane's sidekick Casey; she's
fresh, smart, impudent, and funny, and her scenes are wisely kept to a
minimum, because she could easily steal the whole show from the two
And the movie's final shot is a nice surprise, even
though it's been set up from the very beginning.