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WHAT'RE YA GONNA DO ON AN EVENING 
IN THE DOG DAYS?


Reel Time
Dale Hill
www.flickwitch.com

            YIKES – is it August already?!? Summer's lease hath all too short a date, as one of those Brit poets said, who knew what he was talking about.

            Here we are in the Dog Days, when Sirius the Dog Star rises, and there's not much rain. All of my gardening friends are wishing for a few more thundershowers, and I'm trotting out the watering can every other day.

            But for the summer's end you can lay back, pick some high-bush blueberries, and shuffle on down to the local multiplex for a few movies that won't challenge your intellect but will help you to a few cool chuckles on a warm night. This is what the tag-end of summer is for: lazy evenings with no appreciable activity, either physical or mental. To that end, we're looking for movies that suspend our disbelief and our critical faculties and provide mindless entertainment.

            I hate to say that “Dinner for Schmucks” is the more sophisticated of the two movies we're talking about today, but there you are.

            Paul Rudd is an aspiring office worker who is invited to the boss's monthly meal that makes fun of stupid guests. This is not the first coincidence: our pal runs into (literally) Steve Carrell, which is why we have a movie: Steve Carrell can do anything, and make you almost believe it. What he does here is taxidermitize (if that's the word I want) dead mice, dress them in tiny costumes, and place them in meticulous, itsy, hand-crafted cycloramas. (The opening credits sequence is just enchanting, until you realize that somebody had to kill all those mice...) This makes Carrell the perfect candidate for the humiliating ordeal of the dinner, but some real human moments keep the movie from turning horribly toxic.

            What Steve Carrell doesn't quite do is make you believe that any human being could be quite so clueless as the guy he plays here. Sorry: no sentient human can keep coming at you with bad ideas – and keep you giving in – to the point that you jeopardize your career and your marriage; but that's what sends this predictable movie over the top, and makes it funnier than it ought to be.

            The word “schmuck,” from the title, is never used in the screenplay. If you don't know what it means, you could look it up in Leo Rosten's “The Joys of Yiddish.”

            The other guilty pleasure that you're going to enjoy (trust me on this) is “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”

            Do you remember the original “Cats and Dogs”? Me neither, hardly, because it was nine years ago, but I still remember the dog leaning out of the hi-speed transit-pod window like it was a pick-up. This time he throws up, the way my dog always did.

            The super-secret world of dog agents is matched here by the super-secret world of cat agents, and it's only a matter of time before they have to join forces to repel the destructive forces of Kitty Galore, and there are no points available for recognizing that particular bawdy James Bond reference.

            The cute stuff about this movie is the always-lovable animals with the CGI talking lips, the night-time aerial photography above San Francisco (cool! I was there!), and Bette Midler's voice-over as Kitty Galore – can we have Bette in more films?

            For the rest of August all bets are off, all opinions are equal, and all critical thinking is suspended. Enjoy everything the late summer is offering, especially if it's on the shores of a largish body of water, and involves food, drink, fishing, boating, swimming, and horrifying, dreadful, delightful movies on the camp's VCR.