Sexy-but-silly sisters: (l-r) Johansson
and Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl.
Other Boleyn Girl
by Justin Chadwick
a sucker for costume dramas, particularly when they feature
stunning gowns, heaving bosoms, brooding men and a passing
resemblance to something historically factual. At the same
time, I am willing to accept artistic license. That said,
I almost choked on my hot tea when, in The Other Boleyn
Girl, sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson), summoned to the
bed of her liege, King Henry VIII (Eric Bana), murmurs “So,
this is where the King of England sleeps.”
Can you blame me? I mean, I’d hardly had time to recover from
an earlier guffaw, when the ever-dignified Kristin Scott Thomas,
playing Mrs. Boleyn, chastises her husband Sir Thomas (Mark
Rylance) for having invited the king and his entourage to
call, reproving him with a tart variation on something housewives
have been telling their spouses since time immemorial: “It
will cost a fortune to get this house ready for a royal visit!”
Who penned such pithy sayings, you ask? Strangely enough,
the screenwriter here is Peter Morgan, the guy who fared much
better with The Queen. Apparently, his charge here
wasn’t so much to create a compelling story about the sibling
rivalry that existed between Mary and the future queen, Anne
(Natalie Portman), or the royal love triangle, or even the
icky maneuverings of Sir Thomas and the girls’ uncle, the
Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), to get one of their kin
between the sheets with Henry. Rather, it appears that his
task was to relegate an intriguing historical drama into the
language of, say, One Tree Hill or Dawson’s Creek.
Indeed, it’s something of a surprise that Portman and Johansson
were chosen over, say, Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie.
Director Justin Chadwick shows a liking for galloping horses—preferably
ridden by frantic ladies with the aforementioned heaving bosoms—and
dramatic entrances and exits, but seems to have no clue how
to make such drama punctuate a grade-A tale. Bana gets to
saunter from one beauty to another, whispering “tonight!”
in their ears, seemingly in order to show off his buff physique.
One would be hard pressed to find, in The Other Boleyn
Girl, any of the qualities that made Henry such a compelling
and commanding leader. How can it not be so, since, based
on Morgan’s screenplay, he did nothing but chase skirts in
hopes of producing a male heir? Portman, playing a woman many
historians have called one of the single most influential
royals ever, doesn’t get to show her considerable intelligence;
rather, she’s seen as a manipulative cocktease, somebody lacking
in her sister’s gentleness and—whoa Nelly!—ability to repeatedly
sate the lusty Henry. Anne’s infamous beheading on trumped-up
charges of treason and incest are given light coverage, with
the filmmakers preferring to focus on Johansson’s quivering
lip and, again, heaving bosom. A-ha! When it comes down to
brass tacks, these must be the end lesson of Anne’s and Mary’s
tumultuous life and times.
by Kent Alterman
Judd Apatow would never stand for this.
After a series of like-minded films that were funnier than
they had any right to be (Blades of Glory, in particular),
Will Ferrell’s latest foray into the sports-comedy genre is
a total brick. The unfortunately chosen title says it all:
From first-timer Kent Alterman’s slapdash direction (just
point the camera at Will and let it roll; he’s bound to do
something funny!) to a script by Scot Armstrong (Old School,
Starsky & Hutch) that barely plays as a comedy,
everything about Semi-Pro reeks of amateurism.
Here’s what we’re given to work with: It’s 1976, and Jackie
Moon (Ferrell) is the owner of the Flint Tropics, a third-rate
basketball team that’s about to be snuffed out by the impending
NBA-ABA merger. Moon tries to get his team into the NBA through
a series of stunts and promotions. Of course we know from
the outset that Moon’s efforts will be for naught, and this
is one of the film’s major problems: With the Tropics cast
against a bunch of actual NBA teams, we’re handed the entire
film in the first 10 minutes. From there, it’s just a series
of half-drawn characters, silly-stupid catchphrases, and sketches
that play out like so much Saturday Night Live filler.
Will Arnett isn’t even particularly funny here, something
I previously thought to be impossible.
The best thing about the film—the cast—is simply wasted. Woody
Harrelson (as a former Boston Celtics benchwarmer) and Andre
“3000” Benjamin (as the team’s showboating star player) are
the only ones besides Ferrell whose roles are deeper than
a puddle of piss (not by much, mind you); Andy Richter and
Maura Tierney should ask to have their names removed from
the credits entirely. Casting Jackie Earle Haley as burnout
Tropics fan seems like an inspired move, but he too is given
absolutely nothing to work with. (Also: poor Tim Meadows.)
just doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be.
The few cute or clever moments are trounced by rampant vulgarity
(the film earns its “R” rating almost entirely for language);
the characters, such as they are, are barely even caricatures.
The last third of the film begins to coalesce, but by then
it’s too little too late. I left this film thinking it might
have worked had it been trimmed by 15 minutes—and it’s barely
90-minutes long. What the fuck happened?