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Run, caveman, run: 10,000 BC.

Stupid Cavemen

By Ann Morrow

10,000 BC

Directed by Roland Emmerich

 

A mish-mash of hunter-gatherer-era clichés, 10,000 BC has about five minutes of footage that isn’t sheer dumbed-down boredom, and that’s the belated appearance of a herd of wooly mammoths. The CGI creatures almost achieve a Jurassic Park-style moment of wonderment, but the film’s lame choreography ruins it by sending a tribe of hunters running willy-nilly amid the beasts’ feet to no discernable purpose.

But we know they’re supposed to have a purpose, because of the film’s ponderously vapid narration (by Omar Sharif), which intones pseudo-spirit-world pronouncements such as declaring the mammoths “the mighty beasts that rule this land.”

What land that might be is incomprehensible: 10,000 BC seems to exist in a parallel universe that owes more to ripping off other movies (most noticeably Apocalypto) than anything factual about the Mesolithic era. Sloppily directed by the usually efficient box-office hack Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow), 10,000 BC was co-written by composer Harald Kloser—go figure—whose script is even worse than his bombastic, symphonic score. The story has something to do with a young hunter named D’leh (Steven Strait) who is in love with Evolet (Camilla Bell) and must prove his manhood to claim her. Evolet is a foundling who was taken in by the isolated, mountaintop tribe because her blue eyes were considered a blessing. If either Strait or Bell is capable of acting, they don’t show it, but then, they don’t have much of a chance. Before they can gaze wistfully into the future a la Quest for Fire, Evolet is abducted during a raid by the “four-legged demons”—Turkish-looking slave traders on horseback. The marauding slavers ride modern horses, making the perils of the film’s gigan- tic predators—man-eating emus and cartoon-eyed saber-tooth tigers—even more ridiculous.

D’leh’s rescue mission takes him from craggy Eurasian peaks to what appears to be the African continent—in about a day or two. Along the way other disgruntled tribes join his cause of attacking the demon men, a mission that takes them to the film’s version of a Mayan Mordor, complete with effete priests, albino houseboys, extras from Skull Island, and a towering, veiled ruler deferred to as the “Almighty.” Evolet is so relieved by D’leh’s daring that she cries until her mascara runs, at which point a cameo by the Geico cavemen to deliver a punch line would be infinitely preferable to yet another proof of manhood.

Actually, She Doesn’t

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Directed by Bharat Nalluri

 

Like last year’s Mrs. Henderson presents, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an inconsequential piece of fluff that trades in a love of retro glamour and a sense of nostalgia for a time and place long gone—1939 England—as if either existed as presented here. The title character (Frances McDormand), a “rogue governess” whom we first meet being unceremoniously dismissed from an employment agency, wanders the fringes of pre-blitz London, experiencing one disastrous mishap after another, until she lucks into a chance to work for American singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). The hapless Yank, caught between the amorous affections of not one but three guys, latches onto Miss Pettigrew, elevating her to social secretary and giving her a total makeover.

From the very moment that Adams bounds onto the screen, the audience expectantly awaits the fun to begin. After all, this is the same actress who turned Enchanted into something a little more than, well, a piece of fluff, and the idea of her parlaying her considerable talents within a frothy screwball comedy is delightful. But while Adams is able to reveal Delysia (nee Sara Grubb)’s inner lack of confidence and humanity, she is not the miracle worker who can make Simon Beaufoy’s and David Magee’s pedestrian script come to life. Delysia’s would-be husbands are decidedly unappealing, although pianist Michael (Lee Pace) is closest to a suitable love interest, because we know he’s got her best interests at heart. Well, that and the fact that he’s the only one of the three who appears to have an appropriate blend of testosterone and maturity.

McDormand fares well in that we actually root for her character, a bit of a misfit Mary Poppins with an innate common sense and sweet dignity. When the catty boutique owner Edythe (Shirley Henderson) attempts to bribe her, we almost expect Miss Pettigrew to cower in terror, but instead we see strong character and conviction—precisely why she was fired from so many previous places of employment. There is also a glimmer of possibility in her interactions with the lingerie designer, and Edythe’s cuckolded fi ancé, Joe (Ciarán Hinds)—but only a glimmer.

Director Bharat Nalluri focuses too much attention on shiny set pieces, notably the club in which Michael and Delysia perform, and the runway that Edythe uses as an extension of her passive-aggressive feelings for Joe. The underlying poignancy of unsettled times and lonely people that should be there, and occasionally rears a humble head, is beaten down like a stovetop fire, leaving absolutely nothing resembling energy and life—no matter what the title implies.

—Laura Leon


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