Friday, March 27, 2009

Open Season (2006)/Open Season 2 (2008)

The family watched both of these movies in two days, though Max and I saw the first one in the theater when it came out. I went into the second one not expecting much because it was a straight-to-video release, but I have to say, these are both great.

Hollywood movies have moved their targeting to teens -- a lot of R-rated comedies are coming out that are billed as edgier adult comedies but when you watch them you can see that clearly they're hoping 15 year-olds are going to come in droves. There's something similar happening with kids movies. They also have an edge, with more gross-out comedy and more sophisticated themes that suggest, again, that it's really targeted to teenagers.

Though it's not all purely cynical. Hollywood now understands that they will see more long-term success making family movies instead of kids' movies. Yes, they like that teens and adults will come without children, but they also know that if the whole family enjoys a movie, it will have a more profitable long-term lifespan.

Fine, because even as a kid I didn't enjoy Disney's anti-septic portrayals of life. But it's also disillusioning to watch family movies that feel like the latest Judd Apatow or Kevin Smith flick. That's why the best family movies -- say "Finding Nemo" or "Toy Story" -- are created from a smart understanding that combines those two sensibilities rather than just walking the line, occasionally leaning to either side toward either extreme.

While that means they don't rate with the best of their class, this latter, vacillating approach is pretty much the flavor of these "Open Season" movies. There are lots of fart and poop jokes, and comedy mined from caffeine use and global warming, but within the context of very nice story with likable characters communicating a good message.

Though they do ask more of your child. Old Disney movies had two kinds of grown-ups portrayed: smart and nice vs. mean and dumb. Today's family films are more honest, adding to the mix grown-ups who are nice and dumb vs. mean and smart. They are parents and teaches who can be well-meaning but short-sighted or selfish. They suffer from obesity and watch too much TV. They're flawed. So when a more old-fashioned one-dimensional hunter character like "Open Season"'s Shaw shows up, it's a mixed blessing. He's easy to understand; he's the bad guy. But as part of what one might hope will be an enduring comedy, he sticks out like a bruised thumb next to better drawn characters with smaller parts.

But these are movies for kids first and the story moves fast and the jokes are funny. It's hard to admit that actors I don't enjoy, Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence, who using today's copy-and-paste techniques didn't even have to record their dialogue at the same time, do a fine job. Though overall I am still happier when the occasional animated feature is drawn rather than only programmed ("Curious George").

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