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|I wasn’t pleased about the de-gaying of the Valentine’s Day trailer following in the wake of the de-
gaying of the Single Man and Taking Woodstock trailers. This isn’t a wonderful trend, folks. But I sorta
understood with Valentine’s Day because the gay couple – played by Bradley Cooper and Eric
Dane – is a surprise reveal that comes at the conclusion of the movie. But eight months before the
movie’s opening – in April of 2009 – even Cooper knew about the reveal when I chatted with him
during the Hangover press junket – though he admitted disappointment over this.
Now that I’ve seen the movie however I’m not just okay with the trailer being de-gayed, I recommend
that gay couples everywhere celebrate that their relationships were not part of the couples cluster
fuck that is Garry Marshall’s latest “joyful,” “exuberant,” “heartfelt” comedy. And yes – the quote
marks are the tip off that this is the latest round of processed cheese from Marshall who once again
proves that he is the master of the out of date rom coms and the wizard of watered down, uninspired
laughs. When Marshall himself exclaimed in the very funny camp fest Soapdish (which he did not
direct) about one of the characters, “She’s a bad news buffet” he was describing the residual effect
from the latest in his long list of not very good movies.
I’ve noted Marshall’s spotty creative track record before (his box office is another story) and
Valentine's Day finds Marshall once again doing what apparently he does best – delivering the product
on time, under budget with enough tepid visual jokes, a couple of outright zingers, gallons of
schmaltz, phony tears, and enough processed emotion to make one gag. Plus plenty of beautiful
stars to ogle at (note to Topher Grace’s gym instructor: give yourself a raise, your client is looking
good, ditto, Eric Dane).
This movie about love is so loveless, so sure that its intended audience will fall for it that it fairly
drips with cynical calculation. MGM used to boast that they had “more stars than there are in Heaven”
under contract and that’s the gimmick for this star stuffed traffic pile up. Everyone from Jessica Alba
to Taylor Swift has been crammed into Katherine Fulgate’s script which seems to have been dictated
via Twitter. Not one of the stories resonates or lands and the misuse of stars left, right and below
the belt is jaw dropping.
And the gay subplot with Eric Dane and Bradley Cooper is particularly offensive in its calculation.
Dane plays a football player at a moment in career crisis. He calls a press conference and announces
something no one is expecting. Without a hint of emotion he tells the world that he is gay (the actor
delivers the line as if he had a gun pointed at his head) and that’s that dammit! Later, we see him
asleep and alone in his bachelor pad when suddenly a hand awkwardly brushes through his beautiful
coif. It’s none other than Bradley Cooper who has flown home to reunite with daddy! Do we see the
two kiss, cuddle, even touch? Nope. Marshall’s camera quickly cuts away before the straights in the
audience can be spared the horror of a queer Dr. McSteamy. Thanks to the script’s dated inclusion of
this “hilarious” surprise reveal I haven’t felt an audience this uncomfortable with gay characters since
Deathtrap in 1977 when Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve suddenly gave each other a peck on the
lips and the audience began booing.
The producers apparently ordered the scriptwriter to use the lyrics and the title of Cole Porter’s “Love
For Sale” as her guiding spirit, to wit:
“Old love, new love, any love but true love”
That’s Valentine’s Day, alright – a perfect movie personification of the holiday – crass, commercial and
guaranteed to make a zillion dollars off the love struck masses. Ugh.
When Universal last tried to reboot their classic monster movies it was all in one fell swoop – as a
potential blockbuster series for Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing back in 2004 with Jackman battling
Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, all wedged together in a brand new scenario. But the
results didn’t please critics or apparently enough audience members (though there are sequences in
it that I quite like) as no sequels have been announced.
Now Universal is trying to revive their monster cash cow again, this time by enlisting also ran but
trusty action director Joe Johnston (Hidalgo, Jurassic Park III, Jumanji) to bring us a newly minted
edition of The Wolfman. Unlike Van Helsing, however, they’ve learned their lesson about messing
about with their successful formula of old and this new wolfman movie is based on the classic one –
going so far as using Curt Siodmak’s 1941 screenplay as the template for this fresh go round.
Though the movie follows the basics of the original – to the manor born Lawrence Talbot returns
home to his father’s estate in England after a long absence, encounters gypsies, a pretty ingénue
and after an attack in the moors, becomes a werewolf each time there’s a full moon, and tries to end
the curse while killing and baying at the moon, etc. – the script by credited screenwriters Andrew Kevin
Walker and David Self (though the fingerprints of many other writers are here) does have some nice
The decision to move the action to the Victorian era is a good one – audiences have fallen hard for
the bravura visuals of these color leached, dark, inky looking ghost stories (ala Sweeney Todd,
Sherlock Holmes, The Orphanage, et al) – and the lavish sets, costumes and Danny Elfman’s score
(which seems to be inspired by Wojciech Kilar’s for Coppola’s Dracula) adds to the creepy/fun
But the concurrent choice to add copious amounts of gore to keep the splatter porn fans happy is not
good. And the actors seem to have been mostly left to their own devices to either ham it up
(Anthony Hopkins having a ball in the Claude Rains part as the father, Geraldine Chaplin as the
gypsy fortuneteller stepping in for Maria Ouspenskaya) or figure out their own motivation (Benicio Del
Toro in for Lon Chaney, Jr. and Emily Blunt in for Evelyn Ankers).
In the “I haven’t decided how I feel” column is the strong suggestion that Larry Talbot as essayed by
Del Toro is “weak” (read: gay) because he left home for America to become – horror of horrors – an
actor (and worse – he specializes in Shakespeare) and that the transformation to wolfman status isn’t
exactly such a bad one and might in fact, “man him up” (the reveal for this comes in the last act and
I won’t let on how it is worked into the story). The idea that Del Toro (brooding as usual, staring out
of those dark eyes), who finds a sympathetic ear in the comely personage of Blunt as Gwen Conliffe,
the fiancée of Larry’s dead brother (killed by the werewolf), is a conflicted homosexual is riding right
under the surface and there were hints of this in the original as well.
Also a bit offputting: the movie teeters about in tone trying to decide whether the audience should
take it straight or give in to the camp factor that literally rears it’s head periodically as it wobbles
about (one can almost hear Gene Wilder say, “Where wolf?” and Marty Feldman point and reply,
“There wolf”). The result is something in between a satisfying good yarn of old and something a tad
tongue in cheek. Like the classic monster movie itself, The Wolfman is part savage, part sophisticate,
sometimes a cross between the two, and for the most part, a ripping good time – literally.