Thursday, August 12, 2010

Watching the Detectives (2007)

An airless, poorly conceived romantic comedy with decent performances about a geeky video store clerk who falls in love with a spontaneous, free-spirited (read: crazy) new client. Cillian Murphy actually does an admirable job making a likable, relatively normal guy out of a poorly written character, downplaying his creepiness and naiveté for a more beaten, "whatever"-type attitude. He is obsessed with film, and constantly interrupts his life for viewings and references, much to the chagrin of everyone outside of his immediate friends circle (who are, admittedly, pretty funny, if self-consciously quirky). Lucy Liu comes along as the crazy person who knows nothing about movies, but knows enough to attempt to get Murphy out of his shell by enacting high-tension, movie-like scenarios. The fact that this is, ostensibly, a romantic comedy, spending much of its time focused on the relationship between these two, sinks the film, for it is not believable for a second that Murphy's character would put up with Liu's shenanigans as long as he does; his character was not written as bored or desperate enough to be willing to jump through this many hoops for any reason, let alone for someone he's just met. Liu's casting makes the film tolerable, though, for she infuses just enough energy and know-how to avoid, until the end, looking completely psychotic and illogical. However, the ending defines the film too concretely as a light-weight rom-com (spoiler!), and the laughs do not come quick and heavy enough to hide the lack of genuine substance. That being said, this was written and directed by Paul Soter, a member of Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Slammin' Salmon), so everyone gets at least a few cute gags in, including several Lizard members in cameos (including Soter). I was just hoping for more out of his solo debut, and he does not have the writing chops to create a fresh, substantive original script, nor the directorial knowhow to elevate a script to watchable status, despite a penchant for casting (that is common for the Lizards...Brian Cox remains the scene-stealer in Super Troopers).

Skip it. There are better movies like this (The Science of Sleep, and, although it's radically different in tone, Cyper, also with Liu), and this is, unfortunately, not nearly as funny as a Broken Lizard film. But Soter's a hell of a sweet guy, with visibly good intentions, and I'm glad he got to make his own movie.

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