Monday, March 07, 2011

A pleasent enough diversion.

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy.

I finally saw the Mormon version of Pride and Prejudice. Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s hardly the best movie I’ve seen, or the best Mormon comedy film, or even in the top five of Pride and Prejudice adaptations, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I had a few weak points, mostly from the film editing, which was so obviously a novice job that it distracted from the movie at times (most jarring were the odd pauses in conversation created by the film editor not splicing various takes together very well). There were a few odd plot points as well – the Wickham character is, for comedy reasons, made a bit too dorky – so it’s hard to see why the Jane character fell in love with him.
However, I think the adaptation was mostly successful. I laughed often enough, so it’s clear I enjoyed myself while watching the movie. I think the part where Darcy explained why he told Wickham that Jane was engaged to another man worked very well, and the sacrament meeting talk was hilarious, mostly because it was too true (as a single guy at BYU, I heard way too many passive-aggressive sacrament meeting talks like that).
A lot of critics said this movie did not require an understanding of Mormon/BYU culture to enjoy. That is true – to an extent. The movie never explicitly states any of the characters are LDS, but frankly, it seems to me the movie requires some knowledge of Mormon/BYU culture to truly understand. The LDS references are not overt, yes – but they are used the way Mormons use them with each other. The movie is a lot like a conversation at a Ward Potluck. You’re talking with a fellow Mormon, and you rarely ever explicitly tell each other you are LDS. Instead, you make a lot of references to “The Ensign” (as this movie does) and other shared concepts. That’s the way this film works. Viewers could understand the broad strokes and about half the humor without any knowledge of the culture behind it all, but I find it difficult to think they could actually enjoy it to any real extent.
But if you are Mormon, this is a fun movie that’s worth your time. Not great, but there are a lot worse movies out there, and this one is a pleasant enough diversion.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In which one of the most burning questions in history is finally answered?

Which of the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies had the best rap song for its theme?

The contenders are
1. Partners in Kryme - Turtle Power
2. Vanilla Ice - Ninja Rap
3. Psychedelic Dust featuring Loose Bruce - Turtle Jam

Now, a good theme song needs to have some applicability to the movie it's part of (unless it doesn't - as the Veggie Tales veggies state in "This is the Song that Runs under the Credits": There should be a rule that the song under the credits/Remotely pertains to the movie’s basic plot/That rule has not been made).

However, when determining which of the three Ninja Turtle raps are the best, it's clear that the first place to look is at how well it pertains to the movie. On that score, "Turtle Jam" from the third movie fails utterly. It barely even lets you know that we're dealing with Mutant Ninja Turtles. The rhymes are uninspired and the similes lacking ("like my man DeNiro" makes no sense except as a lazy rhyme). Listening to the song, you'd get the idea that the turtles are from the sewer and they "kick some shell." That's about it. The turtles do get name checked, but you learn nothing about their personalities or situations. Less than 10 percent of the lyrics could be changed, and the song could be about Charlie's Angels, the cast of Firefly, or even the Brady Bunch on a particularly aggressive day.

Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap" suffers from a similar problem, but almost gets a pass because in the movie, it's part of the plot and the conceit of the song is that it's improvised on the spot, during an actual battle. Thus, Mr. Ice would not have time to understand the players or the situation. The song works as a nice, generic rap about why ninjas are cool and should win fights against bad guys, so in the context it is presented, it doesn't fail utterly.

However, it was done by Vanilla Ice.

Partners in Kryme's "Turtle Power", on the other shell, stands head and shoulders above them all. After the song you know the basic personalities of the various characters, the set up for the movie's plot, what's at stake - and you've learned a valuable lesson about how to "stand for what you believe in/and find the strength to do what's right." Clever rhymes, specificity, and a good moral that's not shoved down your throat. It succeeds on all levels.

Thus, the first is the best. Now Western Civilization can rest at ease.