Up on the Dancefloor

Blog by Alan Sharkey | 09 Oct 2009

On Thursday, a friend of mine suggested I go see Up, the new Pixar movie. I was confused by this, since I had heard it wasn't out until the 9th October, but they seemed so adamant that it was already out that I agreed, and was rather excited. Pixar seem to have this wonderful talent of being able to pitch their movies at every available demographic. What a lot of kids' films seem to think is that a) children are stupid and b) only children watch kids' movies. If you show them a bright flash of colours smearing their way across the screen, a broad character screeching a catchphrase drawn up by committee, maybe a fart joke or two, then the kids giggle themselves silly, and be satiated.

Pixar isn’t as relentlessly bottom-feeding. They seem to recognise that although children may not always understand complex concepts, it doesn’t mean that they can’t understand complex characters, even if they are cartoons. They create intricate universes, weaving through them a sense of wonder and exploration that make everyone feel like they’re five again. They teach messages without being heavy-handed or patronising. And they’re funny to boot, whether it’s the excellent interplay between the two leads of Toy Story and Finding Nemo or the melancholy, Buster Keaton-esque slapstick of WALL-E. What’s not to love?

I'd like to say that it was a charming, delightful comedy with snappy dialogue and fun, interesting characters; a true family film. But I can't say that, because I was right; it wasn't out until the 9th. So instead we decided to see a movie I mentioned last week, Toy Story (in 3D, no less), which was as wonderful as I remember it.

So, with that needless digression about my social life over, let's talk about remakes. Halloween II slashes its' way through a bedsheet this week to assault our senses. Not the original Halloween II, you understand, but a sequel to the remake of the original Halloween, and as such has nothing to do with the "original" Halloween II. I hope you’re following me.

Rob Zombie, the director of the "original" remake was apparently told not to retain any "John Carpenter-ness" if he didn’t want to, and to make his "own vision" of the Halloween series. This was a mistake, since Carpenter knows how to make films (even if the results can be mixed; for every The Thing there’s a Ghosts of Mars), whilst Zombie just indulges his love of pseudo-horrific imagery in the kind of easy, cheap cliché that turned the original, chilling if somewhat base slashers like Halloween or Friday the 13th into overrun, incredibly routine jokes.

A bit of gore and spatter, on the other hand, would liven up Love Happens immeasurably. It’s a romantic drama so bland it should be wearing pastels and talking about property prices. I realise I’m not in the core market for this sort of thing, but what is the point of something so ruthlessly and charmlessly predictable?

The answer, as always, appears to be money, although Love Happens appears to have been mediocre on that front, as on all others. This hasn’t stopped two writers from trying to claim the idea was taken from them, and filing a lawsuit, suing for a massive $100 million sum. Guys, I don’t know about you, but if I had been responsible for releasing this, I’d keep it quiet.

A more unusual love tale can be found in Patrick 1,5, which closes the Glasgay! Film Festival this Sunday at the GFT. The Swedish film sees a gay couple inadvertently adobt a homophobic 15-year-old after a comma is misplaced on the adoption forms - I smell a sitcom! Or a stark, Scandinavian drama with real emotional depth. One or the other.

Talking of emotional depth though, Dirty Dancing returns to the big screen, with renewed meaning for its devotees after the death of star Patrick Swayze. Screening as part of the Life:Art:Mind Festival at Dundee Contemporary Arts this Saturday only, expect to laugh, cry, dance and sweat your way through this classic. Or if you're a straight man, just make jokes about the doctors being unable to perform Swayze's autopsy (no-one puts baby in the coroner, you see).