by Corey Hall
Sometimes it takes a special confluence of elements to make a truly bad movie, one so awful it transports the viewer into some curious netherworld well beyond known reality and logic. And sometimes all it takes is Vin Diesel. Believe it or not, that name once carried with it great promise.In this muddled, brain-dead sci-fi slop, it appears that nobody involved read the script, or, if they did, they simply ignored it and plowed straight for danger. It's a mess that, because of multiple rewrites and endless heavy-handed studio twiddling, director Mathieu Kassovitz recently disowned, retreating to a tropical isle to wait out the coming shitstorm.If only we could join him, as Babylon A.D. is a plodding incoherent fiasco, though an oddly compelling one. The setting is one of those hokey Hollywood dystopian futures, where parts of the world are falling into barbarism while others glimmer with neon super-structures and polished chrome.Some undisclosed disaster has left Eastern Europe a grungy, bombed-out crater, as if the Balkan war never ended. Diesel plays a surly, mumbling, predictably grizzled mercenary called Toorop who only wants a nice dinner of wine-soaked rabbit. Then a platoon of thugs blows his door down and drags him to his next assignment. He's hauled off to chat with a crime lord named Gorsky, tragically played by Gerard Depardieu under a heavy putty nose and overdubbed by some other actor. You'd have to find a late-period Brando to see a cameo this pathetic, but it's just the tip of the kooky iceberg here. Toorop has been charged with escorting a mysterious young woman named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) — who looks like a pouty-lipped fashion model awaiting her frappuccino — but is in fact some kind of psychic cyber Madonna miracle child or something. There's also her guardian-mother figure played by Michelle Yeoh — a pacifist nun who conveniently knows how to kick major kung fu ass when trouble starts. And so trouble comes about every eight minutes or so in the form of hoods, thugs and creeps assaulting our trio, who escape across the Arctic via flying limo, submarine and, best of all, turbo-boosted snowmobile! There's a lot of fretting over passports, checkpoints and paperwork, despite the fact that Diesel tends to just shoot his way through crowds, often with nobody seeming to care or react. By the time they hit New York, the confusing religious-techno messiah plot has been completely buried under flaming-rubble CGI missiles and the requisite throbbing metal and rap soundtrack. None of it makes a lick of sense, and Babylon A.D. feels like an even more expensive version of Children of Men, as dreamed up by eighth-graders on a sugar rush. —Corey Hall
Written and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Starring Matt Lanter, Vanessa Minnillo, Gary "G-Thang" Johnson, Nicole Parker, Crista Flanagan, Ike Barinholtz, Kim Kardashian, Tad Hilgenbrinck, Jason Boegh and Carmen Electra. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The latest pop culture regurgitation from the team who made Date Movie finds the world coming to an end, and the audience asking for their hour-and-a-half back. If there's one thing you can say about the movies cranked out by the writing-directing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer is that they are what they are: stream-of-consciousness parodies held together by the slimmest of storylines.Hitting theaters at the end of an intense summer movie season, Disaster Movie is supposed to be a cleansing of the cinematic palate, but leaves a bitter aftertaste instead. The pomposity of big-budget B-movies can certainly be taken down a notch, but Friedberg and Seltzer rely too much on trailer moments for their broad comedy. Those attention-grabbing nuggets (like a bullet mussing Angelina Jolie's hair in Wanted) are their comic fodder, and they look for laughs by giving them a (usually violent) tweak.The problem is that their humorous twists just aren't fresh. Questioning the sexuality of naked warrior Beowulf, adding racy lyrics to a chirpy High School Musical number, and making Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw a drag queen doesn't make for cutting-edge comedy. Neither does the appearance of the flying cow from 1996's Twister. But Disaster Movie falls completely flat when lashing at summer flops like Speed Racer, Prince Caspian and The Love Guru.Deflating these images only works when they've overstayed their welcome in the cultural landscape (as did Juno, one of their primary targets), and making fun of the rejects doesn't have the same punch. Jabs at the self-absorbed cast of Cloverfield works well, and turning Alvin and the Chipmunks into death metal cannibals has a macabre humor to it, but these moments are few.The actors here are merely joke facilitators, and they're game. After gaining attention through reality shows and pageants, Matt Lanter and Vanessa Minnillo throw themselves headlong into the slapstick, as does stand-up Gary "G-Thang" Johnson. But it's MadTV vets Crista Flanagan (the sullen Juney), Nicole Parker (a cranked Enchanted Princess) and Ike Barinholtz (dead-on as hero and villain alike) who really understand the skewed logic of spoofery.Friedberg and Seltzer are speedy and prolific filmmakers (their Meet the Spartans came out in January), but this lame mishmash proves that you actually can see too many movies for your own good.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.