Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Suburban Commando

Why don't Hulk Hogan movies work?

Maybe there's just some types of acting that don't translate over to film.  Maybe it's that, aside from a few exceptions, wrestlers can't really act.  Maybe the Hulkster just isn't that good.

But I think there's more to it than that.

It only took me two days, but I got through Suburban Commando.  Here's the breakdown.

That's right, somebody got paid to think that this movie was "E.T. meets High Noon."

We have another rather basic story line.  After saving a planet (but not the president) from an intergalactic conqueror, Shep Ramsay (Hogan) damages his ship in a pique of anger and winds up needing to crash land on Earth while it "recharges."   Knowing he's going to be there for six weeks, he winds up renting an apartment from the Wilcox family, headed by patriarch Charlie (Christopher Lloyd), along with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and two kids (who cares, they didn't really do anything else).

Charlie is a coward, unable to stand up to his self-aggrandizing boss, but when he discovers Charlie's secret and unwittingly causes a pair of bounty hunters (one played by the Undertaker!) to come after Shep, the two need to team up to save Charlie's home town.

That's it.  I just summed up on the plot in two paragraphs.  So let's get the good stuff out of the way first.

First off, it's not as bad as Mr. Nanny.  I actually chuckled a few times at some of the scenes, and god bless him, I really think Hogan was trying his best.  Some of the side characters are entertaining, including the ones you undoubtedly saw in the commercial saying one of the most famous lines of the year (at the 0:51 mark):

Yes, I know about that other famous line, but I'll get to it.  Trust me.

But here's the thing about this movie.  The actors are trying, but the whole film feels like it's simply one cheap set after another with no interest in injecting any personality into the where this is taking place.  A specialized one man military force stuck attempting to try to get accustomed to suburbia and being around a family could, if done right, be a fun movie.  Vin Diesel did all right in The Pacifier.

But watch that trailer again.  Look at the office complex, the bank, and even the inside of Charlie's house.  It feels like they're all using the exact same lighting for the camera, as if someone never understood how to set mood or alter the white balance.  Cameras remained in fixed positions for a lot of the scenes, not panning or moving in or anything else to draw you in.  There are quick cut-aways in the middle of anything exciting, showing you the boring end instead of the exciting end.  The movie apparently never heard of "show, don't tell."

A great example of this is when Christopher Lloyd accidentally blows up a car using one of Shep's guns.  First, this is never touched on again, and Shep never notices the hole in the wall of his apartment.  Second, we see him fire the gun, but instead of some quick shots showing it blasting out the wall, going across the yard, and then blowing up a car, we just get Christopher Lloyd standing there holding a cheap prop and then peeking through a hole in the wall to see a car on fire.

A scene where Hulk Hogan flips over a car with his bare hands cuts away from the interesting part and just shows him lifting and then the car already flipped.  A bad guy crashing through a wall only shows the after effects, not the stunt itself.

I know wrestling is more than just "acting," the guys doing it are actually doing extremely impressive stunts and taking severe abuse on their bodies, but the people behind this movie seem afraid to take any actual risks.  Things are implied, but never shown.  Yes, I realize it's a kid's movie, but look at The Karate Kid, which wasn't afraid to show kids beating each other up in ways that looked real.

Simply put, the overall sense I got from the film was apathy from everybody who wasn't trying to put in a good performance.  Christopher Lloyd, Hulk Hogan, Shelly Duvall, even the Undertaker are trying to act like they want to earn this paycheck, but between bad script-writing, bad production, bad prop design (they blatantly steal a PKE meter from Ghostbusters in one scene), and bad set design, the actors just have nothing to work with.  There are jokes that go nowhere, dumb side threads like a cat in a tree and a mime never reach any kind of satisfying conclusion, and leaps of logic that just never pay off.  The movie also shamelessly rips off everything it can, from an opening that couldn't have been more derivative of Star Wars than if George Lucas played Shep, using the video game Afterburner to represent an "outer space laser game" (when you can clearly see it's not), to having the weakest deus ex machina at the end involving some crystals that never even really get's just sloppy and insincere.

I was honestly planning on doing a scene by scene breakdown of this movie as well, but where Mr. Nanny just drags on and on and on, this movie keeps cramming so much time wasting filler in to the story that it just doesn't make any sense to try to explain the scenes.

Hulkster, I like you, I have fond memories from my childhood, and I know you've made some mistakes in life, but I still remember how often you'd grant wishes at the Make A Wish foundation (very few celebrities pass the 200 mark, and Hogan was the most-requested person in the 80's), so I still respect you. I just wish that you had a bit more acting talent and that somebody would have come along and given you a role you could actually use.

Ironically, I think you would have been great in The Wrestler.

...oh, right, the quote.  We all know the quote.  The Nostalgia Critic helped bring the quote back into the semi-mainstream.

Yeah, it's a pretty great line.  I might try to bust it out at an opportune time, just to see if anybody gets it, but honestly, I remember the "gonna sue ya" line much better.

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