Auto Focus. Paul Schrader. This movie about the sex life and death of Bob Crane is Klinky, sure -- Kurt Fuller offers up a hilariously dead-on Werner Klemperer -- but hardly kinky. When you're making a movie about a sitcom star with a hard-on for hard-ons, when you're making a movie about a Superdad who showed his kids his collection of beaver pelts, there's plenty of room left to dick around with the cold, hard corpse. But Schrader isn't up for having a good time. He's a sideline adjudicator, passing judgment on a guy who isn't worth judging; if Crane were alive, had he not been murdered in a Scottsdale motel in 1978, he'd be a footnote to a paragraph in the history books. Schrader hardly tells us why he's worthy of his own movie. At best, his is a skimming of well-documented history; we're given the highlights of a man Schrader feels was a lowlife. Or maybe it's just a drag in an era when your parents own a copy of the Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson bootleg (well, maybe your folks don't). (RW)
Comedian. Christian Charles. This is a documentary designed primarily to answer the question: "So, just what the hell is Seinfeld doing these days anyway?" He's doing stand-up, of course, and agonizing over new material. Yet Jerry doesn't completely open up: when his wife and baby show up, those of us who don't obsessively follow the tabloids may wonder "Wait a minute! What wife, what baby?" It makes you wonder what else Jerry, who also produced, kept out of range of the cameras. Which is perhaps why director Christian Charles splits his focus, and turns his camera on another comedian: up-and-comer Orny Adams, a big swinging dick determined to convince the world and himself that he's God's gift to the comedy game. It's through Orny that we learn many of the nuances of the comedy game, but then Charles gives up on him and goes back to Jerry. It's as if there wasn't enough material for two insightful individual movies, and this somewhat shallow and uneven hybrid was the only way to justify one. (LYT)
Frida. Julie Taymor. Opens November 1 at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
I Spy. Betty Thomas. Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson star in rehash of the 1960s television series I Spy. A professional athlete has to help a U.S. government agent recover a missing jet. Opens November 1 at multiple locations. NR
In Praise of Love. Jean-Luc Godard. Opens November 1 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
The Santa Clause 2. Michael Lembeck. The eight-years-in-the-making (no, seriously?) sequel to the Tim Allen holiday hit plays like the original in reverse, which at least means it offers up one genuinely intriguing subplot: It's almost tragic watching a merry magic man slowly morph from Santa to schmuck. And Allen's far more likable for the transformation; the man who didn't believe in the first movie is forced to consider and confront his shrinking back down to size. It's always more fun to watch the powerful rendered powerless, and this is nothing if not a comedy about emasculation: Santa, able to fashion presents and sleighs and snowstorms from thin air, is finally rendered impotent. Ordinarily, that would be an issue in a film about a man seeking a woman desperate enough to meet and marry a stranger within a few days, but not here. Directed by a TV refugee and written by a handful of elves, which adds up to an affable hunk o' coal. Opens November 1 at multiple locations. (RW)
The Weight of Water. Kathryn Bigelow. Opens November 1 at the Chase Park Plaza. Reviewed this issue.