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Review: Shrek Forever After, Cemetery Junction & Gentlemen Broncos

By December 30, 2010No Comments

Shrek Forever After posterLovable ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) is hav­ing a bad day. Instead of being a ter­ri­fy­ing bring­er of fear and bad smells, he is a mild-mannered fath­er of triplets and pil­lar of the Far, Far Away com­munity and it’s get­ting him down. After one par­tic­u­larly stress­ful morn­ing involving birth­day cakes, fan requests (“Do the roar!”) and oth­er assor­ted minor niggles prompts him to sug­gest that he might’ve been bet­ter off not res­cuing the lovely Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the tower all those years ago.

This is over­heard by the most dan­ger­ous leg­al mind in the area, Rumpelstiltskin, who imme­di­ately draws up a dodgy con­tract to give Shrek exactly what he wants. Shrek’s day is about to go from being a bad one to being his last one.

Like most long-running fam­ily fran­chises, the Shrek films lost their way but Shrek Forever After (the latest, and we are told, the last) brings things back on track. It’s a tidy 93 minutes long, pack­ing plenty of gags and a little bit of sen­ti­ment into an effi­cient and pro­fes­sion­al pack­age. The anim­a­tion is splen­did with some delight­fully express­ive moments (no sup­port from motion cap­ture, I under­stand, just the skill of the anim­at­or), edit­ing that view­ers of all ages can actu­ally fol­low and alto­geth­er not too much of any­thing which makes a nice change.

Cemetery Junction posterNostalgia ain’t what it used to be, as the say­ing goes, and that’s the con­clu­sion I have to draw after watch­ing Cemetery Junction, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s misty-eyed remin­is­cence of a mis­spent youth in early 70s sub­urb­an England. Personally, I found this film inof­fens­ive, occa­sion­ally amus­ing and a pleas­ant remind­er of my own youth. My com­pan­ion, how­ever, fell asleep for a long sec­tion in the middle.

Three friends (played by Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan – names that are likely to be as unfa­mil­i­ar to you as they were to me) spend their time mooch­ing around the small town of Cemetery Junction, just out­side the great met­ro­pol­is of Reading. Freddie is ambi­tious and has just got a job selling life insur­ance door-to-door, Bruce is a bit­ter and twis­ted bor­der­line psy­cho and Snork is an idi­ot. They are all unsat­is­fied and unsure of wheth­er to escape to some­thing more excit­ing or try and build a mod­est life where they are.

If you are a Gervais fan and temp­ted by his pres­ence in the cred­its and on the poster, be aware that he is play­ing a slightly more down­beat ver­sion of him­self in this pic­ture (as Freddy’s dad) and he’s not in it much.

Gentlemen Broncos posterGervais and Merchant have so much affec­tion for all their char­ac­ters that they end up suf­foc­at­ing the end product but that’s the oppos­ite prob­lem to the one that Gentlemen Broncos has. Jared Hess, the writer-director, made the legendary Napoleon Dynamite back in the day but there’s no love for any of the char­ac­ters in his new film – just barely dis­guised con­tempt. This makes Gentlemen Broncos a hard watch. It’s just so sour.

Set in a remote Utah where peoples inner lives are as empty as the bare land­scape that sur­rounds them, Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is being home-schooled by his odd, clingy moth­er (Jennifer Coolidge) and dream­ing of becom­ing a fam­ous writer of fantasy and sci­ence fic­tion. At a writers’ retreat he meets suc­cess­ful but secretly blocked author Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). Chevalier steals Benjamin’s nov­el (“Yeast Lords”) and turns it into a run­away suc­cess. Meanwhile, some friends try and adapt the story for the big screen with only a VHS han­dic­am, some sil­ver lamé and a post-dated cheque.

Benjamin’s dreams of fame and for­tune are being thwarted every which way but his ori­gin­al idea is so ter­rible that the film seems to be anti-creativity. Everyone in the film seems to be mak­ing stuff and it is all awful – from his mother’s craft‑y night­wear to the films made by the repuls­ive Lonnie Donaho (Héctor Jiménez).

Incidentally, Jemaine Clement isn’t the only Wellingtonian in the cast. Clive Revill (born here in 1930) has a small role as Cletus, the organ­iser of Cletus Fest, and des­pite dozens of tele­vi­sion and film cred­its is best-known nowadays as a voice-over artist on things like Transformers.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 30 June, 2010.