Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lights, Camera, Action

Once again, I blame Filmsack for making me watch Last Action Hero. In case you haven't heard of this, this 1993 bomb almost ended Arnold Schwartzenegger's career. But, you know, it really isn't that bad.

Austin O'Brien is a kid who lives with his single mom in a gritty New York neighborhood. But he really lives at the movies, slipping out for midnight shows at an old movie theater. His favorite star is Jack Slater, played by Arnold Schwartzenegger. One night, the kindly old projectionist gives him a magic ticket, that lets O'Brien into the movie.

This is a good enough setup, as we've seen in Keaton's Sherlock Jr. and Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. LAH has a lot of fun with it, pulling out and/or spoofing all the action movie tropes they can think of. Arnold/Slater is up against mob boss Anthony Quinn and his one-eyed hit man Charles Dance, both very funny. And the kid has seen the first part of the movie, plus every other action movie ever made, so he can figure the whole thing out long before Slater.

Then, for the fourth act, O'Brien, Schwartzenegger, and the bad guys are all dumped out of the movie and into "real" New York, more dangerous than movie-world LA. And movie Jack Slater gets to meet actor Jack Slater (or is it actor Arnold Schwartzenegger, plugging Planet Hollywood with Maria Shriver?), as well as O'Brien's mom.

I can understand why this bombed when it came out. The script has a bad case of too many cooks. Schwartzenegger/Slater's son was killed in a previous film, O'Brien needs a father figure, this theme is boring and doesn't pay off. The movie-world/real-world logic is screwy. There are a few kitchen sinks tossed in (cartoon cat detective?). Plus, the movie was hyped to the skies, and failed to meet expectations.

But none of this bothers me. I liked it - it was a goofy romp. What worked, worked and what didn't work slid right by. Compare it to, say, Kindergarten Cop and see what I mean.

I saw Kindergarten Cop. It wasn't bad. It was economical, funny and did what it set out to do. It wasn't noisy or over the top. It was much better put together than Last Action Hero. But which was more fun? I'd rather watch the sloppy silly one. It plays to Schwartzeneger's strengths.

In conclusion, never trust F. Murray Abraham. He killed Mozart!

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