Language, violence hurt 'Slevin'


By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter

Lucky Number Slevin
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Burce Willis, Ben Kinsgley, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu
Director: Paul McGuigan
Rating: R

Lucky Number Slevin is a non-linear comic thriller that twists and turns its way through an underworld of crime and revenge where nothing is as it seems. Set in New York City, a case of mistaken identity lands Slevin (Josh Hartnett) into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city's most notorious rival crime bosses: The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot in order to stay alive.

It’s always a frustration when a witty, sharply written Hollywood caper is also weighted down with R-content. Though this film keeps you on the edge of your seat, and Josh Hartnett is good, the 40-some obscenities and graphic violence clutter the proceedings. The sexuality, the language and the violence used here are exploitive, yet the delivery is so well mounted that those ingredients almost seem acceptable, suggesting that a quality film can be more desensitizing than a B-movie with similar content. Even more disturbing is the film’s anti-moral. We discover that this is a story about revenge, and those in it seeking vengeance go unpunished for their brutal deeds.

Stars: Robin Williams, Jeff Daniels, Cheryl Hines, Kristin Chenoweth, Joanna “Jojo” Levesque, Josh Hutcherson
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Opens: April 28
Rating: PG

A workaholic executive persuades his wife and kids to give up their Hawaiian vacation for some “family bonding” on a cross-country RV trip. Havoc ensues as they deal with cramped traveling quarters, teen angst and a bizarre family of fellow campers.

Robin Williams is no stranger to coarseness, but in this film the toilet humor is used more as observational humor than in your face excess. The poop humor is a staple to the film’s comic energy, the main joke surrounding the visual gag of a backed-up septic tank.

Bodily functions aside, there are two elements that raise this family flick above most –Williams and Sonnenfeld. Williams is a combination of bonafide comic genius and fine film actor. Sonnenfeld has helmed several funny films. Both have had failures,  but RV is not one of them. With just the right balance of thoughtful wit, juvenile slapstick and sincere family bonding, RV is silly for sure, but oh so funny.

Jimmy Buffett, Logan Lerman, Brie Larson, Cody Linley and Luke Wilson
Director: Wil Shriner
Opens: May 5
Rating: PG

An eighth-grade trio tackles a greedy land developer bent on building a new breakfast restaurant over a nest of endangered burrowing owls. Musician and environmental guru Buffett produces, provides songs for and acts in this adolescent comic adventure that warns of man’s continuing encroachment upon Mother Nature.

No one sets out to make a bad movie. And those involved here are game, but the road to discounted video stores is paved with the best of intentions. Much of the dialogue and many of the situations needed tightening or expulsion. Most viewers will find the film’s overbearing message and broad and clumsy comedy tedious, at best.

Pre-preteens may enjoy the slapstick shenanigans of the film’s young protagonists as they outwit buffoonish authority figures and older teens may become conscious of man’s obligation to treat nature with respect (a biblical principle – Genesis, Chapter 1), but parents will not appreciate the sock-it-to-the-man terroristic tactics the filmmakers allow their young cast to use in order to punctuate the writer’s agenda.

The film does contain some positive elements. It’s a clean movie, one avoiding crudity and bad language, and there are several life lessons including the young lead developing a good relationship with his folks and sending a message to your children about the need to care for our planet.

For past reviews go to Boatwright’s website