Off the Shelf | Film & TV | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Film & TV

Off the Shelf

It’s early September, so here comes abandoned trash like Underclassman and A Sound of Thunder.



There’s something of a fire sale going on at Miramax, as the Weinstein brothers exit and corporate overlord Disney wipes their slate clean before the new folks take over. And so Underclassman'a Weinstein project that has been sitting on a shelf for two years'is quietly inflicted upon us, ignominiously dropped into the entertainment no-man’s-land of Labor Day weekend.

This preposterous flick is a bit of a mystery: Who the hell is Nick Cannon (Drumline), and how does he get money to write, produce and star in a movie that’s all about how hilarious he is? This is a particular puzzle because he is not funny in the least. This absurd cop “comedy” is a low-rent remounting of Beverly Hills Cop with a star who shouldn’t even be permitted to let his gaze alight upon Eddie Murphy, never mind attempt to fill his shoes.

Cannon plays Tracy Stokes, the world’s most inept cop, who is assigned to go undercover at a high school, where something Very Bad is going on. All the other students there, like Varsity King Shawn Ashmore, look like they’ve been able to drink legally for years, so Cannon fits right in. He is even able to hit on the impossibly hot Spanish teacher (Roselyn Sanchez) without her going, “Ewww, you’re supposed to be, like, 17, plus you’re the charisma-bereft Nick Cannon!” But this is what happens when you give someone like Cannon (who is he, again?) millions of dollars and let him masturbate on film.

The stars I’m grudgingly conceding to this flick are out of pure pity for Ashmore; Sanchez; Colin Firth look-alike Hugh Bonneville, who plays the high-school headmaster; and poor, poor Cheech Marin, who plays Cannon’s police captain. They all deserve much better than this.

As if this were not insult enough, we also have A Sound of Thunder. Also slipped into theaters over the holiday weekend, it has been on a shelf at Warner Bros. for three years. Hilariously, the word is that the delay was so that director Peter Hyams (who made the dreadful The Musketeer) could tweak the F/X. This is especially hilarious because it features the worst CGI you’ve ever seen. Bad enough that it’s so cartoony that Bugs Bunny would roll his eyes, but Hyams has his actors very plainly walking in place along a fake futuristic Chicago sidewalk. It’s impossible to imagine what the F/X were like before the “tweaking.

Thunder is loosely based on a Ray Bradbury story'and we can only hope he somehow has no idea this is the case'about adventurers from the year 2055, on a time safari to the Cretaceous to bag a dinosaur, who inadvertently change the future. Chaos theory is the perfect way to explain the existence of this awful movie'a Hollywood exec flapping his lips at Ivy, etc.'which is so breathlessly nonsensical that you almost have to admire its willingness to be utterly detached not just from reality, but from simple storytelling coherence.

Or you could just laugh. Laugh at the ridiculous expository dialogue. Laugh at the idea that the year 2055 has seen the development of takeout plant fertilizer delivered directly to your door. Laugh at how folks in Chicago have organized themselves within a day into Mad Max post-apocalyptic survival communities after the “time waves” from the changed past start affecting the present. Laugh at the psychotic meltdown of the career of Ben Kingsley as the Evil CEO. Laugh at the tortured rationalizations actors like Ed Burns and Catherine McCormack'no deathless talents, but perfectly fine within their own niches'must have put themselves through in order to sign contracts to appear in nuclear waste like this.

“It wasn’t a butterfly you stepped on; it was evolution,” Burns is forced to say at one particularly debasing point. Intelligently designed, A Sound of Thunder isn’t.

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