Movie Stuff: Godzilla, War of the Worlds (the other one) and Hudson Hawk

There is plenty of air at the International House of Johnson, but as I have mentioned previously, it is not conditioned. This leads to a hot, muggy house (93°F yesterday evening), which in turn leads the occupants of said house to do one of two things: sit around and watch television while they melt, or escape to cooler surroundings. In the past three evenings, we have achieved escape velocity, fleeing to the Miller residence, Don Pablo’s mexican restaurant, and the Arabica coffee shop in Wickliffe.

Prior to our evening excursions, however, I spent a good deal of time this past weekend watching movies and guzzling iced tea. On Saturday afternoon I watched the 1998 Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich version of GodzillaCommonly referred to as “the American version.”, a movie of which—unlike the apparent majority of its audience—I am a fan.
Godzilla DVDI think I like the Devlin/Emmerich version simply because it doesn’t try to be the classic Toho Godzilla. As much as I enjoy watching a guy in a rubber suit crush a model of Tokyo underfoot, that’s not what I’m looking for from an American movie released in 1998. I have nothing against Toho continued to produce and release that kind of movie, but I expect something different from the guys who brought us Stargate and Independence Day; ((For the record, I enjoyed Independence Day (or “ID4” as they call it in the street) when I first saw it, but I can’t watch it anymore; it simply doesn’t stand up to multiple viewings in my eyes.)) I expect something fast-paced with a lot of slick special effects, and that’s just what they delivered.

Perhaps it was the campy dialogue and performances (especially by Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Hank Azaria) that turned audiences against Godzilla, but here again is where I appreciate the lengths Devlin and Emmerich went to in order to differentiate their film from its Japanese predecessors. The classic Godzilla films are campy in their own way, but not intentionally; the actors are always stoic and serious when faced with the problem of a giant lizard tromping through Tokyo or battling a flying turtle. In contrast, the creature Devlin and Emmerich’s Godzilla isn’t inherently campy, but the people upon which it threatens to tread most certainly are.
H.G. Wells' War of the WorldsNext up we have H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, starring C. Thomas Howell as the astronomer who runs away from Martian invaders a lot, talking to soldiers and confused Australian priests while trying to get to Washington, D.C. I must admit that I’ve never read H.G. Wells’ novel, but I hope his original story isn’t as desperately boring as this particular movie incarnation.

Part of the problem is that George Herbert (C. Thomas Howell) doesn’t have much of a personality; his sole purpose is finding his wife and son in Washington, D.C., and why the various other characters take any interest in him—beyond the fact that he’s a scientist—is a mystery. The people George meets along the way aren’t terribly interesting, either. Sgt. Kerry Williams (Andy Lauer) is probably the most likeable of the bunch, but his role is ultimately pointless. Pastor Victor (Rhett Giles) babbles relentlessly, proclaiming that mankind should not believe that God hates us and those the “demons” have killed are in a better place… right up until something awful happens to him, at which point he flips like a blueberry pancake down at the local IHOP.

I’m guessing that the filmmakers wanted H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds to be a character study wrapped in science fiction, but the whole thing is so ponderous and heavyhanded that it doesn’t work. When the ungainly, five-legged beast finally lumbered to its anti-climactic close, I was only too happy to instruct TiVo to delete it.
Hudson HawkLast but not least in the overheated movie marathon was Hudson Hawk. Like Godzilla, this is a movie about which I seem to hold the minority opinion: I really like it. Hudson Hawk is probably the second most underrated comedy of 1991. ((The first being L.A. Story.)) From the opening and closing narration by William Conrad to the candy bar codenames of the CIA operatives to Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello singing “Swing on a Star” while they rob the auction house, I enjoy almost every aspect of the movie.

Almost.

There are three things that bug me about Hudson Hawk:

  1. The smirk on Bruce Willis’ face on the DVD cover.
  2. The “hat convention” line.
  3. Anna’s (Andie MacDowell’s) dolphin impression.

That’s it. Even Sandra Bernhard, whose voice alone is usually enough to drive me straight up the nearest wall, is perfectly cast in Hudson Hawk. That alone is nothing short of miraculous, ((Coincidentally, David Caruso’s turn as the silent Kit Kat marks the only role he’s ever played in which I didn’t feel like removing his smirking lips with a belt sander.)) but pairing her with Richard E. Grant (who also appeared in the single most underrated comedy of 1991) was sheer brilliance. The interplay between their characters (Darwin and Minerva Mayflower) is over the top, insane and simply hilarious. Similarly, Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello have great chemistry together, and they are both at their comedic best.

Hudson Hawk. I like it.