Sunday, October 01, 2006

‘Guardian’ receipts and reviews are in. But what do you think?

Originally uploaded by alexandyr1.

Early estimates from Box Office Mojo put “The Guardian” in second this weekend, taking in a slightly lower than expected $17.667 million. “Open Season,” an animated feature with voice work by Kutcher, should take first with $23 million.

It’s a respectable opening for “The Guardian,” and it should keep Louisiana in the Hollywood spotlight for longer than the star-studded “All the King’s Men.” The latter opened Sept. 22 and will likely end up with a gross of just $6.287 million after two disappointing weekends.

While box office receipts quantify demand, they rarely measure quality.

Do the critics’ reviews of “The Guardian,” including mine, match your taste? Most major critics—I’m not in this group—were mixed in their feelings.

Chris Kaltenbach of The Baltimore Sun loves the action-drama. He writes, “The Guardian is that rarest of cinematic commodities: an action movie displaying brains and heart and the opportunity for its stars to do something more than keep the narrative flowing between explosions.”

A.O. Scott’s take in The New York Times represents most of the middle-of-the-road reviews. The film is passable, but Scott has seen way too many like it. He cuts to the heart of Costner’s Ben Randall by writing, “Mr. Costner is comfortable in this kind of role, perhaps too comfortable. The profane, leathery, sad-sack qualities of the character — his unorthodox teaching methods, his fondness for whiskey, his gruff manner — amount to a nearly transparent veneer smeared over his essential saintliness.”

Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post pans the movie. He criticizes the clichéd bits of dramatic characterization that fail to round out the heroes, Randall and Fischer (Kutcher). “The movie begins to overload its frail reed of a structure with giant sloppages of cliches from other movies, some so bad it's almost comical. Costner's wife (Sela Ward) has left him and he misses her, so we get a few scenes of the drunken, embittered guy on the phone, begging her to pick up over voice mail. Then Kutcher picks up a gal at a bar (Melissa Sagemiller) and begins one of those aren't-we-quiptastic flirtations that seem to happen only in movies.”

Do you agree with any of these critics, or did they (including me) collectively miss the boat? Check out most of the majors here, and please post your comments below.


Chris Jay said...

I th8ink "The Guardian" gives us what we need from an action movie starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. Everyone is complaining about cliches, but when I go to an action/mentor movie, I almost WANT to see certain cliches. I love the leathery, hard-bitten but benign teacher with unorthodox methods. I love the young gun going after the teacher and being taken under his wing. It's great popcorn-munching material. Anyone who goes into a film like "The Guardian" expecting food for thought is in the wrong theatre.

Alexandyr Kent said...

A popcorn muncher, yes. Cliches can be comforting, I agree.

But in watching the movie, I wondered if the cliches were misused. By turning Costner's Randall into an everyman action hero who aches, drinks and loses at love, does the extraordinary man become too ordinary?

It's a tactic that "Die Hard" exploited to masterful ends. Remember Willis pulling glass out of his foot while crying into the phone about his wife? It helped build (or deconstruct) an action hero we could identify as surprisingly human.

But in "The Guardian," does the tactic ring hollow? Do these superhuman rescue swimmers really need to be "like us?"