Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Gemini Man’ is a common chase movie; ‘Addams Family’ isn’t that funny

‘Gemini Man’

“Gemini Man” passes itself off as sci-fi but it’s really just an action thriller-combination-chase movie with a little bit of a twist. You’re supposed to be impressed that Will Smith plays two roles. I might have been dazzled if the performance came with a better story.

I’m not saying the movie is horrible. It’s just not the gripping science fiction tale the trailer promises.

Smith plays two characters. He’s Henry Brogan, an older version of himself. Smith is also Junior, a younger self. Both are paid assassins who — until now — are unaware of each other. The older self is the best in the world. The younger self is a killer cloned from the older. The cloner — is that what you call them? — thinks the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and trains the kid to be better than the best.

He is and he isn’t.

We find that out when the younger is sent to kill the older because the older is onto the cloner’s crap. What the cloner is up to is the film’s only mystery. On second thought, that might not be totally true. Another mystery is why anyone would possibly be interested in a movie that is — itself — a clone of dozens of other, better, action-chase movies.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this is anything else. “Gemini Man” is a common chase movie framed in exotic locales and that comes complete with impossible, high end car and motorcycle chases, and badly edited gun fights where bullets hit everything and everyone but the main characters.

Been-there-done-that boring.

Sadly, director Ang Lee and writers David Beniof, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke miss an opportunity to do an interesting pro and con science fiction exploration of cloning and the dangers of letting the greediest among us control the science of cloning.

But that, too, has already been done in much better and more interesting movies.

Besides wasting that opportunity, Lee and the writers, who’ve done exceptional writing on projects like “Game of Thrones,” “Captain Phillips,” and “State of Play,” also misuse the talents of Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong and Clive Owen.

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Will Smith, portraying Junior, foreground, and Henry Brogan in the Ang Lee film "Gemini Man." Associated Press

Then there’s the CGI. Lee has done some of modern cinema’s most impressive movies. Two good examples come from the special effects and the powerful stories of “Life of Pi” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” They blew our movie minds. Here Lee and his effects staff do a laughable job of trying to make the face of 50-year old Smith look like he’s 20.

Like “Captain Marvel” proved with Samuel L. Jackson’s mug, the motion-capture technology designed to do this isn’t quite there yet.

But Lee tries anyway, and the result is so bad that Smith doesn’t even come close to looking like he really looked as a young man and a young actor. And that’s a young actor who used to do A-list work and — including “Aladdin” — hasn’t given anything close to an A-list performance a decade.

That Smith was interesting. This one isn’t. And neither is his movie.

▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac voice Gomez and Morticia in "The Addams Family." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer TNS

‘The Addams Family’

The history of Charles Addams and his famed family is a lot more interesting than this movie. His comic strip had some decent zingers and was often fairly funny. When you consider he began The Addams Family in 1938, the guy was way ahead of his time.

How far ahead? Near as I can tell, Wednesday Addams is the original goth chick.

It’s too bad neither the 1964 TV show nor the acclaimed but so-so movies to follow in the 1990s were as good. They featured clever sets, and a few equally clever scenes, and admittedly, John Astin and Carolyn Jones were great as Gomez and Morticia and Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston did them very well in the 1990s movies “The Addams Family” and “The Addams Family Values.”

However, the stories that surrounded the characters weren’t all that hot and never quite rocked my world. In fact, the best thing to come out of either was Christina Ricci’s absolutely perfect Wednesday.

By the way, there was a third movie that I’ve never seen — or even heard of — called “Addams Family Reunion.” It came out in 1998 and had Tim Curry playing Gomez and Daryl Hannah giving Morticia a shot.

Now there’s a fourth. “The Addams Family” starts with good intentions and the wedding of Morticia and Gomez. Being misunderstood as monsters, they and the rest of the family are chased out of town and the couple settle in an abandoned insane asylum in New Jersey. That leads us back to Addams and his history. He hailed from Westfield, New Jersey.

It is in New Jersey that they meet Lurch and where — later — Wednesday and Pugsley are born.

Move forward a few years and you find a story wrapped around two plot points. Pugsley has to perform an important family ritual — or else — and Wednesday wants a life outside the mansion. That leads her to Assimilation, a town that has sprung up below the family home. Fog kept the family from noticing it and big-haired Margaux Needler, the woman who built the town from noticing them.

That’s part of the Wednesday crisis. And it’s the only clever part of the film. She’s an unhappy girl caged in her world of dark, drab clothing and her first ever friend, Parker is weary of her mom’s hypocrisy and all those bright colors. Both do a fun rebellion.

Outside of the tiresome family quirks, what is dullest about the movie is how everyone in Assimilation must fall in line with Margaux’s pitch perfect world. If they don’t? Out comes her personality knives. Naturally, Gomez and Morticia do not fit all that perfection so she now becomes their worst nightmare.

But they’re the Addams Family and they love nightmares, don’t they?

Oscar Isaac does the voice of Gomez and Charleze Theron tackles Morticia. They’re very good. So are Chloe Grace Moretz’s Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard who plays Pugsley. Allison Janney is cast as the big haired, TV-star developer and she does it to perfection.

They do the best they can with a really dumb — but typical of most animated movies — plot.

The movie is as unfunny as it sounds and it features a script woven through an awful soundtrack that directors Greg Tiernan (“Thomas & Friends” stuff going back to 2009) and Conrad Vernon (“Sausage Party,” “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Shrek 2”) wrap around the quickly worn out Addams Family theme.

The two directors seem to think that a soundtrack needs to be in every scene and sometimes the music is mixed so poorly that it drowns out what might have been funny lines. Key word: might. This isn’t to say there aren’t a few good zingers in the plot. There are. Unfortunately, like the former TV show and the three movies, there just are not that many.

The word animated in animated movies means to bring to life. There isn’t much life to be had in this one and it arrives as dead as many of the movie’s characters.

▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 out of 5

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