Knight at the Movies Archives
A new teen heartthrob arrives, Disney latest is thin and familiar but love that digital animation!
During the preview screening of Twilight, the first movie made from the bestselling trio of books that focus on the romance
between a teenage vampire and his non-vampire counterpart, the excitement of the invited audience – the majority of which were
teenage girls – was distinctly palpable. Robert Pattinson who plays the doom and gloom vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen has
excited female teeny boppers in the way that Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy did in my generation. That can only mean, of
course, that there are a fair number of male teeny boppers equally as excited by each and every appearance and utterance, on and
off the screen, of Pattinson. But the gay boys, even in this era of gay civil rights, aren’t probably yet comfortable revealing their
adoration the way their female counterparts are.
And vocal they were. The gasps when Edward first appeared onscreen were palpable. At his first introduction to Bella (Kristen
Stewart) the whispering intensified. “Oh my God, I wish so bad I was her” was just one of the many things I heard. I didn’t have to
wonder what the gay boys in the audience were thinking having once felt the same way when I first encountered the teen boy hotties
of yesteryear. It has ever been thus – from the “crooners” back in the 30s to Frank Sinatra and his screaming bobbysoxers, through
James Dean and on up to today. Sinatra, like a lot of other teen heartthbrobs made a lot of stinking movies in his early days that
must have pleased his eager fans and no one else and such is the case with Twilight. Who else besides a hormonal teenager could
appreciate this love sick nonsense?
The movie is basically Rebel Without a Cause with fangs – except no one in it is nearly as talented as James Dean or Natalie Wood.
Edward even sports Dean’s pompadour and 50s style jacket – though there’s no Plato, the gay character played by Sal Mineo for
Edward to loan his jacket to. At least not one that has been so identified (but one can hope). Pattinson and Stewart easily convey
the teenage angst required of them but there’s nothing of the electricity in these two that to this day, 50 some years later, makes
Dean and Wood leap off the screen (and Mineo, too). Part of this, admittedly, may have to do with the typical teenagers of today
which these two represent – cool and cautious, all knowing and cynical and certainly not prone to emotional outbursts.
The plot follows the typical high school romance of two Misunderstood Individuals finding one another (one with fangs to boot) –
Bella is the new girl at school and having just moved from (I think it was) sunny Florida, the constant rain and cloud cover of the
Pacific Northwest takes some getting used to. Bella, who is quiet but no pushover, lives with her divorced father while the hippie
mother is gallivanting around with her new husband (though she does call and text intermittently). Bella meets a few friends who
talk about the mysterious but socially elite Cullen family who walk into the cafeteria in all their white skinned, vampire glory ignoring
the other kids (they practically leave a trail of baby powder they're so pale – probably the most expensive item in the movie’s
budget). No one suspects the Cullen’s are vampires, they’re just thought to be cliquish and out of everyone else’s league – for
reasons that aren’t explained.
So Bella thinks Edward’s a snob when he doesn’t want to be her lab partner but soon, after some false starts, an on again/off again
relationship begins between the two and not long after Edward is telling Bella, in all seriousness, “Your scent is like a drug to me.
It's my own personal brand of heroin.” The courtship phase culminates when Edward plays a pretty lullaby for Bella on the piano (the
Goth crowd will love this and it made me perk up for a moment). Bella discerns after an accident from which he has saved her that
Edward is a vampire and the romance blossoms along with Edward’s being able to show off his special powers. At one point Edward
takes Bella to a sunny spot outdoors and taken his shirt off to show her that vampires sparkle like diamonds in the light. Later he
skitters up trees with her on his back for fun (the sequence is reminiscent of Superman with Christopher Reeve squiring Lois
Lane/Margot Kidder around Manhattan from 10,000 feet above ground).
Meanwhile, a trio of the undead – a vampire variation on “The Mod Squad” – have been feeding on local residents (the good
vampires like the Cullen’s only eat horses and such) and it's this trio that finally moves the plot along (the movie has moved at a
glacial pace up to that point). Edward, of course, was not supposed to reveal to anyone mortal what he is because it will endanger
the other members of his vampire family and vampires in general so when the baddies learn about Bella during a baseball game
played during a lightning storm (I kid you not), they want to kill Bella. Edward and the other vamps fight to protect her.
Twilight has become a cultural phenomenon akin to the Harry Potter series and with the film’s release, the High School Musical movies.
But though director Katherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, The Nativity Story) has made a beautiful looking picture, leached of bright colors,
rich in gothic sensibility, it’s two hour running time felt much, much longer and when the end credits finally rolled I concluded that I’d
been trapped in this world of primal teenage emotionalism so long that I had become a member of the undead myself.
Bolt, the latest digital animation film from Disney, looks and sounds like a lot of its digital animated precursors – Meet the
Robinsons, The Incredibles, etc. – pretty great and I’m imaging that its 3-D version must be visually dazzling (I saw the 2-D version).
But the story itself, derived from many familiar sources, offers nothing particularly fresh or new to the genre and unless you’ve got
some kids to amuse this holiday weekend, I’d wait for the home version.
The story focuses on Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), the canine star of a television series who thinks he has super powers. Ironically,
Bolt is built like a doggie version of a typical movie star – he has the tiny, perfect body, huge head, giant sized eyes and personality
to spare. The plot kicks in when he accidentally gets out of the confines of the protective studio where the series is shot and winds
up in New York. There he encounters tough kitty Mittens (voiced by a dry, funny Susie Essman) who accompanies him on his journey
back to California where Bolt’s beloved Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), his co-star on the show is anxiously waiting. The duo are
joined by a hamster (voiced by Mark Walton) and have a series of familiar “thrilling” adventures and “hilarious” comedic mishaps on
their journey home. Everyone knows that Bolt is the star of a TV series but our hero who slowly learns the truth along with a few life
lessons courtesy of his companions.
Bolt is like an animated variation on The Truman Show welded to Milo & Otis and other cross country dog and kitty movies (there are
many to draw from). Though not particularly fresh, there’s enough bark in the flea bitten story to keep the kiddies amused and
their weary parents engaged. I wouldn’t rate this Classic Disney (not by a long shot) but to describe is as a good example of Disney
Lite wouldn’t be far from the mark.
Cute and Fluffy:
Exclusive Edition of 11-21-08 Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.