09 July 2003

Whale good. Blonde bad.

Whale Rider: 4 Stars. All I knew about this film going in was that everyone loved it. Now I know why. Pretty much a textbook case of a movie with virtually no chance of commercial success, this New Zealand film focuses on the relationship between aging Maori chief Koro (Rawiri Paratene) and his 12-year-old granddaughter Pai (a luminous Keisha Castle-Hughes), set against the backdrop of Western influence and modernization as it affects the Maori tribe. Sounds like a real humdinger, eh? Well, surprise, it's awesome. Koro resents that he doesn't have a grandson to inherit the Chief mantle and is worried that the greatness of the Maori is in the past. Pai (named after Paikea, the male founder of the tribe who arrived in New Zealand on the back of a whale) is frustrated with the role of a woman in her society in the modern world. She also longs to be accepted by her grandfather. What results is ultimately a story about a family in crisis, but writer/director Niki Caro tells it with such skill and fantasy and beauty that it's like watching poetry. If it weren't for City of God, this would be the uncontested best film of the year.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde: 1 Star. Ugh. When is Reese Witherspoon going to stop doing Julia Robertsesque dreck and give us another Pleasantville or Election? This movie is pure crap, especially when compared to the original, which was at least cute. Jennifer Coolidge needs to just go away, or at least just do Chris Guest/Eugene Levy films. Luke Wilson should know better. So should Sally Field and Bruce McGill. Bob Newhart, well, he was a lot of fun...he's the only reason to watch this turkey. I hear there's going to be a third film. I'd rather watch Freddy vs. Jason.

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