Friday, June 02, 2006

Bad Car Movies

2 Fast 2 Furious
It was on TV. TiVo is great for movies on TV because you get to condense them down from 2 hours to their actual running time. Watching the network version is funny because when characters flip each other off they digitally remove the middle finger so they're just holding up their fists.

Within the broad swath of "car enthusiasts" there are factions, and if you are watching the Fast and the Furious series, the assumption is that your sympathies lie with tricked-out imports as opposed to, say, American muscle cars. So when our Mitsubishi-driving heroes go up against a bunch of guys with American cars, we are meant to root for the Mitsubishis, and cheer when a Mustang and its driver are crushed beneath the wheels of an 18 wheeler that doesn't even bother to stop, and are subsequently plowed into by a Corvette.

So it's a surprise when a vintage Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro come to figure prominently in the movie, and in fact end up being the star cars of the climactic sequence.

They don't do a whole lot with them, though. The final stunt is the old "jump a car onto a boat" chestnut, which is ridiculous in an unfortunately dull manner, but it does make the parody of the stunt in Starsky & Hutch seem much wittier in retrospect.

The best parts are the dumbest, because that's where the movie has the power to actually surprise you with its stupidity. Sure, you've seen cars jump a drawbridge before. But in this movie, the guys running the street race actually raise the bridge on purpose as a "surprise" for the racers, and with the exception of one chickenshit, the racers are thrilled to make the unnecessary leap that in reality would destroy their cars and shatter their spines. Not to mention they're driving lowered imports, by definition the cars with the least amount of suspension to cushion the blow. But never mind all that, it's a movie and the worst that happens is that Devon Aoki's car loses a bumper. "Oh, shoot!" she yells, because it's network TV.

Smokey and the Bandit Part II
Speaking of drawbridge scenes, this movie has a great one. Sweaty redneck sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) tries to jump a drawbridge in pursuit of the Bandit, but winds up with his car stuck in the gap--front bumper perched on one side with the back bumper on the other. In the drawbridge control booth, we see how the guys in charge mount a rescue in a dangerous emergency situation. "Well," says one, "Looks like we got a big decision to make today." The other concurs. "Heads, up. Tails, down." They toss a coin, it comes up heads, and they raise the bridge further, dropping the police car into the river with the Sheriff still inside. Presumably, if the coin had come up tails, they would have crushed him to death.

Most of S&TB II is a big waste of time. In contrast to the first movie's refreshingly efficient cut-to-the-car-chase approach, Part II features a convoluted setup in which some feuding, crooked Texas politicians want the Bandit to help smuggle an elephant from Florida to Texas, which will help them get elected somehow. There's way too much supposedly comic business about the logistical problems of transporting an elephant, including Dom Deluise as an Italian gynecologist called upon to take care of it. Then there's a bunch of character stuff about how the Bandit got too full of himself, lost Sally Field and became a washed-up drunk. There's a hint of potential there, in one amusing scene where a gas station attendant calls the Bandit an asshole (which he is) and the Bandit violently accosts him ("I'm a folk hero, dammit!"), but aside from that, it's all wasted.

Jackie Gleason, however, gets a chance to shine when he invites his "cousins," who are also in law enforcement, to come help him. The cousins, both played, of course, by Jackie Gleason, consist of a Canadian mountie who drives a red police car and arrives singing opera with his wife, and Gaylord, who's faggy and arrives with his own swishy boy toy. The three of them take a "family picture" together but make sure to stand several feet apart to leave plenty of space for trick photography.

The movie skimps on the car porn until a climactic scene that makes no sense despite its laborious setup, where a bunch of truckers smash a bunch of police cars with no rhyme or reason. As in 2F2F, truckers are luckily not accountable to the law.

1 comment:

matt said...

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on 3 Times as Fast 3 Times as Furious: Tokyo Slide or whatever the hell it's called.