(On TV, June 2017) As discussed elsewhere, I’m not particularly taken by the links that a number of artists make between baseball and grander themes. I get that it’s an effective chord to strike for average Americans, but as it turns out, I’m Canadian—I’ll let you know when I see the Great Hockey Film. In the meantime, there’s For Love of the Game, which uses a pitcher’s last game as a structural element on which to tell us all about that pitcher’s life, loves and setbacks. Thanks to director Sam Raimi (here signing what looks like an atypical film), the device is somewhat effective. Not all the flashbacks are equally compelling, and the romantic story developed by the film suffers from a few serious cases of idiot plotting, but the overall concept is intriguing enough. Kevin Costner is his own usual stoic self as a pitcher about to throw his last few balls, with Kelly Preston and John C. Reilly providing support in different roles. Unfortunately, for all of the interest of the film’s structure, the plot it develops is generic to the point of being dull—for all of the subplots, the film doesn’t quite manage to deliver something that rises to the level of its premise. The result is still watchable enough, but For Love of the Game stops well short of fulfillment.
(On TV, April 2017) I managed to avoid most of the Arnold Schwarzenegger early comedies the first time around, but now that I’m checking off the last few titles in his filmography, I can’t say that I feel as if I truly missed something. After being underwhelmed by a first viewing of Kindergarten Cop and a second look at Last Action Hero, here is Twins to underwhelm me once more. The basic premise is actually amusing: What if Schwarzenegger played an impossibly perfect guy who suddenly discovers that he’s got a fraternal twin brother played by… Danny Devito. The two offer a striking visual contrast, and their respective styles of comedy are also an interesting match. Unfortunately, once you get past the poster, Twins doesn’t have much more to offer. There’s a bog-standard plot to move things along, but nothing truly interesting other than a clothesline on which to hang the expected comic bits. Some of the humour isn’t tonally consistent—the climactic chain gag seems to belong in another film. It doesn’t help, I suppose, that by 2017 (or, heck, by 1994’s True Lies, four comedies later) we know how Schwarzenegger can actually play comedy—the shock value of seeing an action star mugging for laughs is considerably diminished. I’m not saying that there’s nothing to see here: There’s a funny moment in which Schwarzenegger measures himself against a Stallone poster, Kelly Preston is very likable as half the love interests and DeVito does manage to get a few laughs of his own. But the movie itself is a bit dull and unfocused. Twins still holds interest through its high-concept premise, but the execution isn’t quite up to its own requirements.