Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movie Review: "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"

If Only The "Three Strikes" Rule Applied Maybe We Could All Rest Easier

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.
124 minutes
Summit Entertainment
** out of 5

In order not to be repetitive and strive for a little bit of objectivity, I refused to read my review for “New Moon,” the second installment of the “Twilight” series. I walked in with an open mind and figured why not judge this one on its own merits? All three now have had different directors so maybe third time’s the charm? Unfortunately, even with a director who’s dealt with vampires before (“30 Days of Night”), David Slade seems totally short-changed with most of his inept cast and an even worse Melissa Rosenberg script than the first two.

With “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” it’s simply more of the same, take that for what you will. I know, I know, as I do remember saying in my “New Moon” review, I am far from the target audience. But if you’re going to be making these films for mass consumption the filmmakers must realize that they need to instill something that the rest of us can enjoy along with the rabid fans who take these books and films far too seriously.

In order to even know what’s going on in this installment it is imperative to have seen the first two. Oh sure, you’d hopefully not be watching “Eclipse” if you haven’t seen them but you never know, worse mistakes have happened. It’s the age old drama of necrophilia vs. bestiality as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) still delivers her excruciatingly angst voiceover monologues pining away for both her beloved Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

There’s lots of talk about Bella being in love with both of them while the two of them argue with each other and try to make each the other jealous. It’s no wonder teenage girls love this stuff. It’s tailor made to fit their ill suited fantasies that will one day leave them hopeless and alone. Meanwhile there’s talk about an uprising army of newborn vampires being formed in Seattle lead by the hilarious (intentional or not) Riley (Xavier Samuel).

Whether or not the vengeful Victoria (Dallas Bryce Howard replacing Rachelle Lefevre) is behind the newborns or not is questioned over and over while the Volturi also reappear with Jane (Dakota Fanning) in the lead probably because she’s the only famous cast member in the Volturi clan whenever Michael Sheen is absent. Everything mounts to the climax as the wolves and vampires ban together to protect Bella for each their own lustful reasons (love, marriage, blood, what have you) and after everything is said and done it makes you wonder why a fourth entry is even necessary.

All the loose ends of the first three movies are tied up and over but I guess girls across the country really have themselves fooled into thinking they’re in this for the relationship. If this is what they want then they should have cried foul at the casting of mopey Stewart. She brings Bella “to life” with so much brooding that no matter how many online plot synopses I read describing Bella as a “normal teenage girl” I can’t help but wonder what either of the two dopey males want with her in the first place.

The first film meandered around with Bella’s longing for Edward while the second film was stuffed to the brim with monotonous montages. This time around, director Slade is made the brunt of the series’ joke as he gets to direct himself a whole lotta flashbacks. Anyone who doesn’t need a backstory gets one. From Rosalie (Nikki Reed) and her swinging prohibition days of overly theatrical revenge to Jasper’s (Jackson Rathbone) even more hilarious changeover during the Civil War. This being just one more nail in author Stephenie Meyer’s coffin as to whether her books are simply Sookie Stackhouse rip-offs. If Jasper doesn’t immediately make you think of Bill Compton after his flashback then my apologies, you’re reading the inferior series of vampire novels.

While the random scenes featuring no set-up continue to pile up and Slade tries to decide whether he wants to make a slick and polished production or get in the actor’s faces with the ol’ shaky cam, Bella gets to tell Jacob things like, “Stay!” and he gets to talk to her about the joy of “imprinting.” The subject of said imprinting also manages to get even more hilarious each time it’s brought up and at one point it seems like Jacob is on the brink of doing a little imprinting on Edward while the love triangle is holed up in a tent on an inexplicably snowy mountain top.

Gratefully Fanning gets to wear more clothes than she has lately; Lautner gets to keep his off, which admittedly was a pretty hilarious joke in “Date Night;” the wolves and vampires have a training sequence that’s even funnier than the baseball scene from the first film; Jasper suddenly gains a southern accent, and exposition rears its dull head at every turn. While “Eclipse” may be more boring than the first two installments, at least it’s far more amusing, even if it’s not intentional.

Article first published as Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on Blogcritics.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Review: “Grown Ups”

** out of 5
102 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity.
Columbia Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Grown Ups (2010) on Blogcritics.

I would never say that I’m a huge Adam Sandler fan, but from his early work on “Saturday Night Live” and his debut comedy album, “They’re All Gonna Laugh At You,” the man can make me laugh. My first cinematic experience with Sandler, however, was neither “Billy Madison” nor “Happy Gilmore” but the “Midnight Run”/”48 Hours” rip-off, “Bulletproof.” I remember how hilarious that movie was and have since remained at least an interested viewer throughout his career, as hit or miss as it is. Now with Sandler literally scraping the bottom of the barrel and teaming up with almost everyone he’s costarred with before, he unleashes “Grown Ups” upon us, merely one week after we thought summer was saved with “Toy Story 3.”

There are definitely those Sandler films which still make me laugh: say, “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Big Daddy,” “Anger Management,” “50 First Dates,” and even “Little Nicky” if I’m in the right mood. However, there are also those that never have and never will amuse me: “The Waterboy,” “Mr. Deeds,” “The Longest Yard,” “Click,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Things just keep getting lousier as his career progresses and the less said about his ultimate monstrosity, “Eight Crazy Nights,” the better.

To say there's a plot to “Grown Ups” would be a huge overstatement. There is absolutely no plot to speak of here. Simply put, 30 years after their championship-winning junior high basketball season, Sandler & Co. take a weekend together in remembrance of their now-deceased coach with their families in tow in case they have to break up the shit and piss jokes with false moments of heart. Hilarity supposedly ensues but apparently all it took to convince Columbia Pictures to bankroll his latest exercise in aloofness was a pitch that could only have gone something like this: “Hey, let’s make a reunion-type film with me and all my friends. C’mon, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider… with enough of my hilarious friends joking around and having a grand time the audience has to laugh.” Somehow they also managed to talk Maria Bello and Salma Hayek into four-year-old-breastfeeding and toilet-seat-cover-stuck-to-their-dress jokes.

Unfortunately they do laugh and at nothing more than improvisation at its worst. The “script” is credited to Sandler and hack screenwriter Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness,” “Without a Paddle,” “Dickie Roberts,” “Joe Dirt,” “Black Sheep,” and a stint for “SNL” during its most humdrum seasons). But it’s very obvious that most of the time they just plopped the cast in front of the camera and said, “Make offensive, PG-13 rated jokes the MPAA will allow about this now…” While there may be lots of previously funny comics included, nothing is funny in this film save for one line from Sandler as Schneider’s character roles up to the cabin in his Smart Car. One line an uproarious 102 minutes does not make.

Admittedly, there are some films in Sandler's oeuvre that are nice surprises along the way, with some accomplished directors guiding him for a change. From “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Spanglish,” “Reign Over Me,” and even “Funny People,” when you have the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, James L. Brooks, Mike Binder, and Judd Apatow leading the way, they find their own ways to fine tune what works best for Sandler’s strengths and try to not let his maniacally egotistical side come out to play the whole runtime.

Director Dennis Dugan has been behind the camera for a lot of Sandler’s career for better and worse. While he may have brought us the likes of “Happy Gilmore” and “Big Daddy,” he’s also responsible for “Chuck & Larry” and “Zohan.” Anything not Sandler-related tends to be even worse for Dugan with so-called “films” such as “National Security” and “The Benchwarmers.” While you could call his directing choices “critic proof,” what they really are is sloppy, lazy, and downright lowest common denominator filmmaking. While the crowds eager to see these films know what they’re getting into, they should be asking for more by now. Having suffered through all of these movies myself for almost two decades, am I wrong to feel deserving of something more than their standard garbage?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Movie Review: “Toy Story 3”

***** out of 5
103 Minutes
Rated G
Walt Disney Pictures

There’s a time in one’s life when one can become completely washed over by nostalgia. Even if it’s something you own on home video and have seen countless times over the years. Sometimes you know a film, or films, by heart yet can still find something new with each viewing is a marvel unto itself. Save for instance, a threequel is released to such a beloved classic one-two punch as the “Toy Story” films.

It’s been eleven years since the last part of the series was released and you really hope that what they’ve come up with is a spectacular mix of old and new and that’s exactly what we get with “Toy Story 3.” While I may have touted “Iron Man 2” as the summer blockbuster to beat, you really can’t place these two films in the same category. But I will say, “Toy Story 3” is now the best film of the season, if not the year thus far.

When “Toy Story 2” was first announced it seemed like quite a gamble and at first Pixar didn’t think it was the worthy successor it turned out to be. It was originally aimed for a direct-to-video release but after an early screening for some Disney execs they felt the film had honestly improved upon the already instant-classic original. Pixar may produce a powerhouse slew of material, but even they have their own insecurities which I’m sure is why every film is a home run. This studio cares about nothing more than quality – and not just in the animation department.

Head honcho John Lasseter has always put story first. Through eleven films now they have proven themselves the top leader in family entertainment. Even their single throwaway spin-off, “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins,” is an above average entry to the Disney canon of their direct-to-video dumping grounds. And at first “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich (co-director of “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo,” aside from editor on both of the first two “Toy Story” films and “A Bug’s Life”) even had his own reservations this time about how they could possibly top the first two but then came to his own realization that if they couldn’t then who else could? They did it first, they can do it again, and boy do they ever.

The first two “Toy Story” films may have four credited screenwriters each but as with all Pixar films never feel cobbled together or written by committee. With as much going on in “Toy Story 3” it may come as a surprise that only a single writer, Michael Arndt, is credited. Another surprise is that this is only Arndt’s second writing credit after his Oscar-winning screenplay for the dark, R-rated indie hit “Little Miss Sunshine.” That Oscar was no fluke I’m happy to say. There’s so much hilarity, heart, and adventure packed into this film that he should at least receive yet another nomination come next awards season. It will be no surprise to anyone when “Toy Story 3” walks away with Best Animated Feature. Pixar usually does and for good reason.

I won’t go into huge detail involving the plot. The toys are back but have lost a few friends along the way. Andy (still voiced by the same child actor John Morris) has grown apart from his childhood best buds, Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and is preparing to move away to college. Andy’s Mom (voiced by Laurie Metcalf) insists that Andy either pack away what he wishes to take to college, pack away items for the attic, or throw the rest away. Andy picks Woody to tag along to college and packs his remaining toys into a garbage bag to stash in the attic.

Through circumstance, the toys accidentally wind up getting thrown away but not before Woody stages another rescue mission and they all wind up in a box marked “Sunnyside” where Andy’s Mom is donating Molly’s (Beatrice Miller) Barbie (the “Little Mermaid” herself, Jodi Benson) and Magic 8 ball. While at first the rest of the gang thinks they’re better off at daycare, Woody knows that Andy wasn’t really throwing them away and wants them all to go back home.

Everyone else feels they should stay after they’re taken in by Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (voiced by Ned Beatty), or Lotso for short and given a guided tour along with Barbie’s possible soul mate Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton). Soon enough, the toys learn the harsh difference between the Butterfly Room versus the Caterpillar Room.

*Note: To anyone who’s ever thought children were frightening before, just wait till you see what it’s like to be a toy at a daycare center. Sure enough Woody, with some assistance from the toys at new youngster Bonnie’s (voiced by Emily Hahn) house, and Buzz (with the help of Lotso switching him back to “Demo” mode) learn the truth behind the Sunnyside hierarchy led by Lotso, and they all stage a prison break of sorts to return to Andy before he finishes packing up and heads off without them.

There are so many new toys in this obviously final close to a trilogy of excellence that it’s hard to even think of how many characters there could possibly be. While sources site 302 total, some of the few new that stick out are obviously Lotso and Ken but the others who play a large part are Trixie (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Mr. Pricklepants (voiced by Timothy Dalton), Peas-in-a-Pod (voiced by Charlie Bright, Amber Kroner and Brianna Maiwand), Buttercup (voiced by Jeff Garlin), Dolly (voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Big Baby, Chuckles (voiced by Bud Luckey), Hayao Miyazaki’s own Totoro itself and Chatter Telephone (voiced by Teddy Newton). With so many new characters you’d worry that this installment would feel a little overblown and suffer because of this but everyone plays their part and become pretty integral to the plot. And if you thought after two films you thought you knew Buzz, no has visto nada aún.

There are key ingredients necessary for a complete Pixar experience and thankfully we get them all. Of course you have to have the attached short, in this case the mesmerizing "Day & Night." The short features two classically-animated characters, Night and Day, filled with computer-animated versions of both literally day and night, who meet for the first time and while at first make themselves out to be enemies, eventually learn that they both possess something which makes each other complete. The other ingredient, aside from the film itself, is the inevitable selection of “outtakes.” While we may not get them here, be sure to stick through the credits for some additional scenes that nicely round out the film’s denouement.

Article first published as Movie Review: Toy Story 3 on Blogcritics.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The "Fresh Prince's" Kid Crowns Himself The New "Karate Kid" While Jackie Chan Finally Finds A Stateside Comeback

Rated PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
140 minutes
Columbia Pictures
**** out of 5

When you walk into the theater to see yet another remake, expectations run wild from one end of the spectrum to the other. Will it suck as many tend to or will it take you by surprise and win you over? With some recent remakes, reboots or reimaginings it has definitely been a case of win/lose. While you may love a particular franchise, sometimes that’s all that keeps you from downright loathing the updated version (I’m looking at you, “Nightmare on Elm Street”).

When it comes to this year’s “The Karate Kid” it also doesn’t help that you have zero faith in the director because all he’s brought in the past is children-friendly drivel by way of “The Pink Panther 2” and “Agent Cody Banks.” Thankfully, somewhere along the way Harald Zwart has either learned a thing or two behind the camera or was just working with such inept scripts to begin with that the final products were all he was able to muster.

When basing a remake on such a beloved product of its era, debut screenwriter Christopher Murphey took Robert Mark Kamen’s original story, placed it in a totally new arena to play with, and came up with his own new characters. These are just the beginning of many tactics that work so well you may just forget there ever was a Daniel-San. But of course one would have to be the most ignorant cinema-goer to forget about Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is being uprooted by his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), from Detroit to China. While they may be living in the “Beverly Hills” apartment complex, it is not the Beverly Hills of Dre’s choice. He does meet instant friend Harry (Luke Carberry) and has a run-in with the apartment complex's maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan in this version's Miyagi role) when their hot water isn’t working.

While playing basketball out in the park with Harry, Dre is instantly smitten with Meiying (Wenwen Han) while she’s practicing her violin on a park bench. He instantly puts on an American ritual of showing off his dance moves while all she wants is to touch his cornrows. Meiying’s family friend Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) sees the two lovebirds and interrupts, putting the smackdown on Dre and getting his point across that they are not to be friends.

Dre refuses to tell his mother what’s going on with Cheng as tensions rise, with Cheng bullying Dre at school and in the streets. After a great foot chase through the streets and back alleys, Dre is finally cornered by Cheng and his goons but is rescued with a spectacularly choreographed fight between the bullies and Mr. Han as Han manages to defend himself while the bullies only wind up beating each other up.

Han takes Dre to the local dojo where Cheng and his friends are being taught kung fu under the cruel tutelage of Master Li (Rongguang Yu, Beijing’s resident Pai Mei) to make peace with the kids but winds up getting Dre thrown into a kung fu tournament instead. Now Dre must learn kung fu to win the respect and honor of his fellow pupils even if it means he must learn to pick up his jacket, or take it on and off again, a thousand times (something even his mother has never been able to teach him).

The film runs almost two and a half hours but it never drags. When you realize that it takes the first two hours just to get to the kung fu tournament you may be wowed by the rapid pacing and surprised that the filmmakers found a way to extend the film as long as it is. At first I was put off by the length and thought it would just feel too bloated and drag the whole way to the finish line. Before the movie even started I made a joke about how long it was and said to another critic, “What is it? A Chinese production?” and then we both got to snicker when the credits displayed it was a China Film Group production, anyone who’s ever seen the original cut of a kung fu flick or two knows that they like their movies long.

The only thing that really seems slightly out of place is some of the soundtrack choices throughout the beginning. When you have a montage featuring Jaden Smith sleeping on an airplane and the character is from Detroit, the last thing you think of hearing is John Mayer, but I digress. Things get more authentic as it progresses, even if Lady Gaga pops up in one scene but at least it’s when Dre and Meiying are wooing each other over Dance Dance Revolution and thankfully the teen romance never gets overly sexualized and is kept particularly innocent as it should be.

Originally Columbia Pictures was going to title the film “The Kung Fu Kid” but I’m sure they realized that the name was the real selling point, along with Jackie Chan of course. Who wouldn’t want to see a version of “The Karate Kid” with Master Chan?! And some may wonder why a few of the training sequences take place on the Great Wall of China but I say if you have Jackie Chan in your movie, why wouldn’t you? It’s because you can. So while there may be no crane kick to be found and the setup for waxing on and off never materializes, you’ll find yourself just as won over as you were by the original, if not more so this time around as Chan and Smith land all their own punches in a film much more deserving of the title “The Karate Kid.”

Article first published as Movie Review: The Karate Kid (2010) on Blogcritics.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This Weekend, Go "Greek" Yourself!

Rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language.
109 minutes
Universal Pictures
**** out of 5

Apatow Productions returns with a vengeance. Walking into a Judd Apatow production, one should know what to expect but, while it may not be quite up to par with the heartfelt, honest, and brilliantly hilarious beast that was 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) nevertheless returns to the big screen in even more larger than life fashion along with “Sarah Marshall” co-star Jonah Hill in a new role in “Get Him to the Greek.”

Originally conjured up by Jason Segel, who wrote “Sarah Marshall,” he’s still on board as a co-producer. This time around it’s director Nicholas Stoller who’s in control on paper and behind the camera once again. In these kinds of films it’s always hard to tell what was scripted and what came out in the improvisation on set but, rest assured, this tale of a washed up rock n’ roller is far from the let down that some people have said it is.

Aldous Snow is living a sober life now, thanks mostly to splitting up with the love of his life, pop star Jackie Q. (Rose Byrne), after the abysmal release of Snow’s last single “African Child.” After the song is deemed “worst single of the decade,” Snow has a falling out with the industry and has also decided to try the sober life. But, of course, it’s only a matter of time before he’s back to his bad boy antics and all hell breaks loose as he becomes another paparazzi favorite.

In Los Angeles, Aaron Green (Hill) is living a quiet dream of working in the music industry under the voracious rein of Sergio Roma (the surprisingly funny Sean Combs, who’s obviously spent way too much time around people like whom he’s portraying). Sergio knows that his record label, Pinnacle, is floundering and needs a game changer. Sergio calls upon Aaron because he is sitting through the meeting so quietly and asks him for an idea. Aaron suggests a 10-year anniversary concert of Snow’s last record breaking concert held at L.A.’s Greek Theater.

At first Sergio is resistant to the idea, as he knows what kind of person they’d be dealing with in Snow, but Sergio comes around and sends Aaron personally to bring Snow to the States in hopes of the concert kicking off a new tour and resurrecting Snow’s career. Aaron tries discussing his new assignment with his long-term girlfriend Daphne (Elizabeth Moss), who informs him that she has been offered a residency in Seattle and he’s moving there with her to his chagrin. After the world’s most understated couple's fight, Aaron takes off for London to kick start his own future.

With Snow in his grasps and 72 hours until show time, Aaron realizes he is the only person who has any faith that Snow can truly make a comeback. He thinks that discussing Snow’s future with him from a fan’s perspective is the right way to approach things. Soon Aaron learns that old habits die hard, and he’s whisked along on a buddy road trip stretching from London to New York City to L.A., along with a quick pit stop in Las Vegas to see Snow's dearly estranged father/ex-manager Jonathan (Colm Meaney), but not without the requisite alcohol, drugs, orgies, and Sarah Marshall herself (Kristen Bell) along the way.

In Los Angeles, Aaron Green (Hill) is living a quiet dream of working in the music industry under the voracious rein of Sergio Roma (the surprisingly funny Sean Combs, who’s obviously spent way too much time around people like whom he’s portraying). Sergio knows that his record label, Pinnacle, is floundering and needs a game changer. Sergio calls upon Aaron because he is sitting through the meeting so quietly and asks him for an idea. Aaron suggests a 10-year anniversary concert of Snow’s last record breaking concert held at L.A.’s Greek Theater.

At first Sergio is resistant to the idea, as he knows what kind of person they’d be dealing with in Snow, but Sergio comes around and sends Aaron personally to bring Snow to the States in hopes of the concert kicking off a new tour and resurrecting Snow’s career. Aaron tries discussing his new assignment with his long-term girlfriend Daphne (Elizabeth Moss), who informs him that she has been offered a residency in Seattle and he’s moving there with her to his chagrin. After the world’s most understated couple's fight, Aaron takes off for London to kick start his own future.

Director Stoller manages to give Aldous Snow, now not just a side character, his own spin-off film that totally manages to breathe on its own. While Hill is not returning in the same role, the chemistry between the two leads is completely believable, whether they are having what appear to be heart-to-hearts or moments of intensity when Snow seems like a saber-tooth ready to rip Aaron to shreds. A lot of credit is due to Brand being able to stay in character, but he appears to be having so much fun as Snow that it’s no wonder he keeps himself in check. But Brand also brings a darker sense to the character in this outing, making you question just how crazy he is, even if Aaron is continually pointing it out.

Another thing Stoller brings to the table is his sense of timing and pacing. However, not all is perfect. There is one scene near the end in particular that is completely out of place, goes on far too long, and should have been cut altogether. It drags the shenanigans to a screeching halt and almost makes the audience second guess whether they should have ever had any empathy for Snow, Aaron, or even Daphne. It wouldn’t be so bothersome if it didn’t come immediately after a scene giving Snow almost too much humanity for the character’s own good.

Thankfully, the rest of the film is filled with a cast giving their all to make you laugh hard (and way too often) and a director with a spectacular sense for cutaway gags. “Get Him to the Greek” is chock full of so many hilarious sight gags and throwaway lines that most would require a second viewing to catch the funnier ones, as they follow an already side-splitting moment and the audience will be laughing too hard to hear.

As if the film wasn’t already funny enough, producers Segel and Apatow contribute writing credits to multiple humorous songs on the soundtrack. With how much these songs seem like real singles, I personally wouldn’t mind a real Aldous Snow concert because Brand carries the presence of a true rock star on stage and off.

Article first published as Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek on Blogcritics.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 2/3 Good, 1/3 Turd

Rated R for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language.
104 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures
*** out of 5

Sometimes if you miss something during the Sundance Film Festival you may get the chance to catch it a few months down the line up on the big screen. Lots of movies premiere at Sundance after having already been picked up by a major studio. This time around comes “Splice,” a new Warner Bros./Dark Castle Entertainment pickup from director Vincenzo Natali, who also brought us another Sundance cult classic, “Cube,” back in 1997.

With Guillermo del Toro’s name attached as an executive producer one can’t help but be instantly intrigued as he has yet to deliver anything that wasn’t awesome. Whether behind the camera himself (“Cronos,” “Mimic,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” the two “Hellboys,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”) or as producer (“The Orphange”) he manages to bring something humanly fantastical in every sense to the screen every time.

But when you also throw in Joel Silver and his Dark Castle Entertainment to the mix (“House on Haunted Hill,” “Thir13een Ghosts,” “Ghost Ship,” “Gothika,” “House of Wax,” “The Reaping,” “Orphan,” “Whiteout” and “Ninja Assassin”) one can’t help but wonder how the two will, well, splice together. And that’s exactly what happens. Somewhere around the one hour mark things go completely awry and the markings of one producer’s guiding hand clearly become the other and it’s blatantly obvious which influences came from whom.

Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) and Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) are two leading edge scientists working for a genetics research company called Newstead Pharmaceuticals. They've just combined a mixture of animal DNA to form new creatures they’ve named Fred and Ginger who produce enzymes that can potentially cure everything from cancer to diabetes. Elsa, continually asking “What could possibly go wrong?” wants to take their research to the next level and introduce human DNA to the mix even while Clive is at least slightly resistant but goes along in spite of the ethical and legal ramifications if something happens.

At first they have no luck but then Elsa asks Clive to try one more human sample and of course, as it always goes, the human DNA takes and a new species begins developing at an alarming rate. Clive instantly wants to terminate the project as they originally only wanted to see if they could do it but Elsa decides she wants to keep the new creature alive and bring it to term. A crossbreed is born looking something like a human rabbit with a defense stinger in its tail and a convenient affinity for Tic Tacs the same way Elsa keeps packing them away. Now Elsa and Clive have to keep their new experiment under wraps even though Elsa has named her Dren (Delphine Chanéac, a surefire future Mr. Skin celebrity.)

After all hell breaks loose at a Newstead shareholders conference when Ginger evolves into a male and kills off Fred, Elsa sees Dren as a way to right herself in the science world even though Clive grows increasingly attracted to/frightened by Dren who is evolving into a winged nubile nude model and begins making advances towards him in Elsa’s abandoned family barn where they’ve been hiding her. If you can’t guess what happens by the end of the film based on the Fred and Ginger episode alone then foreshadowing is beyond you as all the plot twists start getting hammered home.

Director Natali, along with his writing partners Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, try to bring something new to the table but their efforts are squandered in the final act. Jeff Vice of the “Deseret News” in Salt Lake City, a fellow Sundance press attendee, came back to see if the new polished version was any better as he said the film ran about two full hours and seemed a bit flabby. What he says was trimmed was all from the set-up where what really needed a do-over is clearly the last half hour.

Things get so dumbed down that after Elsa asks “What could possibly go wrong?” for about the millionth time you can’t help but say to yourself, “Apparently everything.” What starts out as a tongue-in-cheek film that's slightly smarter than most recent sci-fi outings goes for broke with everything from an over-the-top sex scene to the weirdest case of incest in years. So if you don’t mind a hybrid of “Species,” Del Toro’s own “Mimic” and “Gremlins” along with a cliché-riddled finale, then folks, step right up and see Dren: The Asexual Hodgepodge of Science Run Amuck Creature Features.

Article first published as Movie Review: Splice on Blogcritics.