Tuesday, March 15, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

2.5/4

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.

Rated PG-13 for Thematic Material including Frightening Sequences of Threat with Some Violence, and Brief Language

Never before have I seen a movie so thoroughly shoot itself in the foot before the audience even sets foot in the theater.  Oh sure, movies have given away their secrets in trailers; comedies give away the best jokes, thrillers give away the gimmick, action movies give away the best stunts and special effects, and so on.  "10 Cloverfield Lane" stacks the deck by its title.  And for a movie where the central appeal is its ambiguity, that pretty much takes away the point of seeing the movie.

According to J.J. Abrams, who produced this and the original "Cloverfield," "10 Cloverfield Lane" is a "blood relative" of the original.  You'd be hard pressed to convince me of that without the title.  It's not a found-footage movie, it's got name actors, and the monster from the original doesn't show up.  If you don't have the format, the style or the monster, why change it from its original title "The Cellar" and rebrand it into a sequel it does not fit?

Easy.  Money.  "Cloverfield" was a hit, and Abrams and his crew thought they could bring in more money by changing a few things and calling it a sequel.  Judging by the box office, they were right.

Michelle (Winstead) is fleeing from her boyfriend (Bradley Cooper in a voiceover cameo).  While driving, she gets into a violent car accident (this is the most successful part of the movie...it literally made me jump).  When she wakes up, she's got a broken leg and is chained up in the basement by a large man named Howard (Goodman).  He claims that there was an attack of some kind and it's not safe to go out.  But is he telling the truth, or are his motives more sinister?

It's impossible for a movie starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead or John Goodman to be legitimately unwatchable.  They're too talented and too appealing to make something completely without merit (unless they star in a movie for Wes Anderson).  Sadly, they both sleepwalk through their roles, which takes a lot of the fun out of it.  One can hardly blame them; the script isn't very good and they weren't paid very much (the film's budget was $5,000,000...probably less than either of the stars have made for a single film).  Had they put in the work, it would have been marginally better, but not enough to save it.  Goodman makes a solid "is he or isn't he a "psycho," and Winstead does her low-key thing with spine.  John Gallagher Jr. is a scene stealer as the third person in the vault; he's appealing.

The film does a decent job of providing ambiguity, but because of the title we know the end.  And getting there, despite some decent action and one or two thrills, just isn't much fun.

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