Saturday, November 26, 2016

Matinee

2.5/4

Starring: John Goodman, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, Kellie Martin, Cathy Moriarty, Lisa Jakub, Jesse Lee Soffer, Lucinda Jenny

Rated PG for Language, and for Mild Violence and Sensuality

I'll give points to Joe Dante for ambition.  He's combined a William Castle-type director premiering his new movie, two teen romances and the Cuban Missile Crisis into one movie.  I can't recommend it, but there are definitely some great things about this movie.  I'm certainly not mad that I sat through it.

Gene Loomis (Fenton) moves around a lot because his father is in the Navy.  He and his family have recently settled into Key West, Florida, where he is having difficulty making friends.  He's a monster movie fan, and, much to his delight, horror-meister Lawrence Woolsey (Goodman) is premiering his next monster opus, dubbed "Mant!", in his hometown.  Trouble is brewing, however.  His father has suddenly been called away and the Cuban Missile Crisis is soon underway.

"Matinee" suffers from the common problem of trying to do too much.  While over ambition is almost always preferable to the opposite, there are other problems that prevent me from giving it a mild recommendation.  Such as the performances.  Apart from Goodman, then-newcomer Simon Fenton, and the always interesting Cathy Moriarty, the acting is universally stiff.  No one is truly bad, per se, but it's always apparent that they're acting.  None of the supporting characters become the people they are portraying.

What is on screen is good stuff.  John Goodman is having a ball as the consummate showman.  He's a hack filmmaker who has never met a gimmick that he didn't like, but you get the sense that he really enjoys what he's doing.  The fraternal relationship between Gene and his brother Dennis (Soffer) is also nicely played, and Cathy Moriarty, who plays the actress and Woolsey's girlfriend, always has a one-liner for every occasion.

Ultimately, though, it's just too much material for a 90-odd minute movie.  It has its heart in the right place, but it can't make it all fit together.

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