Friday, July 2, 2010

Pretty Much How The Author Envisioned It

In February, I did a sort-of liveblog of the Hannah Montana movie as viewed through the convenience of Netflix Streaming. I figured liveblogging a bad movie on Netflix would become a regular thing I'd do every few weeks. True to my word, I'm doing it again just five short months later.

Today's selection is a classic of American literature adapted to film so it could be a big middle finger to American cinema. The classic short story that serves as the movie's source material is Stephen Vincent Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster. The movie I will now be reviewing that took that story and wiped its ass with it is called Shortcut To Happiness. Why Shortcut To Happiness? I guess because it sounded better than Trite and Generic Movie Title. I'd heard of this movie years ago and, when I tell others about it, they think I'm joking because director and star Alec Baldwin cast Anthony Hopkins as Daniel Webster and decided that the only actor with sufficient talent and gravitas to play the Devil opposite Sir Anthony was Jennifer Love Hewitt. If you decide to post anything in comments, please be honest and tell me you think I'm joking right now.

I have not seen this so all observations and comments will be made in real time. I'm just assuming it's bad because A) It has Jennifer Love Hewitt as the freaking Devil and B) the small bit of research I did, if true, says that the only place this movie in the world this movie ever got released was Kazakhstan. Kazakhs, please don't spoil this movie for your American friends until they're done with this article. we go.

0:00:50 -- OK, fuck it, I'm done. Don't really need to see the rest of this. It has those stupid animated credits you see in bad chick flicks. Hope you had fun reading what little of this there was.

AAAHHHHHH! OK, I'll watch a little more.

0:01:30 -- The credits are an animated Jennifer Love Hewitt/Devil breathing fire on what looks like a greeting card that the actual credits are on. Alec Baldwin once worked with Tim Burton and you can tell he absorbed a lot of Burton's visual imagination. So, twice in less than two minutes, I've been inspired to comment on something stupid. This should end well.

0:02:14 -- For a final bit of opening credits confidence building, we see Directed by Harry Kirkpatrick. This caused me to go to IMDB real quick as I thought it had been directed by Alec Baldwin and, sure enough, it was. He took his name off the project and, figuring Alan Smithee was too obvious, used the name Harry Kirkpatrick. I guess Baldwin is modest and didn't want to forever be known as, "The guy who directed that awesome movie."

0:05:45 -- Between the last comment and this one, an entirely different movie has been playing. We've been seeing a short story written by Baldwin's character, Jabez Stone, being played out. The content of the short story isn't important. It was just nice that it delayed the beginning of the actual movie.

0:07:30 -- Jabez Stone, once a poor 19th century dirt farmer in the original story, is now an unpublished author living in Manhattan. Acting and directing must have been too much for Baldwin because all his dialogue so far has been delivered in the style of a football player who's never acted before trying out for his high school's production of Our Town. Another sign of the oncoming doom is that Carrot Top has a small role and has actually outshown both Baldwin and Dan Aykroyd as Baldwin's foppish and overacting fellow writer.

0:20:30 -- Hey all. It's been a while. Since I've been gone, we've discovered that Stone is a decent guy who seems to have made the conscious choice to surround himself with douchebags. Really, there's no way to be involved with this many douchebags unless you seek them out. He works at a clothing store or, rather, he did until he gets fired by his douchebag boss for being helpful and polite to a customer and yes, I'm being serious. Dan Aykroyd, his douchebag best friend, rubs his nose in the fact that he's just landed a three book deal with a douchebag publisher played by Kim Cattrall. We do meet one sort-of-kind-of all right guy, a publisher by name of (drumroll please) Daniel Webster. No longer a dead lawyer as he was in the story, Webster (Anthony Hopkins) is now a live book publisher who agrees to have a short meeting with Stone during which he tells him to become a better writer, advice that could also have been given to the writers of this film and to the real life Alec Baldwin. Stone ends up getting beaten during a mugging though I figure this really happened when the other actors got pissed at Baldwin and "Harry Kirkpatrick" decided to leave it in.

0:40:00 -- Alec Baldwin, a man who has worked with Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese, has inserted into his directorial debut music that sounds like it was generated by the demo button of a Casio keyboard and an interminably long scene of Stone decorating his new, upscale apartment. He got that apartment by selling in his soul, an act that occurred through a series of stupid circumstances and that was sealed not by a contract signed in blood but by director Alec Baldwin instructing Jennifer Love Hewitt to get half naked and beg him for sex. It's good to be the king.

0:45:40 -- Kim Cattrall just said, "There are no new ideas anyway." This movie is evidence of that.

0:50:00 -- Funniest moment in the movie so far: Dan Aykroyd getting hit by a car. I know it doesn't sound funny but if you'd seen the unintentionally hilarious pose Aykroyd struck as the car ran him down and the dumb cutaway scene that tells us Alec Baldwin didn't really know how to direct a car crash, you'd laugh too.

1:20:00 -- We're up to the trial for Stone's soul. Things I've learned since I last spoke: Alec Baldwin loves to direct things in slow motion and Anthony Hopkins is at least a little better at acting than Jennifer Love Hewitt although she definitely has better boobs so I suppose it evens out. Also, Hopkins no longer has to list that buddy cop movie he did with Chris Rock as the low point of his career.

1:42:05 -- Wow, this got long, better wrap things up. Daniel Webster won by making an argument for jury nullification in the form of pompous speeches about how we don't need success to be happy blah blah blah. History was reset and Stone went back to the beginning and OH MY GOD, THE MOVIE STARTED OVER. Thank goodness the end credits started to roll when they did.

I hope you enjoyed reading about something what, until now, was reserved only for the privileged eyes of Kazakhs. I now know why Alec Baldwin isn't hailed as one of Hollywood's great directors but oh, the price I paid for that knowledge.


Dan Coyle said...

IIRC, that thing was sitting on the shelf for something like ten years, and Baldwin and his producers wound up suing each other. Or something. I'm surprised it was actually released.

Michael Clear said...

IMDB says it came out in 2004 but who knows? I think it was made in the 90s. Alec Baldwin looks noticeably younger in this than he does today on 30 Rock.

Dan Coyle said...

I'm pretty sure it was shot around 1998-1999 and the production ran out of money and was in limbo.