Thursday, July 9, 2009
Day 165: City of Ember (2008) - Rank 2.5/5
Okay, let me preface this by saying that I'm a Bill Murray fan. Whether it's "Ghostbusters" or "Lost in Translation," the guy knows how to entertain. I just feel bad that he fell into the clutches of Wes Anderson. Okay, let me just preface this by saying I'm a fair weather Wes Anderson film. Anything prior to "The Life Aquatic" is great fun. But I believe his direction consists of: "Act bored and suicidal." It's funny for a while, but after "The Royal Tenenbaums," I believe he ran out of steam. That expectation of wanting actors to seem disinterested has now become Bill Murray's new schtick. It wasn't too overwhelming for a while, but I believe "The Life Aquatic" was the point where all of that hit its zenith. Since then, Bill Murray has waded through multiple performances with an air of "Is this film really worth the paycheck?" That statement is best summed up by the expression on Murray's face below (taken at the premiere of "City of Ember").
That being said, it was my hope that Murray would have gone back to his scenery-chewing roots with a role in a children's film where one of the primary goals is to entertain. While I found the character of the Mayor of Ember amusing, I felt like Murray neither added nor subtracted from the role. Perhaps though, it was director Gil Keenan at fault, for even Tim Robbins acted like he'd spent the night inside a tent filled with tsetse flies. Keenan may have kept the reigns tight on the two for fear of them overshadowing the two leads of the film: Saoirse Ronan and Harry Treadaway. The two newcomers are Lina and Doon, residents of the post-apocalyptic, subterranean city of Ember. It's a town that's on the verge of being plunged into darkness forever, because its generators are dying and the mayor, along with its peoples, are apathetic about venturing back to Earth's surface. Lina and Doon then set off to find a way out of the city, using a series of clues left behind by the city's founders in an adventure a la "The Goonies."
It's not a terrible film. The actual city looks like something out of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and the premise is an intriguing one. The film's just, well, lifeless. I just feel like it goes nowhere, for the children are only pursued halfway and after that, it's just Lina and Doon versus the journey itself (which is neither as perilous or as entertaining as the aforementioned "The Goonies"). There's no true resolution for Ember or the mayor, who seems to simply drift off as Murray does in the film (save Murray doesn't face a giant mole in real life). Perhaps he needed to be cast alongside Martin Landau instead of Toby Jones (though Jones does seem to be having fun). As we can see in another photo from the film premiere, Landau possesses the powers of sorcery that instill life back into Murray.
Watch the Trailer