New reviews: ‘Bride Wars,’ ‘Not Easily Broken’ and ‘Azur and Asmar’

Bride Wars (dir: Gary Winick)

If you cringe every time you see Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson squealing and scrapping in the promos for Bride Wars, then stay far, far away from this film. Both unpleasant and unfunny, this too-girlie-for-words comedy mixes the sentimental bridal-philia of 27 Dresses with a campaign of dirty tricks. Hell hath no fury like a bride betrayed. Not by her groom, mind you, but her best friend and wedding rival. This is the kind of thing that Kate Hudson has been reduced to for a few years now and she goes through the motions of a self-involved manipulator so well that it’s hard to work up any affection for her. But Anne Hathaway, with her big doll eyes and tireless patience, usually manages to give these roles something a little more substantial. She doesn’t even seem present most of the time. And the direction is so by-the-numbers that you wonder of Gary Winick was actually on the set.

Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway down for the count
Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway down for the count

Kate Hudson, long ago reduced to such bubble-headed comedies, has the cute-but-catty part down too well. While she’s woefully unconvincing as a ruthless lawyer, she’s so believable as a self-involved diva that it’s hard to work up any affection for her, let alone sympathy.

Anne Hathaway, meanwhile, flashes her doe eyes and resigned smile as the tirelessly patient meek girl who, after a life of being a doormat in every relationship, pulls out her claws and gets just as catty as her overbearing buddy.

All it takes is a bride scorned to turn a stock movie character into a raving caricature of emotional instability. They squeal, shriek, weep uncontrollably and even scrap in full wedding regalia on the aisle to the altar, all with the professional indifference of actresses wondering how they landed in this screechy misfire.

Read the full review at the Seattle P-I here.

Not Easily Broken (dir: Bill Duke)

Based on a novel by Bishop T.D. Jakes, this story of a marriage in crisis, starring Morris Chestnut as a former baseball hopeful turned contractor and Taraji P. Henson as his ambitious, career-driven wife, is less a drama than a life lesson wrapped up in a modern parable.

Dave is just a modest guy who wants a family. Clarice is “not ready for babies.” He hashes out relationship issues with his buddies between basketball pickup games and Little League coaching session. She becomes a nagging reflection of her mother (Jenifer Lewis), who moves in and helps hammer the wedge between them.

The film often comes off as a rebuke of Clarice, who is so dominating that she steamrolls her plans right over Dave. His patience finally is worn through when Clarice and her mother double-team him like some shrill vintage sitcom nightmare. Lewis is less a caricature of the harping mother-in-law than a damaged soul who passes her anger and resentment to her daughter, but the rest of the supporting cast never escapes the one-dimensional roles.

As a side note, Bishop Jakes takes a bit part as a client that Clarice takes out for dinner. He may be a very effective writer and orator, but the man is no actor.

The complete review is at the P-I here.

Azur and Asmar (dir: Michel Ocelot)

Blue-eyed British dream Azur and brown-skinned Asmar, the son of Azur’s doting Arabic nanny Jénane, are raised together on her fantastical fairy tales. They are brothers in all but blood, scrapping and sharing and escaping together into their fantasy worlds until they are dramatically separated. Divided by injustice and suspicion, it takes an Arabian Nights to find the legendary Djinn Fairy to remind them of their human connection beyond race and culture. Michel Ocelot’s animated fantasy may be animated through computers and software, but the images are all hand drawn and then digitally rendered and moved. It owes the characters to illustration paintings and the backgrounds to elaborate designs and colors to evoke the milieu of the Arab world. It’s as different as you can get from the busy, dense style of such films as WALL-E and Kung-Fu Panda, and such illustration-based animation can often seem stiff, but this is a lovely storybook of a film.

The storybook imagery of "Azur and Asmar"
The storybook imagery of "Azur and Asmar"

It’s a simple tale with magical imagery and a worthy message, but it’s also alive with offbeat humor and witty observations of childhood behavior and adult suspicion. The Arabic dialogue is not subtitled, which is an effective way of putting us in Azur’s position, yet the meanings are perfectly clear. Ocelot’s marriage of hand-drawn craft and computer tools looks like a storybook page in motion: organic and alive, with simply drawn characters gliding like dancers through intricate backgrounds filled with Islamic art and designs. It’s also a celebration of science and learning, as well as art and imagination, and that message comes courtesy of a spunky little princess who bops through the film with the energy of a puppy.

Read the complete review at the P-I here.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I’m a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I’ve written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View.

I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

One thought on “New reviews: ‘Bride Wars,’ ‘Not Easily Broken’ and ‘Azur and Asmar’”

  1. My husband and I saw Azur and Asmar at the 1st San Joaquin Children’s Film Festival held in Stockton, CA from January 16 to 18, 2009.

    The film had a poignant message filled with dazzling imagery I would love for my walls. Azur and Asmar is destined to be a well loved classic!!!

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