Bad Boys and It Girls
Hello again everyone, and let me open with some news. I am not at all sorry to announce that, no
matter what hopes last week's Norman Bates-ish interlude might have caused to spring in your
collective breasts, I will continue to write this column until you prise my mouse from my cold dead
hand. Look on the bright side, reading it isn't compulsory.
Another ill-matched pair of films this week: Michael Bay's Bad Boys 2, and Stephen Fry's
Bright Young Things. So, without further ado...
If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next
The year's umpteenth overblown sequel arrives in the form of Bad Boys 2. Now I thought
the first film was actually pretty indifferent, but clearly it did enough business to justify a
follow-up... but eight years later? Does anyone still care any more?
Well, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay clearly think so and their faith
appears to have been justified as this movie has made over $130 million in the States alone. To which
I can only respond: dearie, dearie me...
Miami cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still going
around blowing things up. They are currently on the trail of the rather stereotyped Cuban drug
baron Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla). Some would say it was slightly hypocritical of big-shot
Hollywood movie producers to go around demonising drug dealers like this, but not I. And, well,
basically the cops and the pushers chase each other around for two and a half hours, the exceedingly
thin story bulked out by some rather gory violence, mechanical and profane (not to mention faintly
homoerotic) by-play between the two leads, and Bay's ludicrous, intrusively flashy direction.
The characterisation that made the first film mildly distinctive - the contrast between Smith's
superfly playboy and Lawrence's harassed family man - is nearly all discarded and in its place we
get subplots about Smith having a bit of a thing for Lawrence's little sister (Gabrielle Union, one of
Hollywood's finest purveyors of urban T&A), and Lawrence deciding to dissolve their
partnership. The second one is arguably a mistake as it instantly recalls the Lethal Weapon
movies, which this superficially resembles anyway.
To be fair to Bad Boys 2, it easily matches the standard of the last couple of Lethal
Weapons, both in terms of action (the sheer scale of carnage is inevitably impressive) and
humour, even if there's a bit too much of Lawrence clowning around as Smith's fall guy. The duo are
certainly much more comfortable with comedy than drama, which is a shame as the jokes run out in
the last half hour. At this point brain death threatens both movie and audience as proceedings
descend to the level of risible cartoon, with the Miami PD invading Cuba single-handed.
Bad Boys 2 is fairly entertaining in a mindlessly slick and predictable way: it has no
surprises or intelligence, but looks good and has some funny lines and moments. The teenagers in the
row behind me loved it. But, to paraphrase Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 3, I think I'm
getting too old for this sort of thing.
Actor, comedian, novelist, writer, and film director - yes, these are all words that I have just
typed. Also, by a weird coincidence, jobs appearing on the CV of the formidable polymath Stephen
Fry, whose debut as writer/director has just been released.
Bright Young Things, based on Evelyn Waugh's novel Vile Bodies, is an examination
of the celebrity-obsessed metropolitan culture of 1930s London. Recently in the UK we've grown
accustomed to people like Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Victoria Hervey basically becoming famous
for going to high-profile parties, but this isn't an exclusively modern phenomenon and Fry's film is
about the forebears of today's It girls and boys.
Stephen Campbell Moore plays Adam, a posh but penniless young man who aspires to be a writer.
He and his friends are part of 1930s London's party scene, going from one bash to another in search
of new and greater thrills. But reality can only be fended off for so long and if he's to marry his
fiancée, Nina (the estimable Emily Mortimer), he needs to get his hands on some good hard cash.
For most of its length Bright Young Things has a slightly rambling, picaresque structure,
the different situations all loosely linked by Adam's increasingly urgent efforts to find some money
- whether by tracking down a drunken Major (Jim Broadbent) he's inadvertently given thirty
thousand pounds to, or by becoming a gossip columnist for ogre-ish newspaper proprietor Lord
Monomark (Dan Aykroyd). The film switches quite effectively from comedy to drama and back
again, with the script subtly but steadily making its points about the intoxicating superficiality of
this kind of celebrity culture and its ultimate nihilism.
Members of the cast really fall into two camps - young, relative unknowns who play the main
roles, and much better known names and faces providing cameos. And both groups give equally good
performances - James McEvoy is particularly good amongst the newcomers, while Peter O'Toole
(radiating manic vigour) is probably the standout in a hugely distinguished supporting cast that
includes Julia Mackenzie, Simon Callow, John Mills, Jim Carter, Stockard Channing, Sam Kisgart
and Richard E Grant.
The film is handsomely mounted and Fry shows some promise as a director, particularly in the
closing stages as the story grows darker and more poignant. But somehow the closing, Second World
War-set section, doesn't ring true (a necessary alteration to Waugh, who was writing in the late
1920s) and quite what the final message of the film is is obscured by the way it concentrates on
Adam and Nina's romance at the expense of nearly everything else. But Bright Young Things
remains a classy piece of work, and an impressive debut for Fry.