Go

Matinee

Year: 1993
Studio: Universal
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Charles S Haas
Cast: John Goodman, Simon Fenton, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, Lisa Jakub, John Sayles, Cathy Moriarty

Certain movies have built-in credibility with critics and movie lovers by being about the love of movies itself. From Cinema Paradiso and Son of Rambow to Be Kind, Rewind and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, nothing makes your movie more critic proof than making it about (or heavily featuring) the shared love of the medium.

That's the only reason I can think of for history remembering this muddled mess so fondly. There are way too many characters, stories, subplots and thematic elements and it's all so unfocused it's hard to keep up with where it's all been, let alone what's happening at the time.

John Goodman is Hollywood huckster Lawrence Woolsey (no doubt based in part on legendary shlockmeister and master movie marketer William Castle), who's peddling his latest B movie, 'Mant' – half man and half ant, you understand.

He decides to come to a small Florida air force town to test it on an audience, the hometown of young Gene (Simon Fenton), a proto-Tarantino archetype before it was cool who just wants to read comic books and go to movies.

Thanks to their proximity to the military, Gene and his family feel like they're right in the crosshairs when the Cuban missile crisis descends like a shroud, everybody in town expecting to see Russian warheads plunging down through the sky towards them.

Lawrence recruits Gene to help him prepare for the big premiere intended for the weekend, and that seems to be the central relationship in the film. I say 'seems' because there's so much going on around both men (from the romantic entanglements of Gene and his friends to local opposition against the showing of such Hollywood trash that Lawrence has to deal with) that the whole thing ends up falling in a confused heap, nothing really going anywhere.

When Gene and the weird/cute/smart girl from school end up locked in the cinema's nuclear bunker and Lawrence hires the ex-con boyfriend of the girl Gene's best friend is courting, you wonder if screenwriter Charles Haas was just making it up as they shot it.

Apparently director Joe Dante liked it so much because it reminded him of his own childhood in sixties America, but Matinee marks the point at which I've officially changed my opinion of him.

Gremlins buys a lot of cachet, but the more of his back catalogue I see, the less I think of him as a director. Maybe Spielberg stood over his shoulder or even took over, like he's supposed to have done with Tobe Hooper on Poltergeist . But after this and the more recent bilge Burying the Ex, Dante is exactly what Lawrence Woolsey seems to be in the film – a guy who's all talk but who sells crap.

© 2011-2022 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au