Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton


Jim Carrey channels Andy Kaufman.

(2017) Documentary (NetflixJim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Bob Zmuda, George Shapiro, Danny DeVito, Carol Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Paul Giamatti, Stacey Sher, Milos Forman, Ron Meyer, Carol Kane, Bill Corso, Peter Bonerz, Michael Stipe, Jerry Lawler, Courtney Love, Gerry Becker, Elton John, Lynne Margulies, Linda Hill, Angela Jones. Directed by Chris Smith

 

Sometimes an actor will get so lost in their role that it’s nearly impossible to tell where the character ends and the actor begins. Is it art or is it simply self-indulgence?

Jim Carrey notoriously went through this when he was playing the late cult comic Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman’s Man in the Moon back in 1999. Carrey refused to break character during filming, even allowing the notorious lounge lizard/obnoxious jerk character Tony Clifton to take over, sometimes to uncomfortable lengths. Universal kept the backstage footage in the vaults for nearly 20 years before they finally allowed it to be shown in this documentary.

We get a sense of the method here and Carrey candidly discusses the strain of playing Kaufman and the way it effected his career. You get the sense that Carrey doesn’t enter any role lightly but this one did a number on him, as he admits to feeling the emotional after-effects for years afterwards. The documentary is well-filmed, utilizing footage filmed by Smith in 2016 as well as the backstage footage from the shoot in 1998 shot by Kaufman’s writing partner Zmuda and his girlfriend Margulies. Members of Kaufman’s family even came on set to commune with their deceased loved one (Kaufman passed away from lung cancer in 1984) in the form of Carrey.

I wasn’t a big fan of Man in the Moon when it came out but the documentary does give a better appreciation of the film. I wish that someone had asked Carrey the question that stays with me after seeing the doc: was the performance worth the pain? I suppose that’s a question for posterity to figure out.

REASONS TO SEE: Carrey comes off more thoughtful than you’d imagine. A portrait of a man lost in his role.
REASONS TO AVOID: Doesn’t ask some important questions.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of profanity and some nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Both Kaufman and Carrey share a birthday (January 17th).
BEYOND THE THEATER: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews: Metacritic: 767/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Lost in La Mancha
FINAL RATING: 7/10
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Radioflash

Rise of the Guardians


Rise of the Guardians

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

(2012) Animated Feature (DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo, Khamani Griffin, Kamil McFadden, Dominique Grund, Georgie Grieve, Emily Nordwind, Jacob Bertrand, Olivia Mattingly, April Lawrence. Directed by Peter Ramsey

 

Certain figures hold a kind of reverence in all of our childhoods; the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and of course Santa Claus. They are symbols of various aspects of our youth and remind us that who we are now is informed by who we were then. These figures are venerated because of their association with children. They are protectors of their innocence. They are guardians.

Jack Frost (Pine) is a mischievous sort, the sort who brings snow and ice to cold climates and provides children everywhere with snow days. When you’re hit in the face with a stray snowball that nobody can remember throwing, he’s likely to be the culprit. Nobody can see him, after all because nobody really believes in him. This depresses him somewhat.

But he has been chosen to be the newest Guardian by the enigmatic Man in the Moon (who never speaks). The current Guardians – Santa Claus (Baldwin), a buff Russian accented behemoth who answers to North and carries swords as well as candy canes, The Easter Bunny (Jackman) who speaks with an Australian lilt, tosses boomerangs and exploding eggs in battle and travels by magical portals through the underground; the Sandman, a pint-sized sleepy sort who visualizes his thoughts through sand and uses sandy whips to create creams, and the Tooth Fairy (Fisher) who commands an army of little hummingbird-like fairies that collect teeth in which childhood memories are stored – are aware that one of their own, the Boogie Man who also is known as Pitch (Law) who has spent centuries preparing for his own moment – to use the Sandman’s ability to create good dreams and perverting it to cause nightmares and fear. And as the kids of the world lose faith in their Guardians, the Guardians begin to disappear and lose their powers.

The lynchpin is Jack Frost, but he may not be up to the task. How can someone nobody believes in become a hero?

I kind of like the concept here, although I do admit that it likely posed all sorts of problems not only for the filmmaker but for William Joyce, the author of the children’s books that this movie was (loosely) based on. Creating characters that not only contain the traits that kids know and love about these legends but also are believable as a superhero team is a bit of a tricky prospect.

It doesn’t always work. Think of Super Friends with better animation, a reference which probably flies over the head of most kids whom this is aimed at and that’s just as well. The target audience has barely lived long enough to be in kindergarten.

There is plenty of color here and some truly magical moments, most of which have to do with visiting the homes of these characters. Santa’s workshop, for example, is staffed by Yeti toymakers (who look like the lovechildren of Bigfoot and Wilford Brimley) and elves who might remind some of the Minions of Despicable Me. The Easter Bunny’s warren has Pacific Island-looking stone heads, trees that dispense little eggs with legs that walk through a Willy Wonka-looking contraption that paints them. The Tooth Fairy’s castle is a cross between a Disney princess abode, a dentist’s office and Hogwarts’ Castle.

I’m not sure why Baldwin picked a Russian/Slavic accent for Santa – if he wanted to be a bit more accurate he might have gone Germanic with it but I suppose it might be a bit too easy to characterize Santa as a Nazi had he done that. In fact, most of the vocal work is pretty adequate and I do like some of the characterizations (like the flirtatious Tooth Fairy who has a thing for Jack’s teeth). The Easter Bunny is a bit impatient and trades barbs with Jack who is on the Bunny’s poo list for causing a blizzard a few Easters back.

Da Queen liked this a lot better than I did. She commented afterwards on the messages of working as a team, putting the greater good ahead of your own personal needs and the need for sacrifice – and it’s rare I admit that you see that sort of pointing towards selflessness in modern animated features which more often stress being true to yourself than being true to the world.

Still, I had trouble with the rather predictable story and it’s overuse of Jack’s angst as a plot point. There were also several superhero poses that were a bit incongruous – you know, the crouch with arms outstretched, staffs and swords pointed in aggressive poses. I suppose that the message that problems need to be solved with violence is also kind of ingrained in this – no attempt is ever made to negotiate with Pitch and his own issues, which get revealed late in the film, seem to be made light of because, by nature, Pitch is Bad which means that some people are naturally Bad and should be dealt with violently which I kind of had issues with. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you will.

Even so this is solid entertainment that small kids will adore and their parents won’t feel is a burden for them to watch with their progeny. Be advised that although Santa is being marketed as a central character (which he is), this isn’t strictly speaking a Christmas movie so if you’re expecting one, you might leave disappointed.

REASONS TO GO: Kind of fun to see all those characters together. Visually inventive.

REASONS TO STAY: Story is much too predictable.

FAMILY VALUES:  The themes and some of the action sequences might be a little scary for the wee ones, especially if they’re impressionable.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the last DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Paramount. The company has signed a new contract with 20th Century Fox that begins in 2013.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/25/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 74% positive reviews. Metacritic: 57/100. The reviews are pretty decent.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Incredibles

EASTER LOVERS: .Part of the film takes place during the spring holiday, and we get a nice look at the Easter Bunny’s castle.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

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