The Guardian

Ashton Kutcher in the swimming pool in The Guardian

 

The career of Kevin Costner seems to have come and gone. After having a run of mad popular success with The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, JFK and The Bodyguard (even the Robin Hood movie: Prince of Thieves did pretty well), he followed up with two epic failures. First Waterworld, which went down like the Titanic. Then The Postman, which was so vainglorious – this is the one in which our hero restores civilisation to a post-apocalyptic America – that it stunned reviewers into a kind of embarrassed silence. These belly flops seem to have busted Costner back down to private and since then he’s gone for more modest assignments. The Guardian is one such, a “hell I used to be that guy” mentoring drama directed by Andrew Davis, who is a sound choice for Costner, having made Steven Seagal look good in Under Siege and turned a workaday chase movie into something special with The Fugitive. Davis does it again with The Guardian, a wearisomely familiar tale about a brave yet tragic US Coast Guard instructor (Costner) of rescue swimmers and his friction-filled training of a new kid on the block (Ashton Kutcher). At 27 Kutcher is at the top age limit for US Coast Guard applicants but he has a swimmer’s build and youthful looks, so… Meanwhile, director Davis guides the rookie and the pro through a screenplay that most of us could block out if asked to – the drill training, the locker-room machismo, the “sir, yes sir” dialogue, the crypto-homoeroticism and even the “hell, you remind me of me” scene, with of course each man learning something about life and himself on the way. And yet, in Davis’s hands, it all seems, if not fresh, then at least remarkably watchable, the action movie cliches and Top Gun homages (Kutcher even wears Ray Ban Aviators) piling up on each other with a certain degree of kinetic finesse, Davis’s stock in trade. Costner reminds us and possibly himself how he became a star in the first place – because he is so good at playing average guys. And Kutcher keeps the sullen braggadocio this side of unattractive and rises to the challenge of a more serious role than he’s used to – dude, where’s my career. Having started with a quick resume of Costner’s rise and fall, it’s necessary to point out that this isn’t really his film, or Kutcher’s. It’s the baton’s – this is all about one generation graciously ceding to the next, which is hungrily grabbing at what isn’t being offered quite fast enough. And on this level – and Davis lets looks and gestures rather than the dialogue do a lot of the work here – it rises right above the cliche, and the fact that this is a film containing a training montage set to rock music (Kasabian’s Club Foot) becomes almost forgivable.

 

The Guardian – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

Dude, Where’s My Car

Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott in Dude, Where's My Car

 

 

Sometimes an utterly mindless comedy really hits the spot. That’s Dude, Where’s My Car. It was written by South Park graduate Philip Stark and stars Seann William Scott, a stalwart of the American Pie genre, and Ashton Kutcher, then a new arrival on Planet Heartthrob. One day our two unlikely lads wake up after a large night out and can’t find the car. That’s the title dealt with, and the plot too, since what now happens is that the halfwitted stoner chums wander off trying to find the missing vehicle. As the situations shift from aimless to unlikely to improbable to impossible, with enough drink and drugs consumed en route to fuel a party at Charlie Sheen’s, it starts to become apparent that, in the shape of Jesse Montgomery III (Kutcher) and Chester Greenburg (Scott) we’re in the presence of dumbfuckery on an awesome, epic and epically awesome scale. And somewhere between the sexy Swedish extraterrestrials, the silicone-stuffed lapdancers, the implacable ostriches and the bubblewrap, the penny drops. There’s a rare comedic intelligence at work here – it takes brains to deliver jokes this dumb. And you’ll start laughing. Or groaning. Probably both.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Dude, Where’s My Car – at Amazon