Friday, August 21, 2015

Unpacking U.N.C.L.E. — Phase Two

With incredibly cool guns -- and a young David McCallum!

Five years ago our family watched the entire TV series, and loved it (see Phase One, here and here). The trailers for Guy Ritchie's attempted movie reboot looked fairly promising, so it was a sure bet we'd make a family effort to see the flick on opening weekend.

And so last Saturday found the four of us parked before the silver screen, humming the Jerry Goldsmith theme song while we waited for the lights to dim and the movie to start ("waiting like a communicant," is how James Wolcott describes the mood).

Cue the first critical disappointment: no Jerry Goldsmith theme song.

Considering how the movie (and soundtrack) exults in so much lavish 60s pop ephemera that it risks comparison to Austin Powers, this absence is inexplicable and gets the movie off to a rocky start. Nevertheless, I was determined to give Ritchie and Co. every possible advantage, so I took a deep cleansing breath and settled in for the duration.

When Armie Hammer stomped in as a Terminator-style Ilya Kuryakin, I reminded myself that the Impossible Missions Force never used to solve their conundrums in a series of lengthy chases and fiery explosions -- something I mostly overlook whenever I sit down for a Mission: Impossible movie. Still, an Ilya prone to room-wrecking fits of rage took some getting used to.

Henry Cavil brings a wry detachment to Napoleon Solo that more-or-less works, though Robert Vaughn's sly and unshakeable sense of amusement at the endless absurdities was dearly missed, as was his boyish, "Give me a kiss, we might both like it," manner of seduction. And Hugh Grant's turn as Mr. Waverly raises everyone's game so appreciably, I wished he'd somehow been grafted into the earlier two-thirds of the movie.

The truth is I just wasn't feeling any of it -- until about the halfway mark, when a scene of such perfectly framed comic hijinx occurs, it highlights the potential that's been lying untapped beneath the film the entire time.

So Ritchie's movie gets a "meh" from me. My wife thought there were enough scenes like the one I alluded to to recommend the movie on the whole. My older daughter found it largely amusing, but was underwhelmed by Alicia Vikander, whose occasional attempts at a German accent would have benefited mightily from an afternoon of Hogan's Heroes.

The younger daughter loved it, however -- her first concern leaving the theatre was that Ritchie might blow the sequel as badly as Abrams did his second Star Trek. Given the box office results, she probably doesn't have any reason to worry.

"We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..."

No comments: