Let’s call it happenstance. My friend Greg has been trying to get a podcast up & running for awhile, but life keeps getting in the way. With football finished & The Sammy Awards in the rear view mirror I find myself in an all too familiar writing funk, and since it’s my therapy the melancholy compounds itself. But then Ivan Reitman died. Now, with all due respect & total sincerity, I am NOT saying that Reitman’s demise is in any way positive or good, however I do believe in making lemonade out of lemons, so when Greg contacted me with an idea to do an episode of the podcast dedicated to the departed director a couple of decisions were made. First of all, if I am going to intelligently opine I needed a refresher on Ivan Reitman’s work. Secondly, while I am not sure what path we may go down on the podcast, I had always planned on doing a Weekend Movie Marathon focusing on Reitman. So here we are.
No Strings Attached
Ivan Reitman isn’t a name I immediately associate with rom-coms, but he did direct this one about a decade ago. No Strings Attached stars Natalie Portman & Ashton Kutcher and should not be confused with Friends with Benefits, a similarly themed film starring Justin Timberlake & Mila Kunis that was released just six months later. Since Kutcher & Kunis are married I wonder if they’ve ever argued about which movie is better?? Personally I find both mildly pleasant, although critics like Friends with Benefits significantly more. Anyway, you know what you’re getting from the jump…two people who agree to a casual, non-romantic, purely physical relationship catch feelings. It’s nice to see an Academy Award winning actress like Portman have fun and not fall into the trap of thinking she has to stick with tedious, pensive, dramatic roles.
At some point someone got the idea that action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger should transition into comedy. Perhaps it was Ivan Reitman since he directed three such efforts. To be honest Kindergarten Cop isn’t as much of a straight comedy as it is a lighthearted action drama that utilizes cute kids in supporting roles to make it seem less…actiony. The future Governator plays a cop who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher (hence the title) to apprehend a drug kingpin. There are some vaguely recognizable faces (Angela Bassett shows up as a stewardess just a year or two before she became well-known), and Penelope Ann Miller portrays the protagonist’s love interest. Whatever happened to Miller?? She should’ve been a huge movie star, but really hasn’t done anything notable since the early 90’s.
One of Bill Murray’s earliest films, and the first of a few collaborations between he & Reitman. Teens at summer camp is a tried & true cinematic formula, and though Meatballs doesn’t really stand out from the crowd (it’s not particularly raunchy or even that hilarious), it is notable as a showcase for Murray’s comedic talents and solidifying the idea that his shtick could migrate from Saturday Night Live to the big screen.
Kevin Costner is known for his sports-centric movies. Bull Durham. Field of Dreams. Tin Cup. American Flyers. For Love of the Game. I’m pretty sure Draft Day wouldn’t crack the Top 3 on that list, but if you’re one of those nerds whose eyes are glued to the television for three days every spring watching guys like Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, & Rich Eisen break down the NFL’s Annual Selection Meeting then you appreciate this underrated gem. I just so happen to be one of those geeks. It’s kind of predictable & the romantic subplot is totally unnecessary, but a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Sam Elliott, Chadwick Boseman, & Ellen Burstyn helps make it sufficiently entertaining.
The Schwarzenegger comedy experiment came out of the gate strong. The plot involves 4ft.11, 150lb. Danny Devito & 6ft.2, 260lb. Schwarzenegger being long lost fraternal twins as a result of a genetics lab experiment. Of course that kind of amusing visual joke would typically make a funny SNL skit, while turning it into a feature film is tricky. Kudos to the actors & Reitman for pulling it off. Critics offered mixed reviews, but Joe Sixpack made Twins the 16th highest grossing movie of 1988, which isn’t too shabby in a year when the competition included classics like Coming to America, Good Morning Vietnam, Big, Die Hard, Moonstruck, Scrooged, Beetlejuice, & Bull Durham. A long rumored sequel (that waited so long Eddie Murphy’s role allegedly shifted to Tracey Morgan, which is like downgrading from Dom Perignon to Mad Dog 20/20) was set to get off the ground soon, but with Ivan Reitman’s departure from this mortal coil who knows what might happen. Perhaps his son Jason will take on the project.