The Walk Review

the walk3You guys know me.  I’m a softee.  I like a good inspirational story.  I’ve even been known to enjoy a corny made for TV movie on Hallmark or Lifetime.  So this is a girl that doesn’t mind a little bit of cheese in her films. Well, that’s good because it is certainly what you get in Robert Zemeckis’ new movie The Walk.  It is based on the story of Philippe Petit’s wire walk between the World Trade Center Twin Towers in 1974.  This was made into an excellent Oscar winning documentary in 2008.

the walk7The thing that made the documentary work is Petit is a unique person.  He can be dishonest, unfaithful, rude and yet also quite charming and funny.  So really it was more the man than the walk which made the documentary compelling. The documentary isn’t trying to inspire us but just tell Petit’s story.

Unfortunately Zemeckis in both his direction and screenplay don’t seem to get this and Petit ends up feeling bland and another guy with a dream.  You could play a drinking game and get very drunk with how much the movie says the word dream.the walk9Justin Gordon-Levitt is a little disappointing as Petit.  Much has been made of his french accent but it is pretty bad.  It’s too bad Oscar winner Jean Dujardin is probably too old for the part because he would have been perfect for Petit.   It’s hard to fault Levit too much because he is given a pretty corny bland character and the staging device of him telling the story, breaking the 4th wall, from the Statue of Liberty amplifies this cheese.

That’s not to say I hated the film.  I actually found it entertaining.  It’s just a little disappointing because it could have been great with a few tweaks.

Much of The Walk is spent with him training and assembling his “accomplices” for the big walk.  His girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) seems unrealistically supportive of this crazy scheme as do everyone else (I wish I had such an unabashedly cheering section for my crazy endeavors!).  Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy, a famous wire-walker,  is the only one who really challenges Petit and actually suggests he use a safety cord.

the walk10All of this is fine if a lot corny building up to the big walk.  And I have to say the last third when he is actually pulling off the illegal walk is incredibly compelling.  Cesar Domboy I thought was particularly good as Jeff, Petit’s accomplice who is afraid of heights of all things!

the walkZemeckis handles the special effects and the tension and the majesty of the actual walk perfectly.  I saw it in IMAX 3D and there were moments where I couldn’t help but gasp.  You feel the height and  when he keeps repeating the walk (4 times) it gets more tense and scary.  With the IMAX 3D it feels like you are there on that wire and it is almost like an amusement park ride (think Soarin California at Disneyland).   If you are motion sick or afraid of heights it may not be the movie for you because the walk goes on a long time but it worked the entire time for me.

Unfortunately some of the New Yorkers especially the cops are silly cliches with overdone accents but it isn’t a big deal.  The walk is compelling enough to ignore such details.

the walk8I’m not even a New Yorker but I have to say every time they showed The Twin Towers I cried.  There were a few scenes where Petit leans on the facade of the building and I was practically weeping.  I wasn’t expecting to have that response but just seeing the buildings again got to me.

I guess enjoyment of The Walk depends on how much you can tolerate a cornball movie. As I said, it is a bit frustrating because it could have been so much better but I still had a good time and enjoyed the film.  The walk itself is so well done and so compelling that it makes up for other flaws like the narration and some of the weak character development.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about with this film and perhaps it is an unfair criticism is-was it art or was it a stunt? Petit tries to sell it as art and that he is not a circus performer.  But people do brave stuff all the time like climbing Everest and we don’t call them artists.

I suppose with the Twin Towers symbolizing such a loss, I felt a little conflicted with a film trying to pass a stunt off as bravery and inspiration when much more brave things were done at those buildings. No movie is made about them (or no good one so far).

A side of me kind of wishes Petit had taken all that bravery and done something that actually matters.  I mean if you look at other inspirational stories like Imitation Game or Theory of Everything those were men who actually changed the world.  This could be thought of as a crazy stunt but it doesn’t really help anyone in their lives.

But I know that is being unfair.  Did Picasso help people with his art? Probably not but he certainly inspired people and helped them be more creative, which is a form of help.  So I guess it comes down to is Petit’s walk art or is it a stunt?  What do you think?

the walk5All that said, if you want to go to an experience at the movies than definitely see The Walk.  The special effects are astonishing and in the IMAX 3D it feels like you are walking as Petit walks.  The rest of the film is fine and certainly watchable if flawed.

As far as content there is a tiny bit of language but the main objectionable scene is when Petit strips down so that the accomplice on the tower can see him better to shoot the wire across to him.  It’s done in a way where not much is shown and it is relatively brief and humorous but it is there.

Overall Grade- C

My friend Matthew posted his review of both the book and movie you might find interesting.

Scrooge 6: Disney’s A Christmas Carol

A_Christmas_Carol 2009

Trailer:

 

Cast

  • Jim Carrey as:
    • Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Ghost of Christmas Past
    • Ghost of Christmas Present
    • Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
  • Gary Oldman as:
    • Bob Cratchit
    • Jacob Marley
    • Tiny Tim
    • Tim’s voice is provided by Ryan Ochoa.
  • Colin Firth as Fred
  • Bob Hoskins as:
    • Mr. Fezziwig
    • Old Joe
  • Robin Wright Penn as:
    • Belle
    • Fan Scrooge
  • Cary Elwes as:
    • Dick Wilkins.
    • Mad Fiddler
    • Businessman #1
    • Guest #2
    • Portly Gentleman #1

I already mentioned in my ‘Family Movies I Like that Others Do Not’ post that the Disney 2009 version of a Christmas Carol I really enjoy even though many others do not.  Hopefully here I can explain a little bit more thoroughly why it works for me even if it is not perfect.

Differences-

The biggest difference is this is the only stop motion animated version so it has the feel of an animated film with the realism of live action.  For what is basically a ghost story I think it works very well.

flyingI think shots like this are beautiful

flying2

I love the scenes where we are flying through London although some go on a bit too long (As I have said I have a weakness for characters flying in movies.  I almost always love it) .The colors are bright and the way it uses shadows and light is very beautiful.

Another big difference is this version tries to stay extremely close to the text.  There are passages such as the men joyfully shoveling snow off the rooftops that is almost never included but it is here.

snow shoveling

I also love in that same scene when they are flying past a steeple and cross we hear ‘hark the herald angels sing’ and Scrooge (in a direct quote from the book) justifies his lack of faith in Christ by asking the spirit about poor people on the sabbath day. (the same man who suggested workhouses and prisons is condemning the church for being closed on sabbath day! See he’s rationalized his lack of need for faith and Christ’s grace. It reminds me of how the Pharisee’s question Christ in the Bible)

““You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”

cross

I have never seen a version that includes this but it is crucial to understanding the message I believe Dickens meant behind the story that not just shutting out Christmas, but rationalizing away Christ made Scrooge cold.

sabbath

The Spirit says in response

““There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”

That is such an important moment in the story and almost never included.

Anyway, other differences is that 6 actors portray most of the characters Jim Carrey ( who plays Scrooge remarkably straight), Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes. All are very good in their differing roles. bellecratchit 2009fred 2009

Another difference is it sticks close to the book in its portrayal of Scrooge.  I went back and read the novella before starting the project and there is absolutely no attempt by Dickens to soften Scrooge or make him sarcastic.  I don’t mind when versions do this but it is not canon.  Listen to how Dickens describes Scrooge:

” Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

sinner scrooge

I mean the rooms get colder when he enters.  He is a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” (again making the religious fall a part of his bitterness and anger).  I actually think this version captures that Scrooge extremely well.

It is perhaps a more enjoyable movie when we think of it as telling a ghost story and less of a Christmas story.  They include Marley’s jaw coming off and ignorance and want is dark and quite scary.

marley teeth

Strengths- As I said the closeness to the book is a real strength.  I also like the performances and I know some hate the stop motion look but I think it is beautiful.  The music by Alan Silvestri is wonderful including the closing credits song by Andrea Boceli- God Bless Us Everyone.

I wish more people had seen it because I would have loved to see what Zemeckis could have done with other classic stories like Jane Eyre using this medium.

There are many moments which the film gets right that few do.

I love that it is Tiny Tim’s declaration of Christ that first moves Scrooge.  Nothing else has but as soon as he hears Bob talk of Tim he worries and begins to feel again.

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

"DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

A lot of versions skip over this line trying to appeal to those of all faith but it is a loss in my opinion because can a nice pleasant holiday really be enough to get someone to change?  No it is a higher religious conversion, a higher meaning to life and goodness, that  prompts Scrooge to repent his ways.

past 2009

I also like the way the appearance of all 3 spirits is very close to the descriptions in the book. This and the Muppets I believe come closest to the ethereal quality of Past.  He looks like a candle, which is creative.

The ending is good when Scrooge see’s his body on the bed and is desperate for some sense of feeling at this death.  Then we see the couple who is grateful the death gives them more time to pay back their loan (something often skipped) and then the Cratchit’s mourning the loss of Tim.

Weaknesses- Trying no doubt to appease modern viewers they do spend a bit too long in segments zipping through London.  Particularly at the end when they are chased by black horses carrying a hearse it goes on too long and gets old.  I typically fast forward that segment.

Also I don’t see why for the pawn shop scene Scrooge needs to be shrunken down with a high pitched voice.  Another ploy I suppose to appease modern viewers.

It can be pretty dark and scary for kids so it will depend on your child’s tolerance for those kinds of films.  The scene where Present dies is like no other version.  It is very scary but I think it is cool.  Like I said if you look at it as a ghost story (which it is)  like Corpse Bride or something like that than it is less upsetting. But it is the area where the movie takes chances.  It embraces Christmas Carol as the ‘scary ghost stories and tales of the glory of Christmases long, long ago’.

And I know for some who aren’t as in love with the book as I am the strict adherence may be a problem. They want a more nuanced, softer Scrooge than the book gives us.  It quotes a lot from the text and makes no attempt like in Muppets or other versions to explain things in a modern way.

So all in all, I know it isn’t perfect but I really like it.  It’s a definite part of my holiday viewing and I appreciate all the hard work which went into making it accurate, heart felt and visually captivating.  Others do not care for it but that’s their opinion and this is mine. 🙂