Rental Corner: “Iron Man 2” saves while “Stuart” is somewhat serious
To start things off, Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. There is not other actor that can portray a Marvel character that has to go through the troubles and obstacles of being a true hero. While the first feature setup his heroic ego coming to play, “Iron Man 2” digs deeper as he comes full circle from being a typical playboy with a metal suit to a savior with a metal suit. This time, he does more than face another villain with plans to overcome him, but has to deal with the government, competition, and the inner struggle.
That is the clever thing about this follow-up. Instead of another typical superhero sequel, it plays off with Tony Stark going against certain elements that fuel his actions. First is Ivan Vanko (Micky Rouke), a Russian physicist that is out for vengeance as he creates his own suit, which features a set of electronic whips. On paper is sounds silly, but in terms of how it’s executed it really impressing as they make a simple idea like that look dangerous and not something to snicker with. Ivan is basically the “Captain Ahab” of the feature as all he wants is to seek the destruction of Tony and his legacy and nothing more.
If that wasn’t enough, a rival weapons manufacturer (Sam Rockwell) sees an opportunity in hiring on Ivan and plans to compete with Tony’s “un-shared weapon” by creating a defense project of robotic suits that match Iron Man’s ability. I find this strange considering how “clueless” Sam’s character is on how he doesn’t understand Ivan’s true ambition of “vengeance” and most of their scenes are basically just building filler to an epic climax.
Aside from that, Tony faces an even bigger foe as he goes against himself and how he is treating his entire life. For the first film, there was hint that he knew about changing his ways, but here everything gets analyzed and presented as he tries to find out if he’s following his father’s footsteps of being the next “Einstein” or choosing what he feels is for the best. Don Cheadle is also along for the ride (replacing Terrence Howard’s performance as Lt. Colonel Rhodes) and acts as the “conscious” to Tony as he not only gets him out of every situation he’s placed in, but tries to reason with his actions.
Overall, “Iron Man 2” is a perfect follow-up and take things to the next level. While at times, it does feel like similar themes from the first film are being placed in, they do expand more on his character and the responsibilities he has to take up. At times, some scenes play as filler or even go on a bit too long, but still it’s a sequel that’s worthy of checking out.
Now, when I heard there was a movie called “Stuart Saves His Family,” I dismissed it as a science-fiction, B-movie and didn’t progress any further. The poster art for the DVD cover had the main character himself holding up a giant boulder with the film’s title, almost similar to the spaghetti planet logo for “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” But later, I would never realize it was just another way for Saturday Night Live to create another sketch-based film and the underrated quality truly shows.
The original sketches centered on Stuart Smalley, a self-help guru portrayed by Al Franken that has his own public access show and would attempt to help those in trouble. Interestingly enough, Al himself was clever enough to “do his homework” with learing about these “self-help” programs and even going through a 12 step program himself. The movie, however, is a different turn when Stuart gets his show canceled and has to deal with the most dysfunctional family you’ll ever see since The Simpsons.
His family is a complete mess that ranges from an alcoholic father, a stressed mother, a sister that feels hopeless, and a brother that is so consumed in drugs and lazy activities to the point where his self-esteem is low. Throughout the flick, we understand the character of Stuart himself is depressing, even when he is optimistic of the worst. While resourceful and well-meaning, the life he has is just sad but quite funny to watch. We can relate to the insanity he has to deal with and how nuts our family can be at times. For this reason, I think that’s what makes the enjoyment work. Your not looking at a character and his sad life, but a reflection of yours or what could be.
Still, the feature doesn’t spend time being straight-up serious and offers a good variety of laughs. The biggest highlights are when we flashback to his childhood and find the source of what made his times as a kid such shambles. But then, things take a different tone as it ends with an “intervention” as the entire family goes to group counseling. It’s interesting how a comedy goes from a hardy set of laughs to such serious subject matter and I applaud it for this choice. Still, this is a movie that doesn’t take things too seriously and very straight forward at times. The comedy works because it’s not cartoony or slapstick-ish. It relates to the realistic tone it’s using, which sets it apart from most of SNL’s adaptations.
The result is an ending that is sad but yet happy at the same time. Stuart doesn’t save his family, but at least it concludes on a hopeful note that he tried and things will slowly change. It’s not one’s right to be told of what to change and that’s their decision to do so or not. Again, I applaud “Stuart” for this. It doesn’t sugar coat itself and say things can happen like a fairy tale where people resolve their ways in a second. It’s a slow process for those that know the hardships they must endure in order to overcome the choice of changing their ways or just remain being who they are. And that’s a rare thing to find in films like this one these days.
As a result, we get a movie that is smart, doesn’t hold back what it’s getting across, and proves to entertaining while the moral is well-managed. While the film itself is hard to find, it’s worth a view no matter where you can find it.