Monday, July 17, 2023

Movie Review: Mission Impossibly Dumb

"Uh oh," I said to my wife yesterday when I saw the news. "The Silverspot Cinema is closing in a few days. Don't we have gift cards to that theater?"

She checked and, sure enough, we did — $50 worth. We received them years ago. We rarely go to the movies because there aren’t many movies we want to see. The last was in April — Super Mario Brothers — with our grandsons. Last summer we saw Elvis, which wasn’t half bad. In 2019, we took the boys to Toy Story 4. And in 2017, we saw Dunkirk. The dialogue was unintelligible because the fighter pilot main characters talked through their oxygen masks which, in combination with the whir of airplane engines, made it impossible to understand what they were saying. “Mersch Elba faux schmaltz,” one RAF pilot shouted to his colleague to (I think) warn him he was being tailed by a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt. “Gobblegook caca,” his fellow pilot replied as his stricken Spitfire spiraled toward the sea.

We went online to see what was playing at the Silverspot, one of those fancy multiplexes where the leather chairs recline and customers can purchase booze and food and have them delivered to their seats. Today's high-concept theaters are a far cry from the Liberty Theater in Mexico, Mo., from which I was unfairly ejected at age 14 in 1966 because my friend Harper, who was seated next to me, yelled, “I asked what your name was, not what you have” when James Bond (Sean Connery) asked Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to identify herself. 

Our options yesterday were:

  • The Sound of Freedom, a movie about child-trafficking. Twitter ads keep informing me the pedophiles and Christian haters who run Hollywood don’t want me to see it. If the pedophiles and Christian haters in La-La Land don’t want me to see it, who am I to go against their wishes?  Besides, I don’t want to pay money (or, in this case, use gift cards) to walk out of the theater depressed. If I want to be depressed, I’ll watch youtube videos of the leader of the free world trying to find his way off-stage, falling, misspeaking and sniffing children’s hair.

  • The Little Mermaid, a woke remake of the Disney animated classic we took our children to see in the early 90s. No, thanks.

  • Insidious: The Red Door, which the review described as, “Josh Lambert heads east to drop his son, Dalton, off at school. However, Dalton's college dream soon becomes a living nightmare when the repressed demons of his past suddenly return to haunt them both.” Uh, no. 

  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth and supposedly final episode in a series of movies starring Harrison Ford as the title character. Friends were laughing about how awful it is and how ridiculous an 80-year-old Ford — rather, his body double — looks leaping between train cars. I’d as soon have a colonoscopy as sit through that — at least you get knocked out for the procedure.

  • Joy Ride: “When Audrey's business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the help of Lolo, her childhood best friend, Kat, a college friend, and Deadeye, Lolo's eccentric cousin. Their epic, no-holds-barred experience becomes a journey of bonding, friendship, belonging and wild debauchery.” I think not.

  • Elemental, a Disney/Pixar flick described as “a modern yet fantastical odyssey of romance and self-realization clashing with the weight of ethnic and generational expectations. A colorful and cultural onslaught of imagination, relatability and sentiment, tailored by two endearing leads with irresistible chemistry.” I’m not going to invest two hours of my dwindling lifespan if someone can’t explain WTF a movie is about. 

  • No Hard Feelings, starring Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t get Jennifer Lawrence’s appeal. She was good in her first movie, Winter’s Bone, in which she played a girl trying to track down her methhead father. Nothing she’s made since is for people my age. 

  • Transformers: Rise of the Beast: Didn’t bother looking up the reviews for a movie based on toys Santa brought my kids thirty-some years ago.

That left us a choice of one movie, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part One, starring Tom Cruise. 

The seven MI movies (to date) are based on a Man From U.N.C.L.E knock-off TV show from the mid-sixties about a secret agent. The original starred Peter Graves and Barbara Bain. The MI TV show is best remembered for two things: 1) Every episode began with Graves listening to a recorded message explaining what he was expected to do — his “mission” that always seemed “impossible" — which inexplicably vaporized after five seconds, and 2) its catchy theme song. 

We jumped in the car and rushed to the theater and were lucky enough to find a parking spot a few feet from the entrance, giving us just enough time to spend our gift card plus $20 of our own money on two senior tickets and two gigantic tumblers of Pinot Grigio, each of which held half a bottle of wine — the bartender was filling every glass to the brim because all that booze needed to be used up before the theater shuts down for good, and he was obviously hoping for a big tip, which he duly received.

The theater was nearly full.  We had to sit on the front row. Moments after we arrived, the lights dimmed and the movie began. 

The opening scene: The crew of a Russian sub detects on radar something that appears to be an American sub that is about to attack. The Russikies fire torpedoes in self-defense, and to their astonishment, the other sub disappears. Unfortunately for them, the torpedoes they fired do a 180 and blow their own sub to smithereens. 

Cut to a Botoxed Cruise, now in his sixties, who, amazingly, has a full head of hair without a single strand of gray. He is listening to a detailed message instructing him to find a high-tech key that empowers anyone or any government who has it to create havoc then disappear. The message, of course, vaporizes after five seconds. While it was possible to believe in the 1960s that Graves could remember instructions, it’s totally implausible in today’s attention-addled technology-dependent society in which nobody has the ability to remember anything unless it is entered as a reminder in their iPhones. 

Cruise spends the better part of the next two hours chasing after, or fleeing from, the bad guys, and interacting strangely with two female leads who aren’t nearly as pretty as the 1968 Homecoming Court of North Callaway High School in Kingdom City, Mo. Whatever happened to gorgeous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Christie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kim Basinger? The short answer: Kow-towing to ugly women and their supporters who claimed that glamorous women were objectionable and nothing more than sex objects, Hollywood today features interchangeable female stars of average looks and unidentifiable ethnicities.

There is no kissing, no sex, no nothing between Cruise and the females. I assume the lack of PDA is to ensure the movie will play in places like India and the Middle East, where such things can get movies banned.

From my vantage point on the front row, watching a movie in which the aging male stars — there are no young ones, which would make Cruise look older than he already is — are shot from below the chin to hide their sagging jowls, the most “impossible” thing about Mission Impossible, Part 7-1, is that none of them have a single hair protruding from their nostrils. Somehow, despite chasing each other around the world 24/7, these guys have found time to use their Wahl Nasal Hair and Eyebrow Trimmers that leave their nostrils as hair-free as a baby’s behind.

Most of the movie is one action-packed scene after another,  including a hot pursuit through a futuristic airport and a car chase in a yellow Fiat through Rome that passes the Colosseum and Spanish Steps. The finale takes place aboard the Orient Express as it wends its way through Austria. Predictably, Cruise chases a bad guy (or does the bad guy chase him? After half a bottle of Pinot Grigio, I wasn’t sure) atop the speeding train, ducking split-seconds before the train enters tunnels. This will seem original only to anyone who has spent the last eighty years in solitary confinement — and certainly not to anyone who saw the latest Indiana Jones movie. 

In the final scene, Cruise and one (or both, I was completely inebriated by that point) of his female stars wind up in a train dangling from a bridge that has just been blown up. The cars fall, one by one, into the abyss, and finally, Cruise parachutes to safety. The movie concludes by reminding viewers to be sure to come see Part Two.

And I will, but only if I have a gift card I have to use that day.