Monday, February 13, 2006

Save the inner children, Harrison Ford

Based on the commercials and trailers, I knew Firewall was going to be terrible. And in case you were wondering, let me ease your doubts: It's a flaming turdball of a movie.

Ford snoozes through the whole thing, even when he's making that quivering "I'm just a normal guy who's suddenly going through some crazy shit" face he uses in all of his movies now. And Virginia "My Oscar nomination got me this?" Madsen might as well have filmed a Swiffer commercial. (Apparently, she just really wanted to make out with Harrison Ford, but she barely gets to do that. What a disappointment.)

Most of the characters might as well have neon letters reading "plot device" above their heads. One guy's role in the plot is so obvious, he should've had it written on his t-shirt. And the story goes from utterly predictable to flat-out stupid by the end. One villain's demise could've been the end of a "Toonces, the Driving Cat" skit. I'm sure it was supposed to be dramatic, but it was hilarious. That should actually be a tagline on posters for the movie. (If producers want to take it for a blurb, feel free.)

Firewall was actually worse than I thought it would be, even with the entertainment value of unintentional laughs. $6.75 straight down the toilet. Yet I still wanted to see it. I blame my lack of judgment on an inner struggle. There's a conflict between Little Kid Ian and Presumably Adult Ian. Little Kid Ian still thinks of Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Presumably Adult Ian admires Ford for playing Rick Deckard (a role he inexplicably disassociates himself from) and Richard Kimble in two of his all-time favorite movies, but looks at the man's recent resume and winces.

Ford really lost me when I read that he turned down Michael Douglas' role in Traffic because the producers wouldn't meet his price. Think about how great he would've been as that judge. Hell, it fits right in with the if-you-mess-with-my-family-I'll-kick-your-ass oeurve that Ford's carved out for himself (as astutely noted by Best Week Ever.) But rather than challenge himself with a smaller part in a meaningful film, Ford instead followed the money and stretched as an actor by adopting a terrible Russian accent for a starring role in K-19: The Widowmaker (or as I called it at the time, 2:18 - The Sleepmaker).

But maybe I'm being a little too hard on Ford. He's tried to challenge himself. He played a bad guy in What Lies Beneath (hope I didn't ruin that one for you), and that was a pretty good movie (or 1/2 to 3/4 of a good one). And his last movie was a comedy. Or at least it was supposed to be. Raise your hand if you saw Hollywood Homicide. Actually, I did. At the theater. And I've been questioning my taste in movies ever since. Jesus, that was a bad one. I should've learned my lesson back then.

Or maybe I'm just worried that Ford's getting too old to play these kinds of roles. I was kind of scared for the guy when he was rolling around and trading punches with Paul Bettany. But it doesn't seem like he's ready to give up on them any time soon. So the aspiring screenwriter in me has come up with a couple of ideas. It's my way of keeping my hero, Han Solo, in the movie business without fracturing his ribs.

Okay, we know that Ford likes to play guys who have to fight their way out of dangerous situations in order to find something that's been taken away, preferably a family. So what if we cast Ford as a coffee shop barista? He can make that patented face while trying to keep up with a line or interpreting someone's half-caf, short, non-fat, dry vanilla cappucino with an extra shot.

The danger could come from almost burning his hand with the milk steamer. Or getting varicose veins from standing up too long while being trapped behind the counter. Maybe he's a bit too old to sling coffees, but he likes playing below his age. But if we keep him older, we could make him a bit senile. Then he could spout out lines like "What's going on? Why won't you let me go? Where's my family?" And his supervisor could respond with, "Dude, your shift is four hours. You have to work until 2 o'clock." Except what if he's just posing as a supervisor, and really wants to rob the cafe?

But that lacks something, doesn't it? Ford likes those memorable lines, like "Get off my plane!" or "You'll get your money when I get my family!" that he can spit out at the bad guys. What if a customer wasn't paying him? Then he could snarl a good "You'll get your latte when I get my money!" Or what if his co-workers hid his time card so he couldn't punch out for break? He could grab one of them by the lapels and hiss "Give me back my time card!" through his teeth. If you really wanted the crowd to cheer, you could have him throw scalding coffee in the supervisor/robber's face, and then punch him while saying something memorable like, "Here's your drink - with an extra shot!"

Or if you really want action, how about a time travel story in which 1980s Harrison Ford confronts 2000s Harrison Ford? They could roll around and punch each other, while 1980s Ford spits out, "Where's your integrity? Give me my career back!" and 2000s Ford sputters, "I don't do this for free! Get off my paycheck!"

Okay, the screenwriting needs some work. I'll get to that when I'm done with this. Here's what really gets me: Presumably Adult Ian likes remembering what it was like to be Little Kid Ian. (For one thing, he didn't refer to himself in the third person.) I used to think Harrison Ford was the coolest guy on the planet. If there was such a term as "man-crush" back then, I would've had one. But now I see his movies and wonder what the hell he's thinking. (Actually, I know what he's thinking because I can see the dollar signs in his eyes when the light catches them just right.)

One of the prevailing themes of adulthood for me has been disenchantment with adults I once looked up to. Maybe that's just part of growing up. But I don't want to think about that stuff when I go to the movies. Yet I do when I see a Harrison Ford movie nowadays. And that makes Little Kid Ian curl up into a ball.

Save the inner children, Harrison Ford. Start making good movies again. Or at least stop trying to be midlife crisis action hero. You were cool once. You can be cool again.

But don't even get me started on that Dr. Seuss thing he did before the Super Bowl. What the hell was that? Man, I've written enough today already...