Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Elm Street shuffle

Movie: Freddy Vs. Jason

Posted on Thu, Aug 14, 2003 at 4:00 AM

*1/2
Our Rating: 1.50

Believe it nor not, it's taken more than a decade for the onscreen rendezvous of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees to come about -- not because of any contractual snafus, but because Hollywood's scriptwriting geniuses couldn't figure out how to weld the two franchises without contradicting plot points already established in their 17 cumulative chapters.

Reality check: Anybody who's paid slavish attention to the minutiae of the crappy latter-day "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" flicks has abrogated his right to complain about any movie's credibility (or to vote or own property). All "Freddy vs. Jason" really needs to do is goose the take for assets that have individually fallen into irrelevance. There's a precedent for it: Look at "King Kong vs. Godzilla," or the Aerosmith/KISS tour. But what's on view here is usually less than the sum of its parts.

In an expository opening monologue (uh oh), our man Freddy (Robert Englund) reveals that he's a monster with a predicament: The children of Elm Street have all forgotten who he is and why he used to be a figure of dread in their neighborhood. And without their fear, he's unable to re-enter the world of the living and begin wreaking mayhem anew. The solution he hits on is to commandeer the sleeping Jason (Ken Kirzinger), sending him on a killing spree that will reintroduce those snot-nosed kids to the concept of terror.

After that boring verbal introduction, the film makes the secondary mistake of spending far too much time dwelling on its lackluster assemblage of potential victims. They're a coterie of hard-living kids, abominably played by a cast that includes one Jason Ritter -- son of John, but more of a poor man's Matt LeBlanc -- and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child. (Yes, appearing in this movie is the kind of hind teat you have to suck when it isn't your father running the band.) As they swap spit and inanities, the screen time that should rightfully be devoted to the twin villains dwindles. Even after Freddy is returned to semivigor, rarely do we get the crucial feeling of overkill; there's no sense that having these two roaming about simultaneously is bad news indeed for the innocent bystander. Instead, it's as if we're watching two typically crummy episodes of the various series, but with their reels cued up in alternating order.

What's missing is excess. Director Ronny Yu doesn't push the proceedings far enough into self-parody (as he did in the gloriously tacky "Bride of Chucky"). Freddy's one-liners are mostly uninspired, few of the killings display the needed creativity, and numerous forced-sex scenarios give the film a nasty edge that drains it of fun. Immediately following the screening, a young guy in front of us turned to his companions and gleefully proclaimed, "It sucked so bad it was good." Actually, it sucks so bad that it sucks.

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