‘Deception’ full of twists - The Explorer: El Sol

‘Deception’ full of twists

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:04 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

R for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use. 108 min. One and a half stars out of four.

One of the producers says in the production notes that he considers “Deception” as “something of a throwback to an earlier era of filmmaking.”

He must be referring to the 1980s, because this feels like the kind of slick, mindless thriller Adrian Lyne used to make — for better and for worse. For a while, it has the guilty-pleasure allure of a “9 1/2 Weeks” or a “Fatal Attraction,” and it certainly resembles the British director’s aesthetic with its good-looking characters, urban setting and cool, steely grays and blues.

Eventually, though, it collapses into such a ridiculous pile of plot twists and double crosses, there’s nothing pleasurable about it — guilty or otherwise.

The director, for the record, is first-timer Marcel Langenegger, who’s working from a script by Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”). Together they’ve come up with one of those movies in which supposedly smart people do incredibly stupid things, and all you can do is stare at the screen and shake your head in disbelief. Ewan McGregor puts on a hammy New York accent to star as a lonely, naive accountant whose life consists of working late nights. Hugh Jackman is all charisma and expensive suits as the lawyer who introduces him to a secret executive sex club. And Michelle Williams, glammed up to look like Gwyneth Paltrow, plays the femme fatale caught in the middle of a deadly scheme.

BABY MAMA

PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference. 98 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

Tina Fey didn’t write this pregnancy comedy, though you’d be forgiven for walking into it and assuming she did. After all, her face appears prominently on the movie’s ubiquitous posters, alongside that of co-star and former “Saturday Night Live” cast mate Amy Poehler.

The script actually comes from first-time director Michael McCullers, who previously wrote the second and third “Austin Powers” movies, but it could have used more of the mean girl. Mommy culture, with its capacity for smugness and solipsism, seems like a ripe topic for parody, but “Baby Mama” approaches it with kid gloves. The movie certainly has its zingers here and there, and enough laughs scattered throughout to keep it bopping along in entertaining fashion — that is, until its ooey-gooey conclusion in which every conflict works out way too neatly.

The most memorable moments, though, come from supporting players such as Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver, despite the comic talents of its exceedingly capable stars. Fey plays Kate Holbrook, the control-freak vice president of an organic grocery store chain who finds herself in the position so many women do: Single at 37, after years of focusing on her career, she realizes she’s desperate to have a baby. But when her gynecologist informs her that conception would be nearly impossible for her (“I just don’t like your uterus,” he says), she turns to Poehler’s Angie Ostrowiski, an immature, junk food-eating, Red Bull-guzzling surrogate. Odd-couple high jinks ensue.

HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY

R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use. 102 min. Two stars out of four.

The poster is the best thing about this sequel, depicting the brainy pot heads in orange prison jumpsuits staring in disbelief from behind a wire-mesh fence.

That one still image captures all the inherent humor of two wily-as-Bugs-Bunny guys who are about to bust out of the U.S. military’s main boarding house for terrorism suspects. Actually seeing them in motion is mostly an anticlimactic affair as the sequel follows the fitfully funny, fitfully too-stupid-to-live pattern of 2004’s “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”

That first movie fizzled in its theatrical release but found an audience on DVD, leading to Chapter 2 in the adventures of best buds Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn). The sequel has them consigned to Gitmo after an airline marijuana mishap is confused with a terrorist attack. Their escape features encounters with partying Klansmen, President Bush and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris as the “How I Met Your Mother” star reprises his bit as a randy, doped-up version of himself. But filmmakers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg mostly repeat themselves, and you end up wishing for something more consistently smart and amusing for the bright, lovable Harold and Kumar.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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