June 19, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 30 September 2010 11:08
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch with their children. This week’s pick is a new film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.Our daily lives have changed since the late 1980s. Portable phones are more compact, as are vehicles, computers and some financial aspirations.
Looking back, that period of prosperity — which some would label as self-indulgent — seems as distant as many a historical period. It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, that people could be so casual about fundamentals. We are sobered from the last two years.
In 1987, Oliver Stone offered a valentine to the decade in his highly entertaining Wall Street with its over-the-top hero of Gordon Gekko, a fictional illustration of the greed that many recall about the times. Watching that film now is a return to a distant era when ambition ruled and most everything else was dispensable. We have, as a country, learned many lessons in the years since.
So it’s only appropriate — with our recent insights into real life — for Stone to return to the world of high finance in the much anticipated follow up film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Unfortunately, the director can’t seem to decide what movie to make. Is it a character study, classroom lesson or entertainment? So he tosses in a bit of ego, a pinch of humanity, and a heavy dose of morality into this sequel. But the movie emerges a mixed bag of moments, some that crackle, others that fall flat, in an overlong film that never delivers what the advertisements promise.
After serving a prison sentence for insider trading, Wall Street icon Gekko returns to the real world as the film begins to promote his memoirs (titled, appropriately, Is Greed Good, after his famous line), hit the speaking circuit, try to reunite with his daughter and figure out a way to return to his former glory. An old nemesis (Josh Brolin) and a brash newcomer (Shia LaBeouf) initially dismiss the older man as a relic from the past. But Gekko still has a few cards to play.
As long as Michael Douglas is on screen, the film sizzles. Douglas is, no surprise, pitch-perfect as Gekko, although we have seen this performance many times before, most notably this year in Solitary Man. But if he doesn’t surprise he also doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, Stone, with too many subplots, keeps the star offscreen for the first 20 minutes of the film and during other long stretches. Susan Sarandon is wasted in an unnecessary role that should have been deleted, Shia LaBeouf looks about 12 years old and Carey Mulligan is precious but one dimensional. Only Josh Brolin, who can do just about anything on film, matches Douglas’ intensity. If only Stone had focused on these two characters, Money Never Sleeps could have been a lot of fun.
Like the original, Money Never Sleeps tries to be irresistible movie junk food with beautiful photography (Manhattan is breathtaking), lavish costumes and sets and broad performances. But our tastes have changed over the years and Stone is a chef with too many pans on the burners. He overheats the plot, undercooks the fun and takes himself and the film too seriously. Stone can’t decide if he wants to have a good time at the movies or lead a philosophical discussion. The director tries to teach a lesson on economic doom, inspire us to be better people and entertain at the same time. But the whole thing never quite comes together.
This time around, the moral is, if the advertisements for a film look too good then the best scenes are probably in the advertisements.
Film Nutritional Value:
Wall Street: Money never Sleeps
* Content: Medium. The backstory, at the start of the film, is too detailed and goes on too long. Stone overfills the film with too many issues, characters and messages.
* Entertainment: Medium. As long as Michael Douglas is on screen, the film works. He has a grand time. But the actor and the character are too big to be relegated to supporting role status.
* Message: Medium. For many of us, we don’t need to be reminded that the past two years have been financially challenging. And we certainly don’t need Stone to tell us what it all means.
* Relevance: Medium. As an entertainment, it under delivers; as a history lesson, it confuses; as a morality tale, it is over cooked.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. Even though it carries a PG-13 rating, it’s really not a film for children. They may be confused by the story and not that connected to the characters.
(Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is rated PG-13. It runs 133 minutes.)
3 Popcorn Buckets
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