April 10, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Real Steel

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Real Steel

Today's movie: Real Steel, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I heard unusually good things about this B-pic family actioner when it first came out, which combined with star Hugh Jackman and its Transformers-like special effects was just barely enough to convince me to add it to my Netflix queue.

The reality: Well, before anything else, let's just make it clear that Real Steel is a movie that only thirteen-year-old boys (and their middle-aged slacker fathers) can love, and that its corny jokes, overly empowered tween hero, and obsession with fighting as the answer to all the world's problems will quickly have your teeth grating if you're anyone besides the two demographics just described. But that said, for a film expressly designed for teen boys, it's an unusually good one, mostly because journeyman director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper By the Dozen) and newbie writer John Gatins seem to get the mix almost exactly right -- it's not exactly a violent movie but does have its well-earned violent moments, not exactly dumbed down but no Where The Wild Things Are "kiddie art film" either, with adults who are chastised for cursing in front of kids but with kids who regularly curse anyway when the adults aren't around, all driven by a smart but not brilliant script that is very cleverly premised (but never outright stated) on what a quickly accelerating downward spiral America has gotten itself into just a mere twenty years or so from now. (The idea is that around our own time, robots were invented that could serve as sparring partners for human boxers, but that by twenty years later the robots now just battle each other and with all the humans out of a job, the official bouts taking place at glittering corporate-logo-plastered sports arenas but with the real action taking place among illegal street fights set in an endless series of abandoned factories, closed-down amusement parks, crumbling state fairs, and a hundred other sly references to a United States that is rapidly becoming a burnt-out hull fueled solely now on mindless entertainment and never-ending nostalgia for the "good ol' days.") Granted, that's a detail just for the grown-ups who are paying attention, with your kids being too busy playing Wii Boxing in front of the screen in sync with our shadow-sparring heroes; but my point is that Real Steel is at least a movie that takes the grown-ups in the audience into consideration, the kind of film you won't exactly be proud of taking your kids to see but at least won't make you ashamed of humanity and wanting to take a hot cleansing shower afterwards, like it seems I feel anytime I see even a commercial anymore for a Michael Bay movie. It comes recommended for that specific situation, although I do not suggest adults simply watching this by themselves.

Strangest piece of trivia: All the fight scenes were supervised by Sugar Ray Leonard.

Worth your time? Yes, if you're a parent of a tween boy

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:09 PM, April 10, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |