December 30th, 2008

THE SPIRIT (2008) ** ½

You’ve heard of movies that include everything but the kitchen sink?  The Spirit actually HAS the kitchen sink in it.  It makes its appearance about five minutes into the film’s running time.  The scene:  Our hero Denny Colt/The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is battling his arch nemesis The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) in a swamp.  The Spirit grabs said appliance and uses it to smack The Octopus upside the head.  This is just shortly after The Octopus conked The Spirit on the noggin with a toilet. 


Yes folks, these guys are fighting in a swamp, yet there is a shocking abundance of household fixtures just sitting there waiting to be used as weapons. 


The kitchen sink is the least of your worries though.  During the film, we also get to see a shrunken human head grafted onto a hopping foot, a sword wielding belly dancer/assassin named “Plaster of Paris”, and a melting cat.  The weirdest part about the movie though is Samuel L. Jackson’s wardrobe.  Throughout the film he dresses up in such bizarre get-ups as a samurai, a mad scientist, and a Nazi.  The reason for his constant costume changes is never given.  Spenser’s Gifts must’ve had one Hell of a post-Halloween sale I suppose.


To call The Spirit “over the top” is an understatement.  The term “over the top” doesn’t even begin to describe the movie.  I mean when the first fight scene in the film has your hero beating the snot out of his enemy with the kitchen sink in the middle of a goddamned swamp, you’ve already far exceeded the top to begin with.


Macht plays The Spirit with an easy blend of confident suaveness and knowing camp.  The fact that we never really learn anything ABOUT The Spirit (except the fact that he’s immortal, is a chronic womanizer, and used to have a girlfriend when he was a teenager) is irrelevant.  He’s our hero and he wears a Lone Ranger mask and a tie and beats the snot out of people.  End of story.  Jackson is equally fun.  He basically plays himself, except he wears a lot of funny outfits.  The female cast members are all hot.  We get Eva Mendes (who shows off her butt), Jaime King (as “Death”) and the scrumptious looking Scarlett Johansson.  I missed a lot of the plot of the movie thanks largely because I was starring at Scarlett’s massive cleavage. 


The Spirit was created by comics legend Will Eisner and has been adapted by another legend, Frank Miller.  Eisner and Miller’s approaches are as different as night and day.  While Eisner’s original character was always more or less like a supernatural version of Dick Tracy, Miller makes him more of a refugee from Sin City.  Consequently, most of the movie’s problems stem from Miller putting the character into a mold in which he doesn’t quite fit. 


Unlike Sin City, The Spirit is all style and no substance.  I know that this is a comic book movie and everything but there are comic books and there are cartoons.  The Spirit mostly just seems like one big Bugs Bunny cartoon.  During the fight scenes between The Spirit and The Octopus, you half expect them to start shouting, “Duck Season!” and “Rabbit Season!” in between their punches. 


Since both characters are immortal and can’t feel pain, there is absolutely no suspense, depth, or emotion to any of this.  In the end, what we are left with is a lot of film noir-ish posturing, clumsy hard-boiled dialogue, and a bunch or random weirdness-for-weirdness-sake shenanigans.  I will give this to old Frank though; the flick is never boring and is always fun to look at (especially any scene involving Johannson’s cleavage or Mendes’ butt).


Macht gets the best line of the movie when he tells Jackson, “I’m going to kill you all kinds of dead!”