Thursday, September 09, 2004


Movies Review: Ladder 49.

I get lots of free passes to movies, because I rarely wear underwear, and when I do, it's often something unusual.

Last night I saw the upcoming firefighter flick Ladder 49, starring John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix, and grizzled character actor Robert Patrick acting the part of "Robert Patrick," grizzled character.

I don't have a ratings system yet, as I don't know which one suits me best. Stars? Numbers? Erections, like in Hustler Magazine? Until I get a system, to answer your most obvious question: Yes, John Travolta is one gargantuan slab of fatty, salty ham. Oh, and yeah, I guess the movie's okay.

Only okay, I say? Yeah, it's just okay. It's like the best firefighter movie of 1987. Something you'd catch on PAX, starring Parker Stevenson. It's filmed well, edited well, but has a cheesy score, cliche-filled script, no narrative thrust to speak of, and plenty of no-dimensional characters.

It's obvious that after 9/11, the studios wanted to greenlight a "hero firefighter" movie, but their market research undoubtedly said that emotions were too raw do World Trade Center film. Or, perhaps, by showing all those brave men march up those stairs to die, the studios worried about inciting the herd against poor defenseless Arab terrorists, and we couldn't have that, now could we?

Three years after Pearl Harbor we had Donald Duck fighting Hitler and Tojo. Three years after 9/11, the best we can get is a very special episode of Two and Half Men where Jon Cryer faces the painful stigma of Muslim profiling.

Oh, and this movie, Stock Firefighter Movie Number #49.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.

Everybody here is a hero, everybody here looks their part-- except John Travolta, who has better skin than any firefighter I've ever seen. It's got the obligatory dorky horseplay in the firehouse, which makes one fear it could bust into a gay porno at any moment. The only dramatic tension to be seen involves just how long it will take until Joaquin Phoenix has "The Argument" with his fearful wife, who repeatedly forgets she married an effin' firefighter.

Phoenix's wife is the best thing in the movie, however, which should tell you all you really need to know. She's played by Jacinda Barrett, who first showed up in MTV's Real World: London, which I think I watched once, while drunk on Peach Schnapps. Barrett is like a soft blend of Keri Russell and Keira Knightley, which under the Hustler scale equals a solid "¾ erect" rating.

Anyways, should you see it? It's entirely inoffensive. You see the ending coming before the opening credits are even over. It has a hot girl who doesn't get naked. You can see it with your parents.

Honoring our firefighters is something everyone can agree with, but Ladder 49 is to Backdraft as The Green Berets is to Platoon. It's all of the glory, not enough of the guts.

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