Sunday, November 21, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #13, Constellation

After an opening flashback that is so schmaltzy that my laptop veritably oozed, the main character of Constellation -- played by none other than Billy Dee Williams -- walks through an airport concourse. He's finally back home in Alabama after having been away for a long time, drawn because of the death of his sister. He goes towards baggage claim, passing the Starbucks and gates that you'd see in an airport, teeming with passengers. And, as he passes these lines of people, some of the extras turn and stare at the camera. It was at this point that I got a big grin on my face and knew that I was in for something special.

Constellation, recipient of the rare Rotten Tomatoes "Blutarsky" (0%), is perfectly bad. The rare good moment is so incongruent in this film that it, itself, seems bad. The movie follows a family coming together for said funeral. The sister who passed had a long-kept secret; she had a love affair with a white man in the 1940s and paid the price for it. To be fair, I couldn't tell if the rednecks raped her, just beat her up, or merely cracked their knuckles, because nobody ever discussed what happened and she didn't seem to be bruised at all after the event. Just sad. So, so very sad. This sadness is apparent in the constant voice-over narration in the movie from the young version of the sister, played by Gabrielle Union, who was apparently going for some sort of Best Overactor award. When the family comes together -- along with a whole heck of a lot of random white love interests who nobody seems to say anything about even though they are afraid to speak of the dearly departed's one-time affair -- they hash out old problems between them. Lucky for them, none of them actually have even the slightest modicum of animosity towards each other, so the tension is extraordinarily low for a drama movie. Wonderful for the bereaved, but incredibly boring for us.

They all have names that are supposed to be folksy, but nobody actually has in real life, and the director gives us a great treat each time they meet each other. While the script is so cheesy that I couldn't eat meat while I was watching the movie, there is a smattering of ad-libbed scenes as the characters eat meals or have drinks. Chemistry between actors can be a powerful boon -- look at Swingers or Terriers -- but there is no chemistry here. They either talk over each other or wait way too long to make sure the other isn't still going to speak. One of the best laugh-out-loud moments of the movie happens during one of these ad-libs. The movie is rated PG13 and the director seemed to be shooting for that, given the violence that seemed to be cut from on-screen, but not explained. PG13 only allows for one "f-word" in the entire movie and that one occurrence comes in a big dramatic spot. So, later when one of the actors is ad-libbing and drops the "f-bomb," the audio cuts out. Better to not waste money on another take!

The music sounds like it came from someone's keyboard, and not someone horribly skilled at writing music. This music is used for background in one of the many, many, many scenes where characters stare at each other or just into space, thinking about how they can fix their lives. I assume that's what they're thinking since, again, there's little exposition as to what they learned from staring into space and what resolution there is in the end doesn't make much sense with the rest of the movie.

Billy Dee Williams is at his I-just-don't-give-a-crap best as he does the Billy Dee Williams chuckle and then stares into space. There are other actors that I recognized, but I won't embarrass them here. I will point out that Zoe Saldana acts circles around the rest of the cast. She came into her own last year with a good performance in Star Trek and a great -- and very underrated -- one in Avatar. She's so good in this movie that it makes you wonder if it could be only half-bad if everyone else was up to par with her. Unfortunately, because she is so much better than everyone else, it actually makes her parts not work at all because she doesn't fit with the rest of the garbage performances put up.

This, the review for the sixty-second film I've seen on this list, is one of the longest I've written yet and there is so much to love/hate about this movie that I could keep going. Like many funny-bad movies, the awfulness ends up taking over so any humor wears off. By the end, most of the things I had laughed at in the beginning became merely boring. Still, the humor that I found here was not only rich, but because I had never heard of this movie it was a surprise, which goes a long way. I like laughing at bad movies, and overwrought writing, bad acting, and poor direction? It works every time.

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