April 20, 2014

A double dose of Cera and Ledger’s last role

Youth In Revolt
Even people who aren’t familiar with Terry Gilliam’s surreal fantasies might be interested in checking out the director’s latest, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus,” as it marks the late Heath Ledger’s final film role. The 28-year-old actor was halfway through filming his part – he plays an amnesic London businessman caught up in an ancient battle between Satan (Tom Waits) and a storyteller (Christopher Plummer) – when he passed away in 2008. Because of the fluid nature of the imaginative screenplay, Gilliam was able to replace Ledger with frequent collaborators like Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell. Those who find Gilliam visually stimulating should be willing to ride along with “Parnassus,” while the uninitiated will leave more confused than when you entered.

“Youth in Revolt” is a little bit easier to figure out, though the hormonally-charged teen comedy has one ace hiding up its sleeve – it has a brain. Director Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl”) and screenwriter Gustin Nash lace intelligent pop-culture references in this strange little comedy about a meek and soft-spoken California teen (Michael Cera) who creates a tough-talking alternate personality (also played by Cera) to help him win the heart of an unattainable girl (Portia Doubleday). Capable character actors like Jean Smart, Ray Liotta and Steve Buscemi stop by for cameos, but Cera is the star, showing more range than expected and anchoring what can, at times, be pretty bizarre. But in the dumping ground of early January, “Youth in Revolt” is a pleasant distraction that should appeal to slacker of all generations.

The same can’t be said for Anand Tucker’s “Leap Year,” a formulaic romantic comedy that stars Amy Adams as a pushy Bostonian who jets to Dublin to propose to her cold-footed boyfriend (Adam Scott). The ever-sunny Adams has good chemistry with eventual love interest Matthew Goode, who plays the irascible pub owner tasked with transporting our heroine from Ireland’s rural sticks to the big city. But while the Irish countryside is postcard worthy, the “Leap Year” script is postcard thin.

Ratings:
“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” – **1/2 out of 4
“Youth in Revolt” – *** out of 4
“Leap Year” – ** out of 4

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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