Sunday, January 6, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Who's That Girl

Looking for a film vehicle for a popular music star coming off a disastrous film, 1986's Shanghai Surprise (Handmade, MGM, WB), in order to broaden her appeal, make her a movie star, and increase profits for you both? Well do what Disney has done for years, cannabalise. Just as the Walt Disney Company cannibalised the public domain of fairy tales and children's books for fun and profit, and then helped insure that copyright laws were extended in the US to protect their Mickey Mouse, the makers of Who's That Girl (1987, directed by James Foley, written by Andrew Smith and Ken Finkelman, produced by successful unsuccesful mega producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber) have decided to canibalise Hollywood itself, specifically the 1938 RKO screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (director, Howard Hawks, writers, Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde) in the hope that said film will make said pop celebrity star a film star, said studio will make lots of profits from said film, and said studio can cross market a soundtrack with lots of music by said pop star on its Sire label, the same record label said pop star records for. Welcome to the new Hollywood.

In Who's That Girl pop star Madonna plays the Katharine Hepburn role in Bringing Up Baby filtered through Madonna's faux bohemian dance club and faux Marilyn Monroe personas of the time (the excellent Desperately Seeking Susan also played off of the faux bohemian dance club Madonna) and a Rocky accent while Griffin Dunne plays the Cary Grant role complete with egghead spectacles and a cougar plays the role of Baby the leopard. Who's That Girl casts pop star Madonna as Nikki Finn a young woman who is framed for the murder of her boyfriend and who is released from a prison in Scarsdale as the film begins. Real villain, rich corporate type Simon Worthington, sends straight arrow and uptight corporate lawyer son-in-law to be Louden Trott (Dunne) to Scarsdale to put Nikki on a bus to Philadelphia. Picking up a Patagonian felis (played by a cougar) along the way Trott picks up Nikki and tries to put her on the bus but Nikki, who can no more be caged than Murry the Patagonian cat Trott thinks he has in a cage, wants to clear her name so it's off to Manhattan (played by Los Angeles) for Nikki and Trott and Murray.

Once in Manhattan all sorts of wackiness ensues, Who's That Girl is an attempt to recapture the magic a 1930s and 1940s's screwball comedy after all. The Mrs. Worthington owned Rolls Louden is driving is vandalised. Nikki gets a gun. Nikki and Trott threaten the pimp and the fatman with said gun to get the name of the bank and the number of the security box in that bank so Nikki can get the incriminating evidence that will clear her name and put the blame where it belongs. When Nikki learns that it was Worthington, the father of Trott's fiancée Wendy (Haviland Morris doing her best Shelley Long from Cheers impression) who Trott is going to wed out of scheduled duty, who is the baddest of bad guy who killed her boyfriend, Nikki commandeers a bus and, along the way, two cops who have been following her, and a gaggle of motorcycle policeman who seek to rescue a gaggle of kidnapped bridesmaids said pimp and fatman have taken to get the key to the bank box from Nikki and Trott. Nikki arrives just in the nick of time (pun intended) to make sure that justice is served--Worthington, the pimp, and the fat man are busted and the bridesmaids are freed by said cops--and that true love triumphs over scheduled duty. Trott recognises that the day he just had with Nikki was the best day of his life and that he really does love her. Off they go into the sunset. Love conquers all. Happy ending. Film over.

Who's That Girl was 94 minutes of pure agony. At one point I actually thought I couldn't make it through the entire film it was so bad. Truly wretched. Madonna is no Hepburn, Dunne is no Grant, Murray is no Baby, Foley is no Howard Hawks, and Smith and Finkelman are no Nichols and Wilde, not even close. They aren't even Barbra Steisand, Ryan O'Neal, Peter Bogdanovich, Buck Henry, Robert Benton, and David Newman who were in, who directed, and who wrote the earlier and much superior Bringing Up Baby remake 1972's excellent What's Up Doc. As with so much of the new Hollywood the old, Bringing Up Baby, is much better than the new, Who's That Girl, while the borrowed, the promo video with clips from Who's That Girl that promoted Madonna's next single, "Who's That Girl", running at less than 4 minutes, is so much better and so much shorter, thank god, than the film it borrowed its clips from and has an entirely different story and new characters. Even Madonna, perhaps, recognised how bad the film was. I give Who's That Girl a generous one star just for showing up. By the way, Who's That Girl only made $7.3 million dollars for its investors showing that cannibalism apparently doesn't always work in the new Hollywood.

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