By G. Michael Dobbs
There is one film to watch and one to avoid in this week's DVD review column.
It had to happen. A writer and director such as Kevin Smith who has had complete control over his films sooner or later had to take a "director for hire" assignment and "Cop Out" is his first.
The good news is that is a fair amount of fun and quite funny at times. The bad news is it's not a Kevin Smith film.
For those of you in the dark, Smith had made quite a cottage industry out of making highly personal comedies that largely center on a group of New Jersey working class Joes. His signature characters are the idiot savants and drug dealers Jay and Silent Bob, the latter played by Smith himself.
While Smith's films haven't been theatrical blockbusters "Clerks," "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," etc. they have had a huge life on DVD and have built a loyal fan base.
Smith's films are generally rude, profane and sometimes shocking. They also have heart and soul and his film "Dogma" may be a religious comedy with flatulence jokes but it's actually quite a serious look at the Christian faith.
He closed out his New Jersey characters with "Clerks 2," and then made the very funny film "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." It was supposed to be a big theatrical hit, but instead made about the same money as his other films. So, I suppose the time was ripe for Smith to try his hand as a hired gun and he did just fine.
"Cop Out" tells the improbable tale of two New York police detectives played by Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. After the two bungle a drug arrest, they are suspended without pay, something that worries Willis, as he has to pay for his daughter's wedding.
Willis is forced to sell a valuable baseball card he has had since childhood, but a routine trip to a sports card dealer goes bad when a random robbery of the store happens.
Willis and his partner now must find the card before his daughter gets married.
Smith, who has wondered publicly if he could handle action scenes, does well in the film and Willis has the common sense to allow Morgan lots of room for his comedy.
While I doubt that I'll be buying a copy for my Smith collection, I can easily recommend it for some light viewing time.
While Smith's own films have extensive and fun extras on their DVD releases, this film has nothing a real disappointment.
The goofy title -- a cross between the words "paranormal" and "insomnia" has a retro sound to it. I can hear Vincent Price as some mad scientist arching an eyebrow and declaring someone as having "parasomina."
The little scene I imagined entertained me far more than this film from William Malone, the director of the re-make of the Price film "The House on Haunted Hill" and "Fear.com."
Once again a director opts for cool images and concepts instead of a story that makes sense and believable characters.
Dylan Purcell plays Danny, an art student who is visiting a pal in the county hospital undergoing a drug rehab program. His friend advises him to check out the padded cell at the end of the hall where a maniac is chained spread eagle in the center of the room with a hood over his face.
When was the last time you heard of serial killer being imprisoned in a county hospital?
Up for a freak show, Danny goes to look at imprisoned serial killer Bryon Volpe, but also sees a beautiful girl asleep in the next room. It seems that she has a rare form of narcolepsy and sleeps more than she is awake.
Danny is instantly smitten and when he learns that she is going to be sent to a sleep lab for study, he spirits her out of the hospital. Of course, what he doesn't know is that Volpe, played with intensity by Patrick Kilpatrick, desires her and has been entering her dreams through some sort of black art.
When Volpe begins controlling her long-distance to savagely kill people, Danny begins to question the wisdom of his decision.
Now the actress playing the sleeper is lovely to look at and I always like to see one of the screen's great character actors, Jeffrey Combs who plays a cop, perform, but this film is a muddled mess.
At one moment it's supposed to be tender and at the next there's gallon of blood being tossed about.
While I thought Malone's re-make of "House on Haunted Hill" had its moments, this film doesn't. I don't care how cool the cover looks at the Red Box, pass this one up.
It has substantial extras including interviews with some of the actors, including Timothy Bottom who as a younger man had a pretty impressive career. In his interview he admits doing the film because he needed the dough thanks to a divorce. I must admit I liked
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