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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Film Review - The Chaperone (2011)

WWE Studios. It is a relatively new studio yet it has such an amazingly bad track record. Could this because they are creatively bankrupt? Could it be that their “athletes” are terrible actors? Maybe it’s just that they really just don’t know how to make a movie. It started in 1989 when the wrestling organization, then called WWF, decided they can do films. They started with a notorious disaster called No Holds Barred starring Hulk Hogan. There was a long gap, more than a decade actually, before they started making movies again. WWE co-produced the Mummy spin-off The Scorpion King and it was all downhill from there. The Rock was their top-billing actor for some time, but more recently, other “stars” have had their shot to appear in completely mediocre movies too.

Enter The Chaperone, an example of a movie that lacks any creativity, any brains and any talent on any level. Paul Levesque (a.k.a. “Triple H”… I guess) plays Ray, an ex-con, released on good behavior after a seven-year stint in prison. Upon leaving the pokey he is paid a visit from his old friend Phil (Kevin Corrigan) who is the reason he was in jail in the first place. He adamantly refuses to return to a life of crime as he tries to reconnect with his family but is rejected.

Some plot contrivances enter the scene from here and, to make a long story short, he ends up as the driver for a bank job orchestrated by the unscrupulous Phil. He bails on his crew while they are still hitting their target and travels across the street to a conveniently-located school bus transporting his daughter and her class to New Orleans for a field trip. He offers his services as a chaperone and is permitted (because the plot says so) by an idiotic educator named Miss Miller (played by Simpsons voice-actor Yeardly Smith). So it’s off to The Big Easy and this well-read wrestler guides the children through a museum tour among other pointless things all while trying to connect with his daughter and avoid the pursuing Phil and his cohorts.

This is a bad movie, but it’s not just bad, it’s worse; it’s completely boring. Some bad movies are filled with bad laughs that make the film entertaining. The Chaperone is so dull, so blandly acted, so cliché-ridden that it is not only a drain to watch, but thinking back on it as I write this article I notice I used the words “bored” or “boring” at least thirty times in my notes. There is action in some scenes, but these scenes are brief, poorly shot and anti-climactic; existing only to fill the violence quota of a film from WWE studios.

On the acting in the Chaperone: the dynamic, or lack their of, between Ray and his daughter Sally (played hatefully and apathetically by Modern Family’s Ariel Winter) is so weak and unconvincing that I actually thought I was going to see the camera follow them from the set to the crafts and services table as they grab a doughnut and discuss their work in the film industry. At no point did I believe any of these characters existed before or after the brief span of the story and at no point did I believe that there is any connection between Ray and Sally, even after the story tells me they have one. This is an emotionally detached film, and it shows in every scene of dialogue, the first hour of which is dominated by Sally telling Ray how much she hates him and Ray patiently trying to get her to overcome that anger.

The other child actors in this film aren’t any better. They fit neatly into a set of stereotypes and I found myself plugging them into the Breakfast Club model created by John Hughes more than twenty-five years ago. They are neatly defined by the way they dress, the things that they say and the actions they take later in the film. There’s the nerd who seems to carry everything he owns with him, and for the sake of us knowing he is a geek is allowed to do so; there’s a bully complete with an aggressive T-shirt and curly red hair; there’s the ditsy blonde girl; and the tall boy who Sally pines over who is cool because he is vanilla, lacking any defining characteristics, except that in almost every one of his scenes he is sitting casually, reading a book.

But what am I thinking? This is a WWE Studios production. There is no need for anything like plot, or character development, or acting, or even a script for that matter. This is all about the action. As I mentioned, the action is just as boring as the rest of the film. What I did not mention is the third act action scenes where the kids, yes the kids, take on the baddies. These few moments are so desperate, so lame and so poorly conceived that I almost thought I was watching a gag reel. When you’re watching a film as absurd as the Chaperone and you can’t believe what you’re seeing, it truly says something about the size of the shark the writers jumped here.

The Chaperone suffers from its weak plot, story conveniences and contrivances and its horrible, horrible acting. However, it also suffers from the boundaries it created for itself in terms of marketing. The film has a PG-13 rating for violence and language, but most teens and definitely most adults will find this to be exceptionally boring. They were obviously pandering to a younger demographic with this film so the fact that they allowed the script to take it into PG-13 territory baffles me. Granted, most parents will let their kids watch this despite its rating but the Chaperone obviously doesn’t know who it is marketing too. Knucklehead was not a good movie but it was innocent, and certainly better than this, and at least it knew the audience it was aiming for. This film seems scattershot, trying to hit too many target audiences at once and failing in all counts. The Chaperone is a failure because it is not only uninspired, it is woefully disconnected. The film is disconnected from its audience, the characters in the movie are disconnected from each other and the story is disconnected from any reality present in any film, ever.

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