Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Super Short Review Duo: Limitless (2011) and Friends with Benefits (2011)

As a break from all the heavy stuff the last few days...

There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Data wanted to play as Sherlock Holmes on the holodeck--you still with me?--but the problem is that Data was so smart that he could solve the mystery immediately.

Limitless runs into that problem in reverse: it features a drug that makes people super-smart--but the characters still insist on acting pretty dumb. Sf author and critic James Blish would call this an "idiot plot": a story that only occurs because everyone acts like an idiot. There's probably an interesting story to tell here about addiction, motivation, conflict--imagine what Jason Reitman could do with a story about a dangerous drug and the people pushing it (or hoarding it). But while this movie is visually fun, it's the shallowest treatment of these topics possible.

And it's my fervent hope that, some day, a movie features that drug that will unlock the potential of the human brain--"we only use 10% of the brain, blah blah"--and then someone on that drug suffocates because they're calculating stock market fluxes in the part of the brain that should be tasked with breathing.

Friends with Benefits
Friends with Benefits has a similar issue, in that it's a surface-level view of the issues (emotions, sex, friendship, personality) with a nice sheen--whereas Limitless was visually interesting, Friends with Benefits keeps the story moving with fun dialogue. But no dialogue is so fun as to obscure the essential fact that this movie is product--plastic, rounded edges to make it seem more organic, high-caliber actors brought in for walk-ons with cliche traits (Alzheimer's dad, free-loving mom). I feel like this movie could have been written with a few spins of some story-wheel app on someone's iPad.

Recommended or not recommended? Not recommended.

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