March 29, 2020
Column

Lost in translation: ‘Grudge 2’ a banal, predictable train wreck

In theaters

THE GRUDGE 2, directed by Takashi Shimizu, written by Shimizu and Stephen Susco, 95 minutes, rated PG-13.

The new horror movie, “The Grudge 2,” begins with the same heady news that flashed upon the screen at the start of its equally dumb 2004 predecessor, “The Grudge: “When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is left behind. Those who encounter it die, and a new curse is born.”

Let’s hope they’re wrong. Otherwise, should some disgruntled viewer kick the can after seeing this beauty, curses will descend upon cineplexes everywhere.

This screwy, empty movie is a continuation of a story that began in the low-budget, 2003 Japanese horror film “Ju-On: The Grudge,” itself a remake, of sorts, of 2000’s “Ju-On: The Curse” and 2003’s “Ju-On: The Curse 2.”

All were such hits in Japan, producer and fan Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead,” “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2”) commissioned the series’ director, Takashi Shimizu, to helm an American version of “The Grudge.” Since the box office was there to support a sequel, Shimizu got the nod to direct “The Grudge 2.”

Too bad so much is lost in translation. As written by Shimizu and Stephen Susco, “The Grudge 2” is a hot mess, a movie that’s so bad, it generates a train wreck of confusion onscreen, with sense and logic tied to the tracks and repeatedly severed.

In brief, the idiot plot: Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) is ordered by her estranged, bed-ridden mother (Joanna Cassidy, doing her B-movie best to recall a faded Karen Black) to go to Tokyo to retrieve Aubrey’s older sister, Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who now is in the hospital after nearly being undone by events in the last movie.

For reasons that won’t be revealed here, retrieving Karen proves difficult to do, though Aubrey’s efforts do allow the film to set up one of its endless subplots – she meets journalist Eason (Edison Chen), who presumably is here to help her sort out the ensuing nonsense. Good luck to Eason. Meanwhile, the restless script pulls focus away from them to concentrate on others affected by the curse – several schoolgirls in Tokyo who are stricken by it and a family in Chicago (yes, this curse travels).

For jolts, the movie offers nothing new – zip – just the same old bluish ghosts of the murdered mother-and-son team, Kayako (Takako Fuji) and Toshio (Oga Tanaka), who pop up so predictably they underscore the movie’s total lack of imagination and banality.

These days, spinach is scarier than anything that unfolds in “The Grudge 2.” The film is such a waste, it could have benefited from the inspired and truthful title found in the recent “Jackass” movie. “The Grudge Number Two” comes closer to the mark.

Grade: D-

On DVD and HD DVD

THE BREAK-UP, directed by Peyton Reed, written by Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender, Vince Vaughn, 106 minutes, rated PG-13.

Peyton Reed’s comedy about falling out of love, “The Break-Up,” is concerned with opposites coming together and falling apart.

Nobody should come expecting much of the former, which is hastily glossed over during the opening credits when Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) meet cute at a Chicago Cubs baseball game. He hustles her with hot dogs, she’s smitten beyond reason, and so is born the potential for a new trend at the ballpark. Ladies, either beware or enjoy.

Moments later, while the credits roll, the couple is shown canoodling and kissing in a photo slideshow meant to underscore their love, which is so sweet, you’d know it was doomed even without the assistance of the film’s title.

Preventing the film from being socked with too much saccharine is the falling apart part, which becomes substantial the moment their relationship implodes. Brooke, an art gallery assistant, is home putting together the finishing touches for a dinner party when in strolls Gary, a bearish tour bus guide who would rather crack open a beer and watch the game than help Brooke with the incidentals. It occurs to her that this is always how they have lived their lives together – she’s a doer, he’s a taker. By the end of the night, they have charged through one mother of a fight, their two-year relationship is dead, though not as neatly as either would like.

Each own one-half of their pricey condominium. With neither party willing to move out, the movie becomes a showdown between them, with the possibility for a second chance pinned to whether they sell their condo. After all, if they do, they’ve essentially sold whatever is left of their relationship.

The film is billed as an “anti-romantic comedy,” which suggests that it plans to skewer anything warm and fuzzy while slaying the typical romantic comedy cliches.

While neither is true for the movie – it’s too cute and too commercial to really get down and dirty when it comes to how ugly relationships can get when the ax is thrown down (“Husband and Wives,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “The War of the Roses” did all of this much better) – this light, derivative take does generate more heat than some might expect. The escalation of the first fight, in particular, is impressively well-choreographed, with Aniston and Vaughn believably tearing each other down. Cutting the drama with comedy is the film’s fine supporting cast (Jon Favreau, Vincent D’Onofrio, Cole Hauser, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Bateman, a scene-stealing John Michael Higgins and Judy Davis), all of whom are so good, they join Aniston and Vaughn in creating one of summer’s better diversions.

Grade: B

Visit www.weekinrewind.com, the archive of Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s reviews, which appear Mondays in Discovering, Fridays in Happening, and Weekends in Television. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.


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