Overland miles: 2549 Tacocount: 43 Days without Tea: 2
8.15 am: !Buenas Dias! I’m on a (very) long haul bus trip to Mexico City, reviewing all the films they show. Roll ’em boys!
8.30 am: I Don’t Know How She Does It. After a decent 9 hours’ kip, relatively undisturbed, I was feeling ready to deal with the rest of this marathon bus-ride. Unfortunately, the first thing that greets my eyes, other than the rolling Mexican countryside, is Sarah Jessica Parker playing a smart-but-scatty 40-something professional, struggling to balance her work and family life, chatting with a small tousled-haired child in their lovely big suburban clapboard house. I have the same problem watching SJP in films like this as I do Jennifer Aniston: they clearly wouldn’t ever see the light of day if one of these actresses weren’t available, and the producer thought they would be perfect for exactly this role. There’s always a kooky little personality trait that defines the lead character’s triumph over adversity – in this one she writes endless ‘to do’ lists to get her life in order, in between turning up for important business meetings late, and conducting earnest love scenes with Greg Kinnear in a flurry of fake snow. It’s not that I don’t think the subject matter is important; I just don’t think these actresses are in any way representative of the woman they are portraying, and I can’t stand the treatment. It’s plodding, dreary, workmanlike film-making, and as long as families keep wanting to see them, Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston will keep popping up in them. PFB rating: 1 prawn (out of a plate of five)
8.45 am: A Little Bit Of Heaven. I had high hopes for this film, as it stars Gabriel Garcia Benal, who’s ace in almost everything he does (and whose presence creates an interesting linguistic phenomenon: a Mexican actor, whose lines are spoken in English, and then dubbed over by a Mexican actor. I wonder who plays the other Mexican Garcia Benal – or does he play himself?) However the very first scene depicts Kate Hudson struggling to balance her kooky life in a big clapboard house, with a touseled-haired child and, (for a bit of variety) that loveable dog from the Churchill ads. I wonder what life-threatening challenge Kate will have to overcome in between riding a granny bike badly in a furry of fake falling leaves? Oh, apparently it’s cancer of the colon. Well that showed me, I’d better not be so rude about this one. Oh, who cares: it’s excruciating. Her idiosyncratic trait is imagining what heaven would be like. Whoopie Goldberg is on hand to stand around as a guardian angel in the heaven scenes – a role either she or Morgan Freeman are contractually obliged to play. Naturally, GGB ignores his patient-practitioner boundaries and falls promptly in love with a worsening Kate. If Cameron Crowe were directing this risible slush-fest, Sigur Ros would be all over the soundtrack. I won’t spoil the ending for you, other than to say that their realisation of heaven is my idea of hell. PFB rating: prawns are off
10.30 am: Hugo Finally, a pretty decent offering in the middle of this 19 hour slush-fest. This appears to be a Burton-esque tale of an orphan boy who lives in a railway station in the early 20th century,and whose late father invented a mechanical robot that provides the key to another world of bizarre fantasy films. And it was all going really well, with the two children in the lead roles acting seven bells out of all the touseled-haired brats in the previous films, and a well-cast cameo from Sasha Baron Cohen as a charmingly incompetent railway inspector channeling the English policeman from the Brit sit-com ‘Allo ‘Allo. But alas I cannot inform you of the story’s conclusion as the bus decided to perform an emergency shutdown from top speed for unspecified reasons, and when systems were back up at 11.45 we returned to another ear-battering episode of Glee. PFB rating: 4 prawns (based on half the movie)
12.30 pm: Dolphin Tale. Starring Harry Connick Jr. Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, looking wise and doing some dolphin-whispering in that freakily omniscient way of his. Is that the same Harry Connick Jr. better known for writing and singing the soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally (incidentally, my favourite rom-com)? Couldn’t they afford a real actor? Is this perchance based on a true story about a wholesome American family trying to save a beached dolphin? I can’t even bring myself to watch more than the first 20 minutes of this as I’ve already had to endure a similar bit of eco barrel-scraping about saving whales on the previous bus (Big Miracle if you’re asking), so sorry fin fans, but you can find out for yourselves how this plays out (but I’ll wager things get better for the dolphin than they did for Kate Hudson, because the first law of aquatic film-making is that the fish always survive). PFB rating: unable to face the viewing
14.20 pm: The Descendants. At long last, a first rate film to see out the last couple of hours of the journey. George Clooney plays a lawyer planning a deal to sell off land in Hawaii that’s been in his family for generations to a developer, whilst bringing up his headstrong daughters on his own since his wife has slipped into a coma following a car crash. But he becomes deeply conflicted when he learns that she was having an affair with the real estate agent brokering the deal. It’s a film that carefully balances equal amounts of pathos and levity, whilst avoiding some of the obvious sentimental traps in handling difficult moral issues that We Bought A Zoo fell headlong into. The traditional Hawaiian folk soundtrack conveys the beauty and mystery of the Island perfectly. I admit I have a soft spot for Clooney: he sounds perfect in Spanish. However the dubbing is majorly out on this one, and the ruthless editing – of not only all swears but also a very funny scene when Clooney’s father-in-law punches his daughter’s slacker boyfriend – kills key scenes. PFB rating: 4 and 1/2 prawns
16.15 pm: Arrival in Mexico City. So there you have it, 19 hours of bus entertainment reviewed for your pleasure. My conclusion? Watching films on a Mexican bus is a lot like going to a cinema and upgrading to those fancy bucket seats no one buys, except that the screen is smaller than your TV at home, you understand practically nothing you watch and you would never willingly choose to watch 90% of these films in a cinema. Hasta el tiempo proximo, movie lovers!