A few not-so-shocking giveaways about this week’s new movie releases, including Justice League and Frank Serpico
Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
The note of campiness, carried over from the previous Spielberg-Lucas collaboration, is sounded here first thing, and with full Bette Midleresque force: the Paramount logo fades into a bas-relief design on a Chinese gong (joke), and the camera moves over from that to the smoking mouth of a papier-mâché dragon out of which emerges a blond nightclub singer (joke), doing "Anything Goes" (joke) in Chinese (joke) and, at the same time, blocking out a couple of letters of the movie title (joke), as though it were situated behind her on stage instead of superimposed on the screen. This little song-and-dance expands into one of those Busby Berkeleyan production numbers (have we wandered into a Mel Brooks movie by mistake?) that shows no respect for the realistic boundaries of the stage nor for the point of view of the live audience. But that's all part of the joke, too. The nightclub brawl and car chase that soon follow are in the outright slapstick vein of Spielberg's 1941, and indeed much of the action to come is built on the chain-reaction principles in force there. The Kate Capshaw character, spoiled, pampered, a constant complainer and frequent screamer, very much in contrast to the Karen Allen character in Raiders of the Lost Ark, sees to it that the tone of facetiousness never flags. In that sense, she seems much more the on-screen stand-in for the filmmakers than does the likable (thanks only to Harrison Ford) hero. Indeed, there's a strong temptation to see her as their official proxy, again, in her cupidity and in her xenophobia, or at least parochialism, as regards any lifestyle (read "filmmaking style") that sinks below the comfort-level of the Shanghai Hilton. 1984.