Last week Enchanted was still #1 at the box office so we decided to take it easy on Jason and let him go see the “Jessica Alba in a wet tank top” movie.
This is the part of the review where I normally make fun of the title. I feel, however, it would be too easy for me to make a joke about falling asleep during the screening, so I will not do it. Wait a sec…damn…
The best thing I can say about the movie Awake is that I didn’t aggressively hate it. It is the cinematic equivalent of a day-old Big Bite from 7-11: it just sits there, twisting on the rollers, waiting for someone to appreciate it. You eat it, it doesn’t taste very good, but isn’t horribly objectionable. It fills you up for a period of time but ultimately it just leaves you with that not-so-fresh feeling.
Awake is the story of a hot-shot 22 year old finance executive named Clay Beresford(Hayden Christiansen) with a bad heart that needs replacing and a mommy complex. He has a secret fiancée(Jessica Alba, although why anyone would keep the fact they are dating Jessica Alba, let alone getting married to her, a secret is beyond me) and an overbearing mother(Lena Olin) named Lilith(!). To complicate things, he also has a best friend Dr. Jack Harper (Terence Howard) who will be performing the inevitable heart transplant on him.
The film begins with all you’ll ever need to know about the movie. Clay dies, or, more accurately, is killed on the operating table by Dr. Harper. It also begins with onscreen notes explaining the condition of “anesthetic awareness” and that 30,000 people a year suffer from this. This basically means you are completely awake and aware of everything that is happening to you during surgery. Unfortunately you also are paralyzed and cannot do anything about it. Also, unfortunately, this is a gimmick that is completely unnecessary to the film. Well, unless you enjoy long drawn out shots of a motionless Hayden Christiansen with a tube down his throat screaming in voice-over about the surgery he’s going through.
The plot goes through many twists and turns, some of them unexpected, some of them not, but out of deference to you, dear reader, I won’t even attempt to explain them. I’ll leave you the enjoyment of watching the plot twists during the film, and then having the characters flash back and explain them for you. And, ultimately, what is the point of the flashbacks? If not for them, this film could be a fairly good, tight episode of E/R or even CSI. But because of them, it winds up being more like a Lifetime Movie of the week. I can only guess the reason that is wasn’t was the lack of material: the film’s running time is a paltry 78 minutes – about 12 minutes shorter than needed to fill up 2 hours of broadcast television(with commercials). And the flashbacks are interminable. I don’t know how many slow motion shots of Jessica Alba frolicking on a rainy beach like she was in a Summer’s Eve commercial we really need, but I’ll take that over the boring story of how the two main characters fell in love.
And, its too bad then, the “anesthetic awareness” angle is misused in such an idiotic way. Take it one step further into sci-fi territory and you might have something interesting. I’m thinking that a man trying to prevent his own death through supernatural means might be more interesting than a man lying on the operating table and having dreams about his daddy being mean to him as a kid. But you have to fill time somehow, I guess.
And, in fact, the only way the movie fills time in any interesting way is in the first five minutes where not only does Jessica Alba demand that Clay “imagine making love to me all morning” but then gets her wearing a white tanktop in a bathtub. I was hoping for more of this, but, alas, all I got was a story that felt like it was designed for much lesser actors than the cast assembled*. I couldn’t help but thinking the grown-up cast of Saved By the Bell would be perfect for USA channel version of this. Well, except for Mr. Belding. I heard he’s joining forces with Dustin Diamond and making another wacky sex tape. Now if that isn’t the dictionary definition of a “Very Special Episode” I don’t know what is.
Next Week: The Golden Compass, which is, alas, NOT about urination and Boy Scouts. Til then, I’m never getting surgery. An apple a day, kids.
*I would be remiss to mention that Fisher Stevens, who plays one of the doctors in the film, looks like a skull on a stick. Creepy.