Main Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple

Director: Alexandre Aja

Jared Leto by James Ackerly

Pity he can’t tap dance, he would have made a beautiful Nazi.

Chateau Maine continues to be an absolute hot bed of activity as I and my entourage continue to make headway on our marvelous musical Spielberg mash-up.  Everywhere I turn the sounds of music and dance fill the air as we create marvelous numbers to entertain the masses at malls all over America.  Of course, we have no finished script but that should never stand in the way of the amazing musical numbers we’re busy creating.  Any plot holes we come across can be easily fixed in the editing room and with some CGI in post-production.  Madame Mimi, my vocal therapist, has been working night and day with me to stretch my upper register (the E flat above high C is nearly there) so my character of Flo Idaho, Indiana Jones’ better half, can really belt out the big number as they rescue the ark of the covenant from the Nazis, spiriting it away on the Amistad.

We’re really in need of a young good looking burlesque comic with impeccable tap skills and a Broadway bari-ten for Amon Goeth, the head Nazi.  Lulu Pigg, my tap therapist, and Mr. Carl, my choreographer, have had round after round of auditions without much success.  I thought we had a winner in Jared Leto, but he could not do the triple time step combination with any sort of finesse.  We’re looking at Chris Pine and Chris Pratt tomorrow.  The scene where Amon and Flo tango with each other, slowly heading into a tap off while Indiana is busy opening the ark, is going to be an absolute masterpiece.  We are still having some difficulties casting Indiana as well.  Harrison Ford is a dear but he’s a little long in the tooth for anything other than Indiana Jones and the Bottle of Geritol and pairing him with me might make the viewing audience think I was something other than my eternally youthful 39 years.  I was hoping for Joaquin Phoenix but he has scheduling conflicts.  The studio is pushing for Peter Dinklage but he might make me look a little tall and I find it difficult to dance in flats.

Normy has been so busy in his composing studio the last few weeks working on some splendid new arrangements on the theme from Close Encounters for the latter part of the movie that I have simply had to entertain myself.  Therefore, I crept down to the home theater late last night with a pint of Haagen-Dazs to find a little divertissement.  Flipping through the Netflix selections, I ran across Horns, a film from last year that had a lot of pre-release publicity, mostly around star Daniel Radcliffe’s somewhat explicit sex scene, but which was dumped in theaters with little fanfare and sank like a stone.  Having been a fan of young Mr. Radcliffe’s since his prepubescent Harry Potter days, I thought I would give it a look.  I am sorry to report that the studio was wise to cut their losses and dump it, hoping for it to generate a few dollars in the pay per view and DVD markets.

Horns is based on a dark fantasy novel of the same name by Joe Hill.  Our hero is Ig (short for Ignatius) Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), a young man whose long term love Merrin (Juno Temple), has recently been viciously raped and murdered.  Suspicion has fallen on Ig who is drowning his sorrow in cheap booze and meaningless encounters with his childhood friend Glenna (Kelli Garner).  One morning, Ig wakes up to find devil like horns sprouting from his forehead.  Not only that, but the horns make everyone he meets want to act on their basest id impulses. Soon receptionists are cussing out people in the waiting room, doctors are inappropriate with their scrub nurses and a pair of cops discover a new bond.  There’s one person in his life that the horns don’t work on, his old pal Lee (Max Minghella).  It doesn’t take long before we’re engaged in a long flashback where we learn about when Ig and Merrin first fell in love and how this impacted their childhood buddies.  Needless to say, the horns help Ig figure out what actually happened to Merrin before we head into a third act full of supernatural occurrences that make no sense whatsoever.

Young Mr. Radcliffe does yeoman’s work with his contradictory character.  He tries to keep a single emotional through line going no matter how crazy the material he is given and he does extremely well in the early scenes as he starts to figure out how the horns work.  His over the top histrionics later as he starts controlling snakes and practically howling at the moon are less successful.  Juno Temple is fine as the saintly Merrin.  She has the ethereal quality necessary to portray the perfect mate who is a memory from which all the negative parts of humanity have been peeled away.  Other good performances come from stalwart character actors Kathleen Quinlan as Ig’s judgmental mother and David Morse as Merrin’s tragic father.

The biggest issues with the film come from its inconsistent tone.  It can’t decide if it’s an exploration of the fantastical, a not very interesting episode of NCIS or a warped coming of age tale.  It’s not helped by the screenplay by Keith Bunin which doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and which seems to have been pruned from the original novel with a pair of metal shears.  The gaps in logic are astounding.  Director Alexandre Aja, best known for Piranha 3D and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes is also the wrong person for the material.  He’s a genre director steeped in visceral horror which does not translate well with the quasi-religious phantasmagoria he has been entrusted with.  His choices for trying to dramatize the religious underpinnings are such misfires as a place called Eve’s Diner with a large neon apple as a sign and with too many references to snakes for its own good.  There’s also a rather unpleasant underlying sense of misogyny in the treatment and fates of female characters, particularly Heather Graham as a blowsy waitress.

The film is not unenjoyable, a few sequences are terrific (especially a group of reporters devolving into a WWF smackdown), and there are some good performances.  Unfortunately, those attributes are undone by an incoherent script and a completely crazed final act that has more loose ends than the Persian rug in my living room.   It also makes the usual mistake of filming in British Columbia and claiming that it takes place in the Seattle area.  The landscapes are lovely, but nothing like Puget Sound.  Skip it and wait for young Mr. Radcliffe to make a better film.

Tree house sex.  Grocery cart riding.  Gratuitous David Bowie.  Donut eating.  Black golf instructor.  Snake charming.  Symbolic cherry bomb.  Hand injury.  Flaming Gremlin.  Gratuitous bar inferno.  Snake charming.  Burnt wings.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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