The Way Back, Peter Weir, 134 mins (12A)
Little Fockers, Paul Weitz, 100 mins (12A)
Distance, hunger, a tale of inspiring endurance... I love the Boxing Day walk
Sunday 26 December 2010
Did you hear the one about the Pole, the Russian and the American who walked 4,000 miles? There are times when The Way Back feels as programmatic as a lounge-bar joke, but there's precious little comedy in it.
The bigger issue with Peter Weir's respectable new film is that there's not quite enough drama in it, either. It's set in 1941, when the aforementioned Polish soldier (Jim Sturgess), Russian thug (Colin Farrell) and American engineer (Ed Harris) break out of a Siberian labour camp – an escape so easy Weir doesn't bother to show them doing it. They then trek south through forests and deserts, four faceless comrades making up the numbers.
Regular close-ups of swollen, bleeding feet leave no doubt as to the toughness of the hike, but with no external threats or internal tensions, the film, like its heroes, just keeps tramping on. The camp's guards give up their chase within minutes, and while Farrell has "villain" written all over him – almost literally, given his penchant for jailhouse tattoos – he and the others remain calm and compassionate, even as they cope with near-starvation. I've had angrier disputes on country rambles with friends. On the plus side, the scenery is fantastic. But a film intended as a hymn to human endurance probably shouldn't be tempting you to plan a walking holiday.
Little Fockers is the third episode in the Meet The Parents franchise. It's funnier and less outlandish than the previous one (no battle-bus, no truth serum, not much Dustin and Barbra), but it lacks the universal premise that benefited both the first two films. With no more parents for anyone to meet, this one can't decide whether it's about Robert De Niro's heart condition, Ben Stiller's new house, his marriage to Teri Polo, their children's primary school, or Jessica Alba's gratuitous lingerie shots. The little Fockers themselves – Stiller's five-year-old twins – barely get a look-in.
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Best Film Isn't it bracing to watch a film and feel that both the characters on screen and the people behind the camera are very much cleverer than you are? Cleverest of the lot is writer Aaron Sorkin, who shaped a dispute between a bunch of computer geeks into a fizzing drama in The Social Network.
Worst Film Old Dogs is a strong contender, as is Sex and the City 2, which took four of the shallowest, most self-absorbed people you can imagine, and let them wallow in obscene luxury for two-and-half hours (please let it stop before we get to "Sexuagenarians and the City"). On these pages a year ago, Jonathan Romney predicted that The Last Airbender, M Night Shyalaman's hysterical kung-fu-in-Narnia shambles, would be 2010's silliest film. How right he was. And Gurinda Chadha's It's A Wonderful Afterlife was a case of nice title, shame about absolutely everything else.
Worst Comedy About Being a Single Dad Old Dogs, starring Robin Williams.
Best Comedy About Being a Single Dad World's Greatest Dad, starring Robin Williams. Weirdly, this dark and daring indie film was far more heart-warming than the syrupy Hollywood farce above.
Other Fine Films About Being a Single Dad The Road was a stunningly bleak view of the future. And The Boys Are Back, left, was a surprisingly sober adaptation of Simon Carr's memoir of widowerhood.
Most Encouraging Trend Among a slew of good things from first-time British film-makers, most impressive were Garth Edwards's Monsters (Close Encounters meets Before Sunrise), Nick Whitfield's Skeletons (Inception meets The League of Gentlemen), and Ben Wheatley's Down Terrace (The Godfather meets The Royle Family), not to mention Chris Morris's Four Lions. It shows there's more to being a British writer-director than imitating Guy Ritchie and Richard Curtis.
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