This picture is an actual screen-shot from the 201o film Passion Play, starring Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox. I know the picture looks like a Photoshop nightmare, put together by somebody just learning the program. But no…this is really from the movie. I don’t think there’s really too much I can say about this film that this picture doesn’t already accomplish for me, but what the hell, I’ll give it a whirl.

I really wanted this one to be better than the bad buzz suggested, for Megan Fox’s sake. Unlike most online film critics and pretty much EVERY female, I don’t have anything against Fox. I wouldn’t call myself a fan (except for in the obvious ways), but I just don’t understand all the heated vitriol that is thrown her way. She’s only an adequate, often unimpressive actress, sure, but it’s not like she is that much worse than any other number of young actresses Hollywood has tried to shove down our throats in recent years. And yes, she said some pretty dumb things in interviews that made her sound arrogant and unappreciative…but she was also a 22-year-old girl who was suddenly being called “the hottest girl in the world” by a number of magazines, web-sites and fans. Show me the girl who wouldn’t get a big head in the same situation.

Besides, if you read enough of her interviews, you realize that she has a very sarcastic sense of humor, and most of her comments were probably intended in a joking manner (only to be blown out of proportion by the media, who have never met a star they can’t destroy as quickly as they created). And, as fellow Megan Fox-defender Roger Ebert once pointed out, she remains refreshingly gossip and scandal-free (other than an on-again, off-again relationship with now husband Brian Austin Green). Fox has avoided the sort of drunken, drug-fueled, sex-tape and/or nude photo leaking antics of many other starlets of her age, preferring instead to avoid the Hollywood scene and remain more-or-less out of the public spotlight as much as possible. So tell me again why people hate her?

For all these reasons, I have always been rooting for Fox, even as she unfortunately seemed to tarnish her natural good looks with unnecessary plastic surgery (yet another thing that can probably be blamed on the Hollywood machine). So I was quite happy when, during the height of Fox-bashing season, Mickey Rourke publicly defended her while talking about the movie they were filming together, calling her possibly “the best young actress he has worked with.” Anyone familiar with Rourke’s interviews knows he is not shy about sharing his true feelings regarding co-stars, so this seemed like high praise. But after a disastrous screening at the Toronto Film Festival, Passion Play was relegated to straight-to-video hell, and Rourke changed his tune, calling the movie a piece of crap and slightly back-pedaling on his Fox praise (when questioned about it again, Rourke apologized for saying anything that could be interpreted as Fox-bashing, once again clarifying that he loved working with her…but the damage to his initial compliment was still done). What I thought at one time might be Fox’s Hollywood redemption instead turned into yet another embarrassing misstep in a career already spiraling into oblivion.

But make no mistake about it, Passion Play’s failure is not Megan Fox’s failure. Nor is it Mickey Rourke’s failure. And it sure as hell isn’t Bill Murray’s failure. No, it is the unmitigated failure of writer/director Mitch Glazer, who has somehow managed to make a truly terrible film with ingredients that should have resulted in an oddly interesting film at worst and a bizarre masterpiece at best. Glazer has created neither of these things. He has taken the story of a down-on-his-luck jazz saxophonist who falls in love in with a bird-woman only to lose her to an evil gangster named “Happy” and he has – get this – somehow made it BORING. How does this happen? Read that plot description again and tell me this shouldn’t be entertaining, even if only on a purely ironic level. But Glazer isn’t even smart enough to see the inherent goofiness of the premise and push the movie’s absurdity, which would have at least made it an unintentional comic masterpiece on the level of The Room or Birdemic.

No, Glazer’s version of Passion Play is painfully self-righteous and pretentious…and not even in a good, artistic way. Glazer is one of those filmmakers who thinks every scene will be more important if he allows it to play out at half the speed it should, the sort of filmmaker who mistakes long lingering shots of characters walking for thought-provoking symbolism, the sort of filmmaker who oddly decides to throw in a strange ALF shout-out by letting the camera come to rest on a Vodka brand named “Gordon Shumway.” Well, alright, now that I think about it, maybe that last part isn’t so bad.

I have no idea if, at any point, Glazer realized his epic vision would be undone by snail pacing, insipid dialogue and some of the worst green screen effects this side of a SyFy Channel original, but I doubt it. Passion Play’s worst fault is that it oozes with the sort of self-importance that suggests a filmmaker who truly believes he is offering a special gift to the world. Although I hate seeing Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke slum it in a project they both clearly (and visibly) know is below them, and while I REALLY hate that this was yet another undeserved black-eye for Fox (who actually does as well as she can here, all things considered), I still can’t help but be happy about Passion Play’s failure and disappointing fate. This movie and its myriad missed opportunities made me mad, and Mitch Glazer deserves the crushing disappointment I can only hope he’ll feel someday when he sees dozens of Passion Play DVD’s collecting dust in the bargain movie bin at Big Lots.

All that being said, I ALMOST recommend you try to catch the movie someday, or at least the final few minutes, when the movie finally achieves the sort of bat-shit insanity it needed all along, with the absolutely hilarious final scene – pictured above – of bird-woman Megan Fox carrying Mickey Rourke in flight, capped off with a nonsensical final twist I bet Glazer thought was brilliant, but in fact is a reveal so dumb that even M. Night Shyamalan would probably roll his eyes at it. If only the whole movie was THIS stupid, I probably would have loved it.

 

 

This review was originally posted on June 9th, 2011 at Trevor Likes Movies.

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