Two new Disney pictures opened Friday, the romantic comedy "Green Card," released under the "adult" Touchstone Pictures label, and Jack London's "White Fang," which is going out under the "family" banner, Walt Disney Pictures. In addition, the art theater downtown is showing a collection of animated shorts from around the world - though they are generally not of the Disney variety.
- "GREEN CARD" co-stars Andie MacDowell, of "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" and "sex, lies and videotape," and French superstar Gerard Depardieu, easily recognizable to fans of foreign-language cinema as the star of every other French movie that comes to this country - "Jean de Florette," "Camille Claudel," "The Return of Martin Guerre," "Danton," "The Last Metro" - to name just a few - along with the upcoming "Cyrano de Bergerac," for which he won the Cannes Film Festival best actor award."Green Card" casts them in a light, utterly charming bit of fluff written, directed and produced by Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society," "Witness").
The story is simple: A rough-edged French immigrant musician marries a sophisticated New York horticulturist, resulting in his being able to stay in America and her getting into a rent-controlled apartment with an atrium.
They don't know each other, they don't really even like each other very much, but, of course, we know they will fall in love.
Though Weir has come up with some pleasant situations, not much of this is unfamiliar territory. There are predictable mistaken-identity gags, fish-out-of-water gags, miscommunication gags - yet, no matter how easy it all seems, the stars make it not only palatable but really very enjoyable.
In fact, sheer star power has seldom held a film together so well. "Green Card," rated PG-13 for a few cuss words and vulgar remarks, is delightful most of the way.
Bebe Neuwirth, as MacDowell's best friend, has some amusing moments, and Robert Prosky is also good, though he is, regrettably, in just a single, short scene.
But the film's one real misstep for me was the ending, when Weir, for some reason, feels the need to inject a moment of reality into what has been, up to that point, a fluffy fairy tale. It does not ruin the film, however.
Depardieu and MacDowell are delightful together and "Green Card" is a real treat for anyone who enjoys light romantic comedy. And judging from the success of "Ghost" and "Pretty Woman," that covers a fairly broad spectrum.
- "WHITE FANG" is the second screen adaptation of the Jack London adventure, this time more about a young man in search of Alaskan gold than the wolf he befriends in the wilds.
This new Disney version, directed by Randal Kleiser, whose track rec-ord - ranging from "Grease" to "The Blue Lagoon" to "Big Top Pee-wee" - is spotty at best, suffers from abrupt transitions, an overwrought musical score, a lack of focus and underdeveloped characters.
But those weaknesses are easily overcome by the sheer thrust of the story, well scripted by Nick Thiel ("Fire Birds" and the upcoming "Shipwrecked"); the spectacular photography, showing off some of Alaska's most scenic snowbound locales; and credible performances by Ethan Hawke ("Dead Poets Society") as the youthful gold-hunter, and Klaus Maria Brandauer ("The Russia House") as the grizzled veteran who reluctantly helps.
The story has them searching for gold in a stake established by Hawke's late father, eventually coming into possession of "White Fang," a wolf that is part dog. (And yes, the giant grizzly is played by Heber City's Bart, star of "The Bear.")
On the whole, "White Fang" is grand family-oriented adventure on an epic scale, rated PG for violence and some mild profanity.
- "FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION" is another collection of traditional and computer-animated shorts from around the world, including a hilarious, thought-provoking and very timely look at the history of man through war by Bruno Bozzetto ("Allegro Non Troppo").
That is surely the highlight, though there are many other new fascinating and/or hilarious moments among this 20-piece set, including "Denny Goes Air Surfing," which may prompt new thinking about air turbulence in plane travel; the Soviet "Wolf Suite," another wartime metaphor; the goofy "Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing," about a baby's fascination with the toilet; the very short andriotously funny "Eternity," which has a terrific O. Henry-style twist, and many more.
There are some repeats here, cartoons that fans of these collections will recognize, including "The Fly" and "Balance" - but they are well worth seeing again.
Oddly, this compilation begins with a 45-year-old "Superman" cartoon, which is only available on about 30 different videos - but once you're past that, everything else is contemporary and great fun.
Though unrated, "Festival of Animation" would probably get a PG for cartoon violence and some adult themes.