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Toronto Day One: Creation, The Informant!, Jennifer’s Body

Toronto Day One: Creation, The Informant!, Jennifer's Body

The reason why film festivals pick movies like Creation for opening night is that they have all the right credentials: respected producer (Jeremy Thomas) and director (Jon Amiel) and two major stars (Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly) willing to show up for the gala TIFF screenings and party. But Creation was DOA tonight.

Flat, dull, and painful to sit through, Creation brings none of the excitement, energy and radical thought that went into Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. I’m sure that book was difficult to write, but that’s not what we want to see in a movie about Darwin. Put some exotic exploration, science and ideas up there! Let him debate his theories with his friends, religious wife and minister, not mope around looking for a water cure and imagining his dead daughter. This movie bears all the earmarks of a group of people trying not to churn out yet another biopic, desperately searching for drama and conjuring up nothing but flapping boredom. The actors do their best. This is a question of how writer John Collee (Master and Commander, which featured Bettany) conceived and structured the material. Bill Condon’s Kinsey tackled a similarly tricky subject with far more inventive flair.

Set in the early 90s, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! is a slightly sour comedy that launched in Venice and screens in Toronto September 11 in advance of WB’s release September 18. Imagine that Matt Damon’s character in the Oceans series–the slightly dim, hard-working guy everyone likes to kid–is the star of a comic version of The Insider, only instead of being smart and tortured about doing the right thing, like Russell Crowe’s Jeffrey Wigand, this guy is a doofus, a buffoon, a bumbling idiot.

Based on the true story of Archer Daniels Midland exec Mark Whitacre, a whistleblower for the FBI who saw himself as a secret agent hero but at the same time liberally skimmed millions of corporate funds for himself, The Informant! is a smart, witty comedy that makes fun of dim-witted bipolar midwesterners. This is not one of those movies where the clever young hero outwits the corporate villains. While Soderbergh paints a nasty picture of ADM, The Informant! left a bad taste in my mouth. Warners says the movie is tracking well for a strong opening, but I can’t imagine that moviegoers between the coasts are going to warm up to it. I hope I’m wrong: Soderbergh needs a commercial hit.

Jennifer’s Body is great fun. It’s exactly what it sets out to be: an unpretentious send-up of coming-of-age horror movies with a delicious lesbian edge. Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried strike just the right tone as two best buds, one hot and popular, the other nerdy and cute. (In real life, Fox is more uptight about screen nudity than Seyfried, who bares all in Chloe.) When Fox absorbs a nasty demon with a thirst for human blood, Seyfried has to deal. Like most studios, Fox is wary of marketing a smart horror comedy (after all, look at what happened to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell). Producer Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody delivered a red band trailer (below) that captures the tone of the movie, but Fox went ahead with a straight-ahead horror take. I have to think that audiences will sniff this out.

UPDATE:The movie might have been better served by Fox Searchlight (whose now defunct sister-division Atomic developed this property.) Tracking is not good for Jennifer’s Body to open big. It may be too late by the time Fox hosts the season opener of Saturday Night Live September 26, with an appearance by U2.

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