Movie Review: 'RoboCop,' 'About Last Night,' And 'Endless Love'

Feb 14, 2014
Originally published on February 14, 2014 6:58 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Valentine's Day movie openings are often about love and Bob Mondello says this week's premiers of "RoboCop" and "About Last Night" are about Hollywood's latest crush on the 1980s.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Stop me if you've heard this one - or these two, or even three if you count "Endless Love." '80s movies brought back because, well, because there's fresh cash on the table from a generation that hasn't seen them in theaters. Still, the new "RoboCop" and "About Last Night" actually add a little something to the originals besides, say, IMAX or glossier special effects.

"RoboCop" had those, but they're now in the service of 21st century notions of corporate greed and urban crime, as you'll guess from the new film's starting point, a cable news program hosted by jingoistic rabble-rouser Samuel L. Jackson. Backed by footage of two-legged robot drones pacifying Tehran, he offers a post 9/11 rationale for mechanical foot soldiers in the war on crime.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ROBOCOP")

MONDELLO: The robot drones he's touting are made by a corporation that would sell them to American police departments if there weren't laws forbidding it. To change the laws, they need to change public opinion.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ROBOCOP")

MONDELLO: When a Detroit cop is very nearly killed, reduced to little more than heart, lungs and a brain, corporate overlord Michael Keaton puts what's left of him in the machine only to discover that all that pesky humanity slows him down. Jose Padilla's new "RoboCop" is significantly better acted than the first one, impressively so by Joel Kinnaman who's little more than a face and a hand for much of the picture, and if the big battles all look disappointingly like video game shoot-em-ups, well, that's very 21st century, too, no?

A bit before the original "RoboCop" came out, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore starred in "About Last Night," the biggest romantic comedy of the summer of '86. It was based on David Mamet's foul-mouthed but very funny play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," and now it has a 21st century update.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ABOUT LAST NIGHT)

MONDELLO: That's right. Not Chicago, but Los Angeles and a diverse Los Angeles, as opposed to the, let's say, monochromatic Chicago of the first one. Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are the easy-on-the-eyes strangers who meet through their more raucous best friends. When they click, those friends waste no time tormenting them.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ABOUT LAST NIGHT")

MONDELLO: Kevin Hart is a hoot as the leading man's best buddy and Regina Hall partners him nicely as they offer the leads really terrible romantic advice.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ABOUT LAST NIGHT")

MONDELLO: And in the process, pretty much walk away with the movie. Their story, filled with bickering, passion, and at one point a chicken mask, is a lot more fun than the supposed main event, given extra oomph as the director quick cuts between gal talk at her place and guy talk at his.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "ABOUT LAST NIGHT")

MONDELLO: Smartphones let you know this isn't the '80s anymore so does a quick shot of the leads watching the original "About Last Night" on TV. But up to date dating isn't really the point now, any more than it was then. The rom-com basics, they're eternal. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.