Tuesday, March 1, 2022


 by Robyn Buckley and Adam Riske

Two movies where things get complicated.

Adam: Robyn, we recently watched two movies that I hadn’t seen before from 1996 (always a perk of FTM FEST week): Chain Reaction and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. I’d meant to see both of these movies ever since 1996, but I avoided the former because of its poor reviews and the latter because it was a romantic comedy, and I was only 14 years old in 1996 and not quite converted into a romcom fan as of yet. I believe you’d seen The Truth About Cats & Dogs but not Chain Reaction, right? What did you think of each of them in these recent viewings?

My recollection of The Truth About Cats and Dogs was that Janeane Garofalo was gorgeous, and it was odd that they put her as the Cyrano-esque character. Beyond that, I didn't remember much of the actual film. On a rewatch, I enjoyed The Truth About Cats and Dogs well enough, although I found myself much more invested in the friendship between Janeane’s Abby and Uma Thurman’s Noelle than the actual romance. Give me a movie that is just those two women hanging out and becoming best friends despite being polar opposites!
Chain Reaction is a movie that I had never heard of and did not know existed! I think that this is a perfect one to watch on an airplane. That may seem like an insult, but it’s just one of those films that the less actual attention you pay to the plot the better it seems.

Adam: I had a lot of fun with Chain Reaction for about 30 minutes. It reminded me so much of a B-picture that would run on a double feature with The Fugitive. Keanu Reeves is Harrison Ford. Fred Ward is Tommy Lee Jones. Instead of the U.S. Marshals, it’s the FBI. Morgan Freeman is the friend/mentor turned foe, etc. It doesn’t help that both movies are directed by Andrew Davis, set in Chicago and feature supporting actors and extras from The Fugitive showing up in similar roles in Chain Reaction. As long as Chain Reaction was basically the funhouse mirror image of The Fugitive, I was on board. However, it gets uninteresting as the plot unfurls and there’s not much in the way of interesting characterization for me to hang onto. Morgan Freeman is the closest thing to a three-dimensional character, but his resolution is such a shrug (similar to how it was in 1998’s Hard Rain) that it becomes frustrating like Freeman was unwilling to go all-in on playing evil.
Robyn: I spent a good portion of Chain Reaction saying “He/She is in this! Wow!” Young Rachel Weisz! Janitor from Scrubs! A very young Michael Shannon! However, if you asked me to describe the actual plot I would be completely lost. Something about energy and the collapse of civilization if the technology that was developed was released? I honestly did not get why most of the actions in this movie happened. It seemed like a lot of work by the villains for no real reason.

I probably most enjoyed Morgan Freeman because like you said, he had some actual dimension to his character, as opposed to the cartoonishly evil Brian Cox. Cox’s character seemed to enjoy doing evil for the hell of it, even when it made his actual plans more difficult. That was frustrating! I noted earlier that Chain Reaction is a perfect airplane movie and I stand by that. It’s made to be watched while drifting off to sleep while the drone of an airplane surrounds you. I feel like a lot of '90s mid-tier thrillers are best enjoyed in that fashion.

Adam: I saw Deep Impact on an airplane and now can never watch it unless I’m thousands of feet in the air.
I was mixed on The Truth About Cats & Dogs, although I was happy to finally say that I have seen it after intending to for 26 years. I really enjoyed Uma Thurman and Janeane Garafolo and thought Ben Chaplin sort of stole the movie as the male romantic lead. Jaime Foxx is fun in a supporting role (before he was a mega star) as the best friend. It’s all very pleasant. I guess my mixed feelings come from the fact that this is a romantic comedy whose foundation is that one person is lying to the other person. This always bums me out because it makes me less on board with the couple ending up together. As well intentioned or understandable as the lies may be, it’s hard for me to root for a relationship built on deception. How would the person being lied to ever trust the person lying in a relationship? It’s details like this that torpedo movies like While You Were Sleeping and The Truth About Cats & Dogs for me. Although Tom Hanks is lying to Meg Ryan for about half of You’ve Got Mail and that’s one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies so who knows?

Robyn: The lie in The Truth About Cats & Dogs is extra frustrating because there seems to me to be no real reason for it! Abby seems confident and sure of herself throughout the movie and we never really get the idea that Ben Chaplin’s character would reject her based on her looks. She’s just as pretty as Noelle, only with dark hair and not as tall! If I was him, I’m not sure that I could ever really forgive the lie? The trust issues I would have would be insurmountable. Imagine how awkward it will be the next time he’s out with Abby and her best friend who he is clearly very attracted to (even if he chose Janeane Garofalo in the end) comes along. Or do we just assume Noelle and Abby never interact again? I think that The Truth About Cats & Dogs works better the less that one thinks about the actual consequences of the characters actions. Adam, would you recommend these movies to our readers? I would say yes, but to go in with reasonable expectations.

Adam: I don’t think I would, which is a super awkward place to land when wrapping up a column. Listen to Robyn, everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment