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CLOVERFIELD(director: Matt Reeves; screenwriter: Drew Goddard; cinematographer: Michael Bonvillain; editor: Kevin Stitt; cast: Lizzy Caplan (Marlena), Jessica Lucas (Lily), T. J. Miller (Hud), Michael Stahl-David (Rob), Mike Vogel (Jason), Odette Yustman (Beth)); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: J. J. Abrams/Bryan Burk; Paramount Pictures; 2008)
“Despite being only 84 minutes, it seemed overlong and padded.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Gotham monster film, like Godzilla was to Tokyo, filled with spectacle and a promising premise but offering not much of an emotional impact or scares or a fulfilling story or competent acting. The film is not only a ripoff of Blair Witch but comes with a bland TV reality. It was created by producer J.J. Abrams, who again brings together his TV team — director Matt Reeves, who worked with Abrams on Felicity, and screenwriter Drew Goddard, who was with Abrams on Lost and Alias. TV director Matt Reeves helms his first feature film as an homage to “The Blair Witch Project,” using a shaky camera by way of Hud (T.J. Miller), one of the film’s leads, who holds the digital video camera that’s used throughout in filming.

The slight exploitation story (told in a tawdry blank manner that harkens back to images of 9/11) has twentysomething executive Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) receiving a promotion to be his firm’s veep and leaving NYC to relocate in Japan. His friends give him a surprise going-away party in his Lower Manhattan loft. Hud documents the farewell festivities on Rob’s brother Jason’s (Mike Vogel) digital mini-camcorder; the festivities have one little ugly incident whereby Rob’s ex-girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman), arrives with a date and thereby upsets our party boy. The party is then interrupted by what at first seems like an earthquake, but when the partygoers traipse outside they view the Statue of Liberty’s head land in the middle of the street and a giant creature who begins to destroy Manhattan and spreads mean little aliens to attack and kill. Why this is so seems unimportant for the filmmaker to reveal, or maybe it took too much imagination to think up something. In the increasing pandemonium, soldiers force at gunpoint the surviving citizens to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot in an effort to get everyone to evacuate Manhattan. After receiving a cellphone call (don’t ask how it works in such conditions!) from Beth, the concerned yuppie Rob puts all his energy into going to her Midtown apartment and rescuing her. He’s joined by a few of his loyal cronies — his brother Jason, his pushy gal friend Lily (Jessica Lucas), the downbeat Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and the dopey Hud, who films their ordeal.

Despite being only 84 minutes, it seemed overlong and padded. Besides the insult to the viewers’ intelligence in being made to watch such a badly shot film, all the contemptible characters are used as conceits and are obnoxious, annoyingly dumb and humorless hipsters; they are characters I don’t want to party with or be caught with in a catastrophe or watch in a movie. It was that kind of bad pic, I wouldn’t even recommend it to an alien.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”