Don’t Miss These Films

Over the last week or so, I saw two movies that seem destined to become prime examples of the dreaded cult classic — movies that a small slice of the population loves rabidly, while the rest of the world scratches its collective head in puzzlement. Which is a shame, because both are visionary entertainments that are definitely worth your time.

The first of these is Donnie Darko, a quirky, mindbending drama about time travel (among other things). This is one seriously trippy flick: it deftly juggles stories involving several major characters, all arranged in a plot just as complex and intriguing as Memento or The Usual Suspects. Special notice goes out to Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the eponymous Donnie (you may remember him from his terrific performance in October Sky) — his work in this picture is first-rate.

The other picture is in theaters now — it’s Danny DeVito’s dark comedy Death to Smoochy. For some reason this film has been taking a beating from the critical community. After seeing it, I am literally at a loss as to why. The invaluable Edward Norton brings his usual genius to the table as the wide-eyed Sheldon Mopes (aka Smoochy), Robin Williams manages to turn in a fine performance as the deviant clown Rainbow Randolph, and the script gives both characters a wonderfully strange and funny tune to march to. I mean, how can you hate any movie where a kid’s show host leads the audience in a chorus of songs with titles like “My Step-Dad’s Not Mean, He’s Just Adjusting”?

Anyway, for some reason both these films seem destined to languish in the “underappreciated greatness” category, at least for now. So check ’em out with an open mind and be prepared to be impressed with what you see.