xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Old skid-row drunks are a lot of things. They are sick, they are lice-ridden, they are often prematurely senile, and sometimes they are so far gone they're not even tragic anymore, just wasted. Two things they are not is colorful and romantic, and when the Greek chorus of winos and bums marches onscreen in "Cannery Row," we know the movie is in trouble. Dressed in colorful rags, each one an unforgettable character, they think they're Mr. Doolittle and his pals in "My Fair Lady." They sleep in drain pipes at night because it's colorful.
I mention the bums first, not because I think "Cannery Row" has any obligation to provide us with an accurate portrait of skid row, but because they are symptomatic of what is wrong with this movie.
It was made, I suppose, out of a desire to find some larger truth by taking reality and stylizing it into colorful romanticism: To take a bunch of down-and-outers and find the essential humanity in them. Writers were always dredging the essential humanity out of the proletariat in the thirties and forties, and John Steinbeck, who wrote 'Cannery Row' and 'Sweet Thursday', the novels that inspired this movie, was no exception. I doubt, though, that even Steinbeck would be able to believe the extremes to which this movie goes. It populates its gigantic and impressive set (an indoor and outdoor replica of the Monterey docks) not only with lovable bums, but also with the requisite hookers with hearts of gold and with a guy named Doc, who dreams of making a breakthrough in marine biology. If life were like this, Norman Rockwell would have eclipsed Edward Hopper.
Doc is played by Nick Nolte, and he is the best thing in the movie. He provides a sound, solid, dignified performance, and there are times when we even believe he's a real human being who just accidentally wandered into this fantasy. Doc was once a big-league pitcher, and he had twenty-one wins and ten losses when he suddenly quit pitching and moved to Cannery Row. There is a guilty secret in his past, and it has something to do with The Seer, a loony, saintly bum who wanders the beach and serenades the dawn. Doc stares at octopuses all day, as if he could make a great discovery about them just by looking hard enough.
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