Zero for Conduct

William Wolf, then writing for Cue, was apparently the lone New York reviewer to point out that the clumsy reshoot—in which Zelda is considerably less friendly and Dino's back goes out at a crucial moment, thus subtracting the pleasure and introducing a hypocritical uncertainty into their night together—crucially damaged the movie as a whole. No one will ever confuse Billy Wilder with Jean Renoir, but as a cynic's view of the human carnival, Kiss Me, Stupid is almost empathetic.

The director of two fresh, lively indie hits, Swingers and Go, Doug Liman takes a giant step toward hackdom with his banal big-budget adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1980 espionage thriller, The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon plays an amnesiac secret agent with multiple identities, a Swiss bank account number embedded in his bod, and hair-trigger programming that allows him to instantly escalate from clean-cut Joe College to trilingual, unstoppable action-escape commando killing machine. The Bourne Identity is similarly subject to sudden bursts of aggression. Liman keeps the lights flickering, the close-ups kinetic, the montage punchy, and the colors saturated, while demonstrating a nerdy fascination with computer surveillance. Some minor schadenfreude may be derived from the spectacle of speeding cars and American ops penetrating Paris with impunity. The big question, however, is whether Damon—who has teamed with Franka Potente's winsome drifter—will lose his affable personality once his memory returns.

Unstoppable action-escape commando killing machine: Damon in The Bourne Identity
photo: Egon Endrenyi
Unstoppable action-escape commando killing machine: Damon in The Bourne Identity


Kiss Me, Stupid
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, from the play L'Ora Della Fantasia by Anna Bonacci
Film Forum
June 21 through 27

The Bourne Identity
Directed by Doug Liman
Written by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron, from the novel by Robert Ludlum

Directed by Raja Gosnell
Written by James Gunn, based on characters created by Hanna-Barbera Productions
Warner Bros.

At the center of what George W. Bush might call the movie's "intercontinental" intrigue is a pop-eyed African politician (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and a scowling CIA-hole (Chris Cooper) who at one point demands to know the French word for "stakeout." (It's le stakeout, you fool.) Adding to the general superfluity, indie starlet Julia Stiles swans her way through a diffident, do-nothing-meet-nobody cameo as the CIA's resident cleanup gal. Damon pays Potente $30,000 for a ride to Paris—Stiles surely got a lot more.

One of the most resilient pieces of late-'60s pop culture, the Saturday-morning cartoon show Scooby-Doo featured a blond surfer type, a hottie in go-go boots, a goateed stoner, a dykey know-it-all with glasses, and the eponymous big dumb dog traveling the country in a sockadelic painted minivan called the Mystery Machine, exposing the fake ghosts of capitalist greed.

The movie has Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), Velma (Linda Cardellini), and a creepily digital Scooby reconstituting their commune to solve the mystery of Spooky Island—an all-inclusive spring-break theme resort owned by Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson). Thanks to this locale, the movie functions as its own Jurassic Park, except here—pass the blunt—the fake ghosts are "real." Scooby-Doo is mildly intertextual in never letting us forget Gellar's true identity as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and harmlessly self-reflexive. ("Let's do what we do best," Shaggy pleads with Scoob sometime after their farting contest. "Let's run out of here screaming in fear.") There's even more leaping through glass windows than in The Bourne Identity, but as this movie knows what it is, Scooby-Doo's a relatively painless 85 minutes.

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