Buena Vista's January '07 Releases
The Guardian (March 2/07)
Although infused with an almost overwhelming air of familiarity, The Guardian ultimately comes off as an old-fashioned, irresistibly earnest piece of work that generally succeeds in spite of its reliance on exceedingly hoary cliches. Kevin Costner stars as Ben Randall, a legendary Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer who reluctantly accepts a job as an instructor after a routine mission goes disastrously awry - while Ashton Kutcher plays the brash young cadet that Ben takes a special interest in. Screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff has blanketed The Guardian's midsection with a record number of training sequences, which - when coupled with the inclusion of several entirely needless subplots - certainly contributes heavily to the film's bloated running time of almost two-and-a-half hours. And yet, there's something strangely engrossing about all of this; director Andrew Davis does a nice job of punching up some of the more eye-rollingly silly elements within Brinkerhoff's script, while both Costner and Kutcher are able to effortlessly transform their archetypal characters into compelling, surprisingly textured figures. The authentic, genuinely thrilling rescue sequences cement The Guardian's status as a thoroughly agreeable crowd-pleaser, though it's clear that the film is destined to hold very little appeal for viewers who are unable to buy into the well-worn premise.
The Night Listener (March 5/07)
The Night Listener, based on the book by Armistead Maupin, stars Robin Williams as Gabriel Noone, a successful radio personality who finds himself drawn into a bona fide mystery after befriending a young boy (Rory Culkin) and his protective guardian (Toni Collette). Armed with a streamlined screenplay by Maupin, Terry Anderson, and Patrick Stettner (the latter of whom also directs), the film effectively captures the essence of the novel without slavishly adhering to its every nuance - with the end result an adaptation that's bound to satisfy fans of the source material and neophytes alike. That said, the decision to take the emphasis off of Gabriel's day-to-day existence and place it instead on overtly creepy elements is somewhat jarring, though there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the film's various suspenseful moments (ie Gabriel's surreptitious visit to a hospital). Williams proves to be perfectly cast and consequently offers up a subtle, thoroughly compelling performance that's deftly matched by the uniformly superb supporting cast (Collette is particularly strong here). Stettner - along with cinematographer Lisa Rinzler - has infused The Night Listener with a stylishly off-kilter sensibility that mirrors the sporadically mysterious storyline, with the end result a tense, refreshingly brisk piece of work.