The Films of Brad Peyton
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (August 3/18)
Brad Peyton's directorial debut, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore follows two canine secret agents (James Marsden's Diggs and Nick Nolte's Butch) as they set out to stop the diabolical Kitty Galore (Bette Midler) from unleashing a deadly plot against dogs. It's clear right from the outset that Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore has been designed to appeal solely to very small children, as Peyton, working from a screenplay by Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich, has infused the proceedings with a fast-paced and astonishingly mindless feel that grates from the word go - with the movie's total absence of substance preventing one from working up any interest in the cartoonish protagonists' ongoing exploits. It's disappointing to note, too, that the picture's few attempts at placating older viewers fall distressingly flat, with, for example, an extended Silence of the Lambs homage failing to make the tongue-in-cheek impact that Peyton has obviously intended. And although the voice cast has been packed with talented performers - in addition to Marsden, Nolte, and Midler, the movie boasts aural appearances from folks like Neil Patrick Harris, Wallace Shawn, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Roger Moore - Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore's relentlessly broad sensibilities ensure that the various actors are essentially drowned out by the seemingly neverending noise and mayhem. By the time the action-packed yet headache-inducing climax rolls around, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore has certainly cemented its place as a bottom-of-the-barrel example of lowest-common-denominator childrens' filmmaking.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
San Andreas (June 26/15)
A fairly typical disaster movie, San Andreas follows rescue-chopper pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) as he endeavors to save both his ex-wife (Carla Gugino's Emma) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario's Blake) in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake. Filmmaker Brad Peyton, working from Carlton Cuse's screenplay, has infused San Andreas with precisely the sort of unsubtle and over-the-top feel promised by its hoary setup, with the movie's opening stretch devoted to a series of admittedly impressive sequences detailing California's widespread destruction. It turns out, however, that there's a reason movies of this ilk often possess multiple subplots, as San Andreas progresses into a repetitive midsection revolving almost entirely around Ray's search for Blake (and vice versa). It's far from enthralling stuff that's compounded by an emphasis on underdeveloped periphery characters, including a pair of siblings (Hugo Johnstone-Burt's Ben and Art Parkinson's Ollie) who ultimately wind up tagging along with Daddario's resourceful protagonist. (And though it's always a pleasure to see Paul Giamatti, his seismologist doesn't seem to have any real purpose here other than to warn others of impending quakes.) The movie's watchable yet lackluster vibe is perpetuated by Peyton's overuse of handheld cinematography, as the viewer's confusion over what's happening (and to whom) during certain key sequences dulls the visceral impact that should have accompanied such moments. In terms of big-budget summer blockbusters, San Andreas stands out as a better-than-average endeavor that, at the very least, boasts one of Johnson's most charismatic performances to date.
Incarnate (May 28/18)
Incarnate casts Aaron Eckhart as Seth Ember, a scientist whose ability to enter the minds of demonically-possessed individuals allows him to cast out the unwanted entity from within - with the narrative detailing Seth's efforts at saving a young boy (David Mazouz's Cameron) from the grips of a malevolent being (while also confronting a traumatic incident in his own past). The degree to which Incarnate fizzles out is ultimately somewhat devastating, as the movie slowly-but-surely squanders a promising setup that puts a unique, innovative spin on the tired exorcism genre - with scripter Ronnie Christensen triggering the picture's downward spiral by suffusing most of the first half with relentless (and exhausting) exposition. It is, as such, not surprising to note that Incarnate's overtly positive elements, including a typically engaging turn by Eckhart, are eventually rendered moot, as director Brad Peyton delivers a midsection and climax containing virtually all of the tropes one associates with movies of this ilk - which ensures, naturally, that the film's third act, revolving predominantly around Seth's efforts at freeing Cameron from the demon's clutches, is far from the engrossing, exciting stretch that Peyton has surely intended. The inclusion of a last-minute twist, seemingly designed to perk up one's waning interest, does nothing to alleviate the otherwise tedious atmosphere, and it's clear, in the end, that Incarnate is simply unable to live up to the potential offered by its admittedly intriguing premise.
Rampage (May 22/18)
Inspired by the 1980s video game, Rampage details the chaos that ensues after an experimental pathogen transforms three animals (a gorilla, a wolf, and a crocodile) into mutated, enormous, and seemingly unstoppable creatures - with the movie following Dwayne Johnson's Davis Okoye as he and scientist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) set out to prevent the beasts from destroying downtown Chicago. Filmmaker Brad Peyton, working from a script by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel, does a superb job of immediately drawing the viewer into the blisteringly-paced proceedings, as Rampage opens with a stunningly entertaining pre-credits sequence that feels like the climax of an entirely different movie - with the film, past that point, segueing into a familiar yet consistently entertaining extravaganza overflowing with exciting interludes (including an engrossing stretch set aboard a plane and a series of sequences detailing the aforementioned animals' various attacks). The narrative has likewise been suffused with a whole host of appealingly ridiculous (and unapologetically hoary) elements (eg the smarmy human villains), and it's clear, too, that the movie's action-heavy final stretch, revolving around the inevitable attack on Chicago, delivers precisely the sort of broadly-conceived mayhem one might've hoped for (and, unlike far too many blockbusters, everything that occurs is actually coherent and easy to follow). And although the movie is ultimately just a little too long for its own good, Rampage is otherwise (and mostly) a superior video game adaptation that stands heads and shoulders above its myriad of underwhelming big-budget brethren.