TALKING PICTURES:  BUDDY BASHING Image

Judging from the way Dick Bright and Jeremy Kramer laughed, shouted, yelled, and clapped their way though “The Rundown,” the new action-comedy starring The Rock and “American Pie’s” Seann William Scott, one might have assumed that they loved the movie. Apparently, laughing, shouting and clapping is just their typical reaction to mediocre movies, because afterwards, neither will admit to liking the darn thing.

“Uh . . . it was okay,” states Kramer, as we exit the theater.

“It was fun, I guess, but kinda disappointing,” shrugs Bright.

As for me, I thought it was a major blast, a spirited buddy movie about a professional gun-phobic bounty hunter (The Rock) and the sneaky college dropout (Scott) he’s sent to haul back from the Amazonian jungles, where the kid’s been playing Indiana Jones without the permission of the local despot (Christopher Walken), a nasty fellow who’s been forcing the locals to dig in his hellish gold mines. There’s plenty of outlandish action, a couple of rousing, envelope-pushing stunts, a beautiful rebel (Rosario Dawson), a mystical golden relic called “the Gato,” and a hilarious Walken caustically babbling stuff about Tooth Fairies and Oompa Loompas. What’s not to like?

Still, professional funny guy Jeremy Kramer, the curmudgeonly, L.A.-based actor and standup is clad this evening in jeans and a black T-shirt with the words “F**k Disneyland” felt the movie lost its initial promise way too soon. Meanwhile, Bright, Kramer’s longtime pal and sometime collaborator – in the 80s, they teamed together on a moderately-perverse children’s T.V. show called “Cartoon Classics,” and they’re currently working on a stage musical version of Russ Myers’ “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” – was disturbed by the music composed for a big shootout near the end. A professional Wacky Maestro of the infamous San Francisco party band Dick Bright’s SRO, Bright has a highly-developed musical sensitivity, as evidenced by Little Rogers & the Goosebumps’ delicate “Gilligan’s Island/Stairway to Heaven,” the litigious Dr. Demento hit for which he provided the nifty strings arrangements.

“It was kinda weird how the music got real religious when the Rock finally resorted to shooting people,” notes Bright, sipping a red wine in a cafe near the theater. “The music suddenly got real big, with these big synth chords – aaaaa AAAAA aaaaa – when he picked up the guns. He breaks down and shoots people, and the music gets all big and heavenly and churchy. It’s freaky.”

“Right on,” rasps Kramer.

“But I have a another problem with the Rock in this movie,” Bright points out. I want to know why he was wearing a suit coat in the jungle.”

“That bothered you?” Kramer asks.

“It bothered me greatly,” says Bright.

“That didn’t bother me,” Kramer retorts. “The guy obviously thought he was going right back home. He thought the job would be easy-peasy Japaneesy. What bugged me was the thing with the f*****g gato, where the girl goes, ‘We don’t care about morality. Who cares if this ancient artifact thingy belongs in a museum? We just want the money we can get for it on the black market!’”

“Kind of like when those people raided the museums in Baghdad,” Says Bright. “Though she did say they’d use the money for reconstruction of the village. I think there was some nation-building going on there.”

I attempt to interject with a comment about buddy movies, but Bright cuts me off.

IS this a buddy movie?” he asks.

“’Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ was a buddy movie, but not this,” agrees Kramer.

“Well,” I say in defense, “the definition of a buddy movie is two guys who start out on opposite sides, who are thrown together and end up liking and respecting each other. Like Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro in that other bounty hunter movie . . .”

“’Midnight Run’? I wouldn’t call that a buddy movie,” Kramer barks.

“Well, let’s not get stuck on semantics . . .” Bright starts in.

“No, I will get stuck on semantics!” Kramer insists. “The ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies, those were buddy movies. Those guys were a team. They were buddies. You can’t just throw any two people together into an adversarial position, and then, just because they hit some common ground along the way you call it a buddy movie. It’s an affront to true buddy movies everywhere. What about you Dick, would you call it a buddy movie?”

“Uh, sure. Why not?” Bright says, taking a strong position.

“Hey!” Kramer shouts, changing the subject. “Remember that scene early on where the Rock and the “American Pie” guy started rolling down that hill, hitting rocks and trees and s**t as they fell, and fell, and fell? I loved that! Part of me wanted that s**t to keep going for the rest of the movie. Take thirty minutes to set up the characters, then have another 90 minutes of the two guys falling down the hill, smacking into stuff. Now, that’s a buddy movie.”

It’s Bright’s turn to change the subject, pulling the conversation back to the topic of The Rock and those damn guns.

“It was so sad. All that World Groove music, at the beginning, it was so tasty,” he says, “and then we got to the damn guns, and the music got all majestic and spiritual. It tripped me out. I don’t even know why he started shooting people. He was doing so well till then, and his refusal to use guns was so likable. Why’d he flip over to the dark side? What, bad guys were shooting at the “American Pie” guy? That flipped him over? They’d been shooting at that guy all through the movie! What changed?”

“He heard the music,” suggests Kramer. “That church music. It sent the Rock right over the edge. Hey, it would do the same thing to me.”

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Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to the movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This is not a review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of art, alternative ideas, and popular culture.

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