Hollywood's problems are such right now that the only way they can make any money is through soul-killing popcorn films that everyone sees, no one likes, and fewer of us are buying on DVD. We are simply no longer willing to pay for any film that looks anything close to "serious." But can you blame us? After a decade-plus of being relentlessly beat over the head with anti-American, anti-troop, anti-Bush, anti-Southern, and anti-anything that isn't elitist Blue State and all things Meterosexual, if the trailer doesn't contain a whole lot of explosions or some kind of romcom meet-cute, we just aren't going to risk being insulted.
One way Hollywood might earn a smidgen of our goodwill back would be to lay off the American military. If these Hollywoodists were just a little flexible and willing to meet us halfway -- if they were just willing to treat the American military with half the respect they show for a child-rapist director, there could be a mutual quiet area in this ongoing culture war that would benefit all of us.
After all, how hard would it have been to make "The Crazies
'" evildoers -- those who bully, terrorize, and murder the innocent civilians of a small Iowa town, something other than our military? There's a whole world of bad guys out there but as our
guys risk and sacrifice everything to liberate 50 million people they've never met in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they do God's work in Haiti, I'm supposed to sit back and accept them being portrayed as no better than concentration camp Nazis?
The primary job of a filmmaker is to cast and hold on to a storytelling spell, and one of the easiest ways to break that spell is through a lack of verisimilitude that pulls the audience out of the story as they think, "Wait, that would never happen." And one thing good people are most sure would never happen is that, as an institution, our military would behave like concentration camp Nazis.
For this reason "The Crazies" isn't just morally illiterate and anti-troop, but other than an intriguing first act and a few well-staged scenes, it's a lousy piece of film-making. And the fact that it's a remake and that this attack on our military holds true to George Romero's 1973 film
of the same name (the worst directed movie in history without the name Ed Wood on it) doesn't matter. At least in Romero's day troop-bashing wasn't a tired-as-hell cliche, but more to the point, the American people (as least the good ones) are sick of seeing our best and brightest smeared -- especially by the same ungrateful, spoiled millionaires who have benefited most from their sacrifice.
But even without this spell-breaking propagandist attack, "The Crazies" wouldn't have much going for it.
On a perfect summer day, the idyllic life of small town America is forever broken as a man in some kind of trance interrupts a local baseball game as he makes his way across the field carrying a shotgun. With no other choice, Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to shoot him. And this is just the beginning. For no explicable reason everyday people start to brutally murder and torture each other. But just as Dutton unravels the mystery, the military puts the entire town on containment and soon it's hard to tell the difference between those who are "crazied" and those simply fighting back.
The mystery and tension builds quite well through the first act thanks to some truly frightening scenes and a growing sense of paranoid isolation. Unfortunately, this falls apart as the plot becomes just another Gotta Get To Point B
story where logic is tossed out the window to service a narrative that gets less compelling by the minute. For example, if the American military and a townful of murderous crazies were hunting you, would you walk or drive down the middle of a road in broad daylight?
For "The Crazies" to make sense it should've moved its location from Middle America to the 90210 zip code where a large majority of the population really would be stupidly clueless without access to cell phones and servants. And while I still wouldn't believe it when our military roughed up The Pampered Elites, the vicarious thrill of it all would override the need to suspend any disbelief.