By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 4, 2013 at 5:43PM
Baaah! I'll keep this one short and simple.
It's frustrating when watching a film that you feel could have been so much better, but, for any number of reasons, just fails to really deliver, and instead hovers around mediocre; and Freaky Deaky is just such a work - at least to me.
Based on the book of the same name by Elmore Leonard, who also penned Jackie Brown, you'd think that with a title like Freaky Deaky, and a poster featuring an illustrated seemingly naked woman, straddling a dynamite stick, the film would lean a bit more towards the fringes, but it seems satisfied with itself as this rather lifeless exercise.
It's missing the hipness, crackle and sheer delight found in past adaptations of Leonard's crime dramas, like the aforementioned Jackie Brown (directed by Quentin Tarantino), as well as Out Of Sight (directed by Steven Sodebergh), and Get Shorty (directed by Barry Sonenfeld); it's worth noting that Scott Frank wrote the screenplays for 2 of those films, and Tarantino penned the script for Jackie Brown (an adaptation of Rum Punch).
Freaky Deaky is both written and directed by Charles Matthau - a renaissance man of sorts, who acts, directs, produces and a bit more. I'm not too familiar with his past work (especially as a director), so I can't really do any compare/contrast here.
But his Elmore Leonard adaptation will likely go down in history as one of those forgettable filmed versions of Leonard's novels, like the recent Kill Shot and even the F. Gary Gray-directed Be Cool (sequel to Get Shorty).
It's set in the 1970s, but, aside from the outfits and afros, I'm not sure if that really comes across very well; or if these characters are instead guests of one big costume party. The dating of it actually seemed unnecessary, and I can't say its period setting added much to the progression of the narrative (this is the film adaptation I'm talking about, not the book, which was actually set in the 1980s). It felt more like a distraction, because if the same film were set in the present day, minus the 1970's decorations, I think it would've even been less interesting.
But you've seen this all before; in short, there's a pot of gold ($50 million) that a number of different interconnected characters are chasing, each of them with individual reasons as to why they feel they deserve it, each willing to do whatever is necessary to claim the entire pot, or a nice chunk of it.
And with an ensemble cast, in the hands of a director without the right skills to manage all those characters, personalities, and individual story-lines, the end product could become a mess of a film. But Freaky Deaky thankfully is actually isn't that; however, writer/director Matthau just isn't able to fully breathe life into each thread to keep me engaged - whether in the individual parts, or the sum total.
So what I think really should have been something far more crackling, which I think is what the director was going for, is instead, well, dull, and ultimately uninteresting.
Michael Jai White as ex-Black Panther Donnell Lewis in a comedic role, is maybe the film's one standout (this guy really should be starring in *bigger* films), and it was nice to see old-timers like Bill Duke and Gloria Hendry in small but memorable roles as well.
It's supposed to be this trippy, even psychedelic farce of a film, but plays far too safe, is too predictable, and lacked in execution to hold my attention throughout.