Chris Columbus

Columbus just seems to me like a completely nondescript director, as far as that’s possible. His movies are generally easily digestable and the actors always seem to be having a good time, but there’s nothing about the direction that is all that innovative or special. The only trademark I can see is that he likes to go for some genuine but easy tearjerker moments in otherwise light movies.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch: I really disliked this when I was ten years old, and I haven’t seen it since. However, I like the first movie and I’ve heard good things about this one, so I’ll have to give it another shot someday.

Grade: N/A

Home Alone: Holy crap was this movie popular. I liked it fine enough as a kid, and it’s fairly inoffensive as an adult. But Macaulay Culkin is precocious and obnoxious, so it’s hard to root for him against the cartoonish villians (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). In fact, the whole move is cartoonish, and not all that funny.

Grade: D

Adventures in Babysitting: I think it’s awesome that Vincent D’Onofrio played in this movie the same year as his role in Full Metal Jacket. I would probably need something lighthearted too after that movie. Anyway, Elizabeth Shue agrees to babysit three kids before taking them all in her car to go to Chicago and (surprise!) wacky hijinx ensue. One of the first movies I ever watched twice in the same day. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I have enough fond memories of it that I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy it if I watched it today. I may just keep my fond memories, though.

Grade: C-

Gremlins: After a boy gets a cute furry bat for Christmas, he fucks everything up by spilling water on it and feeding it “after midnight,” whatever that means. It produces many gremlins, which terrorize the town, kill a few side characters, and do some hilarious shit like get blown up in microwaves. Creepy at times, hilarious at times, and a bit slow at times. The actors appear to be having fun.

Grade: B

Rent: I wonder if Columbus took this movie because he worked with Anthony Rapp in Adventures in Babysitting? Tenuous connection, I know, but it’s not like Rapp has done a lot of other stuff other than Broadway. Either way, this is a solid but not spectacular translation of the Tony-winning play about a bunch of whiny artsy types whining about having AIDS, getting fired for insubordination, and by gosh, actually having to pay rent to live somewhere. I have a feeling in forty years that almost nobody will care about this play, as it doesn’t translate all that well outside of the 90’s. Other than the character of Angel, pretty much nobody in this play is sympathetic unless you’re a bleeding-heart communist. Still, there’s some fun music and Columbus was able to get most of the good songs into the movie while actually making it look like a movie (for the most part) rather than a play. Most of the actors who didn’t look ridiculously old yet reprised their roles, including Jesse L. Martin, who is fantastic as Tom Collins. Rosario Dawson (a newcomer) also shines as Mimi.

Grade: B

Mrs. Doubtfire: I honestly don’t know what to do with this movie, as it’s yet another Robin Williams vehicle I was crazy about when I was 12 and I like less and less over the years. The plot is insultingly contrived, as for some reason his ex-wife (Sally Field) is so bitter about Williams just being an okay husband that she convinces the court to make sure his visits with his kids are supervised by a bitch, despite the fact he obviously loves his kids and other than being a mild risk-taker, has never endangered them. Then, rather than get a better lawyer, he decides to cross-dress so he can be his kids nanny, which is scarier than anything he did while he was being a supposed bad father. Cue tired old cross-dressing jokes that stopped being funny sometime in the 80’s (or for me, 1994).  Still, I have a soft spot for this as the performances are good (Williams is actually restrained…for him) and it is pretty endearing, despite the ridiculousness of it all. The kids are adorable, especially Mara Wilson, and you really believe they’re family. I also love Robert Prosky, who plays Williams’ boss. I also appreciate the fact that Field’s new boyfriend, Pierce Brosnan, just plays a regular, nice guy and not some arrogant jerk for Williams to play off of.

Grade: B+

Other Chris Columbus Movies You May Have Seen

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
Bicentennial Man
Nine Months
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Only the Lonely

5 thoughts on “Chris Columbus”

  1. Columbus really gets very little out of his direction. He’s not a half-bad writer, but he managed to make two Harry Potter movies lack magic and imagination. They’re the worst two books, too, but still.

    I’ve seen most of what you mentioned. Gremlins 2 is an underrated comedy that has almost nothing in common, thematically, with the first. However, I haven’t seen it in years, either. I love the darkness of the first.

    Mrs. Doubtfire, like a lot of movies with Robin Williams, has a lot of really manipulative tear-jerky moments that leave me feeling like it’s all much too black and white. I can’t stand manipulative drama, but I do like much of the comedy.

    Nice writeup on Rent. The characters are such pathetic bitches, but I heard this musical constantly by virtue of being a college acting freshman the year it came out. Oy. I absolutely hate the premise and the on-the-nose dialogue, but damn, Larsson was good at writing interesting, varied music. It sucks that he had such a short life. Anyway, I agree that future generations won’t be as kind to the characters in this movie.

    Also, when I saw the show, Martin was in it, and he indeed blew everyone else out of the water.

    I wonder if Columbus took this movie because he worked with Anthony Rapp in Adventures in Babysitting?

    I wouldn’t assume “took” but “was offered.” Rapp was almost certainly part of this film before Columbus was, and since the main actors had been playing the roles for nearly a decade, perhaps their word was pretty important when it came to choosing a director.

      1. Yeah, I’m sure you’re right that he was offered Rent. It’s not like musicals were ever part of his pedigree. I imagine the actors wanted a lot of creative control if they were going to come and do the movie after all those years, and I’m guessing Columbus was fine with that.

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