The Music Man, Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days star has been a very ambitious director and has had no problem getting the chance to direct big actors and big movies. However the movies I’ve seen have not lived up to those expectations. Like Chris Columbus, he seems very capable but not groundbreaking. And every movie I’ve seen has dramatic moments that just don’t ring true to me. I wonder if being famous his whole life has given Howard a different lens on how people really act with each other, or if he just believes that’s what it takes to be successful in Hollywood.
Far and Away:You plunge and then you scrub is the lesson I learned from this movie about an Irish lad (Tom Cruise) who escapes property persecution in his homeland and comes to America and tries to settle down there. I like Nicole Kidman (a daughter of one of the bastards who wants him dead), but Tom Cruise is absolutely hilarious as an Irishman. Colm Meaney has a memorable but albeit short role as a runner of a bare-knuckle boxing club in Boston. Other than that, the story about these two lovebirds from different social classes figuring things out in America is uninspiring and seemingly pointless. For a married couple, Cruise and Kidman don’t have a lot of chemistry on-screen.
The Da Vinci Code: By the numbers recreation of Dan Brown’s novel, it does a pretty good job with following the story but emotionally it’s pretty cold. There’s a couple of tense scenes, but the pacing never matches that of the book. Ian McKellen is the best part.
Willow: A dwarf must protect a special baby from an evil queen in this story by George Lucas (don’t worry, he didn’t write the script). I’m not much into fantasy stuff, but this is fairly entertaining for how over-the-top silly it is. Warwick Davis gives it his all, but Val Kilmer is mostly a pretty face. I saw this when I was eight years old and Joanne Whalley became my first celebrity crush. The game for the Nintendo is much better than the movie.
Apollo 13: Mostly true to fact recreation of the Apollo 13 disaster and all the close shaves that occurred before they miraculously got back home. Shot well, and Howard does a pretty good job extracting suspense from naturally slow-moving spaceship problems that we ultimately know will be solved. However, he adds a bunch of faux-drama between the shipmates that never existed in reality to create more conflict, and that really gnaws at me. I’m not sure if I’m more upset at Howard than I am at the reality that the public may need fake conflict to enjoy a story about one of the most amazing scientific events in the world’s history. Solid acting all around by the star-studded cast of Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harirs and Kevin Bacon.
Backdraft: A family drama set into the world of the Chicago Fire Department. From what I’ve heard, not completely unrealistic representation of firefighters and actual firefighting, but some liberties are taken as well for drama. Very-well paced and some good special effects make this very watchable. Kurt Russell is entertaining as he often is in this kind of thing.
Other Ron Howard Movies You May Have Seen
A Beautiful Mind
Angels & Demons
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)