Movie review: “The Deal”

After indulging hubby with the heart-thumping excitement of Fast and Furious (2009) the previous evening, last night it was time to counterbalance it with a comedy. So that’s how we ended up watching The Deal (2008). You can watch the official trailer here.

The official website summarises the plot as follows:

“Charlie Berns (William H. Macy) is a veteran Hollywood movie producer who has given up on his career and life. That is until his idealistic screenwriter nephew [Lionel] (Jason Ritter) comes bearing the script of a lifetime and Charlie decides to give his career one final shot. The only thing standing in his way is Diedre Hearn (Meg Ryan), a sharp-witted studio executive brought in to keep Charlie in line. But when their A-list action star (LL Cool J) gets kidnapped [by an unlikely band of terrorists] and the studio shuts down their movie, Charlie and Diedre reluctantly team up to pull off one of the biggest hustles in Hollywood history and, amidst the chaos, surprisingly discover that they are falling for each other.”

It is a satire about the movie industry of Hollywood, in the form of a movie about the making of a movie. One funny moment in the bonus features, which is about the making of ‘The Deal’, is when the director yells at the actors something like, “When I yell ‘cut’, I mean ‘cut’ in the movie inside the movie, okay? So you keep the cameras rolling!”

William H Macy is excellent as the fast-talking movie producer, who has been in the industry for so long that he knows all the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes, and who thus refuses to play by any of the accepted rules of movie making; with his cheeky smile and a large dose of chutzpah, he keeps one step ahead of us, tricking everyone whose cooperation he needs to participate in his project. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that he is smitten with Diedre (Meg Ryan), who, frustrated by his refusal to play by the rules, struggles to keep up with him.

American rap artist LL Cool J plays action hero Bobby Mason, who is endowed with a nice set of bulging and glistening muscles. Bobby has recently converted to Judaism, which is why he is so keen to do a Jewish movie. In order to trick Bobby into doing this movie, Charlie hires a couple of script writers to transform his nephew’s excessively dry and earnest script “Ben and Bill” – about two antagonistic British statesmen, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone – into a completely implausible action movie called “Benjamin Disraeli – Freedom Fighter”.

Don’t ask.

A bearded Elliott Gould is convincing in the role of Rabbi Seth Gutterman whom Charlie hires as associate producer (but who promptly claims the title of executive producer), because they need someone to make sure that the movie is ‘Jewish enough’.

I’d read somewhere that it (or parts of it) had been shot in South Africa. And indeed it was: we saw parts of the international arrivals terminal of Cape Town Airport; a pristine white beach near the Koeberg nuclear power station with a view of the Table Mountain range; and bits of Rhodes Memorial overlooking the vast expanse of the Cape Peninsula were blown up most dramatically. The second half of the movie was set in Prague, but I don’t know whether Cape Town stood in for that city too. Another South African connection was the surprising and delightful appearance of Jeremy Crutchley in the role of London actor Ian Chadwick, who plays Benjamin Disraeli in Lionel’s original script, which is the movie Charlie and Diedre finally end up shooting.

You gotta be on your toes to follow the complicated twists and turns of the plot, as well as the bickering and snappy repartees between Charlie and Diedre. but it’s fun and lighthearted entertainment if you want some laughs.

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