#355. Rick Moranis

When it comes to Hollywood, we often see an actor’s work/life balance skewed heavily toward the “work” side of the continuum. How many divorces have resulted from these actors and actresses spending so much time in their career that they don’t have time for their significant other? Furthermore, if children are part of the relationship, where do actors find the time for those nurturing moments of parenthood amidst the crazy filming schedules of the movie industry? At the end of the day, these individuals need to determine their priorities in life, as we all must do when choosing between our work and our home life. Over the years, there have been few actors who have decided to focus on their family instead of their acting career. Rick Moranis is just such an actor. This week’s two films highlight some Rick Moranis’ most successful roles before he took a hiatus to raise his family.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

At the age of 62, Cary Grant retired from acting to raise his newborn daughter. While Grant had a wildly successful film career, he realized his role in his daughter’s life was much more important. Similarly, when Rick Moranis was widowed in 1991, he essentially became a single parent who had to raise two kids. Even though he continued to act for the next few years, he eventually realized he needed a hiatus to focus on the already complicated task of being a single father to his children. Two years before his wife’s death, Moranis starred in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). This film eventually received two sequels, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992) and the direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997). This third installment was Moranis’ last live-action film before his hiatus. He did some voice acting in a few more films like Brother Bear (2003), but since 2006, he has yet to return to acting.

Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has a lot on his plate. From trying to fix his new shrinking ray for a conference he’s attending in the next few days to raising a family of two kids in the suburbs, Wayne is trying to do it all, even at the detriment of his marriage. While he must leave for his conference, he tasks his kids to clean up the house before his wife gets home from spending the night at her mother’s house. Laughed off the stage for providing no proof that his shrink ray works, he comes home to find his house empty and an attic window broken. When his wife returns home, they make up, only to realize that their children are missing. A realization about the broken window causes Wayne to discover that his shrink ray does actually work and that it has shrunk their children. Carefully searching the area, Wayne eventually finds the kids in his morning cereal and is able to return them to normal size.

SpaceballsSpaceballs
Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours

If there was a genre Rick Moranis excelled in, it was comedy. A Canadian-born actor, Moranis broke into the comedy scene through the Canadian television show, SCTV. Because of his work on this sketch comedy show, he made the transition to the big screen with Strange Brew (1983), reprising his role of Bob McKenzie from the show. The following year, he would be a part of Ghostbusters (1984) as the demon-possessed Louis Tully. He would also reprise this role in the sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989), albeit as the Ghostbusters’ lawyer instead of their enemy. Aside from his leading role in the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986), perhaps his most well-known role was that of Lord Dark Helmet from the Star Wars (1977) parody, Spaceballs (1987). While Moranis has yet to find an acting role to break his hiatus, with the renewed cultural interest in Star Wars, a Spaceballs sequel just might do it.

As part of a plan to steal the air from nearby planet Druidia, President Skroob (Mel Brooks) of Planet Spaceball sends Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap the princess of Druidia on her wedding day. Unfortunately, before Dark Helmet can get there, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) abandons her own wedding and is picked up by Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his mog companion, Barf (John Candy). Dark Helmet pursues Lone Starr but overshoots when he commands the spaceship, Spaceball One, into “ludicrous speed.” Fortunately, using a VHS of the movie, Dark Helmet is able to learn that Lone Starr and Vespa crash-landed on the desert moon of Vega. After successfully kidnapping the princess, Dark Helmet manages to hold her ransom for the access codes to Druidia’s atmosphere shield. Can he successfully steal the planet’s air for President Skroob, or will Lone Star save the day?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Moranis milestones

Bacon #: 2 (Spaceballs / John Candy -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

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#354. Gigantic!

How often do we catch ourselves staring upward at an object, in awe of its immense size? When tourists first experience the towering heights of the skyscrapers of New York, they come to grips with the scale of such structures. Sometimes, even the most mundane things in life can be awe-inspiring (or at least attention-grabbing) when reimagined as larger versions of their smaller counterparts. While some of this fascination with gigantic items stems from the art world, there have been many films that have delved into the idea that size matters. In the past, this required building sets to make the actors on the screen seem much larger than they were. Today, CGI can accomplish this task. Even so, some amount of visual trickery is needed to make the actors appear larger than life. This week’s two films examine what it means to be gigantic!

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Giant robots are usually a sub-genre of science fiction often promulgated through Japanese manga and anime. While they cornered the market on giant monsters and the giant robots built to fight them (a la Godzilla (1954) and Power Rangers (2017), respectively) America is finally starting to catch up with such films as Pacific Rim (2013) and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018). Granted, most of the American giant monsters and robots before this point were in the form of enormous apes or alien invaders, like the eponymous King Kong (1933) or Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). All these giant robots and monsters were created in a variety of methods to make the audience think they are enormous, but there’s been at least one true giant to grace the big screen. In his best-known film role, Andre the Giant played the part of Fezzik in The Princess Bride (1987).

Upon the cusp of the start of the cold war, tensions are high between the United States and the Soviet Union. When a giant alien robot falls out of the sky and lands near a small town in Maine, the United States government is obviously suspicious of Communist involvement. However, what young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) learns upon finding this Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) is that the robot is a calm and docile being with no understanding of the world he now inhabits. The robot does not want to be seen as an enemy, but his automatic defense mechanisms are activated to protect him from the assault of the United States military. Despite Hogarth showing everyone that the robot is harmless, a trigger-happy government agent launches a nuclear missile against the robot that would likely wipe out the small town. It’s up to the Iron Giant to save the day and show he’s a hero, not a villain.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Size is all about perspective. While humans think anything larger than they are is gigantic, an ant would find humans to be tremendously enormous. Plenty of films explore this shift in perspective. From the superhero comedy of Ant-Man (2015) to the social commentary of Downsizing (2017), being shrunk down makes the entire world seem bigger in comparison. Some family-friendly films explore this idea as well, including Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Epic (2013). Despite knowing how to interact with our human-sized world, like The Borrowers (1997) or The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), sometimes the humans shrunk down to these sizes have difficulty adapting. When toy cars are large enough to be real ones, and building blocks can be used as a shelter, it takes some problem solving to fashion the tools needed to survive.

Eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is having trouble with his shrink ray. Every time he tries to shrink something, it explodes, thus making the ray gun too dangerous to use on humans. His children, Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) are tasked with cleaning up the house before their mother comes home. Meanwhile, the Szalinski’s neighbors, the Thompsons, are preparing for a fishing trip. Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton) accidentally hits a baseball through the Szalinski’s attic window and is caught by his brother, Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown), and forced to apologize to the Szalinskis. However, when the kids go up to find the baseball, the laser shrinks them down. After Wayne accidentally takes the kids out with the trash, they have to find their way back home in the wilderness that is their backyard. If they can gain Wayne’s attention, they just might be returned to normal size.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 enormously entertaining movies