Rarely does a movie manage to evoke any kind of real visceral emotion in me. Occasionally upon leaving the theater I feel like dropkicking the nearest patron, like after I saw Fight Club.Pulp Fiction left me giddy, and South Park made me want to run around the block a few times yelling out some of the more memorable songs and dialogue.
I left Scream 3 pissed at having paid $9 to see such a crappy film, and the awful Congo made me want to tear bits of my flesh off and eat them. After watching the new movie Prince of Central Park with Harvey Keitel, Kathleen Turner and Danny Aiello, I felt the unprecedented combination of all these feelings rolled up into one giant, terrifying glob. It is hard to review a movie that is so mortifyingly bad and also completely unforgettable in its own right, but the effort must be made. Here is my first complaint:
The opening shot is of the Statue of Liberty, which should immediately set off warning bells in any moviegoer’s head. Never open with a shot of the Statue of Liberty. Especially if New York City is an integral part of the plot, as it is in this movie. If the movie were about poor immigrants coming to the United States, that would be one thing, but for heaven’s sake, with a title like Prince of Central Park, most of us could glean that the movie takes place in New York.
The premise movie is not bad in and of itself. Frankie Nasso plays JJ, a boy who lives in the projects with his neglectful and whorish foster mother. He runs away to try and find his real mother and ends up living in Central Park. JJ has a tremendous gift for music and makes money playing his keyboard on the street. True, JJ plays the same stupid song throughout the entire movie, but no matter.
Central Park, we learn, is guarded by Harvey Keitel, who plays a troll that lives under a bridge. Harvey Keitel plays a troll who lives under a bridge in the park.
I nearly exploded at this point in the movie, and had to frantically claw at the buttons on my shirt in an attempt to loosen my clothing slightly. In this painful and ridiculous performance, Keitel has a billygoat beard and two big, black, Groucho-esque eyebrows glued to his face. His manner of speaking is apparently inspired by Yoda, and his movements by a retarded dog. He demands at one point that JJ play his keyboard for him (“You will play!”), and reacts with quizzical, jerky head movements that make it look like he has some kind of tic.
My second big complaint: Only in special cases is it appropriate to repeat the name of the movie within the actual movie. In cases when the name of the movie is a proper name, this cannot be avoided, like in Forrest Gump. Or, “Forget about it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” But imagine if this were an actual scene from Braveheart:
Scottish Herdsman (to William Wallace): You are brave, and you have heart. We shall call you… Braveheart.
William Wallace: Braveheart?
Cheering Scottish Masses: Braveheart!!
Or Schindler’s List:
Oskar Schindler: I have here a list in my hand, and I shall call it… Schindler’s List!
Cheering Jewish Masses: Schindler’s List!!
Now here is the actual scene from Prince of Central Park:
Troll: You deserve better kid, you’re a real prince. (Light goes off in head.) The Prince of Central Park! I’m the King of Central Park, and you’re the Prince of Central Park!
JJ: The Prince of Central Park!!
Such moronic dialogue characterizes the entire movie. It was written and directed by John Leekley, who gave us the TV series “Kindred: The Embraced” and the really weird “Knight Rider 2010,” which had almost nothing to do with the original TV show. On a not unrelated note, the movie was co-produced by Steven Seagal. That’s right, Steven Seagal. We also learn, at the very end of the movie, that it is based on a musical originally produced by media mogul Abe Hirschfeld. Oh my goodness.
What makes this movie truly unfit for a blind ferret to see is that it puts extraordinary emphasis on appealing to the audience’s very basest emotions. In other words, it plays mean tricks on you so that you feel bad laughing at it. If you have seen Miss Saigon then you know what I am talking about. During the intermission, sad music is played and is accompanied by a slide show of impoverished Vietnamese children. It is truly sad. But it’s also a mean trick to play to compensate for a lousy show. Prince of Central Park employs similar tactics. It is horrible to want to laugh during the movie’s more poignant moments involving JJ and his mother, what with the orchestra swelling and all, but with such a foul script no amount of pathos could contain my loud snorts.
Kathleen Turner (Rebecca) and Danny Aiello (Noah) play a couple in a troubled marriage. Their dialogue revolves around their son Brian, who is conspicuously absent from the movie. We figure out in about three seconds that the son is dead, but out beliefs are cemented when Turner takes JJ to her house, places him in Brian’s conspicuously empty bed, turns out the lights, and slips, “Goodnight, Brian.” We learn how Brian died near the end of the movie in what is supposed to be a revelatory and climactic scene. Again, the writing is so totally ludicrous that I have taken my socks off at this point and am careening up and down the aisle.
Noah: You have to face it, Rebecca! Our son drowned! He drowned!
Rebecca (weeping audibly): No! No!
Noah: It happens every day! Kids…are…drowning! (loud sobbing)
“It happens every day”? “Kids are drowning”? The rest of the movie gets no better. The rest of the characters are equally boring and one-sided and the plot twists are clichÃ© and predictable. I will not spoil the ending, as if there were an ending to be spoiled, but during the credits Keitel is dressed in boots and a crown, carrying a scepter and jumping up and down like a leprechaun while sprinkling gold dust in the air. I am not kidding. If you must see this staggering abortion, resist the temptation to leave early and you will be rewarded with the worst career move Keitel has ever made.