CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Sunday, July 13, 2008

...But With Computers

Viewed 20 years out, Jumpin' Jack Flash holds up remarkably well. This primarily stems from the fact that the advanced technology of the film is instant messaging. If it were remade today, Terry Dolittle would have been contacted on her Blackberry. But if it were remade today, there would be excessive emphasis placed on the technology and super-smart hackers. Jumpin' Jack Flash remains refreshingly simple and straight-forward because it is about the human relationships here.

There are two classic films which have a significant influence on Jumpin' Jack Flash: North By Northwest and Laura. The influence of Laura can be written off as mere coincidence -- both films spend considerable time following someone falling in love with someone they might never meet -- but direct references to Hitchcock's cameo and the auction house scene beg comparisons. Now, Jumpin' Jack Flash is no North By Northwest, and Whoopie Goldberg is no Cary Grant. However, Flash has a much better handle on its comedy. Throwaway lines like "It's time for Gilligan's Gulag" pepper the film and add necessary relief to the spy action.

The suspense is generally the film's weakest point, primarily because it focuses so much on the actual plot. North By Northwest glides so easily because it knows that the plot is just an excuse to spend time with Cary Grant. Jumpin' Jack Flash actually wants us to care about the espionage and the British Consulate. Besides an enjoyably creepy performance from John Wood, the main thrust of the plot was unnecessary and deterred from where the film succeeds so well. That and the fact that the Consulate's henchman is Jim Belushi. That was just cruel.

One of the best aspects of Jumpin' Jack Flash is the way it manages to make Terry's scenes alone with the computer compelling, primarily through the use of Jonathan Pryce's voice for Jack. This device only arises after Terry goes to Jack's apartment and hears his voice, which tells us that we are distinctly seeing things from her perspective and hearing the conversations in her head. Most films don't give us such privileged access to our protagonist's minds, and this works greatly to the benefit of the film. Also, giving Whoopie Goldberg a voice to act against gives a way to show her come to care and eventually love Jack without it seeming exceedingly creepy. We all hear the sensual British voice that Terry does, and we all grow to like Jumpin' Jack Flash.

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