One of the disadvantages to having a movie habit like mine is that you have to have a job that pays for said habit. Periodically my job requires me to be available in off-hours, limiting my social options for that time frame. Thankfully, I had a friend recently offer to cook me dinner and watch a couple of movies on DVD while I was tethered to my computer. At the same time, “Quint” from Ain’t It Cool News was reviving his “A Movie A Day” column and wrote an interesting piece on a movie that I had in my collection, The Criterion Collection version of Hopscotch. I wish I could say I could top Quint’s review, but sadly I cannot. Here is a link to it for you to read after you finish this piece (there is strong language in his review): http://www.aintitcool.com/node/60816 .
I remember when I first got this DVD. It was in 2008 and was a free selection from a promotion that I do not remember. I do remember being the most intrigued by it out of all of the other choices. The fact that it was part of the Criterion Collection helped convince me. For those not familiar with Criterion Collection, these are DVD and Blu-Ray releases that have been selected by an independent process to highlight story, visuals, and other examples of movie-making. Most choices tend to be art-house movies or foreign films, but there are some more mainstream choices available.
Lisa had not seen this movie as it was not something she would have normally picked. I chose it as one of the movies I would share with her in return for dinner. So we settled in with some jambalaya and set our time machines back to 1980.
Walter Matthau plays our hero, a spy nearing the end of his years in the field. He has spent years in Europe working against the KGB to further the American Way. After completing a mission, Matthau finds himself benched by his pompous boss, played to perfection by Ned Beatty. Matthau responds by doing what we have all wanted to do to our bosses at some point: give him his comeuppance. Throw in a young Sam Waterston (Law and Order) and Glenda Jackson, and you have yourself the makings of a cast made to take advantage of the story.
Having seen it before and owning it, I obviously enjoyed it. Lisa found it ok, but did remark that the pacing was slower than expected. I would agree with her that the pacing is slow, but it is not a detriment to the movie. Instead it allows the viewer to enjoy the setup of each scene and the performances contained in each one.
My advice: Give this one a try if you are looking for a comedic look at the spy world that does not lampoon it like Austin Powers – if anything, it is a good reminder of how much the world has changed in 33 years…