I saw Real Steel earlier tonight, the new Hugh Jackman movie. It was cheesy, actiony and packed with product placement. It was a perfect cheesy feel-good sports movie, with a sci fi twist. And I absolutely loved it.
I think I said cheesy a couple of times already -- beat for beat, the movie never missed an opportunity for a saccharine-sweet heartwarming moment. Every line was ever so slightly melodramatic, every character action was a ham-fisted dramatization of the most extreme version of that character personality as was possible. But, like a well-executed pop song, every overblown, cookie-cutter element was perfectly balanced and placed, and by the end of the movie I had tears in my eyes.
When you see a movie that has ludicrous amounts of concern and detail poured into it, you expect it to be something just slightly fringe, like Scott Pilgrim or Fight Club. Or anything else by Edgar Wright or David Fincher. Every once in a while, though, there's a mainstream, feel-good movie that's right in the middle of its genre, with a cast and director and producer who just really give a f---.
It's possible, probable, even, that under sharp scrutiny major parts of the plot of Real Steel would fall apart. But the minutiae of the setting were as thorough as one ever sees. The moment-to-moment elements of the setting breathed backstory, and you get the impression that the writers could have written any of a hundred films in that setting, and they'd all fall together into a perfect narrative.
Not just other sports movies, though -- I saw, at least, a legal drama, a lifetime-style tragedy, two mob films, a punk story, and a character piece about an obsessed inventor, in all of which the robot boxing would be nothing more than a peripheral element.
If you're looking for deep intellectual provocation and revolutionary style and content in a film, Real Steel is not your movie. But if you just want to shut off your brain for a while and indulge in the junkfood of the mind that is pop culture, I cannot recommend Real Steel highly enough. It may be cheesy fluff, but it's cheesy fluff by a crew of artists who deeply and sincerely care about getting their movies right -- even if getting it right just means two hours of mindless entertainment.