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THE RING TWO (PG-13) (2005)

Dreamworks

Official Site

Director: Hideo Nakata

Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes

Written by: Ehren Kruger

Cast: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek

Rating:


Although The Ring Two purports to be a horror picture it is actually a feature-length advertisement for the benefits of birth control. It asserts that, should a woman choose to birth a child, she will endure postpartum depression, the humbling travails of single-motherhood, the ever-watchful, misunderstanding eye of Child Protective Services, possession of said child by evil spirits, and the realization that, to make her child love her again, she must first drown it in a bathtub. And what cosmopolitan gal wants to deal with those inconveniences when she could be out sipping Mexican martinis with her best buds and engaging in casual, protected horizontal-mamboing with anything that wears a shell necklace? Take it from The Ring Two, ladies, and be safe.

In attempting to pick up the pieces of a life shattered by ghostly tomfoolery, Rachel Keller (Watts) and her son, Aidan (Dorfman, who ceaselessly looks as though he may burst into tears at the drop of a hat), relocate to Astoria, Washington, where there’s no chance they’ll encounter the tape from the first film. Only, within approximately a day of relocating to Astoria, Washington, Rachel, who now works for the small-time local paper, encounters the tape from the first film, which has just caused the death of an American Eagle-garmented frat-boy that no one—not even his parents—will miss. After destroying the hilariously anthropomorphic videotape and hopefully freeing Astoria, Washington, of supernatural menace (by the way, if you’ve never seen The Ring and you don’t know, if you watch the tape you die in seven days—not that that’s important in this movie) she returns home to her annoyingly-aware son and, in a kind world, the film would have ended at a cool 15 minutes. But, because the world we inhabit is cruel and unforgiving, Samara the vengeful ghost is alerted to the Kellers’ location by Rachel’s destruction of the videotape and, in a plot decision that derails the franchise and induces effects ranging from apathy to slumber and back to apathy, begins to possess young Aidan. Rachel then drives from location to location and has many short-yet-excruciating discussions with many forgettable characters who inform her of exactly how to put the kibosh on that silly possession business without much complication at all. The highlights include Samara’s mother (Spacek) gleefully extolling the virtues of infanticide while using safety scissors. That is the only highlight. And if you’re reading this review having already watched the film, you probably don’t recall that part because you slept through it or chose to fantasize about Naomi Watts’ lesbian love scene in Mulholland Drive instead of paying attention. Furthermore, there is a character named “Max Rourke” (Baker) who is only worth mentioning because of his unparalleled uselessness. If anyone out there manages to stay awake through The Ring Two and can actually describe to me how “Max Rourke” serves the story, I’ll personally buy you a steak dinner, chew your steak for you, and transfer it from my mouth to yours via French kiss so you can focus on basking in the radiant magnitude of your accomplishment. Consider it a contest. Suffice it to say, as The Ring Two ends (and I don’t consider these spoilers because it isn’t a film worth watching) Aidan is once again better than ever, the Samara threat once again seems squashed, Rachel is drenched and her erect nipples are once again visible through her shirt, and your interest in anything Ring-related will, for the first time, be history (and I don’t mean the good, Michael Jackson kind).

What The Ring Two lacks in quality it makes up for with innumerable condemning problems. If those problems got organized and formed a democratic body, they would elect “Stupid Fucking Plot” as their President and Chief Delegate. Whereas The Ring was built around the sinister and frighteningly timely concept of a killer videotape and its pandemic dissemination, its sequel hinges upon one of the most exhausted of horror clichés—possession. Who even cares about possession? Anyone? The Exorcist nailed it back in 1973 and it simply isn’t going to get any better. While screenwriter Ehren Kruger (it’s fair to say that I hate this man) could have explored and evolved the concept of the first film in any number of potentially exciting directions, he instead blended it with a separate and timeworn convention, resulting in the production of a diluted and inferior creation. In trying to capture the flavor of its predecessor, Kruger constructs another mystery for Rachel to solve in order to save her son, then allows her to solve it roughly 10 minutes later, effectively draining all tension from the narrative. He also refuses to add depth to any of the established characters, and seems to take sadistic pride in introducing several new faces to the Ring universe who may as well be Robosapiens for all the personality they exude. I call attention once more to the “Max Rourke” character, who seems to exist solely for body count purposes since no energy is devoted toward establishing any sort of romantic or even humane relationship between him and Rachel. Other heinous additions include Dr. Emma Temple (Perkins, whom I had a huge crush on in Big), who injects air into her underdeveloped neck just as you think she might serve as a force of conflict, and Evelyn, Samara’s mother, who is crazy just for the sake of being crazy and who openly promotes the idea of women killing their children in order to prevent them from being possessed by the dead (which sounds ludicrous at first but actually makes a whole lot of sense when you truly consider what she’s suggesting). These feeble characters then waste an hour and a half of our time by consistently throwing themselves into uninteresting situations, driving aimlessly, reciting trite and awkward dialogue at the beginning of the movie that will clearly be repeated during the movie’s climax for maximum dramatic effect (a tactic ring-like in its vicious circularity), and not committing spontaneous suicide immediately after the opening credits.

Most disappointing, and downright alarming, even, is the dearth of fright found in The Ring Two. Nakata, director of the original Japanese film, Ringu, provides little in the way of disturbing imagery or disquieting color palette; The Ring, of course, contained both in spades. Never in my life would I have imagined that I’d be missing the utilitarian, uninspired direction of Gore Verbinski, but I do. Unbelievably, it seems that neither Nakata nor Kruger, both instrumental in launching Ring-mania in their respective countries, understand the elements that made the first film so effective. Instead, they kill the metaphor of mass media being a deadly, inescapable entity and focus on the plights of underwritten women and possessed children, neither of which anyone is particularly keen on seeing. They do, however, stage a compelling commentary concerning the difficulties of motherhood in modern America. Watch in horror as Rachel tries desperately to schedule a doctor’s appointment for her sick child and as she defends her parenting abilities against a Child Protective Services psychologist and wonder just how much Naomi Watts is acting.

—Nathan Baran

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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