Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dead Can't Dance

FRANKLIN & BASH: LAST DANCE

Last Dance had a return to the oddball cases Franklin and Bash specialize in, which is a plus.  However, it had secondary characters doing completely irrational things, which made Last Dance a story that had you question whether the water at Infeld Daniels makes everyone downright stupid.

We begin with Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell), who receives a menacing package: a Buddha head with the eyes colored out.  He and his nephew, Damien Karp (Reed Diamond), quickly suspect (very quickly, but more on that later) it is the work of a disgruntled ex-client, one Samuel Jeffers (Todd Stashwick), recently released from prison.  Damien, in a rare moment of irrational love for his uncle, decide Jeffers needs to be taken down, but the personal touch doesn't help.  In fact, it backfires on him, and Jeffers, who received a law degree while in prison, actually wins over Karp in court and puts a restraining order on him and Infeld.  Karp, now more determined to win, asks Jerod and Peter's investigator Carmen Phillips (Dana Davis), whom he keeps calling Wilson Phillips (because they're really cool), to see if she can do something. 

The case with Jerod Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) involves the body of the late Dr. Strauss.   The widow, Martha (Anne Ramsay), has no problem following her late husband's wishes to have his body basically mummified as part of an exhibit, a Bodies in Motion-style scientific touring exhibition.  The problem comes when she finds out what he'll be permanently posing as: a dancer in the middle of a saucy Latin dance. 

The boys try to convince the court that as the widow Mrs. Strauss has the final say-so as to where and how the body will be handled, even if it means going against Dr. Stauss' wishes to be preserved doing the cha-cha-cha.  However, there is a twist: Dr. Strauss had secretly filed for divorce and been having an affair with his saucy Latin dance teacher, Alana (Andrea Gabriel).  The judge decides that Alana, not the Widow Strauss, was the closest person to the late Dr. Strauss, and Alana gives the Body View people the go-ahead.

Well, looks like the boys have failed again, but to help them comes Hanna (Gabrielle Beauvais), who has been part of their team on this case.  She points out that Dr. Strauss gave his soon-to-be-former his art collection in his will, and now that he's been turned 'into' a work of art...

Meanwhile, Karp's attempts with Jeffers continue to go disastrously wrong.  Carmen finds that Jeffers is in fact NOT Infeld's stalker, but at their next hearing Infeld asks forgiveness of Jeffers for not being able to win his case.  Far from being displeased, Jeffers thanks Infeld for what he did do.  He mentions that he had asked forgiveness from the teller Jeffers had held hostage in his robbery, but Sharon Wright (Meagan Fay) had refused him.  This is curious since she had told Infeld and Karp that she hadn't been contacted by Jeffers.  Now, why would she lie?

Finally, with a little help from courtroom sketch artist Nolan Tate (Boris Kodjoe), who also happens to be an old flame of Hanna's, the boys manage to win the body (even if it is in a dancing pose) for Mrs. Strauss (who had to divorce her late husband to win his body back) and have him buried at a family plot in the East Coast.

I'm not a legal expert, but I didn't for one moment believe that ANY judge would have awarded a body to a mistress.  Furthermore, they had been lovers for less than nine months, yet I'm suppose to accept that a judge would rule that even though the widow didn't know she was being divorced (the papers had never been sent to her) and that legally she was still married to him, the body really belonged to some saucy Latina that popped in out of nowhere?   Now, I figure that there has to be some legal overview, but I never figured that the mistress would be entitled to anything, let alone the body.

Now, in Kristi Korzec and Matt McGuinness' screenplay it should be pointed out that the Widow Strauss NEVER objected to her late husband being part of the exhibition.  It was on WHAT that position would be that was the question.  Dr. Strauss wanted to be be displayed as a dancing fool, but she didn't want her husband to be seen shaking his moneymaker.  Surely they could have come to some agreement on how to display the body, so the entire issue quickly deteriorates.  I kept wondering why they didn't come to an agreement over how to display the body.  Surely Body View wouldn't be so stubborn to perhaps change the doctor's position.

If that whole "let's give the body to the girlfriend" business wasn't bad enough already, we have the subplot of Karp vs. Jeffers that comes from another world altogether.   Given what we know of Damien, he's hyper-rational and not prone to hysterics.  Therefore, why suddenly shift him into this imbecile who is borderline insane?  With very little evidence Karp and to a lesser point Infeld zero in on Jeffers being the culprit.  I thought it highly bizarre that with no proof they pursued Jeffers, convinced that he was Infeld's stalker.

This isn't true to how Karp is.  He, the most rational (to his detriment) of the attorneys at Infeld Daniels, would have first investigated to see if Jeffers is behind all this.  You could have had the comedic efforts of Damien to ingratiate himself to Carmen (even that weak 'I keep thinking your name is WILSON Phillips' business) followed by her discovering that he wasn't behind it.  Instead, Korzec and McGuinness opted to make Karp such an idiot that he couldn't see straight and realize his actions were yes, idiotic.  I keep thinking that Karp's whole manner was changed to give Diamond a chance for a little more comedy, but comedy has to come from authenticity.  When people make fun of Karp, it has to come from his natural reactions to situations, not from changing his personality.

If anything, Last Dance has only one thing going for it: the Beauvais/Kodjoe interplay as Hanna and Nolan.  Not only does it give us more insight into Hanna's personality and thinking, but also a chance for Meyer to throw in some great one-liners.  When Hanna declines Nolan's first offer of a date, she tells Franklin and Bash that he's really intimidated of her.  Franklin is incredulous: "that Ebony Statue" that passed before them is somehow intimidated by her?  Nolan, the "Sex Luthor of sketch-artists, is afraid of Hanna?  It was nice to have a subplot on a character we don't see much of, especially given that at heart Hanna has been conflicted about Franklin and Bash.

On the one hand, she thinks like her ex Damien that both of them are bringing down the firm with their antics, but on the other she has grown to like these two and see them as good guys.  A deeper exploration of this conflict would benefit the show tremendously, but instead we get Breckin Meyer-ed by silly twists and another time when Hanna, not Peter or Jerod, found the solution.

One thing I found particularly atrocious was the music.  When Karp receives the restraining order, it would be a comical moment, but the score was so serious it made everything look (and sound) so unnatural.  Worse, we HAD to have these guitar riffs whenever Alana popped in, and I don't want to go into how stereotypical this was. 

There were some funny moments in Last Dance (McDowell expressing how he loved the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey is an amusing inside joke: McDowell was directed by Stanley Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange) and having Franklin & Bash use a stuffed bear to make their case about Dr. Strauss being 'art' was not entirely unexpected.

However, if it were not for the Hanna/Nolan subplot Last Dance would have been really hideous.  Reed as Karp was made to behave so irrationally and frankly out-of-character, and we again have a case where Franklin and Bash didn't solve their dilemma but had someone else basically do it for them. 

All this I will Bear In Mind when thinking of Last Dance and Franklin & Bash: Season Two.

We didn't grin, and we can't bear it.


3/10

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