- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

The pharmaceutical industry comes in for a drubbing in Fernando Meirelles’ “The Constant Gardener,” an adaptation of spy novelist John le Carre’s 2000 thriller about a drug company’s predations in Africa. Corporate America has been a convenient source of easily caricatured villains in movies, from classic satires like “Modern Times” (1936) and “The Apartment” (1960) to more recent muckraking melodramas like “The Insider” (1999) and “Erin Brockovich” (2000). Stock movie villainy comes in other cultural and institutional varieties, too:

• WASPs — As in the impeccably pedigreed New England scions who kicked Dan Ackroyd to the curb in the 1983 turnabout classic “Trading Places.” And the wolf in seasonally appropriate clothing who roughed up Owen Wilson in “Wedding Crashers.” Preppiness, in movies, is far from godliness.

• Crooked cops — They’re all over recent movies like “Sin City” and “Four Brothers.” They were in bed with the mob in “The Godfather” and “The Untouchables.” Without these staple movie bad guys, Johnny Cochran might never have invented Mark Fuhrman.

• Patio Men — These clean-living suburbanites of columnist (and sympathizer) David Brooks’ coinage lead quietly desperate lives in movies such as “American Beauty,” “Far From Heaven,” “The Safety of Objects” and “The United States of Leland.” Their spouses are, of course, “Desperate Housewives.”

• Organized religion — In “Monster-in-Law,” Jennifer Lopez’s happy-go-lucky character informed us she was “spiritual,” not — yuck — “religious.” That way, we could comfortably distance our heroine from that medieval nuthouse as depicted in movies like “The Order,” “Dogma,” “Saved!” and, coming soon, “The Da Vinci Code.”

• Military brass — They abandoned Rambo as he rescued forgotten POWs in Vietnam (“Rambo: First Blood Part II”). They shortchanged men on the ground in Somalia (“Black Hawk Down”). They threatened to blow up the world in “Dr. Strangelove.” Made Patio Man think twice about shipping off his wayward son to boot camp.

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