Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements.
Length: 133 minutes
Grade: DC-DD=D
Budget: $70 million
Box Office: $145 million (52 U.S., 80 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written by: Allan Loeb (21) and Stephen Schiff (True Crime and Deep End of the Ocean), based on characters created by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone.
Directed by: Oliver Stone (W., World Trade Center, Any Given Sunday, Nixon, Natural Born Killers, JFK, The Doors, Born on the Fourth of July, Talk Radio, Wall Street, and Platoon.)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, and Carey Mulligan
With: Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, and Eli Wallach.

23 years after the events of the original (and classic) Wall Street, Gordon Gecko is out of prison and his daughter is engaged to an idealistic broker caught up in the middle of the 2008 banking industry collapse, trying to do right, make money, and maybe get some revenge on his own enemy with Gecko’s help.

Entertainment Value: D
This was profoundly disappointing, and it’s actually sort of pathetic in my mind. Oliver Stone made a masterpiece with his original, but he really hasn’t done anything worthwhile other than World Trade Center since the early 90s. And now, in the wake of the economic meltdown, he just couldn’t resist the urge to wade into the old plotline and update it by saying SOMETHING about the current situation. But that something is highly contrived, poorly written, badly acted, and difficult to follow. All this despite the presence of acting powerhouses Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, and of course Michael Douglas. Perhaps the very worst part of it was the weird and inexplicable cameo by Charlie Sheen in which he seems much more like Charlie Sheen than Bud Fox. And maybe I’m the only one, but I found the “twisty” plot to be pretty predictable, at least the parts I wasn’t having trouble following.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence B, Language D+
This is right on the edge of PG-13 from language alone, but beyond that there isn’t too much else to worry you here. There is a subway suicide, some implied sexuality, and semi-regular drinking and cigar smoking. I’d say R-15, but the good news is younger kids won’t likely have any interest in it anyhow.

Significant Content: D
Despite the hefty themes of money and how it can change you and the importance of family over money, the most successful people in this movie generally represent immorality and selfishness. Also, it seems to endorse revenge and blames the financial system meltdown on greedy jerks who forgot that they were supposed to be the stewards of the system rather than parasites upon it.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Seriously, what in this movie wouldn’t you already perfectly expect Oliver Stone to say, and then have to listen to him say it throughout the movie? Even the very interesting speech by Gecko at the college lecture hall was just a rip-off from the famous scene from the original and not believable in any case. I think the most hilarious one was the head of the Federal Reserve Bank explaining about how the bailout is socialism, which he’s fought all of his life.

Discussion Questions:
~Does Gecko really change in the end? If you think he has, would you say that this shift is a form of redemption which validates everything that had been suffered to that point? What do you think it would take for the “captains of industry” in the real world to have a shift in social conscience?
~Gecko says it’s not about the money but about the game, implying that money is just a measuring device. What do you think of this idea? How does it explain Brolin’s character and his answer that the number he needs to walk away is, “More.” To what degree is either money or the significance of winning at the money game an idol in various people’s lives here?
~What is the right attitude to have toward money? What does the Bible say?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The conversation with Shia’s boss in the park.
~Gecko’s speech to the college.
~Entering Gecko’s apartment with the Tulip Bubble picture remaining.
~The final scene with Gecko and the kids.
Overall Grade: D
Hackneyed and poorly executed. A terrible sequel that was made mostly because Oliver Stone just couldn’t resist trying to dive back into the waters that produced the masterful original. Unfortunately, this movie hits its head on the shallow bottom of what was once a pretty deep well. Still, I couldn’t help enjoying the David Byrne reprise.

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