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Entries in alan alda (2)

Friday
Feb242012

Wanderlust

Wanderlust is a movie I would have loved when I was 13. Its sexuality alone is enough to please any blossoming young teen, but its pervasive language (also of the sexual nature) is icing on the cake. It’s stupid, immature and filled to the brim with innuendo and smut, everything required of a movie for teens with such a narrow minded focus. The teenager inside of me is yelling at me to loosen up, but my brain has evolved past laughing at such childish fodder. The dictionary definition of the word “wanderlust” is “a very strong or irresistible impulse to travel.” After watching Wanderlust, you’ll want to travel as far away from any theater playing it as you possibly can.

The film follows George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), a married couple who are forced to leave New York after George is canned from his job and Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer (hardy har) is rejected by HBO. At first, they move in with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino), but he begins to annoy George and they hop on the road. Eventually, they end up at a bed and breakfast called Elysium, which turns out to be a rural commune whose hippy inhabitants practice “free love” and pacifism. Although hesitant at first, the two decide to give it a shot after a fun night of partying, but the instability of such a life comes at a price and it begins to threaten their marriage.

Wanderlust is about as bad as comedies come and, though early in the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it reappear on my “Worst of” list in December. It takes everything that is mindless and moronic about comedies these days and wraps it into one painful experience. This is most exemplified in its lazy writing that relies heavily on exaggerated stereotypes to garner laughs. The hippies in this commune, for instance, are unaware of the “futuristic” world we live intheir knowledge only of past generation hardware like VHS players and cassette tapes a running gagand they sit around delving into all kinds of hallucinogenic drugs, which of course leads to yet another derivative drug trip scene with a character who isn’t used to the effects. The film also throws some nudity into the mix fairly early on. With society’s increasing promiscuity, it should come as no surprise that movies are getting less prude about nudity, but the mere sight of a penis isn’t funny anymore (if it ever was at all). It feels like writers David Wain and Ken Marino, though well into their 40’s, would still be the boys snickering in the back of the classroom during a sexual education class in high school. Convincing evidence like that and the fact that the film follows your typical, predictable movie narrative forces me to believe that creative writing wasn’t their strong suit in school.

If you’re familiar with some of Wain’s past work, however, you should know what you’re getting yourself into. This is the same guy responsible for the atrocious Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, the former of which may very well be one of the most inept comedies I’ve ever sat through. Aside from Role Models (even the worst filmmakers are bound to accidentally make something good), this guy has pumped out some of the worst, most nonsensical pieces of garbage (on the big and small screen) in recent years. His actors always make passionate and dedicated deliveries of their lines, but it means little when the lines they’re reciting have been written by someone who so rarely strings together something funny to say.

The characters in Wanderlust are annoying, both hippy and otherwise, and their journeys are unconvincing. Upon arriving at Elysium, for instance, Linda protests that there aren’t any doors on the house—a small issue in the big scheme of things—but after having just one song sung to her on guitar by a fast fingered hippy, she’s pooping in the yard and participating in topless protests. The worst part of this movie, however, comes from Paul Rudd in a prolonged sequence where he’s staring in the mirror talking himself up, stating what he’s going to do sexually to Eva (Malin Akerman) after getting permission from his wife. It’s not funny the first ten seconds it goes on, much less the five minutes it continues. It’s one of the most degrading and embarrassing things Rudd has ever done and he was in Over Her Dead Body. Wanderlust has a moment or two of brief enjoyment; perhaps a minute or so in total. Its other 96 minutes are unwatchable. You decide whether that’s worth your time.

Wanderlust receives 0.5/5

Friday
Nov042011

Tower Heist

Movies are such an inconsistent thing. Some are great, some not so much. Some end up surprising you while the quality of others can be deduced simply by watching trailers. Then there are those that are forgotten as soon as you walk out of the theater. Director Brett Ratner’s new film, Tower Heist, is definitely a member of the latter breed. It’s not a particularly bad film, but it’s certainly nothing worthy of praise. It moves, it makes sounds, the credits roll and it’s gone.

The plot follows the employees of a high-rise building, where its tenants expect 24 hour assistance, 7 days a week. There’s Josh (Ben Stiller), the building manager, Charlie (Casey Affleck), Josh’s brother-in-law, Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a newly bankrupt Wall Street businessman, Enrique (Michael Peña), a new employee whose only previous work experience is at Burger King, and Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), a cleaning maid. All of them have given their hard earned money to their boss, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), and trusted him to invest it wisely for them. However, they quickly realize they’ve been the victims of a Ponzi scheme and have lost their money, putting them all in dire financial situations. Deciding to take matters into their own hands, they partner with Slide (Eddie Murphy), a man with expertise in thievery, to steal Shaw’s fortune.

In what is essentially Rush Hour meets Ocean’s Eleven, Tower Heist is nothing more than a mild pleasantry, which, in this cinematic day and age, is both above average and not enough. It has a few good jokes and it attempts to tap into the economic woes many Americans are feeling today, though it’s not so much a smart deliberation on the 2008 collapse as it is an economic revenge fantasy, but at least it’s relatable. What this movie does so well is flip the real world on its head and bring to justice those who have gained from the suffering of others. It creates an ugly man, seemingly gentle on the surface, but a monster underneath, and puts him in his place. And it does it all with a smile. It doesn’t make any assessment on the current situation; it only uses it as a tool for over-the-top shenanigans.

And over-the-top does it get. This thing gets so crazy, it could be argued it’s more of an economic revenge fantasy than last week’s similarly themed sci-fi fantasy, In Time. The ending sequence is so ludicrous it’s hard to take seriously, but that’s precisely the point. If In Time dissected the current financial situation with political statements and an allegorical narrative, Tower Heist is pure fluff. It’s for those who aren’t aware of the specifics of how we got to where we are, but know they should be angry at someone. A thinking person’s movie this isn’t, but that’s not to say the silly approach to such a serious issue isn’t welcome all the same.

Despite its intention to be simple fun, the heist depicted in the back half of the film is only moderately interesting. It’s not carried out with precision like in other heist movies, but rather in the way one can only assume the script was written: without a plan and in haste. It’s pulled through, however, thanks to its talented and diversified cast. It’s fun watching Eddie Murphy finally let loose again after hiding behind so many fat suits and subduing himself with wretched family comedies. In this movie, as mediocre as it is, he reminds us why we loved him so much all those years ago. The rest of the cast is good as well, though Ben Stiller’s on-again, off-again New York accent is distracting to the point of amateurism. Why an actor who has been around for so long fell into such an obvious trap is beyond me, but he nevertheless does what he can. The problem is there just isn’t much for him (or anyone else) to do that doesn’t involve outlandish situations and helpful narrative coincidences. Tower Heist is diverting fun while it lasts, but it’s not funny enough, smart enough or exciting enough to be anything more.

Tower Heist receives 3/5