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Entries in bridesmaids (4)

Sunday
Feb102013

Identity Thief

Jason Bateman is one of the most underappreciated comedians in Hollywood, though he enjoys an almost cult-like following thanks to his days as Michael Bluth on TV’s Arrested Development. Melissa McCarthy is a fresh new face who wowed audiences with her hilarious performance in 2011’s Bridesmaids and who also enjoys a rather stern following thanks to her hit CBS show, Mike & Molly. Put these two talents together and you get Identity Thief, a supposed comedy that wastes both of them on a messy script that is almost completely devoid of any and all laughs. It’s a sad sight to see, such talent floundering around in such a disaster, but with the comedy genre offering little recently in the way of quality, one can only hope the two leads agreed to star because it was the only thing they were offered.

Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a lowly businessman in Colorado who manages his company’s in-house accounts, which, as his awful boss Harold Cornish (Jon Favreau) puts it, a computer program could do. He’s not held in very high regard at his job despite his high quality of work, so when his co-worker, Daniel (John Cho), offers him a job at his new upstart company where he’ll be making five times what he’s making now, he immediately accepts. Besides, he has a loving wife (Amanda Peet) and two young children at home to take care of, with another on the way. However, he soon finds out his identity has been stolen by an unnamed woman in Florida (Melissa McCarthy) who has taken part in illegal activities, confusing police and making him the prime suspect. This doesn’t look good for the company, so he makes an agreement with his boss and the local cop (whose jurisdiction doesn’t extend beyond Denver): if he can bring this woman to Colorado and have her confess, he’ll get to keep his job and the cops can close the case. They both agree, so he jets off to Florida to find her.

What follows is a predictable movie where the two seemingly opposite, initially at odds characters spark an eventual friendship and begin to appreciate each other, yet the narrative arc to those revelations is absurd to the extreme and mixes in bounty hunters, additional identity thefts, car chases and wildlife encounters. Because the proceedings are so outlandish, it’s hard to take what’s happening seriously, even if you manage to overlook the contrived set-up that sets them off on this adventure. The two, in and of themselves, aren’t particularly interesting characters either, or at least not as a pair. She’s a loud, obnoxious and colorful (in that she wears too much make-up) bore who flails her body around trying to wring out a laugh and he is a whiny, gullible idiot. It’s his own nitwittedness that got him to this point anyway—everyone knows not to give out personal information over the phone. She has wronged him to the point where his life is crashing down. His finances are depleted and services, like cable, that we all take for granted are getting shut off, so his eventual realization that, hey, she’s not such a bad person after all is unconvincing and trite.

However, this turn doesn’t come completely out of left field; the filmmakers certainly tried to realistically get them to that point. Early in the film, for example, this unnamed woman’s friendlessness and loneliness is established, however bluntly it may be (“They’re not your friends,” a bartender says as she uses Sandy’s money to milk the bar. “They just like you because you’re buying them drinks”), yet she’s such a vindictive and selfish woman that it fails to elicit any type of caring in the viewer. If Identity Thief has about ten percent of the emotion a good drama should have, it has about two percent of the laughs of a comedy equivalent. Because the characters are so unlikable, their shenanigans are barely diverting, much less funny and the film’s humor falls flat time and time again.

Its best moment comes when the characters act like real, decent human beings (imagine that). One excellent scene forces McCarthy to show her acting chops, going from goofy to sad and back again, and she pulls it off with grace, proving she has what it takes to carry a movie, even if this one will make her detractors say otherwise. Decrease the farce and make a real movie with a real message and Identity Thief could have proven to be something interesting, a movie that warms the heart and provides occasional laughs, but its over-the-top nature proves to be its downfall. It’s neither sweet nor funny. Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and the movie going audience deserve a whole lot better than what this has to offer.

Identity Thief receives 1/5

Friday
Sep072012

Bachelorette

This week’s limited release, Bachelorette, is bound to remind most viewers of Bridesmaids and The Hangover, two films with similar ideas and settings, but whereas those movies had charm, smarts, mystery and laughs, Bachelorette has none. The story centers on four best friends, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Becky (Rebel Wilson), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher), who have all gathered together to celebrate Becky’s marriage and they’re the most appalling people you could possibly imagine. Aside from the relatively sweet and innocent Becky, these women are vile and ugly and they—supposed best friends—don’t evet treat other well, much less anyone else. The characters are too mean to be funny or likable and even at a brief 87 minutes, Bachelorette ends up being one of the biggest wastes of time of the year.

Shortly after the film begins, the four girls find themselves all together for the first time in a long time. Their way of reconnecting is to scold each other and bicker about events that happened many years ago. This early event is, believe it or not, the least unpleasant in the entire movie. Later, at the reception, Gena calls Becky out on her stint with bulimia in high school, which, if we’re putting a positive spin on things, was at least said to her face; most of the discussion that goes on about Becky is obscene, off-putting and behind her back, mostly directed towards her larger body type. Then, while on a drunken stupor, Regan, Gena and Katie rip her wedding dress while trying to fit two of them in it (because look how large it is!). It’s this event that puts them on a twilight adventure to fix the dress before the wedding the next morning and it’s a downward spiral from there.

The things these women say and do to each other and others are so despicable that they aren’t worthy of repeating here, but they aren’t the only awful characters. The men in the movie, spearheaded by Trevor, played by James Marsden, are just as bad. Early on, Trevor condones date raping Katie while she’s in a state of inability to consent, but not before heading to a local strip club seemingly for the sole purpose of demeaning the dancers. The only person that scrapes by unscathed is Joe, played by Kyle Bornheimer, who treats everyone as kind as can be and refuses to sleep with Katie, even as she (probably unknowingly) beckons him to do so. He’s the only person in the film with a conscience, but his presence comes off as contrived in a sea of such shamelessness, as if he was put there solely because the film needed someone who wasn’t a complete and utter ass.

No doubt some will call this a black comedy, where you would expect this type of behavior (it would be hard to justify liking it as anything else), but it’s not dark enough to be called such. Instead, it’s just incredibly mean-spirited. Seemingly the only time the characters don’t say something mean is when they’re too drunk or high to speak, which hardly qualifies them as upstanding individuals. Bachelorette comes off like a movie made for and by high school bullies, the pretty people who spoke down to others simply because of their quirky personalities or appearances.

Did I mention the film simply isn’t funny either? Of course, one wouldn’t expect it to be with characters as deplorable as this. Bachelorette is a wanna-be, a movie that tries so desperately to be like those aforementioned popular comedies, but mistakes cruelty for wit. It’s easily the most vicious movie of the year. To find amusement in it is to find amusement in hate.

Bachelorette receives 0.5/5

Friday
Mar162012

21 Jump Street

A great comedy is hard to come by. A great film adaptation, be it of a book, graphic novel, video game or television show, is even harder to find. To find one that is both an adaptation and flat out hilarious seems impossible, but this week’s 21 Jump Street reminds us that both are possible. It takes a largely forgotten show from the late 80s/early 90s and reinvigorates it with style. It deviates from the drama of the original show, spicing things up with over-the-top humor and action cliché spoofing. Much like Bridesmaids last year, it probably won’t make many definitive December awards lists, but it should go down as one of funniest genre exercises of the year.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) used to be a nerd. He dressed like Eminem (complete with dyed bleach blonde hair), wore braces and had no chance of getting the pretty girl in high school. Jock and fellow schoolmate, Jenko (Channing Tatum) was the exact opposite. He was a popular, good looking sports star that was loved by the ladies. Flash forward a few years and they’re both trying to become cops in the Metropolitan City Police Department. Schmidt isn’t the athletic type and Jenko isn’t brainy, so the two join forces to help each other in their weaker departments. After graduating, they become best friends and are assigned to the Jump Street division, where they go undercover posing as high school kids to find whoever is supplying a new synthetic drug called HFS before it spreads to other areas.

This new film adaptation may not sound like a funny movie, but it most certainly is. Laughs come flying from every direction in 21 Jump Street, with only the occasional lull to bring it down. It’s a buddy cop comedy, action film, parody and self-parody all in one. It specifically makes jokes at the expense of its own existence, commenting on how Hollywood is recycling old ideas hoping no one notices. It embraces old action stereotypes only to mercilessly skewer them moments later, like a late movie bit regarding explosions. For all its zaniness, the writing is sharp, a pitch perfect parody of police procedurals, undercover investigations, and typical teenage behavior. The kids in this movie, for instance, are environmentally aware and study during their free time. The normal pyramid of popularity is flipped upside down, the athletes seen as conformists and the nerds as technical and scientific wizards, able to work together with Jenko as he employs them to tap suspected drug runner Eric’s (Dave Franco) phone.

21 Jump Street is good, smart, vulgar fun. It has more laughs per minute than any movie in recent memory (including Bridesmaids). Much of that is due to the pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the latter of which has done so little in his career to impress, it would be easy to write him off here as a poor casting decision, but Tatum is spot on. His action movies may be bland and his parts as a romantic lead unconvincing, but his comedic timing is near perfect. Who knew? The only faults that come with his character are purely of the screenwriting variety, which forces him to develop a feeling of jealousy towards Schmidt for now becoming the popular one while he’s seen as the nerd, a status he’s certainly not used to. When he overhears Schmidt talking down about him, presumably for the purpose of the case, his feelings are hurt, a ridiculous and meaningless narrative progression. These dramatics don’t work and serve only to distract from what is otherwise a very funny movie.

A couple other problems drag 21 Jump Street down as well, including an awkward romance that blossoms between Schmidt and high school student, Molly (Brie Larson). Although it doesn’t go too far (at least not until the very end of the film), he’s a cop and she’s likely underage. It’s uncomfortable and unnecessary, but it’s a small oversight in an otherwise hilarious movie. Fans of the original show have every right to be skeptical of the film’s new comedic direction, but this is one of those few times where those skepticisms can be put to rest with relative ease. It’s not the most faithful adaptation in the world, but 21 Jump Street simply works.

21 Jump Street receives 4/5

Friday
May132011

Bridesmaids

If you’re a fan of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up or pretty much any raunchy R rated comedy to come out in the last few years, pay attention because this movie is for you. Bridesmaids is easily the funniest movie to be released since Get Him to the Greek and could prove itself to be the funniest movie of the year if The Hangover II fails to reach expectations. Coming from Apatow Productions and channeling much of what made his movies so popular, Bridesmaids nails it. It’s a filthy movie with a cast of strong females that can easily stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. While it is certainly nice to see a film of this ilk filled with strong, prominent women rather than big, loud men, focusing on that would be a mistake. Regardless of gender, Bridesmaids is flat out hilarious.

Kristen Wiig plays Annie, an approaching-40-years-old woman who has yet to settle down. She fools around with Ted, played by Jon Hamm, but he isn’t anywhere close to making a commitment and more or less kicks her out of his house after they’re done having sex. One day, her best friend Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph, surprises her with an announcement. Her boyfriend just popped the question and she wants Annie to be her maid of honor. She accepts, but a fellow bridesmaid named Helen, played by Rose Byrne, starts a competition and does everything she can to take the coveted title from her.

If there was ever a cast worth mentioning, it’s this one. On top of those already mentioned, Bridesmaids stars Jill Clayburgh (in her final role), Melissa McCarthy from TV’s “Mike & Molly,” Wendi McLendon-Covey from Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!” and Ellie Kemper, best known as the always smiling secretary from “The Office.” While I can’t speak for their comedic talents solo, putting them together is magic. All of these women bring their own unique style to the show, which creates comedic diversity and keeps the movie from becoming stale too quickly.

Most importantly, however, is that each character is likable, even when they have tantrums that may or may not be warranted. The girls aren’t written like generic romantic comedy females who embarrassingly drown themselves in ice cream and complain about not having a man. Rather, they are three dimensional characters with real problems and emotions that ring true. The parts are written so well and played so convincingly that you’ll find yourself engaged even when you aren’t laughing.

And that’s good because it has stretches where the laughs just don’t come. Many of the jokes stem from the feud between Annie and Helen and they play out for far too long, like an early scene at Lillian's engagement party where they take turn giving speeches in an attempt to one-up the other, passing the microphone no less than six times. Another example comes on an airplane where Annie’s fear of flying, an overused screenplay fear that is boring to begin with, creates a string of unfunny jokes that run on for what feels like at least a good 10-15 minutes. Thankfully, these don’t-know-when-to-quit moments are few and far between. Just when it looks like it’s going to lose itself, Bridesmaids bounces back, usually thanks to the lovely Kristen Wiig, who is so affable and funny you can’t help but fall in love with her.

But just like most other movies with Judd Apatow’s name attached to it, Bridesmaids is too long, running all the way to two hours. Along with the scenes already mentioned, there are plenty of moments that could have easily been cut, tightening the picture and making it that much better. But to complain about such short stretches of tedium seems frivolous considering that the rest of the movie is so wonderful. It’s funny, it has a big heart and it ranks among the best comedies of the last few years. And that’s saying something.

Bridesmaids receives 4/5