Latest Reviews

Entries in Hank Azaria (2)

Friday
Nov182011

Happy Feet Two

The original Happy Feet is a movie that people will forever watch and wonder why it received as much praise as it did. While certainly not a bad movie, the title of “Best Animated Feature” seems a bit of a stretch. But one need only look at its competition from 2006’s Oscar season (Cars and Monster House) to realize it was merely the best of what appeared to be a disappointing year for animation. Those why say Happy Feet Two is better or worse than the original are fooling themselves. It’s just as charming, energetic, fluffy and, ultimately, forgettable.

Mumble (Elijah Wood), the poor penguin from the first film who was constantly harassed for his inability to sing and willingness to dance instead, has now been accepted into the pack. His heroic efforts from his last adventure did not go unnoticed, but his odd genetics have now produced a baby penguin named Erik (Ava Acres) who is just as awkward and clumsy and is, like his father back in the day, being ridiculed by those around him. In his dismay, he runs off and meets a flying penguin named The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria) who tells him anything is possible if he puts his mind to it. Eventually, Mumble finds him, but a terrible surface collapse back home has left the rest of his penguin herd stranded with no escape. Now they must combine their talents and save those they love before it’s too late.

Happy Feet Two begins with a flurry of popular songs, a medley that includes “Mama Said Knock You Out” and a cleaned up version of “SexyBack.” Right out of the gate, it bursts with vivacious, catchy, toe tapping fun. It’s a high energy the movie unfortunately isn’t able to maintain thanks to unimpressive original numbers and laughable plot turns, but they say first impressions mean everything and this thing grabs you from the get go.

This sequel follows the same trajectory of the original and utilizes the same basic narrative mechanics. The first film was about expressing yourself and using your God given talents to help others any way you can. The second is about, well, exactly the same thing. The cute little Mumble is now replaced by the cute little Erik. The first had the penguins facing starvation from a lack of fish. The second has them facing it again, though this time it’s because they’re stranded rather than due to human fishing. Also, as with the original, the penguins enlist the help of the humans to rescue them from their dire situation.

Happy Feet Two doesn’t even attempt to differentiate itself from its predecessor, but it’s easy to see why. That film made the viewer feel warm inside, despite whatever faults it may have had. It was a crowd pleaser that was guaranteed to leave a smile on family members young and old who went to see it. Why change the formula? Still, it’s this rigid hold on the original’s structure that keeps it from taking off and its faults are the same. The live action footage once again doesn’t symphonize with the colorful and vibrant animation—the dreary look of those scenes takes away from the beautiful look of the rest of the movie—and the one-with-the-animals mindset is silly at best, especially when you consider the laughable musical connection between the humans and penguins.

Where the sequel differs the most from its predecessor is in its B story. Whereas the original focused almost entirely on Mumble, Happy Feet Two constantly moves to other territories, interjecting footage of two krill named Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon). Their journey together to the top of the food chain is hands down the funniest and most delightful aspect of the entire film. It’s extremely clever and the dialogue is spoken with comedic vigor and spot-on timing, though it’s more or less inconsequential to the main narrative. The two stories cross paths, but are only connected by the flimsiest of means. It’s such a shame because both tales, though still entertaining apart, would have stood side by side in harmony. Still, Happy Feet Two is entertaining and it will teach kids in the audience to believe in themselves. This may not be a truly great movie, but that has to count for something.

Happy Feet Two receives 3.5/5

Wednesday
Nov242010

Love & Other Drugs

Love & Other Drugs is a movie that goes to show how important casting is. Without the star power of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, the film would fall into obscurity never to be heard from again. Their natural charisma and good looks take an otherwise formulaic romantic comedy and make it transcendent.

Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a fast talking, womanizing salesman at a local electronics store. After being caught having sex with the boss’s girlfriend in the backroom, he is fired and ends up grabbing a job as a pharmaceutical rep at Pfizer right before the company had its breakthrough with Viagra in 1998. As a way to work his drugs into the doctor’s office, he bribes his way into an internship with Dr. Knight, played by Hank Azaria. There he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a beautiful 26 year old with Parkinson’s disease, but when he tries to pick her up, as he has countless women before, she calls him out for the game he’s playing. It turns out she can play it too and, despite agreeing to keep their relationship at the casual sex level, Jamie starts to fall for her.

Love & Other Drugs, like most romantic comedies, is predictable. While the smooth dialogue felt fresh, the plot turns did not. You’ll see where the movie is heading from the get go, having mapped it all out in your head well before it ends, but it’s still believable. Their relationship may unfold in a typical fashion, but it’s sweet and you’ll feel the appropriate range of emotions—sadness, happiness, depression, loneliness, fear—because the actors are that good at bringing them forth.

Also like most romantic comedies, Love & Other Drugs is full of contrivances that lead to misunderstandings and arguments that otherwise would have never occurred. Prior to one late scene, Jamie had never questioned the hardships that may come in the future from being with a woman who has Parkinson’s disease. It isn’t until a man at a random Parkinson’s convention details them to him in as grisly a fashion as possible that he starts to wonder.

There are also some romantic comedy clichés, including a late movie race to catch up to a loved one that is followed by a long, overemotional speech, but there’s something about it that works. It takes about half the movie for the sweetness to role in, but when it does it never lets up and it will grab hold of you. To sit here and tell you I didn’t choke up at certain moments in the movie would be a lie. It affected me despite its trifecta of romantic comedy downfalls.

With a supporting cast that includes Oliver Platt, Judy Greer, the aforementioned Hank Azaria and a hilarious performance by Josh Gad as Jamie’s brother, there isn’t a moment where charm isn’t seeping through, but this is still Gyllenhaal’s and Hathaway’s movie. They are in the spotlight and despite noble attempts from its talented supporting cast, it’s never stolen from them. Gyllenhaal is warm and funny while Hathaway is radiant. Their chemistry is magnificent.

While Love & Other Drugs can’t be considered one of the best of the year, it can be considered one of the best in its respective genre. It hits similar pratfalls as its romantic comedy brethren, but it’s funny and heartfelt and in a year lacking movies with similar traits, that is all I could ask for.

Love & Other Drugs receives 4/5