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Entries in jason sudeikis (2)

Friday
May242013

Epic

It’s really hard to hate animated movies, even bad ones. If nothing else, animated movies are typically filled with lush visuals and virtuous messages that children need to hear, even if they are a little too simple for adults. Such is the case with the inappropriately titled “Epic.” It’s certainly not an example of a good animated film, and considering that it’s coming from Blue Sky Studios whose best film is the mostly bland “Ice Age,” that’s no surprise, but it’s hardly a disaster and it sports some imaginative visuals, despite a story you can’t say the same for.

The film starts with Mary Katherine, who prefers to go by M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), a teenage girl whose father (Jason Sudeikis) hasn’t always been around for her. Despite this, she is making an attempt to connect with him and goes to visit him in his cabin in the woods. For years, he has been obsessed with a population of tiny creatures he believes to be living in the forest. Most people, including M.K., think he’s crazy, but little do they know he’s actually right. He just hasn’t found the proof yet. M.K. is about to realize this firsthand when she finds herself shrunk down to their size right after the queen of the forest, Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), gives her the chosen forest pod, which will save the forest from Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and the Boggans, the evil little creatures who want the forest to decay. That little pod is going to sprout that night and along with the Leafmen, the guardians of the forest led by rookie Nod (Josh Hutcherson) and Ronin (Colin Farrell), it’s up to her to ensure it sprouts in light and keeps the life of the forest intact.

As one might expect, the story is inconsequential and filled with messages about saving our forests and preserving the delicate ecosystem of life on our planet. It’s certainly a good message and it doesn’t beat you over the head with it like last year’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” but the problem comes when the question is inevitably asked: why save the forest? The answer boils down to an unconvincing “because it’s pretty.” The Boggans, as far as the movie explains, don’t want to destroy the forest because they hate the forest’s inhabitants, but rather because they enjoy living in rot. To them, it’s simply a matter of beauty vs. decay and they prefer decay. The battle to save the forest becomes one of aesthetic purposes rather than one of nobility. Although the decay of the forest would obviously lead to the destruction of its ecosystem, such a point is never made. There are plenty of reasons to save our forests and respect the life in it, but kids watching won’t walk away with that understanding due to a narrow thematic focus.

One must admit, however, that the visuals do indeed paint a forest that looks exquisite and feels alive, so perhaps the narrow focus will benefit those watching. Due to our advanced technology, it’s difficult to make a movie with a presumably large budget like this look bad, but that no less diminishes its beauty. The characters are also animated well and move gracefully through the forest, even during the surprisingly taut action scenes. Watching the film move is a real joy, even if where it’s moving to isn’t particularly interesting.

The story itself is emotionally distant and the characters are flatly written, usually succumbing to the archetypes modern moviegoers expect. Nod is the reckless free spirit with untapped potential while Ronin is the hardened general whose duties to the Queen and the forest are his only priorities. Naturally, Ronin cares for Nod and believes in him, despite his recklessness, and it’s a safe bet to assume that Nod will make him proud by the end of the movie. And you can’t have a movie with characters of the opposite sex without sparking a romance, this time between Nod and M.K., a romance that is never truly built or felt and is largely forgotten by the end, given that M.K. has to return to normal size while Nod must remain in his diminutive state.

“Epic” is nothing but underdeveloped stories that are masked by high flying action and solid voice performances from a talented cast (aside from Aziz Ansari as Mub the slug, who proves he can be just as annoying without having to look at him). It’s sure to delight children, though it won’t leave a lasting impression and the chance to provide them with some meaning is unfortunately passed by for simplicity’s sake. For similar concepts told in vastly different ways, you’re better off checking out Studio Ghibli’s wonderful “The Secret World of Arrietty,” which is far more interesting, beautiful and profound than anything shown here. “Epic” is anything but.

Epic receives 1.5/5

Friday
Feb252011

Hall Pass

I bet there are plenty of guys that would love to get a week off from marriage and have the freedom to do whatever (and whomever) they want. But if it were to happen, most men wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. They may attempt to pick up girls, probably to no avail. Some may even realize they’re happier without their wives holding them down. Most men, however, would most likely miss their wives and wish to be back together with them. One thing’s for sure—whatever they did would have little similarities to the events in Hall Pass. The latest comedy from the Farrelly Brothers takes this premise and runs with it, slowly becoming more and more ridiculous as it goes on, presenting a tonally uneven film that manages to string out only a small number of good laughs.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are two middle aged men who have been married for many years to their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), respectively. After years of ogling other women, however, Maggie and Grace become fed up and give the guys a “hall pass,” a week off from marriage to do whatever they want. So they leave for the week, hoping this time away will make them appreciate what they have. What they don’t expect, however, is for the guys to take the opportunity to try and hook up with other women, but that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are perfectly cast in Hall Pass. They look the part (not ugly, but not particularly attractive either), they dress the part (walking around with their shirts tucked in and a simple parted hairdo) and they have a middle aged verbal swagger. They boast to each other that if it weren’t for their wives, they could be sleeping with every girl they run into. Their egos make them think they’re God’s gift to women. The problem is that while they talk a big game, they lack the actual skills to back that talk up.

And when they finally get that coveted hall pass from their wives, it shows. They stumble through their words as they talk to women, they use cheesy pick up lines that any respectable lady would scoff at and their ideal hook up spot is Applebee’s. Needless to say, all of their initial attempts to pick up somebody fail. But they remain optimistic nonetheless. They just know they'll get someone tomorrow. In these early moments, Hall Pass deftly explores the male mentality, which is full of macho talk and a certain cockiness that leads them to believe that, if given the chance, any girl would fall for them and be willing to hop in the sack.

Unfortunately, these hints at intelligent deliberation become overshadowed by a raunchy screenplay full of male nudity and bodily secretions. However, its over-the-topness in itself is not the problem. It’s the mixture of that outrageousness with the quiet events prior. The first 30 minutes are like a PG-13 movie, with little swearing or overt sexuality, which makes its sudden explosion into childishness seem all the more abrupt. Even worse, the last few minutes are full of cutesy speeches and redemptive confessions. Some loose ends are even purposely skipped over.

It’s possible to effectively combine heart with bawdiness, but the two elements need to be mixed together, not simply placed end to end. Transitions from the simple beginning to the crude middle and finally to the gooey ending come off as awkward and do not work. There are a handful of laughs to be had in Hall Pass, but not nearly enough and the clumsy emotional construction of the narrative is difficult to look past.

Hall Pass receives 2/5