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Entries in Jennifer Aniston (4)

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
Feb112011

Just Go With It

I’ve come to terms with Hollywood having run out of ideas. With years of examples to back it up, it’s fairly easy to make the claim that the bigwigs at the major film studios have no idea what else to do. So, to compensate, they release remakes, not because they have a fresh idea on the story or think they can improve on the original, but because they know a movie with a recognizable name will sell tickets. While I’m not flat out opposed to remakes, I believe the classics should be left alone. If you’re going to remake a movie, make it one that had an interesting idea or a lot of potential, but failed to live up to it, a modern update that could indeed be better than the original. Cactus Flower, which is now being remade as Just Go With It, falls somewhere in the middle of “classic” and “worth an update.” It's a classic only in the sense that it’s old, not that it’s considered one of the best films of all time, but it’s still wonderful, full of heart and whimsy and multi-dimensional characters you can care about. This 2011 update doesn’t improve on it, but it differs enough to stand apart from it and, although it’s a wildly erratic film in terms of quality, it’s watchable.

The story follows Danny (Adam Sandler), a plastic surgeon who pretends to be married to pick up women. His manufactured sob stories about his neglectful “wife” tug at the heartstrings of the women who listen, which allows him to make his way into their beds. However, at a party one day, he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a stunning girl who instantly smites him, but when she stumbles onto his ring, she mistakes him as a married man. Instead of telling her the truth, he lies to her and creates a whirlwind of deceit. When he tells her he is divorcing his made up wife, Palmer insists on meeting her, so he coaxes his secretary, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), into pretending to playing his soon-to-be ex. But when Palmer overhears Katherine talking to her kids on the phone, she assumes they are Danny’s as well, so the lie spreads further, which leads Danny to realize something about himself.

Some remakes can be directly compared to their originals, but in the case of Just Go With It and Cactus Flower, the two share only certain aspects. Aside from the initial concept, they each go down fairly separate paths. What they share in common is that the setup is caused by a bad decision, to not come clean to their girls. The differences from here on out are vast, but none more so than the much more excessive and less believable nature of Just Go With It. The situations and conflicts that arise in this movie are brought on by extreme and incredibly unlikely coincidences, like when Katherine runs into her nemesis, Devlin (Nicole Kidman), while in Hawaii pretending to be Danny’s wife, thus making the ruse trickier to pull off. Cactus Flower may not have been perfect, but when characters bumped into each other, it made sense. The rationale behind their actions was indicative of their personalities, so even as you imagined how differently you would have handled the situation, you understood why they acted as they did.

But to criticize the believability factor in a movie like this is frivolous. It’s a comedy, after all, and the real level of its quality is measured in how many laughs it produces, which is precisely what makes Just Go With It so difficult to discuss. It’s a movie I liked one minute and didn’t like the next. It was like my opinion was riding a Ferris wheel, ascending to the highest of peaks before descending to the lowest of lows. There are a surprising amount of laugh out loud moments (especially given the poor quality of other Happy Madison productions like Grown Ups and Paul Blart: Mall Cop), but it also gets into funks. Jokes are stretched too thin (the name “Devlin” as slang for going to the bathroom is referenced no less than seven times), mean spiritedness seeps through and slapstick humor pervades the movie.

When the film reaches its back half, it goes completely overboard with idiotic nonsense—what relevance performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a sheep has to the overall picture I haven’t the slightest clue—but the actors are game and I enjoyed the chemistry between all of the characters, including the two children, played by Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck, who are both terrific and squeeze out some of the film’s biggest laughs. Sandler still works better as a dramatic actor (as seen in movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me) and struggles to hold himself together in the funnier moments, shedding conspicuous smiles when he should be straight faced, but there’s still charm to Just Go With It. It’s slight, but it’s there and you won’t blame yourself for having a look.

Just Go With It receives 2.5/5

Friday
Aug202010

The Switch

It’s the last major movie week of the summer. With five new releases, this week is filled with plenty of options, but none are more worthy of your time than The Switch, an affable, alluring movie that plays up the importance of love and family.

The film begins in New York City seven years ago. Best friends Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) are out to lunch when she drops a bomb. She’s aging and knows her biological clock is ticking. Without a relationship, she fears she may never have the opportunity to have a child, so instead of hopeful waiting, she has decided to artificially inseminate herself. While not too keen on the idea, Wally becomes even more shocked when Kassie tells him she is not going through a sperm bank. Instead, she is simply going to pay a donor of her choice for his seed and do it herself with a turkey baster. Before doing so, however, she has a celebratory party. Despite his reluctance, Wally shows up, but to deal with the event, he gets plastered. While in the bathroom relieving himself, he sees the cup of semen the donor has left and accidentally spills it. In his drunken stupor, he decides to fill it back up himself. Kassie moves away, claiming New York as an unfit place to raise a child, but seven years later moves back with her son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson). Remembering nothing of that fateful night so long ago, he starts to see strange similarities in personality and behavior between him and the kid and soon realizes that Sebastian is his son.

There’s a charm to The Switch that cannot be denied. It’s the type of film that isn’t entirely consistent with the laughs, but its heart and warmth are more than enough to make up for it. Aniston rebounds nicely from the disaster that was The Bounty Hunter and shows considerable appeal here. She’s beautiful, kind and loving, a wonderful mother that loves her child unconditionally. Others see him as weird, but she sees him as special. Some people think he’s neurotic. She thinks he’s merely a well adjusted introvert. She puts up with his eccentricities not because she has to, but because she doesn’t even notice them. He’s her son and that’s all that matters to her.

Meanwhile, a relationship is blooming between Sebastian and Wally. His past feelings for Kassie have always been there and his quiet admiration for her parenting skills is sweet, but the growing love he finds for his child is far more interesting. While both work on their own terms, the father/son relationship overshadows the romance. Wally knows there’s something special about this kid, even if he can’t put his finger on it right away. He bonds with Sebastian as soon as he and his mother arrive back in New York. Perhaps it was some type of father’s intuition, but he comes to love him before he even realizes he is his father. The build-up to that realization is lovely and Sebastian changes him forever.

The beauty of The Switch is that you can feel the love, pain and loneliness that come from the characters. Sebastian, for instance, collects picture frames. Instead of filling them with his own memories, he keeps the stock photos in them and creates a family. He has never known his father and copes with it by creating fantastical back stories for his made up relatives. He loves his mother, but he wants a father.

It’s something I’m sure many can relate to. It’s a ridiculous set-up, but the feeling is real. Too many have grown up without parents and would have done anything to know them. I’m fortunate enough to not have had that experience, but the The Switch still worked for me. It made me appreciate the family that I have and made me look forward to the day I can start my own. If that isn’t a remarkable accomplishment, I don’t know what is.

The Switch receives 4/5

Friday
Mar192010

The Bounty Hunter

Meet Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston). She's a journalist who is on the beat attempting to uncover the mystery behind a recent man's alleged suicide. Oh, and she's also a felon. Not too long ago, she was arrested for assaulting a police officer and her court date is fast approaching, too fast it seems because she skips bail and finds herself on the lam from the cops. Now meet Milo (Gerard Butler), a bounty hunter who specializes in finding fugitives and taking them to jail. His newest assignment: capture Nicole. At first, he is ecstatic because Nicole is actually his ex-wife and really, who wouldn't want to drag their ex-wife to jail? However, somebody is out to take her life because she is getting too close to the truth behind the suicide and Milo finds himself way over his head. He must protect her and deal with her annoying eccentricities, but he can't help but begin to fall in love with her all over again.

And thus begins the abomination that is The Bounty Hunter. Like Cop Out before it, this film has a poor flow, an uninteresting story, bland enemies and annoying leads. It's funnier than Cop Out though, which is to say there's one good joke. The rest is a mind numbing rom-com that isn't worth the dried up gum underneath the seat you'll be watching it on.

When it comes to any type of movie like this, whether it be a buddy cop film or a romantic comedy, the lead characters must be likable. Spending your two hours with them should be fun. You should find yourself laughing at their jokes, enjoying their zany quirks and caring about them if they are in peril. I wanted, however, to kill these two characters myself. They are both loud, obnoxious and practically begging for us to like them. Their attempts to satisfy the audience come off as desperate and grating. Butler's character is merely throwaway, not in the way a less prominent character would be, but because I couldn't care less about what happened to him and the only interesting thing about Aniston's character is that you could occasionally see through her shirt when the lighting was right.

The saddest part of this debacle is that the premise is ripe for the picking, and I suspect is the sole reason it got greenlit to begin with. A bounty hunter male capturing his ex-wife and taking her to jail has so much potential, yet it would take a revamp of the entire movie--rewrites, reshoots, recasts--to make this thing tolerable.

Butler and Aniston produce no chemistry together because Aniston is only funny when supported by funny people and Butler is not one of them. He's an actor I have much respect for. I loved 300 and he even managed to convince me of his acting prowess in silly films like Law Abiding Citizen and Gamer, but for some reason he seems compelled to take roles in gag-inducing rom-com tripe, not the least of which includes last year's atrocious The Ugly Truth, and he simply isn't very good in any of them.

In a year that has thus far been unexceptional, The Bounty Hunter does little to turn the tide. It's shallow, predictable and it always takes the easy route, going for fast zingers, yet keeping it clean to keep its precious PG-13 rating (despite a trip to a topless strip club where the dancers are all, for some reason, fully covered). This thing has no gravitas, no guts, no redeeming factors and is unworthy of your time.

The Bounty Hunter receives 0.5/5