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Entries in john leguizamo (2)

Friday
Jan172014

Ride Along

I heard a radio spot on my drive to the screening for “Ride Along” that spoke quite highly of it, in which it called star Kevin Hart the funniest man in America and the film itself as “the first great comedy of the year.” “Who said these things,” I wondered, before realizing that the quotes weren’t actually attributed to anyone. In television commercials, studios use quick blurbs from critics that inflate the film in an effort to get people to go see it. It was a smart move to use the same tactic on the radio, because unassuming listeners will assume the quote is lifted from a professional and not simply said by a paid announcer. I imagine this kind of deception is the only way they’ll be able to get people to see “Ride Along” because, despite a couple of legitimate laughs, it’s largely unwatchable.

Hart plays Ben, an aspiring police officer who corresponds actual police work with his first person shooter video games. He is in love with Angela (Tika Sumpter) and wishes to marry her, but to do that, he needs the approval of the only other man in her life, her intimidating, hard boiled brother, James (Ice Cube). James doesn’t like Ben and doesn’t consider him a good fit for his sister, much less a potential member of his police squad. However, Ben wants to show James that he’s a man, so James, under the ruse of giving him a chance, offers to give him a ride along. For a full day, Ben will head out with James on his police duties and James plans to make it as uncomfortable as possible to deter him from both marrying his sister and entering the police force.

Upon first impression, it’s clear that “Ride Along” is going to be a visually ugly movie. Its drab colors, no doubt increased by the desire to be satirical of “gritty” buddy cop crime dramas, pervade the screen. Its shot composition is equally unpleasing to the eye, with close-ups even extreme close-ups would consider a bit much and framing so bad it’s hard to actually read the narratively important letter the film lingers on in close-up.

But these issues are minor when in a comedy. Comedies only need to be funny. A weak story and poor visuals don’t carry much weight when you’re laughing hysterically. Unfortunately, “Ride Along” musters up only a few laughs in its 100 minute runtime. Hart, while okay in small bursts or as a supporting character (like in 2012’s surprisingly good “Think Like a Man”), is grating in long stretches. Like a miniaturized Chris Tucker, he equates comedy to spastic mannerisms and furiously fast talking. When not restrained, he overdoes this and “Ride Along” is anything but restrained.

When he’s called on for physical comedy, he’s equally bad and overacts to an absurd degree. But the real problem this film faces is that its jokes are tired and obvious. It’s easy to spot these jokes coming well before they actually appears, like when Ben is blown back by the recoil of a shotgun that is about the size of one of his legs. In a sense, Kevin Hart is treated like a reverse Kevin James, the latter always abused because of his large weight and the former treated like a feather in the wind.

The story also lacks the satirical bite it occasionally tries to capture, often succumbing to the very things it mocks. When James is laid into by the police chief for being reckless, it’s not played tongue-in-cheek as it should be; it’s taken grossly seriously. Similarly, the twist (spoiler alert!) is your typical double agent twist that is painfully clear the moment you see the person or persons in question near the beginning of the film. When you factor in the desperate dialogue that tries so hard to throw you off the scent that it ends up doing the exact opposite—the double agent(s) repeatedly tell James he should give up the investigation for a variety of reasons—the movie becomes nothing more than another disastrous January turd. If you want to see a good buddy cop satire, watch “21 Jump Street.” You won’t find much value in “Ride Along.”

Ride Along receives 1/5

Friday
Jul132012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Never before has a series been more average than Ice Age. That’s meant neither as a compliment or a criticism, mind you. It’s simply an observation. None of the entries do anything offensively bad, but none of them do anything particularly amazing either. Each installment’s quality is so close to the ones prior that the difference is negligible. The newest entry in one of the blandest franchises ever, Ice Age: Continental Drift, brings more of what we expect: hit-and-miss comedy and action that somehow manages to be both exciting and uninteresting at the same time. It’s impossible to feel anything other than ambivalence towards it, as it does nothing worthy of anger or cheer. It simply plays out before you, ends and life goes on.

Ice Age: Continental Drift once again follows the unruly herd of animals we’ve grown to somewhat enjoy, including mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) and saber-toothed tiger Diego (Dennis Leary), this time as they live through the shifting of the continents. Since the last time we saw them, Manny and Ellie have had a daughter named Peaches (Keke Palmer) who is now a teenager and crushing on Ethan (Drake). When she goes to a dangerous area to see Ethan, Peaches and Manny get in a fight. Soon after, they are separated due to the shifting continents, but vow to find each other again so that the last words they exchange aren’t from a fight. But while Peaches and her mother only need to walk away from the moving mountains, Manny is stranded at sea on a block of ice with his two buddies and Granny (Wanda Sykes), Sid’s grandmother. Eventually, they run into a sea pirate named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), foil him and steal his ship, to which Gutt vows revenge, following Manny and the gang on their journey home.

Once again, the story revolves around two or more characters being separated from each other and journeying to reunite. Each movie is the same as the last and it’s tiresome. Nearly all of the freshness from this franchise evaporated with the credits of the original Ice Age. Since then, every facet of every movie has felt outdated and overdone, with the sole exception of the Scrat character. Though the most silent of all the characters, he’s by far the most interesting and is instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen an animated movie in the theater over the last 10 years. The lovable squirrel who is always after that elusive acorn is the only thing in the entire franchise that has stood the test of time and still manages to delight while everything around him bores. However, Ice Age: Continental Drift severely limits new screen time for the little guy. I specify “new” because Scrat’s first two segments, including the opening that sparks the entire movie, have been seen before as shorts prior to other films. The filmmakers, in one of the most boneheaded moves I’ve seen in a long time, reused those shorts rather than create new material and much of the joy from seeing Scrat is sucked away in the process. The following Scrat segments don’t bring much to the table either because they’re far too short to be interesting, much shorter than the previous movies.

And just like the previous movies, the action is routine and the comedy fairly standard, aside from one hilarious joke about how the previous movie, where the characters found themselves in an underground dinosaur utopia hidden beneath the ice, didn’t make any sense. But as simple as these movies are, it’s amazing how the smallest things are overlooked. In Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Diego was suffering from a sickness, or old age, or something like that. It wasn’t really explained, even as his vision blurred and breathing grew increasingly heavy. Continental Drift similarly ignores that set-up, never minding the fact that 10 years have passed since we were first introduced to the gang and that many of them should be on a health decline.

There are also some annoying pop culture references in the film as well that, just like the other films, don’t fit into the Ice Age setting, a setting that doesn’t provide a lot of leeway for story development in the first place. But even with all those problems, Ice Age: Continental Drift and, indeed, the rest of the series, doesn’t do anything harmful—it teaches valuable lessons about family, love and friendship and it’s hard to deride it for that—yet it’s so spectacularly unspectacular that it’s hard to muster up anything more than an ambiguous shrug when someone asks about its quality. In a time when animated movies have eclipsed the whole notion of “being just for kids,” Ice Age: Continental Drift has no place.

Ice Age: Continental Drift receives 2/5