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Entries in Kevin James (7)

Friday
Jan142011

The Dilemma

Over the years, Ron Howard’s name has become synonymous with quality. While it would be hard to deny the talent he possesses both in front of and behind the camera, his last few cinematic ventures have been rocky. Aside from 2008’s Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon, films like The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons have shown a dip, but his latest, titled The Dilemma, makes those movies look like masterpieces. I cannot claim to have seen everything Mr. Howard has directed, but of the films I have, none are worse than this.

It’s a simple story. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) is in a happy relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). His best friend, Nick (Kevin James) also seems to be happy with his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), but Ronny soon learns that Geneva is cheating on Nick with a guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). Although he wants to tell him, he’s afraid the information may interfere with their latest business endeavor that could net them a huge deal with a major automotive company, so he keeps it quiet, which leads to heaps of trouble.

So for the next two hours, we watch as Ronny lies to everybody around him, a frustrating screenplay tactic to force in as many wacky scenarios and awkward situations as possible. The Dilemma is one of those movies where all the main character has to do is tell the truth and everything would be fixed. Instead, his ill-advised decisions get dragged to the point where misunderstandings begin to repeat and redundancy kicks in.

If you ask me, deciding whether or not to tell your best friend that his wife is cheating on him is easy. You do it. As the film progressed, however, I wondered if it even mattered. New revelations about all of the characters popped up and I began to realize that, with the exception of Beth, none of them were truly innocent. All had skeletons in their closets, most of which are left shamefully unexplored, including Nick’s weekly visits to a local massage parlor where he may or may not have been receiving sexual favors. The characters are simply too unlikable for us to care whether or not they end up happy. They could have ended up in a gutter somewhere and I would have walked out emotionally the same.

The Dilemma claims to be a comedy, but laughs are non-existent and that’s no exaggeration. When it isn’t taking itself seriously as a laughably half-baked statement on the nature of love and marriage, it dabbles in what some may call jokes. Regardless of how you classify them, they all land flat on the ground like a skateboarder attempting a trick with only three wheels. Both Vaughn and James, two guys I have never found funny, try their hardest to be witty, but have no comedic chemistry. Rather than play off each other, they seem tied down to the script, which at its best is tolerable and at its worst is completely unfunny and painfully maudlin.

There’s something unpleasant about The Dilemma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be due to its cynical look at relationships or its borderline deplorable characters, but there’s no real reason to see it. Ron Howard has had an amazing career that isn’t even close to being finished, but he deserves better and so do you.

The Dilemma receives 1/5

Friday
Jun252010

Grown Ups

I like Adam Sandler. I really do. But I like him in a way that differs from most. I like him as an actor, a person who can embody a character and draw out emotion with ease. I don’t like him as the lowbrow funnyman the world has come to love. Despite solid performances in films like Spanglish, Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, he seems content to revert back to his old ways every so often. His latest, facetiously titled Grown Ups, features an ensemble cast isolated together in a cabin away from civilization where they will, predictably, grow as families and learn valuable life lessons.

The men in the families are longtime friends who grew up playing basketball together on Bobby “Buzzer” Ferdinando’s (Blake Clark) team. That team is the only one Buzzer has ever won a championship with so the kids all hold a special place in his heart. After his unfortunate death years later, the guys are reunited. There’s Lenny (Adam Sandler), a Hollywood agent in Los Angeles, Eric (Kevin James), the designated fat friend, Kurt (Chris Rock), the token black guy, Marcus (David Spade), the womanizing, alcohol abusing partier, and Rob (Rob Schneider), the wacky, “mystical” hippy friend who has a fetish for older women.

Those character descriptions, as simple as they are, also sum up the types of jokes in the movie. Eric is overweight, so most quips thrown his way are of the fat variety. The wisecracks directed at Rob have to do with his much too old wife. Pranks are pulled on Marcus when he passes out drunk and he wakes up in strange places. So on and so forth. Each character inhibits one personality trait and then takes a lashing from his friends about it.

If a character is too minor to have a personality, the filmmakers simply give that person a physical abnormality to joke on. For instance, Kurt’s mother-in-law is, inexplicably, with them at the cabin and she has something wrong with her toe, which is swelled up to the size of a golf ball. She is bombarded with harsh names like “Toe-J Simpson” and the like, but none are ever funny.

It’s a shame because Grown Ups tries so hard. The joke per second ratio is through the roof. When one character makes a crack at another, the rest of the friends join in on the verbal beatings. There are puns flying left and right from a mostly talented cast, yet so many go in one ear and out the other, if you’re lucky. Having one of those inane jokes stuck in your head could cause brain damage.

One important goal of comedies is to be fun. If the actors can show us how much they had on set, it might bleed through the screen to the audience. Grown Ups does this well. The five guys are clearly friends in real life and when they laugh onscreen, it feels genuine. They aren’t laughing because the script calls for them to, but rather because they simply can’t hold it in.

The problem is that while they’re clearly having a blast, the audience is not. None of the fun seeps through because the script isn’t there. This is one of those cases where I’d rather see a documentary about the making of the film because the behind-the-camera antics would surely be more rewarding.

Grown Ups receives 1/5

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