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Entries in Romantic Comedy (14)

Friday
Sep262014

Two Night Stand

So rarely does a romantic comedy break from the tried and true mold that the many romantic comedies that came before it set as precedent. They’re usually simple stories where two people meet cute, fall in love, have a forced dramatic falling out and then get back together in the end, much to the pleasure of their target audiences. However, movies like “(500) Days of Summer” proved that you can do something different and tell a truthful story within the genre while still producing something of quality. “Two Night Stand,” on the other hand, puts a unique spin on rom-coms, but fails to produce something meaningful. The two lead actors are game and do their best, but their efforts are frivolous, as the material they’re working with is substandard.

Megan (Analeigh Tipton) is a single girl living with a friend in New York City. She’s unemployed and fresh out of a long term relationship that she never thought would end. One night, her roommate invites her out to mingle with some friends at a bar, urging her to simply hook up with someone and get her mind off her current situation. Unfortunately, she forgets her ID and ends up back at home all alone yet again. In an effort to feel something, she jumps on a dating site and finds Alec (Miles Teller), a twenty something young man who doesn’t feed her creepy lines and lives in an apartment devoid of weird sexual paraphernalia, so she asks him if he wants to meet up for a one night stand, to which he agrees. What they don’t realize is that a storm is approaching. When they wake up the next morning, they realize they are stuck together in his apartment and forced to get to know each other on a deeper level.

Or at least you’d think so. The premise puts a unique spin on an event many have lived through, an event that many would argue is an emotionally thin and unfulfilling experience, even if in the short term it was pleasurable. Megan and Alec have no intention of ever seeing each other again after their night of random fun, but they’re forced to endure each other due to the overnight blizzard. So what do they talk about? Do they philosophize? Do they talk about the things that matter most to them? Do they pick each other’s brains, trying to get to the root of who they are? No, they compare and contrast each other’s love making skills, each criticizing the other for their various sexual deficiencies when, in all honesty, they should be criticizing for being personality-less bores. “Before Sunrise” this is not.

Then, after they’re done verbally destroying each other, they (naturally) decide to give it another go, because nothing puts people in the mood to have sex like hearing how bad they are at it. The preceding moments are meant to be cute, to stand out from the norm of how couples, or even flings, interact, but it comes off as hokey nonsense, which is no doubt due to a collaboration between a first time writer and director. Neither have an idea how to create meaningful moments or set a pace to get to them. Despite some of its shenanigans, “Two Night Stand” clearly aspires to be something more than your typical rom-com, but nearly all of its attempts to stand apart from the crowd fall flat.

The most obvious example comes from its finale. Anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship knows that romance films are sometimes closer to fantasy than “Harry Potter,” but to get those fuzzy feelings one desires from the genre, one must go along with it, but the final sequence in this film is absurd. It truly reeks of desperation, to not end like its genre brethren and instead put a comedic spin on what usually amounts to a cheesy closing, but it consists of actions that, in the real world (and without spoiling it), would have the complete opposite outcome. If it wasn’t for the shoddy execution up to that point, one would be upset that those aforementioned fuzzy feelings got ruined by such sickening cutesiness.

“Two Night Stand” simply isn’t very good. The two leads are naturally charming, Teller in particular as he somehow manages to pull laughs out of poor material that a lesser actor would be lost in, but their character arcs are unbelievable. At a brisk 82 minutes without credits, they are given no time to grow and the numerous transitions they make from hating to loving each other and back again feel rushed (not to mention that the first transition comes not from a mutual understanding or acceptance of each other, but simply because they got high to pass the time, which isn’t exactly the most romantic way for a relationship to blossom).

It’s commendable for a romantic comedy to try to stand out, especially with a clever premise such as this, but “Two Night Stand” tries too hard and doesn’t have the filmmaking know how to back it up.

Two Night Stand receives 1.5/5

Friday
Apr272012

The Five-Year Engagement

Romantic comedies so often rely on formula, one should be praised when it dares to break the rules. The last film to do so is 2009’s wonderful (500) Days of Summer. This week’s latest, The Five-Year Engagement isn’t quite as delightful or original as that film, but it avoids many of the usual romantic comedy clichés, including the “meet cute” and the initial dislike between the two main characters before they fall in love.

At the outset of the film, Tom (Jason Segel), a sous chef in a San Francisco restaurant, and Violet (Emily Blunt) have already been together for a year. It’s New Year’s Eve and Tom’s acting a little weird, but it’s only because he’s going to propose to Violet. When he does, she accepts and they begin planning their wedding, but a kink is put in those plans when Violet is accepted into the University of Michigan where she hopes to earn a doctorate in psychology. The plan is to do so in two years, so they put off their wedding until she’s done and Tom quits his upscale job to move with her to Michigan. However, she excels in her field and is eventually promoted, so they find themselves stuck there for a few more years, but Tom’s unhappiness is growing and it’s going to put a strain on the relationship.

The Five-Year Engagement grabs you right off the bat. It presents two likable actors playing two very likable people who love each other deeply. It circumvents the overused screenplay tactics like dramatic misunderstandings and the general awkwardness that most romantic comedy screen couples are forced to go through. They’ve already gotten passed all that and even though it’s only spoken, you can feel that they’ve been together for a year already. Segel and Blunt are simply fantastic together and you can’t help but cherish the love they cherish so much themselves.

You could make the argument that Violet is too much of a looker for a tall, pudgy guy like Tom, but it’s not difficult to see what she sees in him. He’s one of the most dedicated, unselfish people in the world and when she breaks the news to him that she was accepted to Michigan and will be moving there for two years (over a bottle of wine she uses to calm her nerves), he’s genuinely happy for her and actually suggests quitting his job and moving there with her; she doesn’t have to ask. Even after he hears from his boss that she was going to make him the lead chef at one of her new restaurants, he still packs up and leaves, knowing that Violet is well worth the sacrifice. He’s willing to give up his dreams and desires he’s worked so hard to obtain so she can have a chance at obtaining hers. It’s impossible not to like Tom.

Violet isn’t selfish either (despite a poorly expressed sentiment that maybe she deserves to be). She never pressures Tom to do what he does and she is always aware of his feelings. She asks him about them so much, in fact, that he tells her to stop, assuring her he’s okay with the situation. Of course, he’s just being his usual supportive self and isn’t entirely okay with it, especially after she breaks the news to him that her two year stay has been extended (a two year stay that is breezed through far too quickly). After sacrificing two years of his life, he’s ready to move on and get back to San Francisco, which is now impossible if he wants to stay with Violet. This inevitably leads to some unavoidable relationship problems, both wanting to follow their dreams without causing the other to give theirs up, a hope that is unattainable.

The unhappiness of such a stressful situation is more than enough to bring forth drama—and in a way that isn’t indicative of your usual formulaic romantic comedies—but The Five-Year Engagement nonetheless falls victim to screenplay doubt, forcing in unnecessary drama on top of the problems at hand, like when Violet’s professor (Rhys Ifans) kisses her after a night of drunkenness. Their friendship is charming at first, so it’s that much more annoying when it devolves into typical rom-com fare. (It’s such a shame that a man and a woman can’t be friends in a Hollywood movie without eventually hooking up.)

At over two hours, The Five-Year Engagement goes on for too long, especially considering so much of the late movie drama stems from that redundant affair and could have been cut out altogether, but what it botches with the drama, it nails in the comedy. This is a very funny movie—not quite as funny as this year’s 21 Jump Street (but then again, it isn’t trying to be)—and it will leave you smiling more often than not. Regardless of its problems, it’s a movie that just makes you feel good and that in itself is worth giving it a recommendation.

The Five-Year Engagement receives 4/5

Friday
Feb172012

This Means War

Originally set to be released on Valentine’s Day, This Means War was pushed back to the Friday after to avoid competing with the demographically well received Nicholas Sparks-esque romance, The Vow. It’s probably a smart move—I imagine most people would want to see a straight up love film than a silly screwball comedy like this on Valentine’s Day—but if we’re lucky, nobody will want to see it at all and we can stop future movies like this from coming out. This Means War is hopelessly derivative, unfunny and far more boring than an espionage comedy should be.

This film stars Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as FDR and Tuck, two best friends and secret agents at the CIA. FDR is a playboy, seemingly more interested in picking up women than he is in completing his missions, and Tuck is a romantic. He has a kid and an ex-wife, but he rarely sees them and he’s lonely. He wants to fall in love. After seeing an ad on television for an online dating service, Tuck posts his profile and gets a hit from Lauren, played by Reese Witherspoon, who was forced into it by her best friend, Trish, played by Chelsea Handler. After they have a nice meeting, Tuck finds himself smitten, but immediately after, Lauren runs into FDR who woos her as well, unaware that it’s the girl Tuck had just seen. When they find out they’re both after the same girl, the competition is on and they’ll do anything to win, utilizing every spy technique in the book to sabotage each other.

This Means War has a great cast. Aside from the over-the-top and grating Chelsea Handler, the three main stars are all charming, good looking and talented. The poster alone should sell this movie. However, not all talent is created equally. Witherspoon is still as lovely as ever and Chris Pine, who showcased some great comedic talent amidst all the sci-fi shenanigans in 2009’s Star Trek, is as funny as he can possibly be with what he’s given here, but Tom Hardy is miscast. Although he has proven himself as a wonderful dramatic actor in films like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the criminally overlooked Warrior, he is simply not funny. He isn’t a comedian and doesn’t know how to deliver comedic lines. When working with mediocre material such as this, his inexperience comes through even more noticeably.

Most films can overcome such a flaw, however, if their characters are fun to be around—jokes don’t always need to land when we’re spending time with people we like—but This Means War’s two main characters, the two battling it out for Lauren’s affection, are daft, selfish, shallow and manipulative. They spy on Lauren using advanced government technology (which would lead to all kinds of offensive invasions of privacy if this were anything other than a vacuous romantic comedy caper) and they use it to gain the upper hand. When they learn what Lauren doesn’t like about them, for instance, they change those aspects of themselves to fool her into thinking they’re someone they’re not. Their dishonesty is off-putting and by the end, you’ll hope she picks neither of them and moves on with her life.

You’d think that’s exactly what she’d do too after discovering that her feelings were the center of a crude and infantile competition, but she doesn’t and makes her choice. While I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to spoil who she picks, her decision is boneheaded for a number of reasons and doesn’t feel authentic. It feels like the choice was made only because, through an early contrived set-up, it allowed for a gushy happy ending for all the characters, even the one she toys with, doesn't choose and leaves heartbroken.

The pretentiously named McG, whose best movie is probably the first Charlie’s Angels (which certainly isn’t saying much), directed This Means War and it feels exactly like one of his films: stylish, but overblown; sometimes serious, but obnoxiously childish; fast paced, yet still amazingly boring. He has so many things to improve on, it’s hard to know where to begin in listing them. Even when compared to his previous failures, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Terminator Salvation, This Means War fares only slightly better, if only because it’s shorter and a bit breezier, but for every one thing it does okay, it botches five.

This Means War receives 1.5/5

Friday
Sep302011

What's Your Number?

If there’s one thing that can be said about Anna Faris, it’s that she has no problem putting herself out there. She will make herself look like the biggest idiot in the world if it means she’ll get a laugh. Sometimes, her effort isn’t worthy of the movie she’s in (which is often the case given her less than impressive filmography), but one can’t help but applaud her. Her willingness to be stupid only shows how smart she is. Her latest, What’s Your Number?, subdues her a bit—the crazy antics she pulled in the Scary Movie films are nowhere to be found—but it allows her to stretch. She actually has to act this time and she pulls it off with her excellent comedic timing intact, even if, yet again, her movie is a lousy one.

Ally (Faris) is kind of a slut, but she doesn’t know it yet. She has slept with 19 guys, a number she thinks is normal, despite her girly magazine stating the average for women is 10.5. Later, at her sister’s bachelorette party, she discovers she has had by far the most sexual experiences of any girl in the group. She is then told, without any evidence to back it up, that women who have had over 20 sexual partners are significantly less likely to marry. Scared, she vows to not have sex with another guy until she knows he’s the one, which she promptly breaks that night after getting drunk. As a last ditch effort, she enlists the hunky Colin (Chris Evans), who lives across the hall from her and has a knack for tracking people down, to find her old sexual partners in the hope that sparks will fly and she will end up with one of them, keeping her number at 20.

What’s Your Number? hits its target. It sets out to do something and it does it. The problem is it’s aiming low and relies on every single romantic comedy cliché to push it forward. It’s overlong, closer to 2 hours than an hour and a half, and boy, do you feel every single minute. Did it really need all that time to reach its obvious and inevitable conclusion? The ending in question, to be fair, is uncouth and zany in all the right ways—it keeps the comedy flowing—but it doesn’t change the fact that what it’s doing is unoriginal.

It’s an ending everyone will be able to see coming from the moment Ally and Colin meet, so what the film needs to do is make the journey there worthwhile, but it lacks an interesting story to tell and the humor is spotty at best. Per usual, there’s a break-up between the two lovebirds to make their eventual reconciliation all the sweeter, but the writing neglected to give them a solid reason to do so. The break-up stems from a man named Jake, who, up to that point, hadn’t even been introduced into the film. It’s forced, contrived and the scene is so badly acted by the two leads, it actually ends up providing the movie’s biggest laughs, unintentional though they may be.

But you won’t care. Chances are you’ll be happy Ally has dropped Colin because, frankly, he’s not a good person. He’s the type of guy most self-respecting guys hate. He sleeps with a new girl every night, wakes up the next morning, lies about having an appointment to get to and then sneaks over to Ally’s apartment until they leave. Those poor girls are lucky if he even remembers their name.

The main characters may not be the best in the world, but there are some great cameos by a number of notable actors to keep your interest from totally waning, including Andy Samberg, Aziz Ansari, Thomas Lennon and Anthony Mackie, but the moments spent with them are few and far between. What little effective humor this film has isn’t nearly enough to make up for the fact that it’s yet another tired, formulaic rom-com. I couldn’t even remember the title going in, but its derivativeness promises I’ll soon forget having ever watched What’s Your Number?

What’s Your Number? receives 1.5/5

Monday
Sep122011

I Don't Know How She Does It

I don’t know how she does it, Sarah Jessica Parker that is. I don’t know how she can manage to star in Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Sex and the City 2 and Failure to Launch and still have a career. Her latest, titled, you guessed it, I Don’t Know How She Does It, is a decided step up from those films and even though it’s not quite recommendable, at least it’s tolerable.

Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a financial executive who for years has been able to juggle the responsibilities of her job with those of her family. However, when she lands an account with New York big shot, Jack, played by Pierce Brosnan, she finds herself traveling more often than she would like, much to the dismay of her husband, Richard, played by Greg Kinnear, and her two young children. Because of this, her life begins to unravel and, although she loves both her job and her family, she ultimately realizes one needs more attention than the other.

I Don’t Know How She Does It has one thing going for it: a strong central character. Kate isn’t defined as just a mother or a wife or a businesswoman or a friend as many females in movies are. She’s all those things and more. It’s a refreshing sight, especially given Parker’s last few gender degrading roles. She takes this mostly well written character and creates a real person out of her, exuding more charm here than she has in perhaps her entire career. You’ll come to love Kate, even when she messes up, which makes the obligatory sappy ending a bit more bearable.

Where the film falters is not in its depiction of Kate, but rather in its overall style. I Don’t Know How She Does It never decides on one way to tell its story. At times, it tells it in a traditional style. At others, it takes a documentary style approach where talking heads address someone just off camera. Sometimes, it goes a step further and breaks the fourth wall, but this only happens in a few instances and comes off as very sudden and jarring. This is a movie that doesn’t know how to approach itself, never satisfied with establishing one narrative framework, but if it isn’t satisfied with itself, how can it hope to satisfy its audience?

More troubling than its indecisiveness is its animosity towards men. Most of the hatred towards the gender comes from testimonies from Kate’s best friend, Allison, played by Christina Hendricks, and, although she may have a point when it comes to workplace discrimination and the perception of females as opposed to males, the way the movie goes about it is all wrong. Aside from one extraneous character played by Seth Meyers, all the men in this movie are understanding, loving and patient, even the bigwig moneymakers who most expect to be greedy and corrupt. The film talks and talks of how terrible men are and how unfair it is that women are seen as differently in their eyes, especially when it comes to working and raising children, but it never shows it. This isolates the guys in the audience and comes off as pathetic pandering to the ladies. It’s little more than a feminist rant in an inappropriate context.

If anything, that’s what keeps it from having a good heart. Its narrative intentions are noble and the love that Kate has for her family is clear and true, but these hateful moments displace the heart. Regardless, there is plenty to like in I Don’t Know How She Does It, but not quite enough.

I Don’t Know How She Does It receives 2.5/5