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Entries in thomas lennon (2)

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

Friday
Jun242011

Bad Teacher

The Office is one of the best shows on television. While it will be interesting to see how it fares without Steve Carell in the upcoming season, it has firmly cemented itself as one of this decade’s smartest, freshest, hippest comedies. Many things contribute to its success, not the least of which is its sharp writing. Though television shows have many writers, two of The Office’s most celebrated are Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who bring a certain youthfulness and fun to each episode they write. They’re so good on that show, one can’t help but wonder why their cinematic endeavors are so abysmal. Despite having the comedic talents of Jack Black and Michael Cera, 2009’s Year One managed to disgust and appall without ever actually entertaining and their newest film, Bad Teacher, follows suit. It’s cruel, heartless and unfunny. It’s a movie that disrespects itself, the audience and the art of filmmaking. It’s a cinematic shamble with a thin plot and even thinner characters. And yes, it’s one of the worst so far this year.

Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth, a gold digging teacher who has just been dumped by her wealthy fiancé. Upset that she just lost her money (but not so upset about losing the man), she begins to chase after substitute teacher Scott, played by Justin Timberlake, who is also blessed with riches. He’s the unassuming type, however, and doesn’t give into her come-ons. In her vanity, she decides a breast enhancement will fix her problems and will do anything she can to gather up the money she needs for the operation, though her admirer, P.E. teacher Russell, played by Jason Segel, insists she’s perfect the way she is.

Let’s just call that plot (though “plot” may not be the right word to describe a movie about a girl raising money for a boob job) what it really is: a vehicle for sweetheart Cameron Diaz to be as vulgar as possible. You’ll get to hear her say things that, and I’m confident about this, you’ve never heard her say before. She is clearly embracing the uncensored nature of her character and having fun with it. Unfortunately, shocking language does not always equate with comedy. Never has that been more apparent than in Bad Teacher.

The reason behind its comedic emptiness stems from the fact that Elizabeth is one of the most wretched, hateful characters to appear onscreen in quite some time. She treats her co-workers like scum and her students even worse. She shows up to class hung-over and drugged out, swindles her kids’ parents out of money and, fearful of having to face the consequences of her own selfish actions, sabotages another teacher who is rightfully suspicious of her and concerned about her students’ academic futures. I get that the premise of the film, as suggested by the title, is inherently mean-spirited, but it’s a premise without comedic value.

Some movies with such despicable characters have a narrative arc that leads to a late movie redemption. Bad Teacher provides the redemption, but forgets the arc. For its entire runtime, Elizabeth cares about nobody but herself before suddenly having a change of heart, realizing that perhaps money shouldn’t be her prime motivation in a relationship. This moment comes from nowhere and the scenes leading up to it do nothing to establish her actions, yet we’re supposed to find her likable. I don’t suspect many people will.

The most disheartening aspect of Bad Teacher is its wonderful list of supporting players, all of whom are given nearly nothing to do or interesting to say. Thomas Lennon from Reno 911!, Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family and Jerry Lambert from those great Playstation 3 commercials (which, coincidentally, pack more laughs in a short 30 seconds than this entire movie), show up to lend their considerable talents, but they’re all wasted. I suppose you could consider Bad Teacher a sad commentary on the state of our public education system, though you’d really have to be reaching to land on that conclusion (but I guess its defenders need something to argue). Regardless, the film remains vicious, poorly written, boring and, even at a concise 89 minutes, exhausted and drawn out.

Bad Teacher receives 1/5