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Entries in Will Ferrell (5)

Wednesday
Feb122014

The LEGO Movie

When “The LEGO Movie” was announced, the world let out a collective groan. While the beloved brand has branched out in recent years to various media forms, including an ever growing popular series of video games starring Batman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, the Marvel heroes and more, a movie just seemed too much. At the time, it would not have been unfair to assume it would be a 100 minute commercial and, in a sense, it is, but this final product so much more than that. This is not a cheap cash grab by the company and the movie doesn’t have a singular purpose to sell product (though I imagine that will be an added bonus). This is a funny, thoughtful film with a surprisingly resonant story that warms the heart. Older audiences will hope “The LEGO Movie” will at least be watchable while it entertains their kids, but they’ll soon find a childlike wonder they haven’t experienced in a while. If you’ve been pining to feel like a kid again, “The LEGO Movie” will do it. It’s not just “good for a kid’s movie,” as many cynics may suggest. “The LEGO Movie” is destined to be one of the best of the year.

The story starts out silly enough. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary guy, which is meant in the purest sense of the word. There is truly nothing special about him. He wakes up, does a few jumping jacks and heads off to work as a lowly construction worker. He’s a happy person, though much of that happiness is simply a façade to hide his loneliness. One day, however, things change when he stumbles onto an artifact known as the Kragle. Long ago, as the wise sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) puts it, a prophecy was foretold of a Master Builder who would save the world from the potentially devastating effects of the Kragle, and much to his surprise, he's that hero. Along with his newfound partner, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), he sets out to stop evil mogul, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), from freezing all of the world’s inhabitants and creating a perfect city.

These early moments are seemingly the most inconsistent for “The LEGO Movie.” It has some satirical bits, lampooning simplistic, one-joke television sitcoms with the LEGO world’s most popular show, “Where’s My Pants?” and generic pop music with the equally popular “Everything is Awesome!” But these moments are fleeting, as it quickly moves onto something else. It similarly pokes fun at itself, namely the immobility of the LEGO figures. When Emmet does those aforementioned jumping jacks, for instance, his motions are awkward, almost like he’s jumping up to cheer for something than to exercise, as the LEGO arms don’t extend out like is required for jumping jacks, only forward and backward. Another great moment is when the film admits that all LEGO characters essentially look the same (a search for Emmet by the evildoers yields no results because he “matches everyone in our database,” an underling says). But these moments come so rapidly as to seem a little inconsistent.

The story too is all over the place, a little bit like an ADD child on a sugar bender. Once it introduces its multiple universes angle, you start to wonder if the film is going to go completely overboard. But then something magical happens. A twist, which I dare not spoil, brings everything together. It explains why the story jumps around and why all of these seemingly unrelated characters from the vast Lego collection (which ranges from Shaquille O’Neal to Michelangelo the painter to Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle) have come together in one place. Unexpectedly, the film finds a purpose. In this silly, joke-a-second corporate product pushing movie with what appears to be, at first, a sporadic and inconsequential narrative, a giant heart is found. What happens is something that will seem all too familiar to certain members of the audience. While hardly revelatory, its ultimate message of letting loose your imagination and creativity is nevertheless endearing. It’s enough to make the parents in the audience want to take their kids home and let them run around and explore, creating magical worlds in their heads that only they can comprehend. It is that impactful.

If, somehow, the ending doesn’t touch you, there’s so much more to enjoy that it will hardly detract from your experience. The sight gags are contextually brilliant, like the fire effects that are merely see through orange plastics, and the absurd amount of cameos thrown into this thing is enough to make any nerd, LEGO fan or otherwise, smile with joy. From Harry Potter to the Simpsons to real life historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, the movie is packed to the brim with excellent inclusions, most of which you need to see for yourself. Even its soundtrack brings the goods, including a hilarious song written by Batman (Will Arnett) that satirizes the brooding nature of the character’s recent cinematic endeavors. Like a good spoof movie, the jokes come so rapidly here that one viewing is simply not enough. Most viewers are bound to miss the more subtle references and quick comedic jabs that “The LEGO Movie” throws in.

Too many adults these days seem to be lacking an imagination and a childlike sense of wonder. Their cynicism seeps through every facet of their being and they find that the ability to lose themselves in an adventure is now seemingly impossible. If you’re one of those people, especially one of the ones who desperately wants to recapture that youthful spirit, go see “The LEGO Movie” immediately. It’s about as magical and wondrous a movie as I’ve seen with more laughs per minute than any movie in recent memory. “The LEGO Movie” is an absolute delight.

The LEGO Movie receives 5/5

Friday
Mar162012

Casa de mi Padre

At first glance, Casa de mi Padre looks to be a change in Will Ferrell’s increasingly redundant career. Movie after movie, he plays what is essentially the same character with the same mannerisms performing the same type of shtick. His range as an actor is brought into question time and again. Casa de mi Padre isn’t like his other films—it’s a spoof on those silly, overdramatized Spanish soap operas (for which he actually learned Spanish)—but his approach to acting has changed little. While a novel idea, simply speaking a foreign language doesn’t make a performance (or movie, for that matter). Will Ferrell yet again plays Will Ferrell in a moderately clever, but inconsistently funny comedy that doesn’t have the material to support its concept.

Armando (Will Ferrell) is a simple rancher in Mexico. Having been one his entire life, it’s the only thing he knows. Unfortunately, his family’s ranch is having financial problems and is in danger of being taken away. Soon, Armando’s wealthy brother, Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his beautiful fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), claiming he can save the ranch. Their troubles seem to be over, but Armando soon finds out that Raul’s wealth is due to his mingling in the drug trade. This eventually leads him down a path he didn’t see for himself; he’s in a war with Mexico’s biggest drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

In its desire to mimic old Spanish telenovelas, Casa de mi Padre is intentionally bad. The animals are unconvincing puppets, missing responsive dialogue is replaced by looped footage and the sets are poorly designed, no doubt so they will be noticed for their obvious artificiality. There are a number of obvious jump cuts too; a couple are so small it makes you wonder if they were indeed intentional or if they were simply oversights by the filmmakers (though it works either way, so it’s a moot point). These calculated inconsistencies are clever and funny, even if they sometimes do more closely resemble an old Grindhouse film than a Spanish soap opera, but it isn’t nearly enough.

A large part of the film’s humor is meant to derive from the fact that Ferrell, a pudgy, white American, is speaking Spanish and attempting to blend in with actors of actual Spanish ethnicities, but such a premise is not inherently funny. It’s admittedly amusing for a few minutes, sure, but it certainly doesn’t hold up for a full length feature. Furthermore, Ferrell speaks the language so fluently that one can’t wonder about the point of it all. Although it would have deviated from its already bare spoof of telenovelas, a form of broken Spanish would have been far more amusing and, at the very least, fit comfortably in with its intentionally bad approach. As is, however, anybody could have played his role and the effect would have been nearly identical.

Casa de mi Padre’s overacted narrative, complete with hilariously overemotional back stories, is indicative of its inspiration, but its one joke premise is stretched out for far too long. With production values that are meant to look like the actors are standing on a shoddy soundstage, this could have just as easily been filmed as a six minute short on Saturday Night Live. And therein lies its problem. It’s an interesting idea, but not interesting enough to be a movie. Ferrell aficionados may be interested in seeing him deviate from his normal type of role (even if only by a little bit), but there isn’t much else in this half-hearted send-up of Spanish soap operas to be worthy of your attention.

Casa de mi Padre receives 2/5

Thursday
Mar082012

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t get the humor for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim program, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! I understand that stupid humor can be appealing after a hard day or when you’re just simply in the mood for it, but after a while, their senseless shtick becomes tiresome. Similar to Adult Swim’s last theatrical endeavor, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is insipid drivel, as quirky and creative as it is pointless and inane. As they say, a little goes a long way and in small bursts, Tim and Eric can be mildly diverting (an 11 minute runtime for their television show is testament to that). Having to sit through their idiocy for over 90 minutes is a waste of life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There’s something resembling a story in Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, though it acts less like an actual narrative and more like a strange series of skits to ensure they run into all sorts of strange characters and situations. At the beginning of the film, Tim (Tim Heidecker) and Eric (Eric Wareheim) show their new movie to their financier, the head of Schlaaang Corporation, Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia). He gave them one billion dollars and what they produced was complete garbage, so he threatens to take their lives if they don’t pay him back. After seeing a commercial calling for new managers to take over a local mall that promises they’ll make a billion dollars, they head on over to meet Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell), who immediately gives them the job. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a renovation, but first they need to get rid of the homeless people, the wolf running amok and close down certain stores, including one that sells only used toilet paper.

It’s incredibly difficult to explain this movie’s style of humor. I doubt even ardent fans of the Adult Swim show could. It’s just plain stupid and you either like it or you don’t. Tim and Eric run with their arms straight down and palms facing out, which is intercut with footage of two horses galloping over the plains, there are homoerotic montages that are supposed to be funny because, well, two men are rubbing each other, and the strange editing style, similar to how a broken record might skip, requires characters to repeat themselves over and over for no real reason other than to be unconventional. None of that is funny, though many have argued that Tim and Eric are actually comedic virtuosos. A good example of their so called prodigious talent can be seen in an early scene where Tim, Eric and Damien watch Top Gun and then (wait for it) watch it again. Clearly that’s hugely clever and hilarious. Still, one must admit that the duo is at least doing something unique. I’m pretty sure this is the only movie I’ve ever seen where four small children submerge an ailing man in a bathtub with their excrement while across the hall an elderly woman fellates a giant black dildo suction cupped to someone’s forehead.

But just because something is different doesn’t make it good. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is all about excess. They stretch jokes out for far too long, push the envelope beyond what many would consider basic human decency and their gross out sight gags are just that: gross. Tim essentially becomes a child predator in the film and tries to kiss a little child, the gangsters at the Schlaaang Corporation beat up a couple of fragile old ladies and cut one of their fingers off and disgusting visuals like a semen covered hand and the aforementioned bathtub poo scene are on prominent display. Any non-offensive, moderately amusing joke is immediately overblown with repetition, like when they honk the horn on their golf cart while parked in front of one of the stores. Instead of honking it once or twice, they do it fifteen times, which I suppose is meant to be funny.

It’s easy to hate this movie, but at the same time, it’s hard to be angry at it because, again, at least it’s different. If nothing else, Tim and Eric know what they’re doing. You can’t accidentally make something this stupid. What it all boils down to is whether or not you’re a fan of the show and think you can tolerate over an hour and a half of their foolishness. I personally couldn’t wait for the film to be over and my experience with it was unbearable, so I really have no choice but to declare Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie as one of the worst films of the year.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie receives 0.5/5

Friday
Nov052010

Megamind

DreamWorks Animation is one of the most hit-and-miss production studios in Hollywood. When you sit down for one of their movies, you never know whether you’re going to get garbage or quality. Sometimes you’ll get a fun, funny, smart adventure like Shrek or Monsters vs. Aliens and other times you’ll get a vapid, deadening nothing of a film like Bee Movie or Madagascar. Their last effort, How to Train Your Dragon, was more like the former. It was their best and most mature film to date and it had many critics believing that Pixar now had some serious competition in DreamWorks. Those critics may be changing their tune after Megamind.

The movie begins as an homage to (or a rip-off of—I can’t decide which) Superman: The Movie. Megamind’s (Will Ferrell) planet is crumbling and his parents have decided to blast him off towards Earth before they all perish. However, a family on a neighboring planet has done the same thing with their child, a kid who will grow up to be known as Metro Man (Brad Pitt). To Megamind, it seemed like he was always destined for evil. Whereas Metro Man landed at the front steps of a wealthy, classy family, he landed in the middle of the Metro City jail and learned how to be bad. Now he has a rivalry with Metro Man and is determined to defeat him no matter what.

Megamind is a more comedic version of Superman in animated form. It makes no effort to hide the fact that it’s borrowing liberally from that storied franchise, complete with the beautiful Lois Lane like reporter named Roxanne (Tina Fey), who has been kidnapped by Megamind more times than she can count. They even make Metro Man a Christ-like figure, a comparison made subtly in Superman, but harshly brought forward here by giving him the ability to walk on water.

Oddly enough, this is the stuff that works best. The spoof aspect of superhero tropes and traditions is well thought out and quite funny. The knowing references to the witty banter that occurs between a hero and his arch-nemesis during battle are clever, but there’s simply not enough of it.

What the rest of the film resorts to are worn down slapstick gags and idiotic one-liners that I imagine will appeal mostly to the younger ones in the audience. The voice talent is wasted with this silly material and they do little to make the experience worthwhile, with the exception of one particularly funny bit where Will Ferrell mimics Marlon Brando. The rest of the time, he’s mispronouncing words for no apparent reason and raising his voice so we are aware that it is indeed him.

In fact, the funniest parts of the movie are the sight gags, like an Obama-esque poster of Megamind as he rules over the city that says “No You Can’t” and a quick nod towards the original Donkey Kong game, which is a testament to the talented animators at DreamWorks. The problem with this movie is not the animation. It’s the lack of creativity and bland writing. That was the case for many of DreamWorks Animation's previous movies. Such is the case with Megamind.

Compared to How to Train Your Dragon or pretty much any Pixar movie, Megamind is weak. Whereas those movies reached out to the adults, this one is for the kids. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering how few choices there are for children at the movies these days, it’s also what keeps it from reaching its full potential. The basic messages about good and evil and learning from your mistakes are noble, but they offer nothing adults don’t already know. Although I don’t judge movies on whether or not they’ll work for their intended audience, I suspect Megamind will, but it didn’t for me.

Megamind receives 1.5/5

Friday
Aug062010

The Other Guys

I hate to poo poo on the parade of admiration that has come for the latest buddy cop comedy The Other Guys, but I honestly have no idea what people are seeing in it. While certainly better than this year’s similar send-up of buddy cop action movies, Cop Out, it’s little more than another overblown Will Ferrell comedy, complete with bad acting and overdone jokes.

What do I mean by “overdone jokes,” you ask? Well, The Other Guys is a certain type of comedy film that likes to make a joke early on and then bring it up repeatedly throughout the rest of its runtime, a running joke if you will. There are at least seven or eight jokes that are made and then remade and then remade again, but, with the exception of one humorous TLC reference, none are funny the first time, much less the third or fourth. The jokes in this movie are like Ferrell’s career. They just won’t go away.

Everyone’s favorite overrated comedian Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a cop working a desk job in New York with his partner Terry Hoitz, played by Mark Wahlberg. They essentially work for the star cops in the force, P.K., played by Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher, played by Dwayne Johnson, because after they complete a job, the two are tasked with filling out the required paperwork. However, they are about to get their chance to go out and do some real police work when an accident leaves P.K. and Christopher splattered on the sidewalk.

It’s difficult to review comedies because humor is subjective. What is funny to some may not be funny to others. It’s not as easy as saying whether or not a film is funny, but rather you must explain why and I'm in the minority on this one because I can’t stand Will Ferrell. Despite a funny stint on “Saturday Night Live” and a couple of decent supporting roles in movies like Wedding Crashers and Old School, he has failed to win me over.

The biggest issue I have with the man is the way he delivers his lines. He never fails to go remarkably over-the-top in his performances, taking a simple joke and elaborating to an unfunny extent. He goes on and on and on with no signs of letting up, masking his sarcasm and wit with monotony and annoyance. He tries so hard to make the audience laugh that it becomes depressing. Instead of letting the jokes flow naturally, he seems to force them in when they don’t belong. Will Ferrell is not a good comedian.

My reaction to Ferrell in this movie is expected, but I hoped that his performance would be rectified, or even complimented, by Mark Wahlberg’s clashing personality. Unfortunately, this matrimony was not meant to be. Wahlberg does little more than yell for close to an exhausting two hours of film and I can only imagine that his blood pressure had elevated quite a bit by wrap-up.

So we’ve established that half of the equation fails in this action/comedy romp. Well, so does the other. The action, which is ramped up tenfold in the last block of the film, is poorly staged and boring to watch. Director Adam McKay, the man responsible for the equally unfunny Ferrell movies Step Brothers, Talladega Nights and Anchorman, isn’t accustomed to filming action scenes and stumbles when trying to depict one.

There’s no excitement, laughs or fun to be found in The Other Guys. It’s sad because there’s a funny movie in there somewhere. You can see that some thought went into its writing, but the actors playing it out simply aren’t game. Neither Ferrell nor Wahlberg do a good job of fleshing out their respective roles as dimwitted dork and abrasive tough guy. Of course, this review will do nothing to stop the tide of Ferrell fans from flooding the theaters this weekend, try as I might, but if I can convince even one person that the man isn’t funny, I’ll have done my job.

The Other Guys receives 1.5/5