Posts Tagged ‘Comedy Films’

h1

Micmacs à tire-larigot (2010)

April 4, 2010

Micmacs review

micmacs screenshot

Matt:

Length: 105min

Micmacs isn’t a bad film. Lots of people will like it. The kind of people who like sweet fantasies and serendipitous romances. The kind of people who are happy to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the universe is good, and ordered, and that it watches over us. The kind of people who like Amélie.

I’m a bit more cynical. And I also can’t help thinking “but that’s impossible”, or “but that’s illogical” over and over, even though I know I’m spoiling the fun.

There are plenty of occasions to have those thoughts in Micmacs. It’s set in a universe that has a dash of magic and fantasy to it. It’s a little like an adult’s film in a  children’s universe.

Not surprising, seeing as it’s directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the same writer/director of Amélie, and half of the duo that created Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. Micmacs has the same beautiful appearance as those films, with lovely colours and plenty of creative scenes. There’s also the same fascination for the roles that the tiny and invisible play in chains of miraculous causation (in these films, tiny things are always causing big results).

But the story itself is a little – what’s the word… cartoony. It’s a fairly simple premise – Bazil (the clownish Dany Boon) has a bullet in his head. It can all be traced back to the amoral work of two wealthy weapons companies. He  wants revenge. Bazil hooks up with a group of misfits who live out of a scrapyard. They each have quirky, semi-autistic powers. Like Calculette (Marie-Julie Baup), the human calculator, who can calculate and distance, weight etc just by looking at something. Bazil, with misfits in tow, goes through a bunch of hairbrained hi-jinx to get back at the CEOs of the weapons companies.

There’s not too much to it apart from that. A lot of the screen time is taken up with fun and capers – for example, showing us the contraptions that the misfits make out of junk at their junkyard (which are quite clever and magical). That time is taken away from the characters and the relationships. That’s a trade off that has its pros and cons. I wanted to see the characters developed a bit more. It’s a feeling I often have in films where a team of quirky characters is presented and they each do their little bit, using their special talent.

Micmacs is also a film that seems to have lost something from being exported from France. There are obviously a few French language jokes that are lost in translation. It’s especially obvious because the special quirk of one of the misfits – the ethnographer – is his unusual and garrulous talking style. It seems like it was hard to translate what he’s saying without losing some of the point.

In the end, it’s fun, it’s pleasant, it’s kind of quirky. It’s nice. It looks good. But it has a bit too much sugary fantasy. If Jeunet had piped in some of the darker themes that were present in Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, it would have worked a lot better.

h1

BE KIND REWIND (2008)

August 2, 2008

Be Kind Rewind Review


Matt:

Length: 101min

Taglines:
You name it, we shoot it.
Sometimes the best movies are the ones we make up.

Précis: Oddball and friendly film about amateurs remaking blockbusters and discovering the creativity and community spirit around them.   

Review by Matt:

Mike (Mos Def) is an affable clerk left to mind Mr Fletcher’s (Danny Glover) old-school video store for a few weeks. Things go slightly haywire when the store’s main patron, Jerry (Jack Black) – a loopy conspiracy theorist who lives in a nearby trailer – becomes magnetised, resulting in the erasure of the store’s entire catalogue. In a kind of child-like panic, Mike and Jerry decide the best approach to the problem is to recreate the videos by shooting their own versions, starring themselves, a randomly recruited laundry-lady (the ever-cheery Melonie Diaz), and a bunch of home-made special effects.

It sounds pretty weird, and it is. Be Kind Rewind is one of those films that will divide audiences. Some people are going to shake their heads and complain that it is chaotic and half-baked. They’d be right. It seems a bit like writer/director Michael Gondry (who whatever happens from now will be remembered for his stellar effort in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ) hurried his cast onto a set with a script scribbled on the back of an envelope. What stands out initially is the film’s disconcerting ‘low-key’ feel and the air of randomness. It makes you wonder if they’re making it up as they go along. Even the name the boys use for the process of re-shooting the films – “sweding” – seems invented on the spot, and Mos Def’s mumbling suggests he may not have rehearsed too much.

But the other half of the audience is going to think Be Kind Rewind has a unique comic charm and a freeing originality. This is true too. Where else can you see a couple of doofuses recreate Ghost Busters, complete with giant pipe-cleaner protonpack weapons? The same randomness that alienates some viewers is going to delight others. The film’s central theme, amateur creativity, has already inspired a hoard of backyard filmmakers to go out and remake everything from Jurassic Park to Predator.  To cement its point about creative community power, the villains of Be Kind Rewind are representatives of the powerful orthodoxy – movie studios and building developers.

My conclusion is that Be Kind Rewind is a better film than it first appears. It’s got something special going on in its weird whimsy, and before you’ve really figured out what you’re watching, it’s delivered a sneaky little celebration of community and creativity. It’s a bit syrupy, but I ended up liking the way it used a wacky vehicle to deliver a touching message.  Just that the delivery itself is kind of untidy. For a film crackling with comic potential, it doesn’t manage to elicit many laughs. It also should have traded some of the more banal moments to show us more of the creative and comic ‘sweded’ remakes, which are the best parts of the film. I ended up smiling because I was touched, but I didn’t smile outright at the film’s humour. So it’s missing a bit of polish and sparkle, but Be Kind Rewind is still is a friendly and original little film.

h1

DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007)

April 3, 2008

Dan in Real Life Review
Dan in Real Life Screenshot

Matt:

Length: 98 min

Tagline:
Something’s happening to Dan. It’s confusing. It’s awkward. It’s family.

Précis: Likeable, but run-of-the-mill romantic comedy emerges as a puff of family fluff.

Review by Matt:

Poor Dan (Steve Carrell). He’s the protagonist in one of those conventional Hollywood family romantic comedies. That means that he is a good, middleclass, middle-aged father and a nice guy, but he’s a widower raising three young daughters alone. The daughters are typically unimpressed with their Dad – he is embarrassingly overprotective, uncool etc – so when the whole extended family gather for Thanksgiving at the Rhode Island lodge belonging to Dan’s parents (John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest), Dan wanders into town to give them some girl-time. Browsing in a bookshop, Dan miraculously meets, chats to, and *snap* falls in love, with a charming stranger, Marie (Juliette Binoche). She’s in a relationship, but he scores her number anyway. Later back at the lodge, the new girlfriend of Dan’s brother Mitch (Dane Cook) arrives. Oh, guess who it is? Yep. Marie from the bookshop. The sparks in Dan’s heart turn to needles. He’s going to need to keep this whole thing a secret from his large and inquisitional family.

After its setup, Dan in Real Life carries on in the key of “unrequited love” a bit too long and loudly. For most of its length we watch as Dan pulls his hair out and a waterfall of ironic and frustrating events pour over him: Dan stuck behind jazzercising Marie; Dan trapped in close quarters with Marie; Mitch and Marie crawling over each other in a (poorly executed) yoga pose while Dan looks on. Etc. Dan’s frustration leads to foolish, jealous behaviour which earns the scorn and concern of his omnipresent family and, according to the movie poster, can be relieved by laying one’s head down onto a stack of pancakes. Problem is, we get it after the first ten minutes. Each new frustration doesn’t vary the melody, it just amplifies it.

Perhaps these standard romantic comedy plotlines are revisited so often because they really do echo the trials we all face in real life. But in real life we don’t actually know what is going to happen. Here we do. We’re also catapulted to this ending so suddenly that messy streaks of pretence are left all over. In real life we also don’t speak in Hollywood or sit-com platitudes, as they do in this film. The levels of cliché are occasionally so elevated that you may find yourself cringing and saying out loud “No, don’t say tha – ohh, I can’t believe they just said that.” Screenwriter Peter Hedges was lauded for his earlier work About a Boy. Admittedly I was irked by the trite sentimentality in that film too. Dan in Real Life has about the same level. Just to fully make this point: the romantic compliment “I thought I died because an angel just walked in to the room” is pitched to us as a serious line. Try saying that to someone in real life and see how it goes.

The offset to all this is, of course, that Dan in Real Life is actually a pretty nice and likeable film (in my opinion, a lot more likeable than About a Boy). It has humour and romance and a whole lot of sit-com ‘Christmas-special’ style sentimentality (thoughtless comments from rude uncles, family talent shows etc). It’s a comedy, obviously, but it’s a featherweight one. There are funny moments, but nothing to really surprise you, prick you, or make you laugh too heartily. Steve Carrell is the best part of the film; he has a comic spark that lets him overclock the meagre humour in not-so-funny lines and situations. But inevitably Dan in Real Life resides somewhere in the bland no-man’s land of standard Hollywood fare. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s ok. It’s just that it’s so dulled by convention and niceness that it emerges as a big puff of family fluff.

h1

RUN FATBOY RUN (2008)

March 16, 2008

Run Fatboy Run review (aka Fatboy Needs New Nikes)
Run, Fat Boy, Run

Matt: Three stars

Length: 100 min

Taglines:
Love. Commitment. Responsibility. There’s nothing he can’t run away from.

Précis: Semi-enjoyable romantic comedy suffers from a rehashed plot and finishes well back in the pack.

Review by Matt:

Millions of fans become excited when a new film is released featuring English actor and comedian Simon Pegg. It’s understandable. He’s been at the centre of two big comic winners recently: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Unfortunately, his latest cinema appearance is a reminder that the man doesn’t maketh the movie. Run Fatboy Run is a disappointingly average comedy. So average in fact that at every turn you will be thinking, “Hmm, haven’t I seen this before in ‘Movie X’ or ‘Television Show Y’?” In this way it’s the very antithesis of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which were hilarious self referential parodies of their respective genres.

Simon Pegg is Dennis, an average slacker who shamefully pulled a runner on his pregnant bride Libby (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day. Five years later his running days are over – he’s a fat slacker subsisting on the joy he gets from visiting his now five-year-old son Jake (Matthew Fenton) and having the occasional beer with his grumpy, gambling chum (the excellent scene-stealing Dylan Moran). When arrogant American stallion Whit (Hank Azaria) muscles in on Libby, Dennis is suddenly motivated to prove himself to Libby and re-win her love by running the London Marathon. The only problem – besides his breathtaking lack of fitness – is that the Marathon is in 3 weeks. Dennis needs to train, secure a sponsor and to fend off the smarmy jibes of Whit.

This all unfolds in a rather hackneyed way. You can probably already see the bad-father-needs-to-win-back-love comparisons to a hundred other films (Liar Liar jumped to mind pretty quickly for me). There’s an evil romantic intruder, a little kid who loves his real father, a challenging hurdle to overcome in the end etc. Despite this, Simon Pegg’s comic talents in particular manage to stave off the rot fairly well. There are some mild laughs and, if you like this type of thing, there are a standard array of comical characters to meet along the way who of course return to watch the climactic race finale with us.

There are a few explanations for Run Fatboy Run’s general blandness. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is the directorial debut of ‘Mr Sitcom’ David Schwimmer. His hands-off directing is certainly from a different universe than the explosive visual style of Edgar Wright, who was behind the camera for Pegg’s home-turf pictures. Schwimmer’s camera also needs its comic-timing recalibrated. A number of the film’s visual jokes fall inexplicably flat. I’ve rarely seen a kick to the testicles go without laugh like I have here.

I also indict American Michael Ian Black, the creator of the unenjoyable television comedy Stella, and the original scriptwriter for this film. Simon Pegg reworked the script – including by re-setting it in London – so that Run Fatboy Run could get a release. The result is a strange hybrid. It often feels funny and right when Pegg and the irascible Irishman Dylan Moran are centre screen. Then we get a decent chunk of good comedy. But the film has an irremediable core of formulaic American cinema. I kept wishing that Run Fatboy Run would turn into a genius parody of romantic comedies or of the triumphant sporting underdog film. But it just wants to run the straight and flat route. And it even adds a final insult by slapping us in the face with pair after pair of product-placed Nikes – so much so that “Fatboy Needs New Nikes” wouldn’t have looked so strange as an alternate title. Overall, a big part of the problem will be the high expectations many will have for Run Fatboy Run, but it ultimately feels a bit like eating a big tasteless cookie that has only a few chocolate chips.

h1

FUTURAMA: BENDER’S BIG SCORE (Futurama Movie) (2007)

December 16, 2007

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score review
Futurama bender’s big score

Matt: Two and a half stars
Tracy: Two stars

Length: 88min

Précis: You need to be a fan; but sadly even the fans will think this is like an over-long, low-quality Futurama episode.

Review by Matt:

I’m genuinely unhappy to be writing a review about the Futurama Movie: Bender’s Big Score. Because ever since it first aired in 1999, I’ve been a fan of Futurama, the animated sci-fi comedy show created by Matt Groening. And now I’m going to have to tell you that even though Bender’s Big Score is the first exciting glimpse of Futurama since its axing from the Fox network in 2003, and it’s the first ever feature-length Futurama film, the movie is a weak, boring disappointment. Sigh, I’m sorry. I really wanted it to be great as well.

The plot of Bender’s Big Score is an ok idea, reminiscent of the kind of time-travelling paradoxes that often formed the spine of the old Futurama episodes. Extra‑terrestrial email scammers (yep, like cockroaches they’ll still be around 1000 years in the future) trick their way into ownership of the Planet Express Delivery Service and then discover that delivery boy Phillip J Fry is unknowingly holding the secret to time travel on his person (guess where – on his butt – snigger). The scammers exploit it to quickly conquer the world. And then, as anyone who has seen the Back to the Future series should know, the overuse of the time travel secret begins to endanger the fabric of the space/time continuum. It’s left to parallel versions of Fry and the reprobate robot Bender to make things right again.

All of the main characters from the television show play some kind of role along the way – Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, Hermes, Amy, Leela, Zap Brannigan, even Scruffy the Janitor – though it’s obviously difficult to let them all shine properly in just 90 minutes. Unlike The Simpsons Movie, which made a successful transition to the big screen and brought with it quite a coherent movie-length plot, Bender’s Big Score feels uneven and piecemeal, as if a few short episodes were roughly cobbled together. The Simpsons Movie also brought the show’s charisma with it. Bender’s Big Score somehow leaves that behind, which is a real shame because the television Futurama was really packed with charm.

The major problem though, is that the jokes are lacking! In some old episodes of the series it felt like the writers were in a golden mood and every moment had a clever zing. In Bender’s Big Score, like in some of the worst episodes, it seems they’ve just stacked together a bunch of forced, half-baked gags. There are a few crackling moments – such as the two excellent musical numbers – but mostly the wit and ebullient mischievousness that featured in the best episodes of the show seems muted.

And fear ye who comes to this movie with no knowledge of Futurama the show! Characters and ideas from the series appear with no context. I just know there will be viewers out there looking at Ethan ‘Bubblegum’ Tate the interstellar Harlem Globetrotting space physicist, or at the rampaging robotic Santa from Neptune, or Leela’s sewer mutant parents, and just holding their heads in utter confusion. In fact there are many references in the film that are exclusively for the loving fans (such as an explanation for the fossilization of Fry’s dog Seymour, and even an explanation for the buildings that are lasered to the ground outside the cryogenic chamber in the very first episode) so die-hards should at least appreciate that.

Bender’s Big Score is still Futurama at heart. There is still lots of nerdy sci-fi joy, cool ideas, lovely animation and some decent chuckles. But it’s not enough to just service the fans with in-references and a pretty sci-fi setting. I wanted a film that shone like the cleverest and most innovative episodes of Futurama (and there was much clever writing over the five years of the show). The good news is that three more Futurama movies are on the way. They can really be better than this.

I can hardly bring myself to do this to a show I’ve loved, but, Bender’s Big Score: two and a half stars.

h1

WILD HOGS (2007)

August 12, 2007

Wild Hogs review

Wild Hogs

Note, this picture is not from the movie. But a promotional still might give you the wrong impression – the feeling evoked by this picture is more accurate. That’s right, soak it up.

Adam: One and a half stars

Length: 100min

Taglines:

A lot can happen on the road to nowhere.
Four guys from the suburbs hit the road… and the road hit back.
Four guys. 2000 miles. How wild can it get?
Ride hard… or stay home!

Review by Adam:

I saw this movie on a flight from Australia to Bali because I didn’t want to rent one on the plane. In hindsight I would have paid twice the rental amount to have watched something else. This is the sort of movie that once you see the poster you immediately think “god what an awful movie”…and you’re right. Just think of the comedy gold that was Big Momma’s House 1 & 2, multiply that by Home Improvement and you’ve got yourself the pile of crap that is this movie. So bad was this film that I spent most of its length trying to work out the plot of Blood Diamond on my mate’s rented video beside me.

The general plot is that four suburban 40-somethings are having a mid-life-crisis. They belong to a social motorbike gang called the, wait, “Wild Hogs”. They all live rather mundane lives. One is a dentist, one a plumber, one a failing businessman and the other a computer geek afraid to speak to women. In an attempt to regain some relevance to his son, Tim Allen, gets the boys together for a road trip across the States.

This is where the adventure begins. The “Hogs” stop into a bikie pub somewhere on the way owned by a ‘real’ bikie gang called the “Del Fuegos”. The “Hogs” get muscled out and William H. Macy’s geek character loses his bike in a trade. They’re told to beat it and leave the bike riding to real bikers. Travolta engineers some payback, steals back Macy’s bike and enacts revenge. Long story short, they end up in a nearby town that is being terrorized by the Del Fuegos and they decide to stay and help out. Along the way they all find whatever it is they need to within themselves and Macy falls in love with Marisa Tomei. Why are both Tomei and Macy in such a bad film? That’s what you spend most of the time trying to work out.This movie is imbued with all sorts of homophobic tones and tendencies. Tim Allen’s alpha-male role from Home Improvement wouldn’t look out of place in this film. All the characters display the sort of discomfort amongst men as those who beat queer-identifying people.

Overall, this movie is a total waste of time. For some unfathomable reason there is talk of a sequel. Tip for movie makers: if your first movie isn’t funny AT ALL, the idea sucks, so don’t make a sequel.



				
h1

BLADES OF GLORY (2007)

August 12, 2007

Blades of Glory review
Blades of Glory

Matt: Three and a half Stars
Tracy:
Three and a half Stars

Length: 93min

Tagline:

Kick some ice.

Review by Matt:

One day I’d like to see a well-put-together montage of the best toilet humour from Earth’s 105 years of cinema. I don’t even have to think too hard for many images to immediately spring to mind: Jeff Daniels panicking from a laxative attack in Dumb and Dumber, Ewen McGregor crawling down the bowl in Trainspotting, the restroom assassin in Austin Powers. And since seeing Blades of Glory, I can add Jon Heder on the bathroom floor doing, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Making it into the toilet montage isn’t a distinguished achievement in itself. What is an achievement though, is that Blades of Glory taps that special, deep-rooted power that the toilet holds over the human psyche in a way that will make us laugh (and also simultaneously moan – a strange squawking sound). And the film is able to keep making us laugh, even though it actually rarely dives into the toilet bowl. Blades of Glory is more of a silly parody or satire than a gross-out comedy. It’s daft, the plot is flimsy, but it’s hilarious and it seems to know just where to mine to find the laughs.

Blades of Glory tells the story of Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, from Napoleon Dynamite) who are the fire and ice of the male ice-skating circuit. Michaels is a bestial womaniser, described by one admiring commentator as “an ice-devouring sex-tornado”. MacElroy is the innocent and graceful angel, driven by a forceful billionaire father, so ambitious that he had Jimmy circumcised to minimise air resistance. They’re the equal champions of the sport. That is until they earn a life long ban after a shameful brawl at the Winter Games. The only way the two can subvert the ban is to reluctantly join forces for a comeback – as the world’s first male figure skating pair.

And that’s the wellspring for the comedy. There are some hilariously unique skating performances (the duo’s uncomfortably homo-erotic routine honestly brought tears to my eyes), some awkward romance, and some typical ice-skating treachery (supplied by a villainous ice-skating couple played by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). A particularly enjoyable aspect of the film is the effort it takes to ridicule the ostentatious and slightly unhealthy world of sports such as figure-skating and their over-competitive participants. The filmmakers have breathed the polluted breath of ice-skating into the characters: Chazz and Jimmy have strange histories that are revealed to us by rapturous commentators, they’ve splendid flamboyant costumes, CGI effects permit them to skate like champions, and they’re surrounded by a cast of eccentrics such as an obsessive stalker and a coach who pressures them to skate stunts with a high probability of death.

Will Ferrell is delightfully shameless as the macho and pathetic Michaels. He milks his Jim Morrison-esque character for as much gross sexuality as possible. “I thought you’d like to see what a real skater’s body looks like,” he boasts to MacElroy at one point, thrusting out his naked, hairy paunch. Heder is funny too, though much more muted than Ferrell. He’s often the backboard for Ferrell’s crassness. It is mainly the way these two play their characters that gives the humour its sting.

I can see how not everyone would enjoy watching ninety minutes of idiotic and indecorous behaviour by homophobic male ice skaters. But they’re not there for you to identify with – they’re there to laugh at. Your expectations need to be in the right place. On the poster for the film, Ferrell holds Heder above his head by his crotch, striking an elegant yet defiant skating pose. It should be obvious then that this is going to be slapstick farce and not Schindler’s List. Blades of Glory really has trawled up a lot of neat ice skating jokes – I never thought there’d be that much amusement in this topic. But it’s no more complicated than that. And, like most films earning a place in the toilet-humour montage, it is pretty low-brow. But unlike most films of its ilk, it skates the genre genuinely well, so that you should be guaranteed an evening of easy, jolly laughs.