Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Horrible Bosses 2: One Too Many—Movie

December 2, 2014

Sometimes once is enough and so it is with “Horrible Bosses 2.” The pained expression that Jason Bateman wears throughout most of the movie says it all…it’s almost as if he is in the audience watching the annoying performances of Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Sean Anders with screenplay and story by Anders, John Morris, Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley and Michael Markowitz, “Horrible Bosses 2” picks up where the first one leaves off.

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With former bosses either dead, in prison or seeking help for addiction, Nick (Jason Bateman), (Kurt) Jason Sudeikis and Dale (Charlie Day) have formed a company and are looking for investors to bring their invention, the “Shower Buddy,” to market. When they are swindled by investor Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), the trio resorts to drastic measures—the kidnapping of Hanson’s son, Rex (Chris Pine), who becomes a very willing victim. Along the way, the three come into contact with Dale’s former dental boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), and Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), Nick’s former boss now residing in prison. And for old time’s sake, they once again go to Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx) for advice who surprisingly provides sound counsel.

The problem with “Horrible Bosses” isn’t that it’s dumb or unfunny. The film does have some very amusing moments, with the emphasis on some. The issue is that there just isn’t enough there, there. Thus we are left with the never-ending Greek chorus of Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis spouting the most imbecilic conversation imaginable. After half an hour of this you’re ready to charge the screen shouting, “STOP IT!! ENOUGH ALREADY!” Jason Bateman is left out of most of this nonsensical dialogue and he’s slightly the better for it. But that begs the question; does he really need the money this badly to do a sequel as bad as this one? He looks like he’s swallowed a lemon for most of the movie. The film’s two saving graces are Christoph Waltz and most especially, Chris Pine. Waltz makes for a terrific villainous father and businessman. Pine is a complete surprise as a comedic actor. He seems as if he was born to do comedies, he is that good.

In the end, nothing or no one can really save “Horrible Bosses 2.” To see really funny, clever movies about terrible bosses, save your money and seek out “Swimming with the Sharks,” with an evil Kevin Spacey or Michael Caine’s “A Shock to the System” to learn how to really take care of a bad boss.

1 ½ nuggets out of 4

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Dear White People: Please Take Note—Movie

October 21, 2014

Dear White People” is an insightful, humorously satirical look at race relations in today’s society and is an amazing feature-film debut for the film’s writer and director, Justin Simien. Set on the fictional campus of Winchester University, a stand-in for any one of America’s Ivy League Colleges, the movie has something for everyone to mull over…good and bad.

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“Dear White People” begins with news coverage of a racial disturbance at a campus Halloween party and then goes back in time to the beginning of the semester to show how the school reached that point of tension. We’re introduced to several characters with differing views on race and politics who guide us on our journey through the rest of the movie. Sam White (Tessa Thompson) has a radio show, Dear White People, in she calls out white people for the ways in which they handle day-to-day encounters with black people. Regardless of your race, you laugh because her pointed comments are spot-on. Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners (Teyonah Parris) is smart, beautiful, has a less successful video blog than Sam’s show and desperately wants to be part of a reality program about college life that might be in the offing. Downplaying her Chicago South Side roots, she puts on airs and attitude that she believes will lead to her success. Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P Bell) is the politically minded student, careful not to rock the boat. His father, the Dean of Students (Dennis Haysbert), is equally politically correct and engaged in his own power struggles with the University President, a former college classmate and rival. Rounding out the student foursome is Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), an aspiring journalist, with one of the largest Afros ever seen. He is struggling to fit in somewhere…anywhere. Campus life gets a jolt when Sam enters the race for president of her all-black dorm, challenging the incumbent, Troy, and to everyone’s shock, including her own, wins. Her candidacy has been promoted and pushed by the Black Student Union, led by the more militant student leader, Reggie (Marque Richardson). Pressed by Reggie to be more extreme, Sam takes some actions that she comes to question. Those actions and the white Halloween party with horrible, racial overtones are what propel much of the film’s movement forward.

Tyler James Williams as Lionel is terrific. He so beautifully portrays the character who “isn’t black enough” to fit within either racial group. This actor doesn’t say a lot, but his expressive face speaks volumes for him. He seems to be the film’s heart and what a beat it has. Perhaps “Dear White People’s” conscience is Sam and Tessa Thompson really does her justice. She does a fantastic job in portraying someone who’s not as self-assured as she seems. Brandon P. Bell is great as Troy. At first meeting, Troy seems to be a stand-in for a young Barrack Obama. But as the film progresses, we learn that there is more to his character. Is he fulfilling his dream or someone else’s? Teyonah Parris as Coco is truly fabulous. Her character is not very likeable in her phoniness, but she makes you care anyway. Dennis Haysbert as the Dean, Kyle Gallner as Kurt,the white son of the University President and Justin Dobies as Gabe, a friend of Sam’s, are also very good in supporting roles. Haysbert brings a lot of depth of his character and makes one wonder why we haven’t see more of him on the screen.

In addition to the very likeable cast, what makes this film so much fun to watch is its “smarts.” “Dear White People” gets its points across, and shows how no one or nothing is all black or all white. Some of the film’s lines are positively classic. When one white character asks his black girlfriend if she was “dreaming Cosby—straight hair and big sweaters,” you can’t help but laugh. And when someone else comments that “Bill Maher is going to f***k you up,” you know exactly what he means.

As noted earlier, “Dear White People” raises some interesting questions, chief among them—“What is free speech vs. racism?” We don’t get answers to many of the questions, but “Dear White People” does get one thinking…in a non-threatening manner. That just might be half the battle.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: OK, Not Horrible Movie—Movie

October 15, 2014

A talented, likeable cast makes “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” a fun movie for every age group. Directed by Miguel Arteta, with screenplay and screen story by Rob Lieber, based on Judith Viorst’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” takes a look at life through the eyes of Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) on the eve and day of his 12th birthday.

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Birthday eve, Alexander has experienced the worst of  horrible days on a day when everything seems to be going right for the rest of his family—recently laid-off dad has an interview; harried, publishing executive mom in line for a promotion; older teen-age brother going to the prom with the girl of his dreams; and, teen-age sister about to star in her school’s production of “Peter Pan.” After midnight, Alexander goes into the kitchen, has a birthday cupcake and makes a birthday wish—that everyone else in his family knew what it was like to have a day as bad as his. Be careful what you wish for because…they finally do have his experience and it happens for them all on the same day.

Although Australian, Ed Oxenbould is positively phenomenal in the title role as the very American, Alexander. Perhaps he was cast because his character has a love for all things Australian. Who knows, but he is extremely good. Not conventionally cute, he’s adorable nevertheless and is capable of showing all forms of emotion. He does such a great job at keeping Alexander likeable that you find yourself rooting for his character to finally have a really good day. Steve Carell is terrific as the unemployed dad, Ben, who jumps in as a hands-on, full-time “famy” (half-father, half mommy–trust me, it’s funny when the baby says it) with great abandon and enthusiasm. His role has some slapstick moments, but is never too over the top. His scenes with Baby Trevor and with his potential co-workers are especially good. Jennifer Garner, as the stressed-out mom, Kelly, who’s trying to hold it all together as the sudden breadwinner, gets a chance to show off her comedic chops in some very amusing scenes involving a bike. As Anthony, Alexander’s older brother, Dylan Minnette is just terrific. This actor has a gift for physical as well as situational comedy. Some of his scenes are the movie’s funniest because he is able to tackle them so well. Kerris Dorsey, as the aspiring Peter Pan, is a complete revelation. Currently seen as the dour teen in “Ray Donovan,” she’s very likeable and funny as Alexander’s older sister, Emily, who catches a cold before her big debut. She’s evidently multi-talented because with her real-life sister, Justine, she sings the film’s closing credits’ song and is very good.

A recent article in the Washington Post has an interview with the real Alexander, now 47, upon whom the book was based. Although the film takes place in California, he was raised in Northwest DC, where he still resides with a family of his own, and is apparently no worse the wear for his childhood fame.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a family film that both children and adults can enjoy…although children will probably enjoy it more. It’s fun without being saccharine or stupid. It’s a good, not terrible way to spend an afternoon at the movies.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

 

 

Bill Maher: Bitingly Funny No Matter the Venue—Comedy

September 15, 2014

Bill Maher enjoys such a devoted fan base that people (including me) will come to his show even when they’re not exactly sure what show they are seeing. Do we have tickets for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” or our tickets for a live taping of an HBO special of his stand-up? In the September 12 crowd in which I stood outside DC’s Warner Theatre, we finally realized we were to be a part of Maher’s comedy special following his also live “Real Time” at DC’s Sidney Harmon Hall. Confused? No matter as long as you‘re entertained and boy were we ever.

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Turns out Maher’s warm-up act was Maher himself as we watched his  “Real Time” show on the television provided by the theatre. Once that concluded our audience was treated to a play-by-play account of Maher’s motorcade/foot race to the Warner Theatre by none other than Keith Olbermann and filmmaker Michael Moore. Moore had a very funny line referencing Maher’s donation in the 2012 presidential election, by commenting that a “million dollar donation to the Obama campaign evidently buys one a police motorcade.” Whatever. On stage, Maher seemed no worse for wear from doing back-to-back shows. He opened his act with, “I had to run three blocks at breakneck speed to get here. Thank, God, I’m white.” And with that we were off.

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Despite Maher’s liberal leanings, no one is safe from his caustically funny routine…not Democrats, the President nor the Clintons. But he saves his special bites for Republicans, Congress, racists and religion. Surprisingly, the only person to come out relatively unscathed was the Pope, referring to him as the “Joe Biden of Catholicism”…affectionately calling him, “Frank.”

One line that brought the house down was about the Republicans wondering how they could have lost twice to “Cedric the Entertainer.” But then he went on to say how hard it was to feel sorry for them when they “nominated the world’s oldest man for President who then chose the world’s stupidest woman for his running mate.” The partisan crowd absolutely lost it at that point. Some of Maher’s best small bits were about Donald Trump’s feud with him and John Boehner’s evident hormonal problems which cause him to cry.

Maher admits to showing his age when it comes to social media and taking and posting pictures of one’s private parts, saying he “associates typing with term papers, not sex.” His hour of levity ended with what else—a not to be repeated penis joke.

A Bill Maher comedy special comes with no applause signs. None are needed. The man is smart, energetic, and most important of all, hilarious. The next time his show comes your way, should take every opportunity to go see him…even if you are a religious Republican. Just bring your sense of humor and you’ll have a terrific time. For now, check your local listings for both his HBO shows—”Real Time” and the “Live From DC Special.”

4 nuggets out of 4

The Trip to Italy: Bellissimo—Movie

August 28, 2014

If “The Trip to Italy” doesn’t start you thinking about packing your suitcase and heading off to the Italian countryside, pretty much nothing will. “The Trip to Italy,” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, is a follow-up to their 2010 “The Trip” and reunites them with director Michael Winterbottom in the pursuit of delicious dining and sightseeing.

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“The Trip” took Steve and Rob on a restaurant exploration of Northern England. For this go-round the two are off on a tour of six different places and restaurants in Italy. And what a tour it is. “The Trip to Italy” treats us to absolutely breath-taking scenery… an on-going discussion of Byron, Keats and Shelley…visits to some amazing historical sites… mouthwatering platefuls of food…and most especially, wonderfully delightful conversation. Whether it is in their car, in the restaurants, or even alone…yes, talking to themselves…the conversations Steve and Rob have are the best parts of “The Trip to Italy.” Both are excellent mimics and their turns at “doing” Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, just to name a few, are spot-on and absolutely hysterical. Perhaps one of the funniest bits is the conversation about Christian Bale and Tom Hardy. These impressions, going back and forth between the two actors as done by Steve and Rob, are uproariously entertaining and go on for about 10 minutes. “The Trip to Italy” has so many funny lines that I could quote, but I’ll refrain so you can enjoy them “live.”

“The Trip to Italy” does manage to throw in a bit of a plot…such as it is. Steve’s son, unhappy at home, joins the twos for the end of the trip and there are some nice bonding moments between Steve and his son. Rob’s life takes an unexpected twist while on the road and he also learns that he’s up for a part in an upcoming Michael Mann film as an accountant for the Mob. Watching him do all his “Godfather” impressions is hilarious and when Steve gets in the act, even more so.

Although “The Trip to Italy” seems factual, the film is by no means a documentary, and in reality, Coogan and Brydon are playing versions of themselves. What is very real are the stunning shots of the food. As an added bonus, for the foodies among us, there are sequences filmed in the various kitchens as the food is being prepared.

Steve Coogan is well-known in the U.S. and has shown with “Philomena” that he is up to performing dramatic roles. However, comedy is his true forte, and it is here that he really shines. Rob Brydon was unknown to me, but judging from this film, he is no less gifted at comedy and improvisation than is Coogan. The chemistry between Coogan and Brydon is fantastic and makes “The Trip to Italy’” the ultimate scrumptious entrée.

3 nuggets out of 4

Sex Tape: Fun in a Variety of Positions—Movie

July 23, 2014

“People were furrier in the 70’s” says Annie to husband Jay in reviewing the sexual acts illustrated in the Joy of Sex before making their own “Sex Tape.”

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Directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Jason Segel, Kate Angelo and Nicholas Stoller, “Sex Tape” is a genial rom-com about the struggle to get the “oomph” back into a marriage after having children and more than ten years of living together. To be honest, as a straight woman, I have a hard time believing that if the woman looked like Cameron Diaz, maintaining “oomph” would be terribly difficult. That said, however, part of what going to the movies entails is the suspension of disbelief, and so, suspend away I will.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) are a married couple with two children and they both have very busy lives. Annie is a successful blogger who is on the verge of selling her blog to a large corporation and Jay works at a radio station. As “Sex Tape” shows in flashbacks, they once had a fulfilling sex life and after ten years still love another very much. But the sexual part of their relationship seems to have evaporated. To bring back the spark, they decide to make a tape performing all of the acts shown in the Joy of Sex book in one session. That seems to do the trick for them, but if you’ve seen the previews you know the tape, instead of being erased as Jay promised to do, accidentally goes viral. The remainder of the movie is spent with the couple trying to destroy copies and getting the recording “off the cloud”…with hilarity ensuing. Truth be told, there are genuine laugh out loud moments and some witty dialogue. Additionally Diaz and Segel have very good chemistry and work well together. But somehow “Sex Tape” just isn’t as good as it might be.

Cameron Diaz successfully gives it her all, but one longs to see her do something truly worthy of her talent. When she’s challenged she can rise to the occasion, doing comedy and drama quite well. Jason Segel, looking shockingly thin, is a talented comedic actor and is very good as the doltish husband. His funniest scenes are with a psychotic dog and with the young son of his best friend, Robby (Rob Corddry).

The supporting cast is very strong beginning with comedic vets Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper as the couple’s friends, who have some very amusing moments. Rob Lowe, as Hank, the owner of the company to whom Annie hopes to sell her blog, is absolutely terrific. His Jekyll/Hyde personality is unexpected and very funny and the scenes in his home (which might be the largest home in movie history given the exceedingly long chase scene) with his insane dog are outrageous. And in Harrison Holzer we have yet another amazing child actor who dominates the screen…in a good way…every time he makes an appearance. Finally, there is a wonderful cameo by someone who shall go nameless.

“Sex Tape” is not a comedy that will stick with you, but while you are in the theatre, it does have some fun moments.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

 

Tammy: Improves With Age—Movie

July 7, 2014

If ever a movie was not what was expected, “Tammy” is that movie…and that is a very good thing.

Written by the husband and wife team of Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy and directed by Falcone, “Tammy’s” narrative is more heart-warming and quiet than anticipated or promoted. Essentially “Tammy” is the coming-of-age story for both the title character (Melissa McCarthy) and her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). The movie’s beginning is the McCarthy-type movie we’ve seen in the past…loud, in-your-face, clownish…but then the character and the film begin to evolve into something else and we start to witness more of the McCarthy many of us met first as the “Gilmore Girls’” Sookie St. James.tammy-movie-poster

We are introduced to Tammy in the middle of her very bad morning. Enroute to work at Topper Jack’s, a McDonald’s-type fast food restaurant, she hits a deer. Car destroyed, Tammy eventually shows up to work a foul-mouthed, bedraggled mess. She’s promptly fired by her boss (Falcone) and upon exiting gives the kind of “farewell” many of us have only dreamed about giving to a bad employer. Tammy heads home to find her husband (Ned Faxon) having what looks to be more than a casual breakfast with their neighbor (Toni Collette). After hurling some vile insults, she packs up her belongings and heads off to her mother’s (Allison Janney) home, a few doors down the street, in the hopes of taking her car and leaving town. Her mother is not about to let that happen. However, Tammy’s diabetic, alcoholic grandmother who lives with her mother is more than willing to help out with car and money, on the condition that Tammy takes her along. And with that, they’re off, much to the horror of Tammy’s mother. Pearl has always wanted to go to Niagara Falls, so from Illinois they begin to head east. Naturally the trip doesn’t go smoothly. Along the way there are bar fights, robbery, jail time and even romance. But there’s also growth. A visit with and advice from wealthy relative Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner, Susanne (Sandra Oh), begins to finally sink in and perhaps there is hope for both Tammy and Pearl.

“Tammy” has an extremely talented supporting cast. Gary Cole and Mark Duplass as father and son Earl and Bobby, respectively, are very good as potential romantic interests, especially Bobby. Duplass brings a touch of normalcy and quietness to his role which meshes beautifully with Tammy’s outgoing personality. Dan Ackroyd makes a welcome return to the screen as Tammy’s father. His down to earthiness is spot-on, and it’s easy to imagine him as Tammy’s father.

Susan Sarandon handles her mean-spirited, spunky part perfectly. But she is completely miscast and that is a shame and the one big downfall of the movie. No amount of makeup, wigs or acting can convince one that she is old enough to be Tammy’s grandmother. “Nebraska’s” June Squibb would have been perfect in this role.

Melissa McCarthy has chosen to write and showcase a slightly softer side of her acting personality. While there are aspects of the characters she’s depicted in “Bridesmaids” and “Heat,” there is a difference. Brashness and pratfalls abound, but they lessen as the film progresses. McCarthy has the opportunity to show that inside Tammy’s rough exterior is a person with profound insecurities and McCarthy succeeds in spades in that portrayal. One can only hope that we get to see more of that kind of acting from her in the future.

“Tammy” is not a thigh-slapper and those expecting that kind of comedy will be disappointed. Others, however, will be pleasantly surprised, and most of all, entertained.

3 nuggets out of 4

They Came Together: Better if They Never Were—Movie

June 30, 2014

If the mission was to prove that “They Came Together” can make 83 minutes feel like an eternity, mission accomplished. But the conceit of “They Came Together” is to prove that by making fun of other romantic comedies, this film is smarter than most. In that mission “They Came Together” fails miserably. Directed by David Wain and written by Wain and Michael Showalter, “They Came Together” is almost beyond horrific. I say almost because of the singular appeal of its two co-stars, Amy Poehler and most especially Paul Rudd, both of whom deserve so very much better.

TCT-poster-2013-12-18The movie begins promisingly enough, as over dinner with friends Karen and Kyle (Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader), Joel and Molly (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler) recount the story of how they met. The two say their meeting is like a romantic comedy and as they provide the details, I feared it would be a remake of the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan flick “You’ve Got Mail.” If only. Molly owns a candy store, Upper Sweet Side, and Joel works for a candy corporation with plans to put her store out of business. As they tell it, Molly and Joel were both coming out of relationships gone wrong when friends decide to fix them up. It’s hate at first meet when they collide into one another enroute to the same Halloween party. Hate quickly turns to love as the two find out they have much in common. As with all rom-coms, there are ups and downs in their relationship, but the situations and dialogue, in an effort to make fun of other romantic comedies, are so unrelentingly dumb and unfunny it boggles the mind, and only makes you wish you were actually watching “You’ve Got Mail.”

Karen and Kyle serve as the audience as the couple’s story unfolds. However, if they were really standing in for “us,” Bill Hader would have jumped up at dinner and slapped Paul Rudd silly, screaming, “What in God’s sake are you doing?” and then the real, smarter movie would have begun. And just when you think the film couldn’t possibly be any worse, it gives us a “Meet the Parents” scene in which Joel discovers that Molly’s parents are white supremacists in one of the most cringe inducing bits to hit screens this year. Or so I thought until it was followed by the ludicrous incident with Joel’s grandmother.

Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are talented, smart comedic actors. Why either, especially Rudd, can’t seem to find material worthy of them, continues to be a mystery. But “They Came Together” is written so beneath them that they’d have to be standing on stilts to rise above the miserable writing.

Much of the film’s supporting cast…from Hader to Kemper to Cobie Smulders to Ed Helms to Kenan Thompson and many more…is assembled from “Saturday Night Live” and long-standing network comedies. All of them are more than capable of doing really terrific work and most of them have done so on their respective shows. But they need material from which to work and writers Wain and Showalter have given them nothing…zip…zilch…zero. Only Christopher Meloni as Joel’s boss gets one truly funny scene at the Halloween party. Truly appreciative, he takes the ball and runs with it.

I understand that “They Came Together” is meant to be a parody of…a satirical take on romantic comedies. But in order for that concept to work…for the film to be funny and stand on its own merits, it has to be clever. Repeating the same lines over and over again isn’t funny…it’s lazy. The “Pretty Woman” redux of shopping for the umpteenth time is no longer humorous or clever.

And what of New York City? The running gag throughout the film, on the closing credits and on the film’s posters is that “New York City plays such a central role in this story that it is almost like another character in the movie.” For as much as we see of the city, the film could have been filmed in LA or Ottawa. NYC should consider itself lucky. It is the only real player  in this mess to escape “They Came Together” with its dignity intact.

This film is in theatres and available On Demand.

½ nugget out of 4

 

 

22 Jump Street: The Second Funniest Address in America—Movie

June 16, 2014

As the follow-up to the funnier and better written “21 Jump Street,” “22 Jump Street” is still fun in large, if not continuous, doses of laughter. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with story by Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall and screenplay by Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, “22 Jump Street” features some hilarious work by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The two have amazing chemistry with one another and with the other actors with whom they interact.22_Jump_Street_Poster

“22 Jump Street’s” plot is a fairly simple one. Fresh off their 21 Jump Street success, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are now engaged in non-scholastic, seemingly more challenging work. However, in comical fashion, they quickly blow that job and Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) reassigns them to the spanking new 22 Jump Street headquarters under the command of their former leader, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Their assignment this time is to pose as the unlikeliest set of college-age student siblings at a local college, looking for the suppliers of WHYPHY, the latest college drug of choice.

Schmidt struggles to find his way in college and falls in with an artsy crowd. He hits it off with coed Maya (Amber Stevens), an arts major who comes with the meanest and creepiest of roommates, Mercedes (Jillian Bell). Bell’s and Hill’s chemistry is off the charts and she delivers choice one-liners about how not like a college student Schmidt looks with the sharp skill of a female Don Rickles. Meanwhile Jenko is adjusting to college life perfectly. He finds a kindred spirit in dim-witted, frat boy football player, Zook (Wyatt Russell). The two are so much alike, despite the age difference, that they are practically finishing one another’s sentences. This budding bromance puts a strain on the relationship between Jenko and Schmidt. It’s their conflict that is at the movie’s heart…and to quote the Righteous Brothers, “will they ever get that feeling back again?”

“22 Jump Street” has some terrifically funny moments and Tatum and Hill each get a chance to shine separately several times. Tatum has become a true multi-faceted actor. He can handle the serious work, but he is really gifted with physical comedy material. Hill is also very good, but because we’ve known his comedic work for so long, through no fault of his own, his work is less surprising.

The film’s supporting cast adds some additional pizzazz. In addition to Jillian Bell’s fantastic efforts, Ice Cube and Nick Offerman are very good with their bombastic roles. Patton Oswalt has a small part as a professor and he is just hysterical. Rounding out the fun are the Lucas Brothers as Spike Lee look-alike twins Keith and Kenny Yang, who befriend Schmidt and Jenko and are so in sync with one another that they speak in unison. It’s a small bit, but an extremely funny one.

What makes “22 Jump Street” fun and superior to other buddy comedies is that Schmidt’s and Jenko’s partnership is treated like a real romance. Whatever it is, Tatum and Hill still have it. However, there is something about the film’s writing that feels off…something about it that doesn’t flow. The laughs come in segments and this segmented feel gives the film a disjointed tone. That said, the individual segments are often hilarious and the treatment of future “Jump Streets” will have you keeling over with laughter.

3 nuggets out of 4

Obvious Child: Adult Friendly—Movie

June 6, 2014

Obvious Child” may be the first romantic comedy with abortion at its centerpiece and guess what? It’s funny…laugh outloud funny. And that is in no small part due to its breakout star, Jenny Slate, and a terrific supporting cast.

Obvs-Child-Poster-Smaller-moviefoneDirected by Gillian Robespierre and written by Robespierre, with story by Karen Maine and Elisabeth Holm based on the short film written by Anna Bean, Maine and Robespierre, “Obvious Child” is the story of Brooklyn standup comic, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate). Picture a sweeter, but just as dirty and outrageously funny Sarah Silverman, and that is Donna. As the movie opens, Donna is about to experience some of the worse weeks of her life. In short order she is dumped by her boyfriend…in the comedy club bathroom of all places…loses her day job and becomes pregnant from a one night stand. Wow! I’m already beginning to feel better about my life.

The film is extremely relatable, even in its crudeness and its frequent hilarity at Donna’s expense. The stalking, the drunken messages, the worrying about the next paycheck…most of us have been there at one time or another. Even the subject of abortion will hit home for many. We can empathize and identify with Donna’s struggle to get out of her rut and move on with her life.

“Obvious Child” is not a perfect movie. There are just a few too many “meet cute” coincidences with Max (Jake Lacey), Donna’s one night stand. Also, as someone who has done some standup, material isn’t normally put together on the fly as Donna does it. That’s not to say it’s impossible, just rare. Whatever the case, the standup scenes work and are hilarious…heartbreakingly so, in some cases.

What is perfection is “Obvious Child’s” acting. As already noted, Slate is wonderful. She brings a genuine naturalness to her acting. As Max, Jake Lacey is also terrific. He, too, makes his character seem very real. Gaby Hoffmann as Nellie, Donna’s roommate and best friend ever, and Gabe Liedman as her comedy colleague, Joey, are both excellent as supportive friends. Together, they feel like true 20-something friends trying to find their way. Adding depth to the supporting cast are Polly Draper and Richard Kind as Donna’s brilliant, divorced parents.

“Obvious Child” is most definitely not for everyone. Abortion is not a topic with which everyone is comfortable. And “Obvious Child’s” tone regarding abortion certainly won’t convert them. But if you are seeking something bold…something funny with substance…something original… something brilliantly written and performed…then it’s obvious what should be on your must-see list…”Obvious Child.”

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

 


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