Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Can Fart Jokes Die,Too?—Movie

June 1, 2014

“People die at the fair,” but luckily laughs aren’t totally deceased in Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Although the film has an unfortunate overabundance of fart and juvenile humor, which sells writer/director Seth MacFarlane and ultimately the audience short, to be sure “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is also full of laugh out loud moments.A_Million_Ways_to_Die_in_the_West_poster

Directed by MacFarlane and written by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (the same team that brought us the hysterical “Ted“),  “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is set in 1882 Old Stumps, Arizona. The story…such as it is…is about sweet sheep farmer, Albert (MacFarlane), who, in the opening scene, is dumped by girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), so she “can work on herself.” However, what she really wants to do is immediately take up with the wealthy, pretentious town businessman, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Less successful Albert still lives with his parents and his only friends seem to be gentle Edward (Giovanni Ribisi)and his girlfriend, Ruth (Sarah Silverman), a much sought-after prostitute who, whoring aside, is still saving herself for marriage (for me that explained the cross she was wearing). Into Albert’s sad, lonely life sashays cowgirl, Anna (Charlize Theron). Unknown to Albert, she is the wife of notorious gunslinger, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna takes a shine to Albert’s kindness and when he foolishly challenges Foy to a pistol duel, she gives him both shooting and life lessons.  When Clinch learns that more than lessons may be involved in the two’s relationship, he’s none too pleased and promises to take action. Therein lays the basic plot.

MacFarlane is an OK actor and has a gentle demeanor which serves him well. Let’s face it, though; no one is coming to see “A Million Ways to Die in the West” for the acting. They are coming for the jokes and there are plenty of those. But what is so frustrating is just how smart MacFarlane is and how much funnier this movie could have been because of those smarts. The movie’s premise is a really promising one…making affectionate fun of the Wild West we think we know, but writing the film with today’s sensibilities. MacFarlane’s modern-day references to Parkinson’s, political correctness and driving while drunk, just to mention a few, are very clever and extremely funny. And given how everyone today is obsessed with selfies, his running gag about no one smiling for photos in the 1800’s is spot-on and hilarious. But then the immature side of MacFarlane emerges—the endless farting jokes and sexual references. You laugh, but those are cheap laughs, and MacFarlane is just so much more intelligent than to settle for those.

Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson are not names that one normally associates with comedy, but both are very good. Theron and MacFarlane have a fun chemistry and when she walks into the dance hall…yikes! Neeson makes for an amusing villain, but  his abusive vibe with Theron seem out-of-place in a comedy. A moustached, dancing Neil Patrick Harris is terrific as the movie’s other villain and, God, help me, his extended “bathroom” action made me cringe and laugh at the same time. Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi have an ancillary plot and while they are good and work well off one another, their scene is not particularly funny and really adds unnecessary minutes to what is an already long film. Humans are not the only ones in on the outrageous action. Horses, dogs and most especially sheep, have parts that are just as funny as those of their two-legged cast-mates.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” has a lot of “now you see them, now you don’t” cameos in some unusual roles…say a quick hello and good-bye to Jamie Foxx, Bill Maher, Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried, Ewan McGregor and Ryan Reynolds, along with many others.

There is no denying that Seth MacFarlane is a very smart, talented and funny man. I just hope his next film has a lot more of the smart.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4


Neighbors: Low Bro—Movie

May 14, 2014

It is true that if you go beneath…way beneath… the wealth of penis and bong jokes that is “Neighbors,” a few interesting subjects are addressed. But let’s face it—no one is going to see “Neighbors” for a discussion on peer pressure, growing up or the meaning of life. That discussion is saved for “This is the End”…just kidding. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, “Neighbors” is the story of a young couple, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and their baby, Stella, who have moved into their new home only to discover that a fraternity, headed by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) is moving next door to them.


Already concerned that their youth is slipping away, Mac and Kelly now feel positively ancient with the frat house so close. The two decide to play it “cool,” by going over to the house with their baby, introducing themselves and just asking the guys if they can remember to try to keep the noise down. The request seems to work…at first. Mac and Teddy bond over “Batman” and Kelly manages to fit in with the frat brothers’ female companions. But then a call to the police goes very bad and soon there is all out warfare between the two homes…some very subtle harassment and other more blatant, explosive attacks.

What “Neighbors” has in spades is some terrific comic acting. Seth Rogen is always spot-on and this film is no different. There’s something about him that is just so loveable that you find yourself immediately on his side, no matter what. But in “Neighbors” he is surprisingly matched step-for-step by Rose Byrne. She proves to be a very talented comedic actress and she and Rogen mesh perfectly. Zac Efron demonstrates again that he is more than just a pretty face. Very good in the little seen drama, “At Any Price,” he shows that he is right at home on comic turf, too. And when the film calls for it, on a slightly more serious side, he does a convincing job portraying someone who doesn’t have much going on other than his fraternity. Dave Franco as Teddy’s sidekick, Pete, has a good turn as the fraternity’s voice of reason and someone who knows when it’s time to put the high jinks behind him. The lead actors are supported by a very strong,  predominately male cast. However, a special shout-out must go to the film’s scene stealers, twins Elise and Zoey Vargas as Stella. These girls are amazing. They really seem to be acting and their work with Rogen is especially good and extremely funny.

But ultimately the writing feels a bit stale and tired. Most of the real laughs have been seen in the previews. After a while penis and pot jokes just aren’t all that funny. “Neighbors” starts out with a bang, but ultimately sputters out…except for baby Stella.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Land Ho!: Oh, No—Movie

May 6, 2014

In the episode of  “Seinfeld,” when Jerry and George try to pitch a TV show which is about nothing, who knew that idea would come to fruition many years later in the movie, “Land Ho!” That might be a tad harsh, but not overly so. A joint U.S./Iceland production,written and directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, “Land Ho!” is the genial story of two late 60-something men—former brothers-in-law, Mitch and Colin and their taking of Iceland by storm…not.landho-poster

Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) is a divorced, newly retired surgeon and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) is a widower who recently separated from his much younger second wife. Mitch surprises Colin with a trip to Iceland, supposedly to get Colin out of his funk, but in truth, Mitch needs the trip just as much Colin. The two men couldn’t be more different. Mitch is gregarious to a fault…a big man with a huge heart. Colin is slight with a gentle spirit. Somehow the pairing works. And there you have it. The two men have small adventures along the way, smoke pot and have a chance get-together with Mitch’s much younger cousin. But primarily this is the amiable story of two men, via road-trip, putting the past behind them and deciding to look forward to what lies ahead.

What makes this movie watchable and more enjoyable than it deserves is the beautiful Icelandic landscape and more importantly, the fabulous performances of the two leads. Earl Lynn Nelson is a revelation. A newcomer to acting, he is a natural. He’s what you’d imagine Matthew McConaughey’s grandfather might be like. Blessed with a charming Southern accent, he has most of the dialogue and he’s terrific. Nelson’s expressive face lets you know that there is a lot more going on beneath his jokester surface. Paul Eenhoorn is a veteran actor and he is equally amazing in a much more low-key manner. It would be very easy to be run over by Nelson’s garrulous Mitch, but pro that he is, Eenhoorn’s Colin more than holds his own with just the right expression and tone.

The problem with this movie is that everyone else in the cast has limited acting experience and it shows. It’s one thing to be natural, but it’s something else entirely to act with virtually no emotion. And that is the case with almost every human with whom the two men interact.

Jerry Seinfeld was able to make a fortune from a story about nothing and it worked. “Land Ho!” feels like a story about nothing and that is simply not enough to make the time pass or the movie move.

“Land Ho! debuted” at the Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled for release later this year.

2 nuggets out of 4

The Other Woman: Fluffy Fun—Movie

April 27, 2014

Cameron Diaz may be the other woman, but Leslie Mann is the woman. Mann could be this generation’s Lucille Ball, because like Ball, she’s attractive and comedically there may be nothing she can’t do. By her sheer force of nature, she makes “The Other Woman” better than it has a right to be.the-other-woman-movie-2014-wallpaper-532aeb369f783

Directed by Nick Cassavetes and written by Melissa Stack, “The Other Woman” begins with lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz) in the throes of what looks like a one-night-stand with businessman Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Before long the one-night-stand turns into something more…at least for Carly…and eight weeks later, she’s ready for him to meet her Dad (Don Johnson) for dinner. But at the last-minute something comes up for Don and he cancels. Thinking she’ll surprise him, she goes out to his home in the suburbs and there’s a surprise all right…only it’s on her. Who should answer the door, but his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann).

To make a long story short, the two discover that Mark has been cheating on both of them and decide to find out who the woman is. With the great “Mission Impossible” theme in the background, they follow him one weekend which leads them to the beach and Amber (Kate Upton). Angry that she’s not his one and only, Amber joins forces with the other two in figuring out a plan that ensures Mark gets his just desserts.

Though it’s a slight comedy, there is a lot to like about the film, especially with the women involved. One can understand Mark’s dilemma. Cameron Diaz has a great knack for comedy and she’s terrific at showing there’s more going on than just a great body and a wide smile…and she’s way more appealing here than she was in “The Counselor.” Kate Upton is appropriately cute and manages to hold her own with Diaz and Mann. And, as noted earlier, Leslie Mann is just plain fabulous. She gives us warmth, ditziness and smarts all in one great package. But it’s the object of all this affection, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who underwhelms. Although known for more dramatic roles, he’s got some good comedic chops, but he just seems a bit bland and smarmy. However, he does look nice in a suit. Once we’re introduced to Kate’s brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney), I kept thinking,”wouldn’t this movie have been better with him as Mark?” Finally is Nicki Minaj as Carly’s secretary, Lydia. With her attitude and ever-changing wigs, she steals every scene in which she appears.

What weighs “The Other Woman” down is its getting to the point. The back and forth with Carly and Kate goes on far too long before we finally get to their teaming. There are other scenes that also could be shorter or edited out entirely. While it’s nice to see Don Johnson, I’m not convinced we needed so much of him.

It’s not surprising that the film is written by a woman. “The Other Woman” has a lot of witty, sharp dialogue…especially when it comes to women judging other women. As the writer demonstrates, my gender is harder and perhaps funnier on ourselves than any man could ever be.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Lewis Black’s The Rant is Due: Paid in Full—Comedy

April 13, 2014

Lewis Black was in vintage form for his Thursday, April 10 show, “The Rant is Due,” at DC’s Warner Theatre. That is a good thing. Full of rage, venom, and just out-and-out funny, Black was on fire.The Rant is Due

So what was it this time? Black is from the DC area and given the fact that the show started late because he was stuck in Cherry Blossom traffic, he was certainly handed a jumping off point from which to rant. And rant Black did…beginning with the once upon a time stupidity of two-lane Virginia vs. three-lane Maryland. Then it was on to pedestrians and  traffic patterns. And don’t get him started on the tourists. Their poor ears must have been burning.

Is there anything Lewis Black does like? Tahiti. Dear God, how he loves Tahiti. To quote, “Lose your f**king kids in the store…get out and get on the plane. It’s the Garden of F**k Eden.  His best line about Tahiti was: “I was confused about my feelings about Crimea and after three days in Tahiti, I don’t “f**king care.”

Then it was back to what he hates. What Black seems to despise more than anything and anyone are politicians…especially the ones responsible for the government shutdown. While he was going on and on, I had a thought—perhaps if these politicians came to his show and listened to what Black had to say and the audience’s reaction to him, they might think twice about ever shutting down the government again.  Calling John Boehner “the mood ring of politicians,” and taking on President Obama for the healthcare web site failure…no one and nothing was safe from his hysterical ire.

Some of Black’s best barbs came in response to the audience’s demeanor. For whatever reason, some audience members felt it was OK (it’s not) to shout out. Given his disposition, this was risky, but Black handled them masterfully and one of his top lines of the evening was, “perhaps we should decorate the set with library books so people will know to be quiet.” Ouch!

Black had two opening acts—John Bowman and Joe Kashnow. Bowman, Black’s long-time show companion had some terrifically droll observations about performing at Penn State during the Sandusky trial. His riff about Justin Bieber was very funny, calling him Michael Jackson in reverse (think about it and it will hit you). Kashnow was recently profiled in the Washington Post. He is a wounded Iraqi war vet who was one of several chosen to appear in the recent documentary “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.” Kashnow did about 10 minutes and shows a lot of promise. His bit about dying on the installment plan was extremely clever and amusing.

But face it—folks came to hear Lewis Black say things many of us think, but pay him to say it funny. He didn’t disappoint.

4 nuggets out of 4

Bad Words: How Do You Spell Outrageously Funny?—Movie

March 24, 2014

Funny, foul and yes, charming, “Bad Words” is a winner.  Directed by Jason Bateman and written by Andrew Dodge, “Bad Words” takes a hysterical look at the National Spelling Bee and one man’s quest to win at all costs.

Bad WordsJason Bateman is Guy Trilby, who, through a loophole, is able to enter the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee, beginning with his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Needless to say, the younger contestants and especially their parents aren’t thrilled with his participation, but there isn’t much they can do about it. With the local Bee out of the way, Trilby is off to California for the Nationals, accompanied by reporter, Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn). Her online publication is sponsoring him in exchange for a story about why competing is so important to him, although getting a story out of him proves harder than she thought it would be.

Trilby is a middle-school dropout, but his genius becomes apparent almost immediately. With a huge chip on his shoulder, he’s let no one come close to him. It’s clear that Jenny is fascinated by him…personally and professionally… and would like to know him better. Once in California, the two make their way to the Bee headquarters and are met by Golden Quill Director, Dr. Bernice Deagan (a ridiculously bewigged Allison Janney). Her goal…to make Guy’s stay a miserable one, and to somehow get him out of the competition as soon as possible.

Enroute to the Bee, Guy meets one of his fellow competitors, adorable 10-year-old Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), who, for whatever reason, takes a liking to Guy. At heart, Guy and Chaitanya are two lonely souls and the two form a most unusual bond. In some ways, the film becomes a coming of age story for both Guy and Chaitanya. This is not to say that Guy becomes all warm and fuzzy…far from it. Guy is a man on a mission and there is a real purpose to his participation in the Bee.  And, oh, the head games he plays with the competition…cruel, but oh so funny.

Confession—I was the runner-up in my city-wide spelling bee many years ago, so this movie hits a little close to home. I’m not sure what I would have done if I found myself sitting next to someone like Guy Trilby and I’m not sure what the reaction of my parents would have been.  I don’t know whether to be proud or horrified, but my guess is that we would have behaved much the same way the parents and competitors in the film did. Okay, I feel better now, getting that off my chest.

Bateman is perfectly suited to playing a sadistically droll, witty character who has a heart buried deep inside him.  He doesn’t need the help, but Bateman’s butch haircut only serves to make him seem even meaner. If there has ever been a more adorable child actor in recent times than Rohan Chand, I haven’t seen him…and this little boy can act. Bateman has assembled a great supporting cast in addition to Chand. Veteran actor Philip Baker Hall is very good as the Golden Quill’s President, Dr. Bowman. Kathryn Hahn is terrific as the reporter who’s fallen for Guy and Allison Janney is just fabulous as the haughty Bee Director. Rounding out this cast are great character actors in small parts and the young featured competitors are especially good.

Making his directorial debut, Bateman displays a firm hand behind the camera and shows himself to be especially good in working with young actors. One looks forward to seeing what he does next.

“Bad Words” is full of just that…bad words and some very raunchy, crude, cruel humor. But it is well-written, well acted, well directed and well, just plain, all-out funny.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

About Last Night: More Fun Today—Movies

February 24, 2014

Although the language is a little rougher, at its heart, “About Last Night” is your standard romcom with some surprising chemistry. A remake of the Demi Moore/Rob Lowe 1986 film, the 2014 version is much funnier and just more entertaining to watch. Directed by Steve Pink with screenplay by Leslye Headland (based on the 1986 screenplay by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClu, which was based on David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”), “About Last Night” 2014 is set in Los Angeles and centers on two couples —Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) and Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant).About-Last-Night-Poster

The film begins with Bernie telling Danny about the woman (Joan) with whom he just had a one night stand and what a wild night it was. While he is regaling Danny with his story, Joan is sharing the details of the same evening with her roommate, Debbie. What’s really entertainingly humorous is getting both sides of the same one night stand. As the opening scene progresses, the foursome meet up at a favorite bar and wouldn’t you know it, Danny and Debbie hit it off, too.  And with that we’re off to the races.

Danny and Debbie are a quiet-spoken couple who take love and relationships seriously. Their romance follows the traditional trajectory. With Bernie and Joan—who knows what to make of these two? Noisy, belligerent…they might be a case of can’t live with…can’t live without. I write this with a smile, but to say they are the couple from Hell is putting it mildly. That’s what makes “About Last Night” a fun ride. We can see where we’re headed with Danny and Debbie, but Bernie and Joan keep us on our toes.

The movie has a good supporting cast which involves them in subplots about careers, past romances and friendships. These plot points help make the film more dimensional and well-rounded, definitely adding to “About Last Night’s” appeal.

Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are meant to be the two leads and they are fine…but their story alone is not very interesting. I never thought I’d be writing this, but thank goodness for Kevin Hart. Together with Regina Hall, the two really ignite the screen. Granted, a little of them goes a long way, but they are still terrific. Hart actually acts and is great and Hall matches him step for step. The two of them will next be seen in “Think Like a Man Too,” so we’ll have to see if their chemistry holds.

“About Last Night” wonderfully showcases Los Angeles…both in the daytime and especially at night. I don’t think the city has ever looked so beautiful and inviting.

“About Last Night” doesn’t break any new romcom territory, but it is fun and far superior to its predecessor.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Who is the Next Comedic Star?—Comedy

January 27, 2014

Who is the next comedic star? From where will the next Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman come? It’s quite possible that this new bright comic will be found at the DC Improv Comedy School Comics Showcase.DC Improv Comics Showcase

Held in the DC Improv Lounge on a Friday evening, not just anyone gets to take the floor (there is no stage). These stars-in-the-making first have to hone their craft in the DC Improv Comedy School—an intense program taught by a professional comedian—someone who actually makes a living doing standup comedy. And what happens when you’ve finished the classes? You have your graduation, doing a five-minute set in the “Big Room” before a real paying audience of everyone’s friends and families. Sure, folks will laugh for their friends, but what about you?

I confess. I am a graduate…in fact, a two-time graduate with about five years between the two graduations. Take it from me, those five minutes can either feel like five seconds or five years. I actually got laughs, applause and got a whole host of new, funny friends. And it’s positively mind-blowing to think that you are performing on the same stage that played host to Dave Chappelle, Kevin Nealon, Jerry, Chris and Kathy, just to name a few (I even wondered if I was holding the same microphone as Kathy—that made me sweat just thinking about it). But I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to keep at it…to keep performing. For me, it was just too stressful.

But the folks I saw Friday, January 24, kept at it…and they were terrific. There were six performers, including my former classmate Leon Scott. All came with different points of view. Depending upon your taste, some were better than others—for me, Leon was one of the real standouts, but all were very good. With more gigs under their belts, who knows what can happen? And the whole evening just cost  ten dollars…quite the bargain for getting in on the ground floor of promising new careers.

The DC Improv also holds improv classes with a graduation performance before a paying audience. I took several of those classes and had the thrill of performing with my classmates.

So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive evening out with the chance to discover new talent, take a look at the DC Improv. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to take a class yourself.

202.296.7008, 1140 Connecticut Avenue NW, WDC 20036

(One block north of Farragut Metro on Red Line)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Please Let it Die—Movie

December 19, 2013

Every now and then a movie is so horrifically horrible that you want to scream it from the rooftops so other people won’t squander their hard-earned money. This is my scream. Terrible doesn’t begin to describe “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

I love comedies. I like to laugh…honestly, I do. I laughed my head off at “This is the End,” “Bad Grandpa“…even “The Millers.” I do find Adam McKay’s and Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die website just that…funny. I didn’t go into “Anchorman 2” expecting Oscar-winning writing. I expected low-brow “stay classy” laughs. What I didn’t expect is material below sea-level.

Anchorman 2Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ll know that “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is the return of that loveable San Diego news team from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” In this sequel, again written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and directed by McKay, the now disbanded group reunites to take on the challenge of televising news 24 hours a day, with them initially working the grave yard shift. Hilarity ensues…NOT.

Initially the film has a fun feel to it in the form of Harrison Ford’s early appearance. It’s an amusing, well-delivered performance. But then reality begins to creep in, and you start to think, “This is going to be terrible.” What’s unfortunate is that the acting isn’t bad…it’s the material that is surprisingly and shockingly awful. Will Ferrell’s Burgundy is pretty much as he was last go-round and that’s ok. James Marsden, as Burgundy’s rival, Jack Lime, is actually good. Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana; David Koechner as Champ Kind; and Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone…all are fine.  Even some of Paul Rudd’s lines are humorous, but two minutes out of 119 minutes isn’t worth the price of admission. And those two minutes are negated entirely by the awfulness that is the pairing of Steve Carrell’s Brick Tamland and Kristen Wiig’s Chani. Did people not watch the dailies while making this film? Did they actually laugh? These are two outstanding comic actors and perhaps this material might bring a smile to one’s face in a three-minute sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” But the two of them together over and over and over again in this film without any relation to the rest of the movie makes absolutely no sense. And worse, it isn’t funny.

As bad as everything is, a special bark-out must be given to Baxter, the dog. He is adorable and seems to have acting chops. He really looks as if he’s listening to what is being said. And watching him drink from a straw is very funny. He deserves his own movie.

“Anchorman 2” manages to bring in some terrific actors and comics in its last ten minutes… even one of my favorite comedic actors on the planet makes a last-minute appearance, but by then it is way too late. The ship for salvation has long since sailed.

It’s never good when you look at your watch and realize there’s another hour left in a movie. I found myself saying, “Oh, Lord, please let this be over.” But I realize that some movies are review-proof and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” might be one of them. You have been warned. Go at your own peril.

½ nugget out of 4


Alan Partridge: So Wrong, Yet So Right—Movie

December 18, 2013

“I’m not going to sell my soul, only rent it.”

Alan PartidgeWith these immortal words, Steve Coogan, fresh off his dramatic turn in “Philomena,” brings back the funny with a vengeance in “Alan Partridge.” Partridge is a fictional character portrayed by Coogan and created by Coogan, Armando Iannucci and other writers for the BBC Radio 4 program, “On the Hour.”  Directed by Declan Lowney and co-written by Coogan, Neal Gibbons, Bob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham, the film expands on the activities of Alan and his colleagues in their Norwich, England radio station.

The station is under new management and has implemented many changes to modernize its format. Jobs are on the line, especially those of Alan and Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney). These two are the station’s elder statesmen (by age, certainly not by behaviour) and their respective programs don’t reach the demographics the new owners are after.  Pat feels particularly vulnerable and asks Alan to plead his case for him before management. The rest, as they say, is history.

What begins as an ordinary work day for Alan changes drastically when he gets to the station and just sees empty offices (for lovers of film, think of Robert Redford’s “Three Days of the Condor” if it was a comedy). By the sound of gunshots he realizes that something is amiss and runs back outside. He learns from the police that his colleagues have been taken hostage by a former co-worker who was recently fired. As the one employee not in captivity, Alan is asked by the police if he is willing to be a negotiator with them. What the police don’t know is that in Alan resides the most egotistical, self-important, self-serving man on the planet, albeit one huge scaredy cat, too. The chance to be part of a big story is something he can’t resist, regardless of the circumstances. And so, into the lion’s den he goes, the worse negotiator in all of movie history.

Coogan is a comedic acting genius. Watching him “dance” in his car as he sings to the music is hysterical and just sheer entertainment. And Alan’s dialogue is done to manic perfection. With my American ear, sometimes Coogan’s accent was an impediment, but it didn’t matter. I more than got the gist.

“Alan Partridge” features a terrific supporting cast, especially Felicity Montagu as Alan’s long-suffering assistant, Lynn, and Tim Key as Alan’s co-presenter, Sidekick Simon. Finally there is Colm Meaney as Pat. In Meaney, Coogan has the perfect comedic foil. Ordinarily Meaney might be the manic actor, but in “Alan Partridge” he’s dialed it back a notch and it works perfectly.

There are so many funny bits too numerous to mention. But my favorite on-going gag is the introduction of the helmet holster, which has to be seen to be believed. Along with the gags are some absolutely hysterical bits of dialogue. What will be especially amusing for American audiences is the writers’ homage to Aaron Sorkin and “The West Wing.” It’s unexpected and quite brilliant.

It must be noted that much of “Alan Partridge” is predicated upon an act of violence. For some that might lessen the enjoyment. The U.S. has experienced some terrible workplace situations along with a spate of school shootings. I happened to see this film the week of the most recent shooting at a high school near Denver. So, in all honesty, I was initially taken aback at what was being played for laughs. But once I got past that, I relaxed and joined in the fun.

With the hoopla surrounding “Anchorman 2,” “Alan Partridge” might get lost in the comedic shuffle. That would be a shame. For all of its zaniness, “Alan Partridge” is a smartly funny movie…one worth seeking out.

3 out of 4 nuggets

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