Posts Tagged ‘Ellie Kemper’

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

 

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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

 

 


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