The End of the Page

Now you know and knowing is just a touch over half the battle.

Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Funny, Yet Not Smith-y.

Posted by goldwriting on November 2, 2008

I’m sure you know my companion here. He’s in every comedy this year.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

It’s been a long time coming. Finally someone tackled the incredibly hard genre of porn parody in the mainstream film world. This area has been begging to be cracked open and poked fun at for decades, almost since the inception of porn itself. The missing link in this universal quest was waiting for the right director to come along, one with enough guts to get down and dirty with the humor, one with enough skill to handle the depravity of the comedy without losing the audience, and finally one with enough of a following that it wouldn’t matter if he videotaped a poster of dogs playing poker for two hours. That director has come and he bears the name Kevin Smith…or does he?

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the childishly charming story of two best friends who find their wallets bone dry and no prospects for paying their long overdue bills until Zack has the brilliant epiphany of shooting a porno starring themselves. Leading this adult-themed romp, Zack and Miri pull together a cast and crew of porn outcasts and misfits, along with some familiar faces to the comedy world, and form a family they didn’t know they were missing until it was already there. Along the way Zack and Miri also deal with the most common question between two best friends of opposite genders: Will sex change us?

Before even breaching the doorway of the theater any audience member who knows the name Kevin Smith is prepped and ready for dirty jokes, loads of sarcasm and possibly male nudity, but after the past year of R-rated comedies and the explosion of Judd Apatow, none of those previous shock factors hold much weight anymore. What Kevin Smith had to rely on in this film was his own personal style of witty dialogue and banter, exemplified early in Smith’s career with Clerks, where Dante and Randal debate over the righteousness of killing unionized Storm Troopers in The Empire Strike Back. That conversation would never appear in any other director’s works, let alone in their heads. Unfortunately Zack and Miri didn’t reach quite the same level of kitsch or intellectual playfulness we are used to from Smith. There are certainly moments of it sprinkled throughout, but the overall feel was a let down from his normal style. This could be the result of what every director goes through while they try to expand their market and skills (and this will only be further detailed in 2010 with the release of Smith’s first horror film, Red State), but the main difference now is when Smith first erupted onto the scene he was the lone torch bearer for the R-rated comedy world and now Apatow has taken the flame and run with it. With Zack and Miri lacking the spark and wit usually associated with Smith, it is too easy to mistake this for any new director being towed along in the Apatow wake. Now don’t take this to mean I didn’t like the film, I most certainly enjoyed myself, but it just left me wanting more of the Kevin Smith-ness I yearned for (which was easily solved by a quick jaunt home and a return viewing of Dogma…God bless that movie!).

Adding slightly to the Apatow undertone is the casting of Seth Rogen as Zack, who has been pleasurably riding along with Apatow and his crew since the days of Freaks and Geeks. This is not a slight on Rogen at all, because he has certainly done his homework and made all the efforts to be where he is today, but a large number of his big projects, especially in recent film history, have been under the banner of Apatow films, if not directed by the man himself. So audiences have certainly come to know Rogen and the style he brings to any raunchy or over-the-line comedy, but I didn’t quite feel he brought anything new to the table this time. He proved once again he can believably deliver heartfelt dialogue and make the audience care, but that was a doubt he previously shattered in Knocked Up. I laughed at the moments he wanted me to, yet I still felt he won’t be overly remembered for this performance. Skipping up alongside Rogen is Elizabeth Banks as Miri. Banks is also not a stranger to fans of Apatow with her side character turn in The 40-Year Old Virgin, but she has been equally busy in recent history on a number of other projects as well. In this movie she tries to show us the internal struggle of a woman fighting to keep her most important friendship strictly platonic, while also filming a porn flick to save her from being evicted. What woman hasn’t gone through that? She has her share of moments, but again doesn’t leave anything completely memorable for the exiting audience. On other parts of the casting front we see some familiar names from Smith’s View Askew-niverse; Jason Mewes, or more commonly known as Jay of Jay and Silent Bob, and Jeff Anderson, who has been delighting audiences as Randal since Clerks. Mewes plays Lester, the low budget porn actor with incredibly useful talents and a well versed knowledge of any and all sexual techniques. Half of his dialogue, funny as it may be, comes off like a recital from urbandictionary.com. Anderson joins in as Deacon, the cameraman-cum-editor who finds himself in the most precarious of positions. Also well known to comedy fans is Craig Robinson, who in this film plays Delaney, Zack’s co-worker and newly crowned porn producer, but to most of the television audience out there he is better known as Darryl, the big, bad plant worker from The Office. Craig is on a hot streak right now many actors spend their lives dreaming for and the best part of it is, we the audience get the benefit of watching his comedic genius even more. Popping in to give the movie some realistic porn flavor are Katie Morgan and Traci Lords, the former a current adult film star and the latter one of the few to retire and make a mainstream transition.

There is one more person worth mentioning and I made sure to save the best for last, even giving him his own paragraph. Justin Long, a terribly underrated actor, turns in the most hilarious performance as Brandon, the gay porn star who first inspires the wild idea in Zack’s head. He only has two scenes in the film, one of which you must stay halfway through the credits to watch, but trust me, it is totally worth the wait. I shudder to think how many takes were blown when other actors lost their composure watching Long in this role. He grabs a hold of this utterly ridiculous persona and never lets go, practically daring the other actors to break character. His performance alone raised the score of this movie a full point in my book.

Recommendation: True die hards of the Kevin Smith clan might not be blown away by this, but it could possibly reach a broader audience previously turned off by Kevin’s normal banter and intentionally clever writing. It doesn’t end up on the bottom of my Smith totem pole (you’re still safe down there, Jersey Girl), but it does make me readjust what I expect to see from him in the future. Same skill, less nerdy wit.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Movie Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Burn After Reading: Coen’s Bring Imperfect Wackiness

Posted by goldwriting on September 24, 2008

You mean I can only be nominated for one Oscar at a time? But whyyyyyy???

As September crosses into the present, film critics and aficionados everywhere begin grinning and twitching in excitement. Oscar movies are officially on their way to the nearest silver screen. With the ribbon of quality content being cut, the first expected contender came from the brotherly duo not unfamiliar with the Oscar machine, the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan. Fresh off the heels of their Best Directing, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars last year for No Country for Old Men, the cinematic brothers brought us a new chapter in their visual memoirs, Burn After Reading, a throwback to the darkly humorous days of Fargo, which also won them a Best Original Screenplay statue. Into the mix of directorial style and writing finesse we gained the acting skills of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton. Frances McDormand is also along for the ride, but she’s a Coen staple (and also married to half the duo, Joel Coen). This movie had Oscar potential written all over it, so the only question going in was would it live up to the expectations?

Swing…the ball connects…it’s going deep…almost there…awww. Ground rule double.

This is not an Academy award winning film and certainly not one of their best, but still a nice way to slide into the season of quality content over box office boffo. Burn After Reading is a quirky, silly tale following a disc of information thought to contain CIA secrets from a disgraced and angry analyst (Malkovich), which is found in a local gym and tightly grasped by the hands of a woman (McDormand) desperate for money to cover her plastic surgeries. Mostly what the Coen brothers are known for is the depth and creativity of their characters and this film does well to cover the bases on that point. Frances McDormand plays Linda, a terribly pathetic woman so deathly afraid of aging and the current state of her body that she has blinders on to the rest of the world and the happiness it can offer. She brings the solid level of commitment and shine we’ve come to know her for. Brad Pitt joins in with what has to be his silliest and least intelligent character to date, Chad, a constantly hyper-active, exercise fanatic who works with Linda at a gym called Hardbodies. I have to imagine this was a fun role for him to play since he hardly gets to let loose like this anymore, not since 12 Monkeys. He provided a lot of the early humor in the film, but also drops one of the biggest plot twists halfway through. Clooney brings to life Harry, a ex-personal bodygaurd with a penchant for compulsive lying and an addiction to sex. George only gets to be this wacky under the tutelage of the Coen brothers, so even while it’s not his best work by any means, it’s a fun reminder that he can indeed get goofy with the rest of the gang. Tilda plays the ice queen wife of Malkovich, while also having an affair with Clooney. Watching her in this role, along with some others, I wonder when her picture will be included in the dictionary next to “emasculating”. Not to be left out of any discussion about over-the-top characters, Malkovich plays his part to the hilt, but I honestly feel his best moments are in the opening scene. There’s not much of an arc for him, so only seeing him come to life early on really provides any surprise and unseen moments.

Burn plays inside the footprints of Fargo, but never quite catches up to it. The Coens obviously know their craft and continue to put material out there with their own voice and character stamp, but this film felt a little like a step back for them. Maybe it was just a way to resettle into the dark comedy they are known for after their detour into heavy drama with No Country. Also running parallel to this is the question of the marketing campaign. Again the trailer was cut in a fashion to show one type of movie, but once you were in the theater it became something different, not wildly so, but still there is a distinct shift in tone from wacky comedy to dark comedy, and sometimes those audiences don’t mix well. It’s like seeing a trailer for Police Academy and getting Rushmore. Two great tastes that taste awful together.

Recommendation: If you’re a devout fan, you’ve already seen it anyway. If you’re on the fence, wait until video. If you’re completely on the other side of the fence, you still read this far anyway? I’ll take that as a compliment. Thanks. 🙂

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Movie Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The House Bunny: Awkward Humor Wrapped in Pink Spandex

Posted by goldwriting on August 23, 2008

OK, that time I am sure something just touched my butt.

Searching for the right words to start this review made me feel as dumb as the main character in this movie acts. The House Bunny is a low-ball comedy pegged deep in a summer filled with high concept humor, but does it succeed as a welcome break? Yes, but just barely.

Anna Faris stars in the movie as Shelley, a Playboy Playmate seemingly past her prime, who is unceremoniously booted from Hef’s paradise. In her search for work in a world which is wildly beyond her understanding, she stumbles into a sorority house on the verge of losing its charter because no one, and I mean absolutely no one, wants to hang out with the girls who live there. Shelley sees an opportunity to bedazzle and befriend these girls, turning them into the popular chicks on campus, while the girls see Shelley as the last ditch effort to save their house. Sweatshirts turn to hot pants, frizzy turns to fabulous and piercings turn to pedicures. But, in an effort to keep some sort of moral along the way, both sides learn what it really means to be a family and how much value should be placed on what other people think of you.

So there you have the basic idea, which is nothing terribly new. Beat for beat The House Bunny could be superimposed over other recent college romps as Accepted and Sydney White (the latter being a modern day re-telling of the fairy tale, Snow White). Not to say it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The supremely odd characters created inside the sorority are worth a look, if not a shudder. Anna Faris does what she does best, play people so mentally vacant, so completely oblivious that the sheer fact they can remember to breathe on their own is a gold medal worthy accomplishment (like the Olympics reference? they’re everywhere!!!). In reality Anna is extremely intelligent and knows exactly what she is doing to keep her career moving along, in fact, she was an executive producer on this movie and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her taking the reins even more in the future. From her first big pop on screen in the original Scary Movie, it was easy to see there was more to her than a beaming smile and big, pretty eyes. She plays her roles with a fearlessness most actors can only strive for. The biggest benefit to The House Bunny is her co-stars seem equally trained and willing to look as blatantly stupid as needed. Emma Stone, whom I just reviewed in The Rocker, brings on one of the most uncontrollably awkward characters in the film and alongside Anna delivers the hands down funniest scene in the picture. As hardcore as she looked in her last film, she’s totally replaced it with social ineptitude on a magical level. Also helping to form out the rowdy bunch of misfits is Kat Dennings as their resident pierced, hoodie shielded, man-hater. Kat makes the shift through the film to uber-hottie a little too easily, but I think it was more due to not enough time to devote to her character, not the fault of the actress (who can also be seen co-starring in the upcoming Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist alongside comedy wunderkid Michael Cera). Finally, slipping in between the cracks in the credits, is Rumer Willis, daughter of action icon Bruce Willis. She also succeeds in being socially unfit due to her wearing a upper body metallic brace, possibly fashioned from some Victorian suit of armor. The main downside for Rumer is once the brace disappears, so does her character. Deserving a special mention is Dana Goodman, who plays Carrie Mae, a painfully funny mix of a lumberjack, a greco-roman wrestler, with a topping of Jim Carrey . They made no attempt to explain how someone so odd could exist, but we really didn’t need one.

Although the movie does level out and take on a level of charm, the opening thirty minutes are filled with some of the most painful and uncomfortable awkwardness I’ve been exposed to in a long time. It was there to serve the story and prove how socially oblivious these girls were, but the movie took it to such a level where I almost felt bad for laughing. Most of the opening gags were met with uneasy groans from the audience instead of chuckles and laughs of understanding. Once the girls make the switch from freak shows to femme fatales, the movie finds a much more familiar rhythm and plays that tune until the final credits. Another fault is the misuse in the cast of Kiely Williams and Kimberly Makkouk. Kiely plays Lilly, a mute girl who sends most of dialogue through text messages to the other girls. Her first appearance in the movie comes out of nowhere, or I suppose more literally she dives out of locked room off screen, but her initial outfit is terribly reminiscent of something the maid would wear in Gone With the Wind. The only reason this is worth mentioning is Kiely is the only African American actor in the movie. I’m not saying it was intentionally racist, just saying the wardrobe person took a nap through 400 years of her American History class. As for Kimberly, she plays Tanya, who has a whopping handful of lines in the whole movie and is only part of the outcast crew because she’s tiny, somewhere near dwarf status. While some people might find the few height jokes in the flick worthwhile, it just wasn’t enough to make her character necessary in the least.

I couldn’t possibly write about this without bringing up the continuing trend of casting musicians in feature films. In the role of Harmony, the pregnant member of the house, is Katherine McPhee, American Idol runner-up in Season 5. She does have an amazing voice, which is used in the ending credits and a cringe worthy karaoke scene early on, but she also got tons of notice due to her flawless looks. That imagery only continues in The House Bunny because even nine months pregnant it’s hard to believe college guys wouldn’t be tossing themselves in her path. Adding one more to the musical mix is Tyson Ritter, the lead singer of All-American Rejects. He does a turn as Colby, the long time super-crush of Emma Stone’s character. Not enough really there to say whether he’s a good actor or not, but honestly the character wasn’t cool enough either to make us understand why Emma liked him so much.

Recommendation: It’s a silly comedy that does earn some stripes in the latter half, but be prepared to ache with awkwardness throughout the opening scenes. Uncomfortability is the name of the game here. If you’re down for that, feel free to check it out, but you can honestly wait until video.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Movie Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Rocker: Comedy Rhythms with Heart

Posted by goldwriting on August 20, 2008

There it is, the first Papa Gino’s I ever ate at. Your first spaghetti basket will change your life.

This summer we have seen everything in the realm of comedy from forty-year-old children and weed fueled action heroes to bumbling super spies and blackfaced primadonnas. It has truly been the summer of high concept, but the audiences are just about ripe for something solid, something familiar and something just under the radar. Who knew it would come in the form of Dwight from The Office?

The Rocker follows the dream which never quite came true for our main character, Fish. He was the drummer in a band, but in order to rocket their career to unheard of levels, they had to drop him. Drop they did, and Fish dwindles into obscurity and ambivalence towards life itself. Twenty years later the universe smiles on him once more and he gets the chance to play drums in his nephew’s band. Through a series of pop culture twists and turns the band ends up becoming an overnight sensation and Fish runs wild through the fields of his waking dreams, while learning the lessons of what it really takes to be the member of a band, not a one man show. Of course, he is not the only one learning lessons, but he’s the main dude on the poster, you know how it goes.

Getting myself comfy in the cushioned theater chair, I was fully expecting a slapstick style, overgrown childhood movie with Rainn Wilson taking charge of the blundering and buffoonery, but what flickered on the screen in front of me was much more than prop jokes and prat falls. The Rocker sneaks by the chuckles and laughter and weasels into your heart with a subtly touching story and some really soft moments. Rainn does get hit by numerous objects and suffers more than his share of bodily harm, but he also never wavers from believing his dream is right and true, not some childhood fantasy. The more subtle comedic moments are left to Josh Gad, who plays his socially awkward nephew/keyboard player. Josh delivers more than a few times and his style felt oddly akin to Dan Fogler ala Balls of Fury, a kind of straight line delivery for a ludicrous line on the page. Rounding out the bandmates are Emma Stone and Teddy Geiger. Emma personifies the “i-hate-everyone-but-the-people-in-this-band” chick, while Teddy has no problem with his sensitive, soulful lead singer persona. For those who don’t already know, this is a touch into the area of typecasting since Teddy Geiger already has a wildly popular album called Underage Thinking and he lent his pop music talents to almost all the original music in the movie. Since they were able to write songs from the characters perspective and not just layer in current pop tracks, The Rocker tips gently into the genre of musical, because the songs actually investigate the emotional state of the characters and move the story along. Also, while Teddy is selling movie tickets and soundtracks, Emma Stone is doing what few actors, especially at the young age of twenty, get to do; open two movies in the same week! The Rocker beat it to the punch, but The House Bunny opens this coming Friday and Emma co-stars in that alongside and Anna Faris and Rumor Willis. It’s a one-two punch for the young ingenue who last charmed people as the girl of Seth’s dreams in Superbad.

Lending a hand to the laugh level were a number of cameos and side characters. Jason Sudeikis from SNL drops by to play the slimiest of record label agents in recent movie history. There are moments you want to punch him, but then you wonder what might get on your hands and if it would wash off later. Christina Applegate plays Teddy Geiger’s mom and tries to balance out the adult-to-child ratio in the mix. She does a decent job and has some truly biting lines (rebutting being called a MILF by replying with calling the man a PILS, you’ll have to see it to get the definition, but I think my best friend will be using it for the rest of her life). Demetri Martin also shows up as the epitome of pretentious, film school drop out, ultra hipster music video directors and it gave me a medium level of anxiety just imagining being on a set with a character like that.

This was honestly the last movie I had any inkling would stir any feelings beyond a bubbling chuckle in my belly, but there is a sweetness to the story and an honesty to the message. It all boils down to follow your dreams, no matter the cost. If that message is spoken faithfully, no matter what story you wrap it in, there will be some people in that audience walking out a little lighter in their step, just itching to get home and pull out their old hobbies, guitars, etc. Don’t get me wrong, this is no Rocky, I doubt many people will suddenly become rock stars after seeing this, but they might just get a tiny bit of inspiration from the best place possible; somewhere unexpected.

Recommendation: I was completely surprised by it, but I’m a sucker for a sweet story. Some good comedic moments, but they are outweighed and outnumbered by the more heartfelt ones. If you’re looking for down-and-out comedy, this might no be crude enough for you. Yet, if you want something simple, with a nice rhythm, this could be the right beat for your Saturday afternoon.

p.s. Christina Applegate also holds one of the best honors ever, being mentioned in the P.M. Dawn song, Set Adrift on Memory Bliss. Let’s be honest, where can you possibly go from there?

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Movie Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pineapple Express: Weed Comedy with a kick…and a punch…and an elbow drop!

Posted by goldwriting on August 6, 2008

“Do you think what they’re doing over there is illegal? I mean, in this state?”

“Man, I’m not even sure if it’s possible.”

Could it be possible the people behind Pineapple Express were so baked they didn’t even realize it got released on Wednesday instead of Friday? Maybe it was supposed to hit last Friday and everyone connected to it just woke up this morning and thought, “Oh crap. Umm…let’s just send it out now.” Or, the least amusing and most likely of the options, they wanted a jump start on opening weekend tallies and figured it might help them unseat the reigning champion, The Dark Knight. Whatever the reason might be, I’m glad for it because it broke up my week nicely.

Walking into the theater I had expectations only to be entertained, nothing more. My gauge was set to something just a little over Step Brothers, but not aiming for Superbad, Knocked Up or Beverly Hills Cop (added that last one in because it is by far one of the best R rated comedies of all time). What I got was something much different. This is more than a stoner film, this is a whole new genre, the stoner-action film. The genius of this is no one really ever broached this area since logic prevailed against it. If you have two stoners as the main characters, you can’t have an action film because they’ll sit around and do nothing the whole time. There was a brief poke into this with the release of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, but it wasn’t as much action oriented as hijinx filled. The Pineapple Express formula looks something like this: Smoke weed -=> Witness Violence -=> Smoke more weed -=> Cause Violence -=> Smoke even more weed -=> Go on completely ridiculous violent tangent. As odd as that might sound, it worked like a charm. If this had been shot as a wall-to-wall stoner film it would’ve gotten old within the first thirty minutes, but the fight scenes are so absolutely over the top and beyond hilarious it helped create a nice balance of pacing and energy from the movie and for the audience.

In front of the camera playing our two doobie loving heroes are Seth Rogen and James Franco. Rogen is on a streak which can almost not even be fathomed by most in Hollywood. Reaching back to his humble beginnings on the Judd Apatow led TV show, Freaks and Geeks, Seth has gone on to become one of the most powerful forces in today’s comedy world. Along with Apatow, his mentor, they have single-handedly created the resurgence of the raunchy comedy and infused it with enough heart to increase the audience base by double or more. Soon enough, Rogen will be the Kevin Bacon of the comedy world and you won’t be able to connect two movies without finding him or someone that’s worked with him. James Franco on the other hand, not the well known actor in the comedy circles, but he channels a mix of Rory Cochrane (aka Ron Slater) from Dazed and Confused and Jeff Bridges (aka The Dude) from The Big Lebowski. His relaxed facial expressions and foggy stoner logic throughout the film drive the reaction shots in scene after scene. Lastly, rounding out this baked-in trio is Danny McBride as Red, who in the public eye is just coming off his commendable comedy efforts in The Foot Fist Way. Even though Seth is walking tall in the movie world right now, he actually gets outplayed by both James and Danny who each turn in brilliantly toned and tempered performances. Also, watching these three in a fight scene together was one of the top five most hilarious moments this year.

Some people might not realize that Seth Rogen also is the producer or co-writer of a majority of his recent hits. Knocked Up, Superbad and The 40-Year Old Virgin, on top of this new super-stoner flick, have all felt the weight of his pen and his intelligence for storytelling. He’s got a new big screen adaptation of TV’s The Green Hornet coming up and it almost feels a little like Pineapple Express could be a gateway movie for the audiences to begin looking at him as an action/comedy star. He said in a recent interview he was worried about what was going to happen next since he came up with a lot of these movie ideas when he was fifteen and now he’s much older and has to start coming up with entirely new stories. He might be worried about it, but I’m not. Something tells me Rogen and the entire Apatow crew is going to be around for a very long time. The feeling in the theatrical comedy world right now is reminiscent of Saturday Night Live when you get that perfect mix of cast members. Let’s all sit back, pop open our choice of sugary goodness and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Recommendation: Obviously I enjoyed the film and I would tell you to go ahead and check it out. The theater experience isn’t completely necessary, but I would do it anyway since you won’t have to wait months for the DVD to hit shelves. Plus, there are a few action scenes which can be helped by the big screen and sound. Oh, and for those wondering about the unanswered question, you do not actually have to be stoned to enjoy the movie.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Movie Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Step Brothers: Kids laughing, Kids crying, Kids getting beat up by adults.

Posted by goldwriting on July 29, 2008

I don’t know why or how, but Ryan Seacrest has totally hypnotized me.

Another weekend came along and you know what that means? Of course you do, it’s another comedy somehow associated with Judd Apatow. Within the last two to three years it is an inescapable fact; 65% of all laughter is attributed to this one man, along with 47% of newly coined sex jokes. He is the reigning golden boy of the comedy world and his latest stab at the laugh track to hit the screens is Step Brothers. Judd Apatow did reel himself back to only a producing credit, but we can all rest assured that even his name being attached got the greenlight to glow just a tad bit brighter.

Step Brothers is the story of Dale and Brennan, two grown men still living with their respective parents and forced to live together when their parents get remarried. Picture the Brady Bunch, but only one boy on each side who just happens to be 40-ish years old. Not the most original idea in the world, but this movie doesn’t rely on the plot to get people into those theater seats. It relies solely on the comedic talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who play Brennan and Dale respectively. Will also co-wrote the story with John and director Adam McKay, while Will and Adam finished out the actual screenplay. Usually I’m not a huge fan of the actors having such a big part of the writing process, unless it was something they wrote years before, but in this case what you get is an extra sense of camaraderie from our two bumbling heroes. John and Will play off each other to such an amazing extent you might begin to feel the whole film is done in improv. Everything comes off as an instant reaction, exactly the way a twelve-year-old boy would react, which just happens to be where their emotional maturity is in this film. Both actors hit home runs on a number of the comedic beats and it was especially nice to see Will Ferrell hitting on all cylinders once again, after some heavy missteps in Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched and Semi-Pro. As for Jon, he proved once again why so many love working with him, because he commits to every little second he is on screen.

Now, sad to say, the strength of their characters is also the one problem in the movie. The first half-hour is fun, watching these grown men talk and act like pre-teens, but that trick gets a little dry mid-way through the film and it starts to stretch the disbelief a touch too far. The characters of the parents have a tough situation since they have to ride the line between showing love and compassion for their children and yet treating them like grown men. That dicotimy proved not only tough for the actors, but also for the audience. Eventually it just felt too unbelievable that these two characters could exist, not only in the world of this film, but anywhere.

The writing is strong and a good portion of the film is clever, humorous and in a few places surprisingly hilarious, but it never reached the level of the comedies we have been graced with over the past few years, like Anchorman, 40-Year-Old Virgin or Superbad. Apatow has mined diamonds from the creative caves in his head, but it is possible by becoming the golden boy of comedy, he might be the one man glut for laughers in the coming years. Does the bar still get set too high if you’re the one that set it? I guess we shall see soon enough. He’s got seven movies under his production skills for next year alone, even one more this year as well. Although that does sound like a lot, just remember, he’s bound to hit you with a really good dick joke somewhere. That should be enough to get at least one viewing.

Recommendation: Great performances, not necessarily a “rush to see in the theater” flick. Netflix + your buddies + drinks, that should be a good formula for this.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Posted in Daily Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »