REVIEW: Get a Job

9 09 2016

get-a-jobDylan Kidd’s “Get a Job” shot in 2012 but did not see release until 2016 – a four-year gap that did not serve the film well. Rather than an imperfect snapshot of its moment, the “comedy” now plays like a period piece of the recent past. This story of recent college graduates’ rocky entrance into the professional world appears completely oblivious to the kind of pain present in the post-recession economic landscape.

Miles Teller’s Will Davis heads to what he thinks is the first day of work at LA Weekly after years of “building [his] brand” … only to find himself shuffled out the door unceremoniously. In what could play as an “Up in the Air”-style ironic twist (which would have been perfect given the presence of Anna Kendrick), he ends up putting his filmic skills to work creating video résumés at an executive placement firm. Sign of the times? Not really, mostly just a setting where his creative millennial mindset can clash with the stodgy virtues of the company.

The job really only starts to take a topical turn when Will’s dad, Roger (Bryan Cranston), begins to require their services. Despite being a thirty year company man, Roger finds himself looking for a new line of work at the same time as his son. Again, Kidd has another opportunity for topicality through a character displaced in an economy that values ruthless efficiency over loyalty. Still … nothing.

“Get a Job” has a wide ensemble, too, each with their own occupational hazards. Will’s girlfriend Jillian (Kendrick) takes on a position at stalwart P&G that seems sure to launch her career into the corporate stratosphere – until it doesn’t. He also shares a pad with three other pals, each of which trod fairly traditional routes: finance (Brandon T. Jackson’s Luke), education (Nicholas Braun’s Charlie) and start-ups (Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Ethan). Kidd fashions them as a “Knocked Up” gang of harmless manchildren existing irrespective of time, but their activities suggest that they are really just schlubby stoners who can barely be bothered to turn off their video games.

The message imparted through their turbulent launches into the “real world” is neither timeless nor timely. Perhaps that is par for the course from a film that shrugs off any responsibility to say anything about the world we inhabit. The milieu of “Get a Job” is one where characters can barely achieve any professional success and still sit around slacking off and dreaming big in a cushy bungalow. The characters suggest a celebration of the millennial mindset while the plot gives it a rebuke. Kidd doesn’t send mixed messages, though. Just incoherent, half-baked ones. C2stars

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REVIEW: Neighbors

12 08 2014

If you’re Zac Efron, how do you get people to take you seriously as an actor?  See you as something more than a Disney Channel star without feeling yourself with a foam finger half-naked on television?  Treat you as something more than a Google Images search?

Taking a page from the Channing Tatum/”21 Jump Street” playbook, Efron took on a role in “Neighbors,” a comedy where his entire archetype of the ultra-macho pretty-boy is a consistent butt of jokes.  The arrangement works out well for everyone.  Those who choose to watch the movie will enjoy the self-parody of Efron’s relentless shirtlessness and his over-the-top portrayal of a self-deluded frat lord.  And those fans who just want another look at Efron’s chiseled figure are indulged in the process.

Initially, Efron didn’t seem to be meshing with his character, Delta Psi Beta president Teddy Sanders.  Perhaps I was expecting him to fit a certain model of the fraternity meathead that I knew, but it’s clear that “Neighbors” knows what it’s doing with him.  There’s pretty consistent and purposeful fetishization of Efron throughout the film, by Seth Rogen’s older and squarer Mac as well as within his own fraternity.  The desire for a firm bond with him is laced with some homoerotic undertones and really provides some interesting commentary on the kind of brotherhood fostered within fraternities.

Teddy’s relationship with Dave Franco’s Pete Regazolli, another high-ranking Delta Psi officer out to preserve his legacy, provides ample hilarious opportunities to analyze the implications of the bromance.  One particular exchange of rhyming affirmations of their friendship, which sounds like something potty-mouthed teenaged girls would exchange in gym, sounds so preposterous that it’s clear “Neighbors” does not intend for its portrayal of fraternity life to be taken at face value like “Animal House.”

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 21, 2012)

21 12 2012

There are few movies in the world that can make me laugh harder than “Role Models,” my pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  An R-rated romp that slipped through the cracks for most upon release in 2008, David Wain’s riotous comedy is fantastic through and through.  It’s held up miraculously well, too – trust me, I’ve watched it dozens of times and still bust a gut.

As the two leads doing a comic man/straight man routine, Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd are absolute perfection.  Scott gets to play the absurd variation of the Stifler character for “American Pie” that made him famous, while Paul Rudd plays perhaps his best bleakly blunt pessimist yet.  Though Rudd rings real in opposition to the ridiculous Scott, that doesn’t mean he’s grim or depressing.  Rather, he’s all the funnier and relatable as Paul Rudd proves once again he might be the most adept actor at bringing all our frustrations and annoyances to comedic light.

The free-wheeling Wheeler (Scott) and Danny (Rudd) find themselves in a world of trouble after a particularly bad day on the job peddling energy drinks to kids.  But rather than go to prison for their trail of destruction, they wind up getting community service at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brother-Little Brother type program.  The two quickly find out that prison is a more appealing option than most people would consider.

First of all, Sturdy Wings is run by a crackpot ex-alcoholic and drug addict, Gayle Sweeney – played by Jane Lynch pre-Sue Sylvester (this part probably got her that character).  And to say she steals the show is a vast understatement.  You only hear every other line from her because your laughs from one line bleed over well into the next one.  She speaks in bizarre metaphors that don’t make sense and LOVES reminding everyone of her former habits to a painstakingly hilarious extent.

And Gayle pairs them with two “littles” that scared off everyone else who was volunteering.  Wheeler gets stuck with a firecracker in Ronnie, a crude and manipulative little version of himself.  Danny, on the other hand, is given Augie, an introvert with a good heart that loves nothing more than a good live-action roleplaying game.  Their adventures are strange and funny, leading them to campfires and virtual battlefields, but David Wain brings a funny-bone and a heart to every moment of it.  His “Role Models” packs an excellent message of mentoring and guidance towards becoming a better person without ever being sappy or cheesy; rather, he finds a way to get it across smoothly with laughs, smiles, and good feelings all around.





REVIEW: Kick-Ass

2 08 2010

I can’t think of many titles that describe their movies so aptly as this one. “Kick-Ass,” the R-rated superhero movie that indirectly spoofs “Watchmen,” hits us with a one-two punch of comedy and action. The punch is pretty much a knockout.

It’s devilish fun when the action is as outrageous as the comedy. The movie follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a teenaged New York geek who unleashes his inner fanboy in a way that would make everyone at the comic book store pee themselves with envy. He decides to rise above the common crowd and become a superhero, despite having no actual powers and few confrontational skills. Still, he holds onto the hope that a fancy scuba suit and a cool name, Kick-Ass, will scare off his opponents. But at first, as one of his rivals points out, he should be called “Ass-Kicked” because that’s the only thing that really happens to him.

As entertaining as the adventures of Kick-Ass can be, it’s the other heroes who steal the show. They should really call the movie “Hit Girl” because we’re always waiting for that precocious child vigilante with a foul mouth and impressive combat ability to return to the screen. It’s hard to tell where most of her allure comes from: actress Chloe Moretz or the script. Moretz has shown skill playing adult characters written for kids to play in “(500) Days of Summer,” and she really seems to get how to make them read. The sheer absurdity of hearing the words come out of her mouth is a comedic masterstroke.

“Kick-Ass” also marks a semi-comeback for Nicolas Cage, at least in my book, who has been getting a bad rep for all the abysmal action and horror movies he has been doing recently. When you have an Oscar, it’s OK to branch out and try other genres, but Cage has strayed far from the nest. One more flop and he could have been a laughing stock. “Kick-Ass,” however, was an excellent choice for the actor. It’s a crowd-pleaser, sure, but it requires him to act. He took a supporting role as Big Daddy, father and shaper of Hit Girl, and it shows off the crossover appeal Cage has. The part allows him to be funny as well as an action star, and there’s even room for him to deal with little bit of real human drama.

Matthew Vaughn does a great job directing the riot that is “Kick-Ass,” never taking himself or the material too seriously. One can only wonder how he will handle the “X-Men” franchise, which has an entirely different tone and involves people with real powers. Hopefully he can bring the same fun he brought to this movie, just leaving the farcical stuff on the side.  He directs a superb movie, but the fact that it devolves into “The Chloe Moretz Show” so easily might raise a tiny red flag in your mind.  A flag so tiny, in fact, that you might forget to realize it’s there while you’re laughing so hard.  B+ /





REVIEW: Marmaduke

13 06 2010

You don’t have to read my whole review as long as you take this away from it: “Marmaduke” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and you are truly stupid if you choose to waste a perfectly good 90 minutes of your life watching it.

Now that I have that very strong statement out of the way, you can either spend your time listening to me malign every big name involved in this movie or simply take my word for it.  I will be brutal and unsparing; this is the movie that will really bring out the critic in me.  I’ve been waiting to unleash my wrath on something terrible enough to deserve it.  So here it goes.

I have to admire the boldness of Lee Pace, Judy Greer, and William H. Macy who had the guts to show their faces in this movie.  They didn’t hide in the recording studio or inside the potentially lovable body of an animal.  They actually dared to be the human face of the movie, risking association with the movie for the rest of their careers.  These three ought to be sending the marketing people at Fox some very large gift baskets for not advertising “Marmaduke” very much, because the fact that it was such a low-key campaign may save their reputations from being forever tarnished.

You would think that Owen Wilson has enough sense to choose a movie that has some kind of substance.  But even if you don’t have much respect for Owen Wilson, you might think Keifer Sutherland does.  Or Emma Stone (Jules from “Superbad”).  Or George Lopez.  Or Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin).  Or Steve Coogan.  Or Fergie.  Or Marlon Wayans.  Or Sam Elliott.

Like this cavalcade of stars?  Guess what, each and every one of them chose a movie that doesn’t deserve to take a poop in their yards.  Honestly, if any of these big names had shown their faces in “Marmaduke,” they would be firing their agents and calling their real estate agent to find the coziest cave in Beverly Hills.  It’s always a shame to see actors take on material that doesn’t deserve them, and “Marmaduke” is like a tragedy for each of these stars.  None of them put any effort into making this giant heap of poop any better, as if the subtext of every line is, “We feel you; we know this movie sucks.”

And don’t even get me started on the non-existent plot.  My theory is that the director scrounged a bargain bin of kids movies and came to shooting with the idea to rip off any one of them that might have worked.  So for every groan and eye roll you get in “Marmaduke,” you get to say to yourself, “Oh, I liked that better when I saw it in (INSERT ANY KIDS MOVIE TITLE HERE).”  So, by all means, if you want to feel immeasurable frustration with the endless banality Hollywood feeds to children, go right ahead and waste your life watching “Marmaduke.”  As the late Gene Siskel used to say, “It’s your life, and you can’t get that time back.”  D- /