REVIEW: The Judge

1 11 2014

The Judge” tries to be a lot of things, among them a courtroom drama, a family drama, an illness drama, and a relationship drama.  It’s a shame that amidst all that action, seldom does the film manage to be any good.

It’s certainly admirable that Robert Downey, Jr. wants to convert his mainstream credibility into something of greater cinematic value.  But the effort is in vain as “The Judge,” which he and his wife Susan produced, bites off more than it can chew in nearly every aspect.  Their one genius move was bringing Janusz Kaminski, the cinematographer for Steven Spielberg’s last two decades of work, on board to give the film the sheen of prestige.  (Not as great a hire? Director David Dobkin, whose recent credits include “Fred Claus” and “The Change-Up.”)

Kaminski’s beautiful rays of ambient light flood every frame, but the beauty largely stops there.  “The Judge” meanders for the whole of its runtime – a bloated 140 minutes – without ultimately settling on any kind of identity.  Every time one of its subplots begins to pick up steam, the film inexplicably shifts gears to follow another one.  As such, momentum never builds, and “The Judge” just begins to feel like a life sentence.  One with lots of cloying montages set to Bon Iver.

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REVIEW: The Change-Up

6 08 2011

It’s a stretch to call “The Change-Up” a comedy.  The movie feels like a two-hour gag reel of failed jokes axed from an offensive stand-up comedian’s routine.  It puts you on edge, too, because you are always scared that it’s going to go one step too far and really offend someone like Michael Richards or Tracy Morgan.

Sophomoric and immature humor can be funny at times, but when anything relies solely on it, the act gets old really quickly.  The movie tastelessly hurls pot-shots at mentally challenged people, Down syndrome patients, Japanese people, and Catholics, just to name a few, trying to get a laugh at their expense.  This kind of shock jock technique treads a thin line between making a statement or commentary and exploiting stereotypes for personal gain; “The Change-Up” is so far on the wrong side of that line it really isn’t funny.

Not only that, the movie as a whole just doesn’t produce the laughs that it should.  The writers of “The Hangover,” who penned the stale reimagining of “Freaky Friday” that can barely be called a script, took the wrong lesson from their smash success.  We didn’t respond so overwhelmingly positively to “The Hangover” because of its raunchiness and vulgarity; that’s standard order in Hollywood R-rated comedies nowadays.  We responded because it was outrageously original and a fun ride because we never knew what to expect.

“The Change-Up” represents that lazy and misplaced mentality that  doubling the crudeness and gutting the inventiveness down to next to nothing will still produce a good comedy.  As evinced by all the jokes that fall terribly flat and the ability to see the wheels of the movie turning the whole time, it doesn’t produce anything except a rollickingly predictable and forgettable time at a movie that should have you rolling on the floor.  And alas, there are probably more body changing movies out there than decent laughs in this movie.

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