REVIEW: The Wedding Ringer

10 05 2015

“I’m really starved for a new Kevin Hart vehicle,” said no one in the year 2015.  But the market gets what it wants, so moviegoers get five Kevin Hart films in fifteen months.  The fourth of these to see release, “The Wedding Ringer,” will likely only feel satisfying for those only getting their first piece of Hart.

This uninspired, unimpressive comedy takes the premise of “I Love You, Man” and somehow manages to make it a dull slog.  Josh Gad, a hilarious physical comedian in his own right, gets neutered of his talents to play the friendless schlub Doug Harris.  With just a week before his wedding to the gorgeous and shallow Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug has unbelievably neglected to procure a single groomsman.  A mistake that big takes him, in our eyes, from lovable loser to indisputable idiot.

Thankfully, their wedding planner steps in and suggests hiring a boutique outfit run by Hart’s Jimmy Callahan: The Best Man, Inc.  For a nice fee, Jimmy can throw together a fake wedding party and successfully fool all the guests into thinking his actors are actually lifelong friends of the groom.  The enormity of Doug’s request, however, hardly provides a proportionate helping of laughs.  Jimmy’s merry band of misfits provides more cringes than laughs, and any hilarity comes with a side order of guilt or shame.

Hart and Gad mostly find themselves reduced to gags about their distinctive body types and voices, a real waste of their considerable comedic gifts.  The lazy scripting from Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender certainly gives them no material to help them shine.  When all is said and done, whether “The Wedding Ringer” is a bigger waste of time for its stars or its audience might be the only pressing question raised.  (If you can stick it out until the end, though, fans of TV’s “Lost” will get the last – and biggest – laugh.)  C2stars

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REVIEW: Wish I Was Here

16 07 2014

Wish I Was HereZach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” caught a lot of flak for raising additional funds through crowdfunding on Kickstarter, so I found myself watching the film with an especially sharp eye on how the budget was being spent.  My friend and I found ourselves, perhaps cynically, coming to the conclusion that Braff was using the fans’ money on less necessary frills like a Maserati or the sporadic CGI-heavy sci-fi reveries.

Yet if these somewhat excessive flourishes are what it takes to get an otherwise deeply felt movie like this made, I will make that trade-off every day of the week.  “Wish I Was Here” is an uncommonly thoughtful dramedy about life and death, a breed of film that has sadly become an endangered species.  What Braff crafts is something akin to a Woody Allen film scored to the Bon Iver Pandora station.

That’s not to say, however, that Braff has quite the effortless mastery of Allen’s best.  He doesn’t quite grasp the often tricky economy of ensemble comedy, bungling subplots involving Josh Gad and Kate Hudson.  And at times, the film gets a little bit uncomely in its wild fluctuations of tone.

But even so, “Wish I Was Here” is rather endearing.  Its brand of messy is a lifelike one, not a lazy or sloppy filmmaking one.  Braff throws everything he’s got against the wall – I like to believe it’s everything he’s been thinking in the decade since “Garden State” – and not all of it hits.  What does stick, though, teems with such raw and poignant emotion that it’s easy to overlook the film’s faults.

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REVIEW: Frozen

8 01 2014

Disney’s latest home-grown animation effort, “Frozen,” seems like it’s going to follow in the path of their traditional princess narrative.  In fact, the film boasts two marriageable princesses that sing show tunes flawlessly.  Yet as the movie progressed, I couldn’t escape just how dark the whole thing was.

Sure, other Disney princess stories have their share of bleak moments, but they’re usually right before everything gets better.  From the get go in “Frozen,” Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), one of the princesses, is banished to her room until she can control her magical power to create ice.  Because, you know, it would have just been too easy for some Disney-Pixar intermingling to allow Frozone from “The Incredibles” to come train her).

Her younger sister, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), is left lonely as a result.  Had Anna’s musical number of desolation and emptiness pleading for her sister to come out and play, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” been a little less cloying, it might have had me in tears.  But the song, like nearly every other tune in “Frozen,” feels a bit over the top.  They aren’t really in line with the catchy Disney tunes of their ’80s and ’90s animation renaissance; they are stock Broadway numbers that recall the cliched sounds of “Wicked.”

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REVIEW: Jobs

15 08 2013

Joshua Michael Stern’s “Jobs” finds itself caught between “Lincoln” and “The Social Network.”  The film teeters uncertainly on the precipice of canonization in the Spielberg/Kushner model and humanization in the Fincher/Sorkin mold.  It ultimately settles on an unhappy median, providing a portrait of Apple founder Steve Jobs that feels like laughable corporate folklore.

Just because the film’s characterization is fickle does not mean that its message is muddled.  Stern is clearly pushing an agenda to persuade his audience that Steve Jobs is the American Einstein, a visionary misunderstood in his early years.  And just like Einstein, we will not fully comprehend his genius until years after his death.  But eventually, we will come to use his name as a synonym for innovation.

Ashton Kutcher does do a half-decent job of resurrecting the essence of Steve Jobs.  The 35-year-old actor takes the icon from his college years, a barefoot braniac that seems to have escaped from a Terrence Malick film, to his introduction of the iPod as a slower sage.  At times, though, it does feel like quite a studied portrayal.  His Jobs is often much robotic imitation, opting for parroting over true personality.

Even with such faults, he’s the only thing that “Jobs” really has going for it.  Stern’s script is an overlong mess where Steve Jobs, even from his days at Reed, speaks not in sentences but in maxims that seem to be adapted from Confucian teachings.  When it delves into emotions and not just events, the drama of “Jobs” becomes quite laughable.  All in all, though, the film just feels superfluous.  Why do I need to sit through a two hour “for your consideration” ad for Steve Jobs to inducted into the pantheon of great minds when practically every computer, cell phone, and music player in my house is an Apple product?  C2stars





REVIEW: Love & Other Drugs

4 12 2010

There’s an interesting commentary on the pharmaceutical industry at the heart of “Love & Other Drugs,” a prevalent enough part of the story to make it into the title.  But it’s the love part of the name that takes control of the movie and ultimately devalues the larger and more relevant message.  Like a pimple, the romance grows and grows until it virtually envelops the face.

Granted, this is an incredibly attractive pimple.  The film’s historical background in dealing with Viagra gives it free reign to go crazy on the sexuality, and director Edward Zwick runs with the opportunity.  It’s practically soft-core porn starring two young, attractive stars in Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  But the movie is more than just two constantly and completely naked stars on a bed; it develops the emotional out of the physical.

The nudity isn’t meant to titillate so much as it is to be honest.  It removes the sheets of pretense from the bedfellows, Jamie the womanizing Viagra salesman (Gyllenhaal) and his latest squeeze Maggie, a passionate but insecure lover affected by stage 1 Parkinson’s (Hathaway), and leaves their character naked.  The two nudities complement each other beautifully, and these are two fascinating portraits of people trying to figure out where their lives are heading.

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