REVIEW: Dirty Grandpa

2 02 2016

Dirty GrandpaDirty Grandpa” plays out like a loosely-strung series of sketches for two characters. Picture a “Best of” special for someone like The Culps on “Saturday Night Live,” just not really all that great and tied together by something that loosely resembles a plot.

The film follows the escapades of the titular ribald senior, Robert DeNiro’s newly widowed Dick Kelly, as he ventures down to his retirement home in Florida. To do this, he enlists a slightly estranged grandson, Zac Efron’s neatly coiffed corporate lawyer Jason. Their dynamic stays essentially the same throughout. Dick curses and offends; Jason reacts somewhere on a register of annoyance to shock.

Our preexisting notions of each actor are key to the response their characters generate, too. Efron, now well-minted as a Hollywood matinee idol, swaggers about as if he walked out of a Vineyard Vines catalogue. Many a joke is made at the expense of his rigid adherence to country club attire, often times calling his masculinity into question. But unlike “Neighbors,” which used Efron’s looks as a springboard into questions of male homoeroticism, “Dirty Grandpa” mostly just piles on the homophobia.

As for how Robert DeNiro’s past iconography factors into the film … well, every ridiculous laugh he gets comes with a simultaneous pang of sadness knowing that this is the man who gave us generation-defining performances in films like “Raging Bull.” At least he commits to the role in all its ridiculousness, never phoning it in or hinting that he is somehow above the material. (Even though he is.) “Dirty Grandpa” would make for truly miserable viewing if DeNiro did not seem to enjoy it on some strange level.

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REVIEW: Rock of Ages

20 06 2012

Rock of Ages” – the movie too bad to be true.  This horrendous piece of schlock that profanes the movie musical as we know it is thankfully self-consciously corny.  The invitation to laugh at the film’s ridiculousness begins in the first minute when Julianne Hough’s archetypical naive Oklahoman good girl, Sherrie Christian, breaks out in song on the bus to Los Angeles, only to be quickly accompanied by the rest of the passengers.  Surely this movie can’t be for real, you immediately think.

Oh, but it only gets better … er, worse.  The movie quickly runs through the hard rock anthems of the ’80s as if it were selling you a TIME Life boxed set.  Except rather than hearing the original raspy-voiced rockers, we get to hear them sung by actors whose only pipes are situated firmly in their trailer.  Aside from Julianne Hough, a vocal virtuoso, all the decent singers are relegated to bit parts.  Ultimately, that’s not worth getting too upset about since Mary J. Blige and Catherine Zeta-Jones both overact their ridiculous caricatures so much that it negates their singing talents.

No, instead, we are treated to hear Alec Baldwin’s dreadful attempts to belt and Tom Cruise murder three halfway-decent songs as the stuporous superstar Stacee Jaxx.  (I’m just going to throw out my theory that he had a voice double – his singing voice sounded NOTHING like his speaking voice.)  I’m not terribly offended by his performance.  After all, being a child of the ’90s means that these songs hold no sentimental or nostalgic value for me, although I did like “Wanted Dead or Alive” before Cruise tried to sing it.  However, clearly no one learned anything from the Pierce Brosnan-“Mamma Mia!” fiasco, and what could have been an amusing cameo gets stretched out into an obnoxiously long Jack Sparrow impersonation.

Really, the problem with Stacee Jaxx is the same problem with “Rock of Ages” on the whole.  They start out amusing in their lunacy and prove worth a few good laughs.  But it just goes on far too long, just trying to find any excuse to throw another ’80s song into the mix for the soundtrack.  There comes a point where using one random off-the-cuff remark to cue a lavish musical number just becomes plain stupid, and it quickly wears out whatever good will you had in the beginning.  The longer it goes on, the more you begin to realize that “Rock of Ages” loses its chance to proclaim itself so bad it’s good.  Instead, it becomes so bad that it’s bearable.  C

REVIEW: Footloose

5 03 2012

I’m no better or no worse for having seen the 2011 remake of “Footloose.”  I really can’t insult it too much; Craig Brewer’s movie is extremely corny to the point where it almost invites self-mockery.  It’s the kind of movie tailor-made to people who don’t want their movies to be sophisticated and crave dialogue that just ridiculously follows a stupid cinematic template.  To compare it to the last movie I reviewed, “A Separation,” does neither justice as this movie relishes being something very far removed from reality.

And indeed, if you can just fade into a world where dancing, not drinking, is the societal evil, then “Footloose” may be just the movie for you.  There are plenty of decently choreographed sequences that catch the eye, but they feel a little out of place without the framework of a Broadway musical.  It wants to be a musical movie without fitting into the musical genre, a hybrid that didn’t really work when Tim Burton tried it in 2007 with “Sweeney Todd” and doesn’t fare any better here.

If you can’t remove the critic in you to watch a movie, then “Footloose” probably just isn’t a movie you should spend your time watching.  Kenny Womald, the newcomer cast as leading man Ren, will undoubtedly irk you.  While it’s admirable that they didn’t just cast a Zac Efron-type for looks, casting an unknown carries risks, and the movie becomes a 101 course on why you shouldn’t cast one in a big role.  He has what Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em would call an annoying “pretty boy swag,” meaning that he struts his body and hair around as a replacement for really acting.

Julianne Hough sure can sing, but I’ll need a few more movies before I can buy her as an actress.  She gets the prickliness of her loose character Ariel right on, but I got the feeling she should have been a little more sympathetic than Hough made her come across.  Leave the emo teenage angst to Kristen Stewart, please.  Miles Teller as Ren’s boon companion Willard is the closest thing “Footloose” has to a scene-stealer, yet knowing that this was his follow-up to the superlative “Rabbit Hole” just made me sad inside.  And Dennis Quaid, once again, puzzles me with his undeniably eclectic role choice as the fire-and-brimstone Reverend Shaw.

I haven’t seen the original with Kevin Bacon, but I feel like I can say “don’t fix something that isn’t broken” to Brewer’s remake just as easily as I can to any other half-baked and uninspired Hollywood retooling.  New faces on an old story … sigh.  It’s ok, many greater directors have tried and failed just like you, Brewer.  Not everyone can be Martin Scorsese; there have to be some directors who can make him look like a saint in comparison.  

REVIEW: Burlesque

4 08 2011

For this to be nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, you KNOW there had to be some sort of bribery going on.  For all the glitz and glamour, “Burlesque” is one heck of a dud.  And just because that dud is coated in more glitter than a Ke$ha concert doesn’t make it entertaining or even watchable.  At a bloated nearly two hour runtime, this melodramatic musical makes “Mamma Mia!” look like a classic.

Adding together two musical superstars from different generations like Cher and Christina Aguilera seems like a combination that would produce some fireworks – or at least some cross-generational appeal.  However, it’s just dreadful to watch as their diva attitudes aren’t left behind in the trailer and a contempt beyond something written in the script for their characters.  Cher exudes an unlikable uptightness that’s about as rigid as her plastic face, and Christina Aguilera in her acting debut really can’t act unless she’s emanating a disdainful superiority.  For a novice actress, she really has a lot of guts acting like she’s better than her humble-roots character.

The rest of the movie is better than them, but that’s not saying much.  Cam Gigandet’s ambiguously sexual character is just plain annoying, and Kristen Bell’s entitled prima donna just makes a case for why she should stay in romantic comedies (that’s nt a compliment).  Meanwhile, Julianne Hough’s role is hardly impressive and doesn’t give the country star the big mainstream break she deserves.  Stanley Tucci is alright though, but he’s always good so that doesn’t really count.  Diane Warren’s musical numbers are pretty colorless, and with the exception of the titular final number, there’s nothing worth listening to again.  So skip this strip unless you need to be convinced that the New Wave of American Musical on screen is in its death throes.  C- /