REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp

9 07 2018

There’s been a recent trend in the last five years or so in superhero filmmaking where directors feel the need to say their movie is cut from a different cloth. It’s not only a blockbuster, it’s just dressed up like one. Whether it was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as a ’70s-style paranoid thriller or (my personal favorite) James Mangold’s “Logan” as “an Ozu film with mutants,” the implication is that being a superhero movie on its face is shameful – or not enough.

This long-winded intro is just a set up to say that Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” finds success by being something besides a Marvel, only that something is a type of film that actually meshes quite well with a super suit. It’s a Paul Rudd movie! The star, who also shares a co-writing credit on the film, infuses his charming, witty energy into all facets of the project. Before the self-aware smugness of “Deadpool” and the commercially-motivated universe building of “The Avengers,” comic book movies could be like this. (You know, eons ago … like 2008 with the first “Iron Man.”)

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is wonderfully self-contained, driven less by the need to connect to some grand five-picture arc and more by the immediate concerns of the story. Rudd’s Scott Lang wants to be cleared from his house arrest following the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” yet the urgent call of duty with Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp threatens to undo years of his patience in exile. As with many of these films, the real joy is in their group banter – especially whenever Scott lacks the knowledge or information that his counterparts possess.

Reed ditches some of the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”-style cheekiness about size and scale that dominated the first “Ant-Man,” which might have been a holdover from Edgar Wright’s involvement with the series. The film compensates for the loss of that humor with more Rudd being Rudd, a welcome thing be it a Marvel movie or a David Wain romp. While it might not be enough to completely overcome a lackluster villain, relatively generic fight scenes, and total underuse of Michelle Pfeiffer, it’s still better than watching Marvel’s carousel of white guys named Chris play tough and moody. B





REVIEW: Sausage Party

30 08 2016

Sausage Party” may begin with an amusing ’90s Disney-esque opening ditty – with help from “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty & The Beast” composer Alan Menken, to boot – but Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have far more than obvious parody. (Besides, 1999’s adult animated “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” took care of that pretty well.) Using a supermarket as a microcosmic playground for the world, the sly writing/producing team continue their thematic exploration of pressing social and existential issues.

That’s not a joke, and yes, “continue” means that this thread has been present in their past work. 2013’s “This Is The End” was, among many things, a fascinating exploration of how public figures come to deal with their mortality and the afterlife in the face of a seemingly inevitable apocalypse. Playing a lightly fictionalized version of himself, Rogen and his celebrity comrades united to satirize the lack of self-awareness among self-important actors.

Much of that same gang reunites for “Sausage Party” to play the voices of processed or packaged foods ready for consumption. The elaborate ritual laid out in the opening song deludes them into thinking “the gods” have destined them for some kind of heaven once placed in the grocery cart. But once a returned jar of honey mustard offers a chilling vision of what lies beyond the automatic doors, hot dog Frank (Rogen) and his sweetheart bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) bring it upon themselves to discover the truth. Neither realizes the answer will shake up everything they thought they knew about life after purchase – provided such a thing even exists.

Along the way, they journey with Kareem the lavash (David Krumholtz) and Sammy the bagel (Edward Norton) and start to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. They bump into Firewater (Bill Hader), a Native American liquor bottle, and bump up against the complications of colonial displacement of indigenous peoples. Rogen and Goldberg, along with “The Night Before” co-writers Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, take advantage of how ripe animated films are ripe for social commentary given how much an audience has to project humanity onto the objects.

Oh, and all the food eventually comes together in a raucous orgy. Just as the apocalyptic monster in “This Is The End” had disturbingly large anatomy, the “Sausage Party” participants’ sexual drive serves as an outsized reminder that Rogen and Goldberg come from a place of absurdity, imagination and crass humor above all else. Don’t take any of this too seriously, their flourishes seem to cry out, because the authors themselves don’t. They know their places as comedians and entertainers above all else, although Rogen might soon vault to Mel Brooks status for a new generation. The combination of his boundary-pushing comedy with trenchant, socially attuned subject matter certainly makes him an obvious contender to assume the vanguard. (Without saying too much, try not to think of “Blazing Saddles” during the finale.) B+3stars





REVIEW: The Fundamentals of Caring

22 06 2016

The Fundamentals of CaringSundance Film Festival

Caring. It’s what Paul Rudd’s character, Ben, gives in his profession as a caretaker for Craig Roberts’ sardonic, wheelchair-bound teenager Trevor. Ironically, it’s also what he needs personally given that his marriage has fallen apart and his aspirations as a writer have dried up.

That’s about as deep as the insights go in Rob Burnett’s “The Fundamentals of Caring.” Not to damn with faint praise – but let me damn with faint praise – the film will sit nicely on Netflix along with countless other TV-movie style dramedies. Seeing it on the streaming platform probably makes far more sense than watching it at a major film festival.

The primary joys of the film come from the bickering and bantering between Ben and Trevor. Each tries to one up each other with practical jokes that plunge into some truly black territory surrounding death and illness. Rudd dons a more melancholy hat as Ben, playing someone demonstrably more introspective than his usual acid-spitters. Roberts, quite the comedic talent in his own right, can surprisingly stand toe to toe with Rudd for laughs.

Most of the film is just the two of them (save a brief spell where Selena Gomez’s Dot joins the fun), enduring one another as Trevor tries to make Ben’s job as difficult as possible to make himself feel somewhat powerful. Burnett can find the connection in these moments but never quite gets beneath the skin for either. And that does not even change, mind you, when they take a medically risky road trip to visit some questionable American landmarks. C+2stars





REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War

4 05 2016

Presidential election years lend themselves to multiplex seat philosophy, perhaps another subtle confirmation of the fact that even escapism is neither complete nor absolute. Especially in years without an incumbent in the running, the culture of the present tense takes on the status of relic with stunning immediacy. As we see the contours of how future generations will remember the era, it gets easier to place a movie within its particular historical framework.

So what is the status of the superhero movie towards the end of the Age of Obama? Look no further than “Captain America: Civil War,” a film far more intriguing for its wide-ranging implications than anything on screen. (Ok, maybe those Spider-Man scenes got me interested in the character again.) It serves the same big budget movie of the moment role that 2008’s “The Dark Knight” played for the Bush era, both smashing the box office and setting the conversation.

Nearly four years ago, The New York Times’ critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Darghis described Marvel’s 2012 “The Avengers” as a tale about the triumph of community organizing in their piece “Movies in the Age of Obama.” Now, “Captain America: Civil War” feels like the response to four years of gridlock and bitter internal divides. Along with “Batman v Superman,” the big trend among 2016 tentpole features appears to be fighting the enemies within our gates as opposed to outside our borders.

At least this rupture among the Avengers crew was a plot development they adequately presaged in their recent plot build-up. (Yes, that was shade at DC. No, I am not being paid by Marvel to write good things.) After many a global escapade causing mass mayhem and destruction, the superheroes finally face accountability from an international governmental body. Roughly half the group believes submitting to authority is a worthy idea, while the others wish to retain autonomy even it means being called vigilantes by the public as a whole.

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REVIEW: Ant-Man

23 08 2015

Ant-ManAnt-Man,” the final piece in Marvel’s so-called “Phase Two” of their Cinematic Universe, invites us all to do what I have done for the past five years: not to take any of this too seriously.  With the constantly winking and self-effacing charm of Paul Rudd (and co-writer Adam McKay), the best Marvel movie in years is ironically the one that spits in the face of what the studio signifies.

This is the first film from the comic book behemoth since the original “Iron Man” back in 2008 that feels entirely sufficient as a film in its own right, not just a placeholder for the next super-sized sequel.  Granted, some of that might be a response to its iffy economic viability at the green-lighting stage of the process (and some concerns over authorship following the departure of writer/director Edgar Wright and his screenwriting partner Joe Cornish). Nonetheless, “Ant-Man” earns a second installment by virtue of its tongue-in-cheek spirit and fun sense of scale.

Rather than set up some cataclysmic battle of the fates where the powers of good do battle with a terrifying evil that beams a big blue light up into the sky, “Ant-Man” builds up to a fight between two men for one important thing.  This climax engages rather than numbs (as “Avengers” final acts tend to do) because it takes place on the human level where the rest of the film registers.  It also helps that the final clash is essentially the only major one in the movie, going against Marvel’s general tendency to throw in a major action set piece every 30 minutes or so to placate the thrill-seekers in the audience.

And every time it seems like “Ant-Man” is turning into a conveyer belt of Marvel tropes, Paul Rudd’s humor kicks in to disrupt the moment and make a joke at the studio’s expense. He plays on admittedly shorter leash than someone like Judd Apatow or David Wain gives him, but his sardonic wit proves a welcome reprieve of Marvel’s faux gravitas that proves suffocating in their more commercial products.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 8, 2015)

8 01 2015

Now that Paul Rudd has officially debuted as Ant-Man, I expect that we’ll soon have to start referring to him as “Marvel’s Paul Rudd.”  Plenty of clueless fanboys will totally think of Rudd as the next Chris Pratt, a comedian that the comic-book magnate picks up from relative obscurity and turns into a bonafide action star.  And I will be sad.

But then, I will wipe away my tears and watch another one of Rudd’s hilarious comedies.  I will think of the time he and I shared a brief word in London, and I will remind myself of how his affable characters appear to accurately reflect his genial real-life personality.  I will remind myself that he is the perfect choice to play me in the movie of my life no matter what career move he makes next (although BuzzFeed recently told me that Benedict Cumberbatch would play me, another choice that suits me fine).

And finally, I will watch one of his comedies that stand head and shoulders above nearly all the other mainstream output.  For the most part, Rudd chooses projects with smarter wit and keener insight than the usual macho lineup of flatulence, misogyny, and homophobia.  Perhaps chief among these is 2009’s “I Love You, Man,” the bromantic comedy that serves as my selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  (Yes, I am fully aware this is hardly independent or little-known, although it certainly deserves to be more widely known.)

Rudd, rather than erecting a cool facade, plays his character Peter Klaven as unashamedly dorky and unabashedly earnest.  Though he means well, Peter often stumbles over his own nicety into the verbal equivalent of a pratfall.  The film begins with the happiest moment in his life: proposing to his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones).  After the initial bliss dissipates, however, things get awkward as Peter seems unable to provide enough groomsmen to match Zooey’s seven bridesmaids.  In fact, he does not even really have a potential best man.

Rather than disappoint his beautiful bride-to-be, and apparently unwilling to suck it up and ask either his father (J.K. Simmons) or brother (Andy Samberg), Peter goes on the hunt for a male best friend.  After a series of hilarious misunderstandings, he comes across Jason Segel’s palatably absurd Sidney Fife, a friendly bachelor that stumbles into one of Peter’s open houses while scouting prospects for a wealthy divorcée.  They hit it off immediately, easily finding conversation topics and mutual interests.

Sidney and Peter’s friendship is purely platonic, yet writer/director John Hamburg replicates the experience of watching a romantic comedy.  We get the beginning stage of figuring out tastes as well as boundaries; we see the way that they bring fulfillment to each other’s lives; we have the classic blow-up fight that turns into a dissolution of an amicable partnership.  As “I Love You, Man” progresses, it exposes the parallels between forging friendships and romantic relationships as well as the absurdities inherent in both.

Peter and Sidney are not just the average dudebro BFFs – they are types to explore and investigate the very nature of human connection.  Although, in the hands of talented actors like Rudd and Segel, they are also fully fledged people that I’d love to slap the bass with any day.





REVIEW: They Came Together

5 07 2014

They Came TogetherGenres naturally go through cycles, and right now, the romantic comedy is in a bit of a slump.  When I started writing this blog nearly five years ago, it was riding high with smash hits like “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth.”  If you look at the market now, there hasn’t really been a rom-com hit since 2011’s “Crazy Stupid Love,” largely because those kinds of movies just aren’t being made.

Why exactly they have gone out of fashion so dramatically is anyone’s guess.  It’s likely a combination of many factors, but two films point out some of the reasons why no one is rushing to finance “28 Dresses.”  Back in 2009, “(500) Days of Summer” took a revisionist angle on the genre, pointing out many romantic comedy conventions that needed to be reworked in order to be more in touch with the audience.

And now, in 2014, “They Came Together” marks the point where the genre’s hallmarks are so recognizable that they can be mercilessly sent up in an unrelenting satire.  David Wain, the great mind behind “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Role Models,” dismantles the romantic comedy with confidence and pinpoint accuracy.

His script lays bare all the subtext that most of us blindly accept when we encounter a standard genre pic, pointing out everything from the stereotypes of the characters (clumsy girl, non-threateningly masculine guy) to the role of New York City (like another character).  “They Came Together” is at its best when Wain performs his point-by-point deconstruction of all the clichés that normally trap the genre, due largely in part to how wonderfully Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler can cut up while sending up the trademarks.

“They Came Together” winds up coming slightly undone, however, by the sophomoric silliness that fills the moments that aren’t so brutally self-aware.  Wain is usually quite clever with his comedy (the notable exception being “Wanderlust“), and here, he drops to the level of Seth MacFarlane in “Family Guy” or “Ted.”  It’s funny on occasion but wildly inconsistent overall with one joke bombing and the next hitting the sweet spot.  Thankfully, it never quite stoops to the level of the movies it lambasts, but Wain might have had one of the most spectacular spoofs of all time on his hands had he just stuck to the more high-minded humor.  B-2stars





REVIEW: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

6 01 2014

Maybe Adam McKay should have let the marketing and promotions team write the movie “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” for he and Will Ferrell.  They certainly had a much better grasp of the power present in Ron Burgundy’s cult iconography gained over the year and used it to leverage interest in a follow-up to a film released nearly a decade prior.  It’s a shame that the abysmal sequel had nothing to deliver.

I certainly don’t dislike 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” but I never quite understood why it above other movies had gained such a foothold in the pop culture lexicon.  A plethora of lines from the original film are now such staples of conversation these days that I often forget their origin. While I was entertained by the movie the one time I watched it on HBO, I certainly did not think it deserved a sequel over a film like, say, “Pineapple Express” or “Role Models.”

While the former got a humorous pseudo-sequel in “This Is The End,” I can now say with certainty I never want to see a follow-up to the latter after “Anchorman 2” just destroyed the legacy of its predecessor.  While there are intermittent laughs to be had, the utter stupidity of its jokes and lack of care in maintaining its characters made for what might be the most unpleasant moviegoing experience of 2013.

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REVIEW: Prince Avalanche

25 08 2013

In the middle of the madness of David Gordon Green’s “Pineapple Express,” there’s a very bizarre and quirky 40-second montage that feels completely out of place.  Though I first saw that film as an unformed, relatively cinematically illiterate fifteen-year-old, I recognized there was something brilliant in the scene.  I didn’t know the director’s name, but I knew he had some artistic talent that was subversively bursting through the seams of this comedy.

Green’s latest film, “Prince Avalanche,” takes all the formalism present in that tiny “Pineapple Express” montage and make an entire film out of it.  The movie attempts to be both absurd and also rather aesthetically pleasing, succeeding far more at the latter than the former.  I will give Green that he can craft a good montage with editor Colin Patton and compose a good shot with director of photography Tim Orr.

But that’s about where my compliments for “Prince Avalanche” stop.  The script is dead on arrival, maintaining my interest for about as long as the aforementioned sequence in “Pineapple Express.”  It centers on two road crew workers, Paul Rudd’s Alvin and his girlfriend’s brother Lance, played by Emile Hirsch.  (I suppose I could pay the film another compliment and say it features the best Hirsch performance since “Milk,” but that’s not saying much.)

Alvin and Lance play out inane dramas on the road while staving off boredom or the problems that actually plague their existences.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell if Rudd or Hirsch cared about the conflicts of “Prince Avalanche.”  And if they didn’t care, why should we?  A few pretty shots of burnt back roads in Texas and a few quirks do not a good film make.  There are ways to make humdrum existence resonate; Green’s film really just generates yawns. C-1halfstars





REVIEW: Admission

24 08 2013

Some movies do not fit neatly into categories.  For some, this means a refreshing streak of iconoclasm.  For others, however, it means a wavering indecision on the part of the filmmakers that can prove quite frustrating to watch.  Paul Weitz’s “Admission” is definitely more of the latter.

The film is not quite a rom-com, not quite a comedy, but also not really a drama.  It’s just a strange mix of tonal swings tied together by a story.  Despite the presence of the very funny Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, “Admission” has very little to laugh about.  And surprisingly, in spite of the loving glances they shoot each other in the film’s poster, their sexual tension remains a set of undeveloped hints.

Fey’s character is also extremely similar to the one she played in the 2008 romp “Baby Mama.”  The slightly uptight career woman experiencing regret about not settling down to have kids is quickly on its way to becoming as clichéd as Reese Witherspoon’s perfect belle having two men fight over her.  In “Admission,” she plays a strung-out Princeton admissions counselor dealing with mommy issues when a potential new admit could be the son she gave up for adoption back in college.

Even though I’m three years removed from the college admissions process, watching the Princeton committees debate the merits of applicants by reducing them to test scores and résumés still sent shivers up my spine.  It’s tough and rather disheartening to watch Portia try to fight for an unconventional candidate and face an insurmountable uphill battle the entire way.  The whole process is rather strung out and tense, and the overall mood left after the dust settles is one of depression.

By the end, “Admission” decides it most wants to be a drama after all.  And it actually does produce a decent conclusion, one that satisfies by not coming to any neat and tidy answers.  Because that’s what life is – anything but easy (just like getting into Princeton, apparently).  Better the film come to this tough realization than make us sit through a clichéd one that we’ve already seen in more defined and self-assured movies.  B-2stars





REVIEW: This Is 40

31 12 2012

Judd Apatow is quite a curious entertainer, and I’m fascinated by the trajectory he’s taken to put his stamp on comedy.  Lately, he’s been using his tremendous power to advance women’s voices in comedy through Lena Dunham‘s HBO series “Girls” and Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids,” quite a noble thing to do.

Yet otherwise as a producer, he makes comedies largely by the status quo, albeit with a slightly Apatowian (is that the proper term?) spin of vulgarity opening up on a big heart.  Some are hits, and others are flops.  Some work; others, absolute disasters.

However, as a director, he’s on the cutting edge.  2009’s “Funny People” and his fourth feature film, “This is 40,” are bold experiments in genre.  In these two movies, Apatow is probing the boundaries of comedy and attempting to make sense of the murky gray area that is dramedy.

These two movies are flawed but noble ventures into the great unknown.  Both films attempt to find the kind of tender human drama that defines the works of Alexander Payne and Jason Reitman, two directors who make serious works with touches of levity.  Apatow strives to find that same pathos without losing his films’ firm rooting in comedy, and though he doesn’t find it in “This is 40,” I’m willing to sit and watch him decipher it out.  Because once he finds that balance, a true masterpiece will be the inevitable result.

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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.





F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 3, 2012)

3 08 2012

Well, if I hadn’t taken a number of hiatuses, my 100th entry in the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” series (that’s First Class, Independent Little-Known Movie, just a reminder) would have come around June or July 2011.  But a belated milestone is still a milestone, so I’m going to celebrate by writing about “Wet Hot American Summer,” perhaps one of the most underappreciated cult comedies of recent memory.  Starring just about all your favorite comedians WAY before they were famous, it’s a hilarious time capsule that surely needs to be opened if you are a fan of anyone in the massive cast!

It’s the last day of summer at a Jewish camp in Maine – in 1981, no less – so that means everyone is trying to attend to some unfinished business.  The movie juggles a ton of storylines in an hour and a half, some of which don’t work as well as others, I’ll admit.  A number of the jokes are just so stupid, you have to wonder whether you want to laugh or just cringe.

But director David Wain, who later found commercial success and critical acclaim with “Role Models,” just never lets the relentless onslaught of over-the-top, farcical comedy end.  And for that, it could make for a “Napoleon Dynamite”-style viewing trajectory: perhaps just some chuckling the first time, and then those giggles turn into full-on belly laughs as the nuances of the humor reveal themselves over multiple viewings.

It’s certainly worth watching to see the beginnings of Paul Rudd’s caustic humor, albeit slightly more hammed up, as an airheaded horndog lifeguard who can really cop an attitude.  The object of his affection, at least momentarily, is Elizabeth Banks – until he decides she tastes like hamburgers and doesn’t like her anymore.

Amy Poehler is another scene-stealer as Susie, the bossy, controlling counselor in charge of theater intending to stage a number of “Godspell” as if she were working on Broadway.  What makes her character even better, though, is that she is flanked by preppy, Lacoste-clad minion Ben at all times.  Now, Ben is played by none other than Phil Wenneck himself, Bradley Cooper.  His PR people have done a mighty great job keeping this movie on the down low … I’ll let you find out for yourself why he probably doesn’t want many people to discover this early role of his.  I think it’s absolutely hilarious, as is the rest of the movie, and I highly recommend you find out Bradley Cooper’s surprise and many other raunchy delights I didn’t even mention in this cursory overview!





REVIEW: Wanderlust

29 02 2012

I think it’s crucial to apply a comparative approach to evaluating the merits of “Wanderlust.”  When you look at it in relation to “Role Models” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” director David Wain’s first two comedies, it’s a disappointment that settles for cliches and stereotypes rather than the unique brand of humor on display in his prior work.  But of course, compared to other mainstream comedies of the moment, its mild satisfactions are amplified probably more than they should.

Marveling at cult-like communes is nothing new, and the colorful cast of nudists, stoners, and washed-up hippies certainly play into just about every single one of our preconceived notions.  It’s amusing enough to watch their antics play out in front of two newly unemployed Manhattan refugees played by the ever hilarious Paul Rudd and the ever gorgeous Jennifer Aniston.  Both are a little creeped out at first, but she eventually warms up to the idea of living in a subculture of open doors and open marriages.

There are a few good laughs here and there, but the majority of the time, I just sat there wondering when it would reach “Role Models” heights.  Thankfully it does at one point due to Paul Rudd, who honestly might get my vote for the funniest person working in comedy at the moment.  His dry, caustic, and biting sarcasm hits home every time even when he’s not trying to be funny (and if someone made a movie of my life, I would want him to play me).  Rudd gets one scene, improvised I assume, where he gets to totally let loose with wild accents and wordplay trying to pump himself up for a sexual encounter that absolutely brings down the house.  I was easily laughing for a solid two minutes afterwards, totally missing the next scene.  And really, as long as I get one of those for my money, I go home happy no matter how derivative or childish the rest of the movie might have been.  B-





REVIEW: How Do You Know

23 12 2010

I sure wish “How Do You Know” knew what it wanted from the beginning.  James L. Brooks’ latest comedy is a study of three people uncertain of what they want for their futures.  Nervous, frantic, and anxious, they each search for the answer to the questions they pose about their lives.  But no one ever seems to find an answer, just a new question to occupy their thoughts.  This makes for dynamic and neurotic characters, all portrayed with gusto by the sensational cast, but the movie feels like it’s running  in circles around the same issues.

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is looking for a new life direction after her softball career is abruptly ended.  George (Paul Rudd) is unsure of the next step in his life after being served an unexpected indictment.  Serving more as comic relief, Matty (Owen Wilson) is an organized womanizer trying to figure out whether he loves Lisa enough to change his ways.  “How Do You Know” is really the story of Lisa and George, though, as they actively seek conviction in their life choices and wind up finding each other.

The two are incredibly vulnerable and emotional train-wrecks, never certain of where they are headed even when they begin a sentence.  It starts out with George, caught between a rock and a hard place with pressure from his dad (Jack Nicholson) mounting as his head is about to be served on a platter to the prosecutors.  But when the two meet on a blind date, all the neuroses transfer over to Lisa, who becomes increasingly unsure of her decision to move in with Matty and unable to remain committed to anything.  While George’s options become more black and white, he is still just as lost as Lisa, and the two manage to find comfort in their mutual wandering.

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