Wednesday, February 04, 2009

DVD Round-Up, Part I: The Comedies

There's not a whole hell of a lot to do in January, so I've been renting a lot of movies. These are reviews of the ones that weren't Mystery Science Theatre episodes.

Step Brothers

I actually saw this one in Indy during Christmas. I didn't expect much from it, as Will Farrell's attempts at comedy generally leave me cold, and it depresses me to see a talented actor like John C. Reilly dumbing himself down for lame summer movie fare (sort of akin to seeing Steve Buscemi pop up in horrible Adam Sandler "comedies." By the way, what is up with that? Does Sandler have photos of Buscemi molesting a goat or something?) That said, Step Brothers is not bad. There are some genuinely funny moments, and a pretty ingenius gag about a Billy Joel cover band. Of course, there are also the yawningly predictable masturbation jokes, unfunny sex jokes and the inevitable "Will Farrell loses his shit" scene that Farrell must be contractually obligated to include in every one of his films (either that, or there are people who think it's really funny to see a grown man throw Veruca Salt-sized hissy fits. I am not one of them).

Verdict: Funny enough to merit a four-dollar DVD rental on a slow night.

Hamlet 2

I put off renting this one for a while, simply because I am a HUGE Steve Coogan fan (I'm Alan Partridge is pretty much my favorite TV show ever), and I was afraid of being disappointed (the previews I saw were not promising, word-of-mouth even less so). Nonetheless, I was able to suck it up and fork over the money--mainly for The Coog, of course, but I was slightly cheered to learn that it was directed by Andrew Fleming, who helmed the truly awesome Dick and wrote and directed the underrated, little-seen Threesome.

Hamlet 2 was....okay. It starts out great, with a montage of "highlights" from actor-cum-high-school-drama-teacher Dana Marschz (Coogan)'s pitiful career, including a starring role in an ad for herpes medication and a hammy turn in Xena: Warrior Princess. From there, the comedy gets broader and a lot less funny. The most frustrating aspects of the film are the overwritten script and the abundance of useless characters and scenes that go nowhere. One of the many unecessary subplots involve Catherine Keener, who plays Coogan's long-suffering wife. While I love her as an actress, there is absolutely nothing for her to do. She could have been completely cut from the movie, and it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference. Ditto David Arquette, who has little dialogue and too much screen time. Amy Poehler's hard-nosed attorney character is funny, but similarly useless--she is thrown in late in the second act seemingly as an afterthought. (Weirdly enough, Elisabeth Shue turns in one of the movie's best herself). The funniest part of the film is easily the grand finale, with Coogan and his (predictably) rag-tag group of drama club misfits going balls-to-the-wall in their staging of Coogan's self-penned theatrical manifesto, featuring songs like "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" and lyrics about getting "raped in the face" (you had to be there).

Verdict: Passably funny, but could have been SO much better.

The Love Guru
Ugh. Let me first clear up something here: I did not rent this. A friend had it and I agreed (under duress) to watch it with him. This friend has horrible taste in movies.
This friend, thank Godfully, does not read my blog.
I've always found Mike Myers intriguing. I've seen and read some in-depth interviews with the guy and he actually comes across as thoughtful, witty, even urbane. Then he goes and makes crap like The Love Guru, probably the most wretched cinematic turd he has ever produced (which is saying something). The man is definitely an enigma.
I won't rehash the plot of The Love Guru, because it doesn't have one. The film is pretty much entirely comprised of (deep breath): fart jokes, poop jokes, boner jokes, dick jokes, booger jokes, pee jokes, midget jokes, kicked-in-the-groin jokes, multiple jokes involving elephant sex (don't ask), bad CGI, Justin Timberlake's shameless mugging, Jessica Alba's painful acting, Ben Kingsley (!) cashing a paycheck, John Oliver (the cute Brit from The Daily Show) destroying any chance he had of a career in film, pointless cameos by Deepak Chopra, Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, Mariska Hargitay, and Kanye West, and--of course--Myers himself, camping it up to beat the band in the worst comedic performance since, well, the last unfunny Mike Myers vehicle.
Mike Myers should not be allowed to make any more films. In fact, I propose that he be forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to sit and watch Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Love and Death, and Bananas on a continuous loop until it sinks in that there is a subtle art to slapstick comedy; that slapstick does not mean endless scatalogical references and lame sex jokes. And then Myers should issue a public apology for foisting shit like The Love Guru onto the moviegoing public. There really is no excuse for this film.

Verdict: Unwatchable.

Pineapple Express

Seth Rogen and James Franco are funny, (writer) Judd Apatow is funny, Pineapple Express is....well, probably the funniest mainstream comedy I've seen in a while, which is saying something. Rogen and Franco are basically a white Cheech and Chong pursued by a ruthless pot kingpin (a concept that is funny in itself). There are a few lame bits, but overall I enjoyed it.

Verdict: Funnier if you're stoned, but funny in its own right, too. And Huey Lewis does the title song!

Next time: Drama!