Saturday, June 6, 2009

Role Models

Look, I've been on a comedy binge lately and I'm about to give Role Models *** right after giving Observe and Report ***. That isn't to say I liked them the same. They're different types of movies. Role Models is more accessible and funnier, though disappointingly conventional. I could see the ending coming from a mile away. It had an 80s nerd comedy feel to it (albeit much more crass).

It has it charms. Its supporting cast is wonderfully fresh and exciting comedically. And while the leads piece together some happy smiles, there isn't anything terribly memorable about the journey to its grand finale on the battlefield.

The language is profane and often so only for laughs, but there are some R-rated hijinks that won me over in spite of my better judgment. These "littles" throw their "bigs" for loops, and it's when Rudd and Scott are reeling in disgust and/or exhaustion that the film won me over. It's a fine little diversion.


I Love You, Man

This is the funniest movie I've seen in years. Paul Rudd is so delightfully awkward that he induces raucous laughter even with a wonderfully failed accent. As good as he is, Jason Segal is even better as the new friend that gets Rudd in touch with his basic masculinity. Apatow movies have played up the Peter Pan complex of modern men, but ILYM plays up a different side - the need for male camaraderie. Is there another movie that plays up male friendship more comedically (or more honestly) than ILYM? (Sure there is, but allow me to play up my gleeful hyperbole.) The fun is watching Segal and Rudd together. A perfect comic duo, each playing off of each others' types while challenging the limits of those types. Segal's character is supposed to have a devil-may-care attitude about life, but he cares. Rudd's character is supposed to out of touch with his primal manhood (and all the shenanigans that includes), but he's better adjusted to adulthood and romance than either will admit. The movie winks at romantic comedy staples - the tearful breakups, breaking up the wedding, first dates - without breaking from its story. And it's a good story well told and well acted. I laughed out loud.


Hamlet 2

There isn't much to crow about in Hamlet 2. It's a sock to the gut of the familiar inspirational teacher movies (and they might have needed a good sock or two), perhaps too obvious to win me completely over. But Steve Coogan as the obliviously optimistic, faux inspirational drama teacher in lame duck Tuscon, AZ (take that, Tuscon) is a revelation. It's one of the single most amazing comedic performances I've seen. There are obvious jokes made by the man, but Coogan always plays it straight to the max. He is funny without playing down to his character. He's a loser, but there's a real humanity there comes out of Coogan's portrayal that you may not have expected from such a farce of a film. Playing to the obvious rise-fall-and-rise of our hero's quest to save drama, gain respect, and become the talent he always hoped to be, Hamlet 2 doesn't offer too many surprises. It how Coogan pushes his character's obvious flaws and winning optimism that kept me glued to my 13 inch TV set. And he dances, too, to a Grease-like rock number for the ages.


Observe and Report

This was a hit and miss, balls-to-the-wall film. It pulled no punches, but in the process went too far or too hard. Subtlety will get you everywhere. This is a dark, dark comedy - perhaps a bit too heavy on the dark. This is Seth Rogen's movie. Everyone else is merely a distraction from him. It's a brave performance. Rogen is a likable guy. His mall cop is not all that likable. He wants to be liked, so at least he's moving in the right direction. It's sometimes too sad to see him trying so hard to be liked, to useful, and loved. Hence the dark in the dark comedy. The best laughs are from the physical comedy. Rogen tearing down opponents on the police academy obstacle course was hilarious. And though it was crude and obscene, the final chase and subsequent shooting at the end were just the sort of absurdist water the fish shenanigans I hoped for. I expected less, and they went further at that moment (for once successfully). The plot is slight and doesn't stretch far. The key is Rogen, who mines his awkward a-hole asides for light chuckles. But a one-man-light-chuckle band does not for a great movie make. The talent is there: Michael Pena has one or two good scenes but mostly falls flat as Rogen's right hand man; Anna Faris is an all-too-familiar slut and tease party girl; and Ray Liotta is a detective pushed past any tolerance of buffoonery. But these are one note characters. And though Rogen's mall cop is beyond abrasive - he at least has an arc, a motive, and intriguing qualities. By the time the tidy bow is tied at the end, he grew on me. The movie had not.


Fast and Loose

updates with corrections to be made later