Archive for the Kelly Laymon Reviews Category

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, Magic with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by knifefighter

INCREDIBLY ENJOYABLE!  POOF!
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon

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The war between old school magic and the extreme magic of today is explored with humor in THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE, which opened on Friday, March 15th.

As kids, the future Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) bonded, became friends, and enjoyed the magic kits and videos of Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).  Now, as adults, they’ve hit the big time as Vegas headliners at Bally’s, but have grown tired of each other.

When an extreme street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) enters the scene with his series called “Brain Rapist”, the audience for Burt and Anton dwindles…and dwindles…until they are canned after a series of misadventures while attempting to keep up with the times.

Everyone goes their separate ways for a bit.  Anton does some humanitarian work in a third world country.  Burt, desperate for a job, starts doing magic shows at a retirement home.  Who does he find there?  His hero, Rance Holloway!  Everything falls into place and Burt and Anton begin to rediscover their “magic” for a final battle with Steve Gray.

Steve Gray’s routine is clearly based on David Blaine/Criss Angel types.  Burt and Anton’s act is unbearably corny.  Their hair and costumes are very Siegfried and Roy.  It’s the kind of magic show that definitely would NOT go over in this day and age.  It’s hard to believe it would take a Blaine/Angel type to knock them down after Penn & Teller redefined magic shows over thirty years ago.  To boot, at their Bally’s show, Burt and Anton enter the stage to The Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” and some truly cringe-worthy choreography.

With a cast this solid, it’s hard to go too wrong.  And it doesn’t go wrong!  I’m having a hard time recalling the most recent time Steve Carell sucked in a project.  (Other than his final two seasons on NBC’s THE OFFICE, of course.)  Steve Buscemi is great fun to see in a comedic role larger than his standard cameos in Adam Sandler flicks.

I’ve always been a fan of Alan Arkin, but the way he’s made up as his character had me convinced he was Rip Torn.  During the end credits, I kept wondering where Rip Torn’s name was and who the hell Alan Arkin played.  Duh.

Olivia Wilde, who I never understood the appeal of and never found memorable, has a nice role as Stagehand Jane, who ends up being thrown into Burt and Anton’s pre-cancellation show as the sexy assistant, although she turns out to be a magic nerd and fine magician herself.

There are some nice little bit parts.  Gillian Jacobs (COMMUNITY, NBC) has a small part as one of Burt’s kooky sexual conquests.  James Gandolfini isn’t all that entertaining as a Donald Trump-esque casino owner, though.  Brad Garrett, who actually owns a comedy club in Vegas, and Jay Mohr have small roles, and David Copperfield has a cameo.

It’s worth noting that BURT WONDERSTONE was co-written by John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the very funny HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011) and is part of the old-“FREAKS-&-GEEKS-made-good” gang.

All in all, I found the film to be very funny and enjoyable.  Aside from the great cast and writing, I’m also a sucker for Vegas culture and magic.  I’m not making a 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005) joke about magic camp when I say that I have a scar under my chin from an accident at magic camp as a kid.  (One of two scars now…)  I was a bit surprised that David Copperfield was the only Vegas magician with a cameo.  Where was The Amazing Jonathan?  To discuss the sight gags or further plot points would ruin the fun, so I won’t.  There’s nothing deep.  There’s nothing super-raunchy.  But if you just want to enjoy about 90 minutes and have some serious chuckles…

I’d give this Five Knives, but…<waves hands> one disappeared.  Poof!  So, Four it is!

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

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RUN AND HIDE SUNDAY GIRL (PART 1)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , , on March 12, 2013 by knifefighter

RUN AND HIDE SUNDAY GIRL (PART I)
By Kelly Laymon

I’m not one to constantly beat the Lady Drum, though I would if I could…as often as possible. I was supposed to be writing a review of 21 AND OVER (which opened on March 1, 2013), but between dealing with moving crap and my wacky laptop that reboots itself whenever it wants and erases my files along the way, I’ve lost more than I’ve written.

While attempting to re-create yet another incarnation of my review of 21 AND OVER, I gave up. And MONSTER-IN-LAW (2005) happened to be on TV on Superstation TBS. What is up with that nonsense? Are women really that obsessed with marriage and being a little princess for one day?

I’m not an always-offended-feminist who gets bent out of shape each time a woman mentions marriage, but when it’s executed so poorly…I have a problem with that. It’s unfunny and cartoonish garbage and, in this case, wastes whatever talent we may remember that Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez have. The only saving grace of MONSTER-IN-LAW is getting to look at Michael Vartan. Anything he has to offer is wasted in this, but he was so charming in the fairly decent NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999).

Michael Vartan in NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999).

Michael Vartan in NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999).

And it’s not the only horrible wedding romantic comedy Jennifer Lopez has given to this world. Jennifer Lopez was in THE WEDDING PLANNER (2001). It’s not Matthew McConaughey’s best work, but it’s also not his worst. Both of those films make me long for the days of OUT OF SIGHT (1998), when Jennifer Lopez was, ya know, actually really good in really good films. And makes me wish that McConaughey would either stick to playing Southern lawyers or, well, sleazy owners of male strip clubs in Florida.

Take that Katherine Heigl train wreck, 27 DRESSES (2008). Katherine Heigl is less than a year older than I am. In 2008, she would have been about 29-30-ish. And she’s been a bridesmaid 27 times? And, judging by one of the only two decent parts of the film where they show the myriad themes of the weddings she’s participated in, they’ve all been since college or so. Between 22 and 29 she’s been a bridesmaid 27 times? My god, I’m almost 34 and haven’t even attended 27 weddings yet, much less been a bridesmaid.

Granted, we have to play along now and then, but…c’mon.

The only wedding film I identify with is THE WEDDING CRASHERS (2005). But maybe I just identify with Owen Wilson’s hair, Vince Vaughn’s snappy talkin’, and gettin’ drunk at a party where it’s all totally cool. But the humor in that film revolved AROUND the weddings, not as much about GETTING married.

Owen Wilson's hair in THE WEDDING CRASHERS (2005).

Owen Wilson’s hair in THE WEDDING CRASHERS (2005).

See ya’ll Cinema Knife Fighters after that BURT WONDERSTONE deal, which I have a feeling I’ll have a lot to say about since I’m a huge magic nerd, a huge Steve Buscemi fan, and a decent Steve Carell fan who admires John Francis Daley. But that one looks like it could go either way. We’ll see!

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

IDENTITY THIEF (2013)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Raunchy Fun, Slapstick with tags , , , , on February 13, 2013 by knifefighter

Steal This Movie!  Please!
Review by Kelly Laymon

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IDENTITY THIEF, released on Friday, February 8, 2013, serves up a familiar formula: the odd couple road trip movie.  With an angle for current events, we find stable family man Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman) receiving a phone call from “Diana” (Melissa McCarthy) notifying him that his identity has been compromised and needs all of his information for a LifeLock type of service.  However, THAT is “Diana’s” ploy to get the necessary details to create credit cards, a license to drive, etc..

As the real Sandy is preparing to leave his current job to join a start-up by his fellow angry co-workers (and expecting a third child with his wife), Diana-Sandy is on a shopping spree.  And drinking spree.  And fighting spree.  When the police show up at Sandy’s brand new office because he missed his court date (and they see the mug shot), the pieces start falling together.  His credit card is then declined at the gas station, and so on.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that Sandy works in finance and being trusted with money is key to his ability to keep his brand new job.

Because of stupid jurisdiction rules and regulations, the police won’t take care of the situation.  So, Sandy decides to fly down to Florida, catch this criminal, and get her back to Colorado so he can clear his name.  On top of pissing off Sandy, she has also run afoul of some black market identity sellers and has a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) after her.

And, as I always like to say, wackiness and hilarity ensue.

In my THIS IS 40 (2012) review, I described Melissa McCarthy as having a comedy style that beats viewers over the head.  That description is even more true in this case.  If Melissa McCarthy was in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992), her motto would be, “ABM (Get it?  A BM?) – Always Be Mugging if you want the big laughs.”  Most of her gags rely on ridiculous physical comedy, whether it’s getting bonked on the head Three Stooges-style or an insane car crash.

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By the same token, we have an unusually restrained performance (take that with a grain or two of NaCl) by Eric Stonestreet as one of McCarthy’s sexual conquests.  Stonestreet is most popularly known as Cam from MODERN FAMILY (ABC), where he vacillates between over-the-top and slightly less over-the-top.

That’s not to say there aren’t some clever lines.  I found most of the humor in Bateman’s dry, sarcastic, slow-burn, which he does so well.  Even in lesser fare like IDENTITY THIEF and THE CHANGE-UP (2011), Bateman’s always worth it. However, don’t let the comparisons to MIDNIGHT RUN (1988) and PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) fool you.

I have a feeling that a person’s enjoyment of this film hinges on how much that person loves Melissa McCarthy.  In my case, I enjoyed her in 2011’s BRIDESMAIDS.  However, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with much I didn’t enjoy about that film.  I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of her TV series, MIKE & MOLLY (CBS), but I’ll give her credit that she does an admirable job with some truly terrible material on that show.  In this film, she’s too much.  For me, “too much” doesn’t always equal funny.

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

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THIS IS 40 and THE GUILT TRIP (2012)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Judd Apatow, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , , , , on January 8, 2013 by knifefighter

REVISITING 40, WITH A SIDE ORDER OF THE GUILT TRIP
By Kelly Laymon

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With THIS IS 40 (released on Friday, December 21, 2012), writer-director Judd Apatow revisits some familiar territory: Deb and Pete from his 2007 hit KNOCKED UP. The two were played by Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, and even KNOCKED UP left us feeling less of those two was more. Other than that family (Rudd, Apatow’s wife Mann, and their two children) and a few bit players such as Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi reprising their KNOCKED UP roles, there’s little else connecting the two films. There is a passing reference to Seth Rogen’s character, Ben, about how some pot cookies ended up in their possession. Other than that, Ben and Allison (Katherine Heigl’s character) are mostly forgotten. Not even Joanna Kerns returns as Allison and Deb’s mother, whereas John Lithgow shows up as their father.

THIS IS 40 finds us back at Debbie and Pete’s house, along with their two children, played by Mann and Apatow’s real life daughters. It is the week both Deb and Pete turn 40. Of course, Mann’s character is in a comedic level of denial and demanding to be 38. Pete has left Sony since KNOCKED UP and is running his own very niche independent label, with some wacky employees, which is struggling. Deb has opened a trendy clothing and jewelry boutique and has wacky employees. Those wacky employees are made up of, in no particular order, Lena Dunham, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, and Charlyne Yi.

I predicted THIS IS 40. When FUNNY PEOPLE (2009) was a critical and commercial bomb, I knew his next film would be a study in overly safe mediocrity. Rather than feeling like a single coherent thought, the film plays more like a sitcom. Punchline, punchline, boom, boom, boom. If ayou watch Judd Apatow’s DVDs, he often includes an extra called “Line-O-Rama,” which gives us a series of different punchlines or reactions to the same joke or punchline. Only this time, he included much of the blooper reel in the actual film. Each time he used two of three punchlines for the same observation, I wanted to scream. “You Know How I Know You’re Gay” was classic in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005), but I don’t need that style of joke repeated over and over. That style of comedy and editing can be used sparingly. Don’t overdo it. One of the main strengths of Judd Apatow-related comedies is the realistic dialogue that sounds like you and your buddies. THIS IS 40 is a bit too punchline-driven and sitcom-ish. I found myself constantly pulled out of it by the attempts at laughs.

As I mentioned, there are a few solid cameos by comedic actors such as Melissa McCarthy, O’Dowd, and Dunham. But if you don’t really like Melissa McCarthy or Lena Dunham, it’s wasted. Lena Dunham’s as funny as a warm mushy bowl of Corn Flakes. And Melissa McCarthy bashes you on your head with her loud style of “humor”. Chris O’Dowd’s small part as one of Rudd’s co-workers is one of the most well-used cameos. Megan Fox serves almost no purpose beyond highlighting Mann’s childless and happenin’ potential and serving a D-level plotpoint. Everything else felt like there was too much, and yet too little. If the DVD has a great five hour cut, I’ll back-step.

I felt like I was being rushed from one “funny” scene to another “funny” scene, connection to reality be damned. Perhaps it is because of that rush from funny-to-funny that the two hour and fifteen minute film didn’t feel that long. It speeds by.

I didn’t feel the heart that I did with, say, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, FUNNY PEOPLE, or the Apatow-produced FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008) or BRIDESMAIDS (2011). Or even the fantastic, yet non-Apatow I LOVE YOU, MAN (2009). THIS IS 40 didn’t have the emotional and grounded whole, like the others.

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On the other hand, I also went out and saw THE GUILT TRIP on that opening weekend. If you’d like to enjoy some light humor that’s a bit more clever than your standard fare, THE GUILT TRIP is worth it.

In THE GUILT TRIP, Seth Rogen plays an organic chemist who has created a completely safe and green cleaning solvent. Due to an ice cream confessional with his mother, played by Barbara Streisand, he decides to include her on his big cross-country sales pitch trip.

Of course, they butt heads and wackiness ensues. Drunken bar fights, helpful strippers, a steak eating challenge, visits with past loves, etc.. But the laughs are more genuine, even if the set-ups are pretty standard “odd couple” problems. They still don’t feel as forced and overplayed as in THIS IS 40. Sure, the ending is easily seen coming up Broadway on New Year’s Eve, but it’s still satisfying. And any grown adult in their thirties who’s had their mother yell at them in public about “that mouth and language” will appreciate the very real squabbles mothers and their grown children get into.

Don’t enter either film with grand expectations. THE GUILT TRIP, however, is the more enjoyable of the two.

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

THE WATCH (2012)

Posted in 2012, Aliens, Comedies, Controverisal Films, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , , , on July 30, 2012 by knifefighter

THE WATCH (2012)
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One!  Four Dumb Guys Find An Alien…
Review by Kelly Laymon

It’s been a rough week or so for cinema and film nerds.  On top of the massacre in Colorado at THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), THE WATCH carries some unfortunate connotations.  Originally titled NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, the studio changed the title and original ad campaign due to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida back in late February.  And there are some lines I laughed at due to how ill-fitting they were in light of recent events.  (They were funny lines that will still be funny once we’re a bit more removed from the situation, but this was more of a cringe-laugh.)  Especially some scenes that relate to Jonah Hill’s character, who is a local police academy reject.

That being said, the plot of THE WATCH has little to do with reality.  Ben Stiller plays the manager of a Costco store where the overnight watchman has been murdered in an unusual fashion.  This is where Stiller slips into his semi-regular character of The Uptight Control Freak Guy Who’s Obsessed With Fitness and starts a local neighborhood watch chapter.  The turn-out of rag-tag weirdos…you can see them coming up Sunset Boulevard.

Vince Vaughn also slips into his almost-constant character of The Fast Talking Wise-Ass Who Just Wants To Party, Baby.  And, of course, Jonah Hill as the angry young police academy reject and pervy cop wannabe.  There are subtle jokes about how helpful it is to have a man of color, Richard Ayoade, rounding out the team.

They bust some silly teens, party, bond, get made fun of by the local PD, etc., as they close in on what turns out to be an alien conspiracy, which is occurring in the basement of the Costco.  To say much more about the plot isn’t really necessary.  The humor comes from four dopey guys acting like The Hardy Boys, and their throwaway lines.  When the guys in a film like this talk and reason with situations like me and my buddies would, I have a good time.

To be honest, I went in expecting a slightly better version of an Adam Sandler flick.  I was wrong.  This is actually pretty funny.  It’s not the kind of comedy that’s going to strike an emotional chord.  Nothing much will resonate with real life and you probably won’t develop a deeper appreciation for it with repeated viewings.  It’s not FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008), THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005), TED (2012) or FUNNY PEOPLE (2009).  That being said, it’s still solid entertainment.  I’d put it on at one of my small gatherings for background laughs.

THE WATCH was originally going to be called NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, but the name was changed due to recent unfortunate events.

Okay.  Let’s start with the good: the cast.  As I hinted at earlier, everyone plays to their strengths and types, especially Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill.  I run hot and cold on Stiller, mostly cold.  However, it’s no secret that I enjoy Vaughn and Hill a great deal.  If Vaughn only ever really plays varying versions of Trent from SWINGERS (1996), I’ll still be smiling.  Hill’s had an up and down year, what with an Oscar nomination for MONEYBALL (2011), the slightly-better-than-mediocre THE SITTER (2011), and some decent success with the 21 JUMP STREET (2012) adaptation.  Having only been aware of Richard Ayoade by name only, I didn’t know what to expect from him.  I am now a fan.

The bad?  Well, my favorite incarnation of “the anti-funny,” Will Forte, has a small role.  Why is he in every movie or TV show I watch?  When will we all agree that this guy is NOT funny?  Haven’t half of my reviews been marred by having to mention this guy?  He’s about as funny as stepping on a broken bottle at the beach.

Also on the bad side: two fairly unnecessary plotlines that didn’t add much humor to the overall film.  In fact, the two subplots tried to add unnecessary depth to a film that should have just relied on the humor and the strengths of the cast members.  The subplots?  Vaughn has an ongoing feud with his teenage daughter about…teenage daughter issues, while Stiller and his wife (played by Rosemarie DeWitt) are suffering from infertility.  Sure, these subplots grab some laughs, but they aren’t needed.

I’ll give this a loose three and a half knives.  With a different cast, it could’ve been awful.  But Vaughn’s party boy and Hill’s loose cannon make it worth it.  If you don’t like those two guys and their style, you might prefer something else.

© Copyright 2012 by Kelly Laymon

Kelly Laymon gives THE WATCH ~three and a half knives.

TED (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adult Fairy Tales, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Fantasy, Kelly Laymon Reviews, LL Soares Reviews, Michael Arruda Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Raunchy Fun with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TED (2012)
Movie Review by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and (Special Guest Star) Kelly Laymon

(THE SCENE: A toy store. L.L. SOARES is standing in front of a shelf full of talking teddy bears, activating them all to talk in unison, when MICHAEL ARRUDA comes down the aisle)

TEDDY BEARS: You are the best critic! You are the best critic!

L.L. SOARES (waving his arms around like a conductor): Well, of course I am. Nice to see you bears are not only really good at the verbal thing. You’re smart, too.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: How do you know they’re not talking about me?

LS: Because you just got here, and they’ve been singing my praises for the past 15 minutes.

MA: Well, if praise from talking teddy bears floats your boat, you can have it. (laughs) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, L.L. Soares is the best critic around, 50 teddy bears say it’s so!

(One of the teddy bears kicks MA in the head.)

MA: Why, you little—! (grabs bear by the throat just as a little boy and his mom walk by.)

LITTLE BOY: Mommy, what is that man doing to that teddy bear?

MOM: Come on, son. Let’s go tell the manager.

MA: Wait a minute. I was just defending myself. This bear— (The Bear kicks him in the head again.) See? Did you see that?

LS (shaking his head): You’re mean.

MA: Me? If this bear had kicked you, you would have ripped its head off!

LS: Sure I would have. But it kicked you.

MA: So it did. (Kicks the bear football style over the shelf to the next aisle somewhere.) And now I have kicked it out of here. Wasn’t Kelly Laymon supposed to be joining us today?

LS: She’s probably hiding because you’re so mean.

MA (sarcastically): Ha, ha!

KELLY LAYMON: What’s all the commotion going on?

LS: Look folks, it’s Kelly Laymon!

(Cue audience to applaud)

LS: Glad you could make it. Did you have trouble finding us?

KL: I heard you guys from the other side of the store. What’s going on? Is Arruda causing a ruckus again?  He’d better not be touching my Pooh bears.

LS: Yep, I can’t take him  anywhere!

MA (rolls eyes): This is going to be a long day. Anyway, we’re not here to play with toys, we’re here to review the new movie, TED (2012), starring Mark Wahlberg.

LS: Oh yeah, that’s why we’re here. I almost forgot. (to Kelly) Are you still up for reviewing the movie with us?

KL: Sure! But why does this Knife Fight feel like a three-way? Are we riding the tricycle?

You know, I can’t wait to talk about this movie. TED made me want to race home to my Pooh bear doll and rip a giant bong-load with him.

MA: That’s— nice. Anyway, these stuffed bears have been singing L.L.’s praises, and he’s about to prove how good a critic he is and start us off.

LS: Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do.

TED begins in 1985, introducing us to Johnny Bennett, a little boy who has no friends, so he makes a wish on Christmas night, wishing that the new teddy bear he just got as a gift would come to life and be his friend. Frankly, this kid seems a little old to be wanting a teddy bear as a present. And he seems a little simple-minded in his belief in wishes. But hey, let’s move on.

So—guess what? you guessed it! —his wish comes true and the teddy bear comes to life and the kid tells him “I’m going to call you Teddy!” which just proves my point that the kid is a little soft in the head. Not only does Teddy become his best friend, he also becomes something of a celebrity as word gets out about this amazing talking teddy bear.

But like all trendy reality stars who don’t really have any other talents besides being famous, poor Teddy eventually becomes a has-been. But he doesn’t care, because he’s still got Johnny. Of course, when we’re reintroduced to them, now as adults, they’re called John and Ted.

KL: Am I the only freak who cried through those first eight minutes?  Seriously.  I sobbed like a bitch.  I want a Ted doll. Not the pristine one that little Johnny gets for Christmas when he’s eight years old. I want the dingy version with the little worn spots where his fur’s almost gone.

LS: Maybe Uncle Michael will buy you one. (laughs)

Anyway, John, now in his 30s, has become Mark Wahlberg. And Ted, who had a little kid kind of voice when he was a kid, now sounds exactly like Peter Griffin from the FOX animated show, FAMILY GUY. Maybe this is because Seth MacFarlane, who created FAMILY GUY, and does Peter Griffin’s voice, also does Ted’s voice. I guess MacFarlane doesn’t have a lot of range as a voice artist, because instead of coming up with something new for TED, he just uses the same old voice he always uses. And if you’re wondering why the guy from FAMILY GUY is doing Ted’s voice, that’s because MacFarlane also directed, and was one of the writers of, TED.

KL: See, I’ve been torn on Seth McFarlane since day one. I’ve never been able to get into FAMILY GUY, but I’ve always found the guy funny and interesting in interviews. So that’s one reason why I was really looking forward to TED.

As someone who likes raunchy comedies, yet cries like a baby at TOY STORY 3 (2010), I had a hunch that this would finally be right up my alley.

LS: So have these two changed much by becoming adults? Well, John and Ted are constantly smoking bongs, drinking shots, and getting into all kinds of mischief. This doesn’t go over very well with Lori (Mila Kunis), who has been dating John for four years and is getting a little tired of waiting for him to grow up. She’s also getting tired of Ted being always around, since he lives with John (Where else is talking teddy bear going to live?).

MA: It didn’t go over very well with me, either. I kept thinking, why do I care about these guys? They’re a couple of losers.

(One of the bears leaps at MA, but MA side-steps the lunging bear, and the stuffed animal crashes into a pile of LEGOS instead.)

LS: To prove he’s a responsible adult, John agrees to find Ted an apartment somewhere else, so he and Lori can have more time alone. But the two buddies are still always hanging out together. Can John get his act together in time to save his relationship with Lori? And can Ted make it on his own?

These are just some of the questions that TED then proceeds to answer for us.

MA: Who cares? Which is the primary problem with this movie.

LS: Who cares? I care! That’s why I go to the movies, to care.

MA: Seriously, if the characters don’t do anything for me, I’m not going to care about them.

LS: Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

KL: I cared!  I’m a borderline plushie!  Or is it furry?  I think it’s plushie.

MA: This is really going to be a long night!

LS: There are lots of supporting characters, too, like Matt Walsh as Thomas, John’s boss at a rental car company, who is trying to groom the irresponsible John to take his place when he gets promoted. Walsh is most currently the Vice President’s aide, Mike McLintock, on the new HBO comedy, VEEP, but he was also on lots of other TV shows, as well as having roles in movies like OLD SCHOOL (2003), THE HANGOVER (2009) and DUE DATE (2010). And Patrick Warburton (probably best known as Puddy from SEINFELD, The Tick from the short-lived live-action series THE TICK (2001- 2002) and currently Jeff on the CBS sitcom RULES OF ENGAGEMENT) as Guy, a co-worker of John’s who seems very confused about his sexuality.

MA: Yes, Warburton is very funny in what amounts to a very small role, but he makes the most of it.

LS: Yes he does! You know, I always liked Warburton and thought he’d be a bigger star. This movie proves how great he is. He has a little tiny role, and he’s funny and memorable. Give this guy his own movie already!!

MA: Calm down.

LS: See, I told you—I care. Anyway, at Lori’s job, her boss Rex (played by Joel McHale, currently the star of the NBC comedy series COMMUNITY and formerly the host of the E! Channel show, THE SOUP) is a sleazy rich guy who keeps hitting on her, even though he knows she has a boyfriend.

There’s also a really creepy father and son (Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks, respectively) who have their eye on Ted. They approach John in the park one day, offering to buy Ted from him (but he’s not for sale, he’s alive!) and who never seem very far away after that.

KL: Well, while I like Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi, McHale is wasted in a role far too similar to his much more complex narcissistic semi-jerk from COMMUNITY.

Giovanni Ribisi is one of my few favorite child stars who I still enjoy. (He’s in there with Jason Bateman and Neil Patrick Harris.) Ribisi is NOT wasted. He takes The Creepy Factor and ups it. He has a disturbing little dance scene that ranks up there with Ted Levine in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) and Michael Madsen in RESERVOIR DOGS (1992).

MA: I didn’t find it creepy. I just found it plain goofy.

KL:  Hmmm.  I got a serious “ick” off of that scene.

LS: I dunno, I liked McHale as the sleazy boss and Ribisi as the creepy stalker guy.

But not everything about TED worked for me. First off, I don’t think Mark Walhberg is all that great a choice here. He has been good in funny movies in smaller roles, but seems kind of bland to be the main guy in a comedy like this. He just isn’t a natural comedian. There are times when his cluelessness kind of works, though. Remember, Johnny seemed a little soft in the head earlier in the movie, so maybe this makes sense. But I still wish they’d hired someone funnier to be the star of this movie.

MA: In general, I think I like Wahlberg more than you. I didn’t have a problem with him in this movie, as I thought his performance worked just fine. The problem I had was with the character of John. He’s not a particularly likeable guy. I didn’t hate him by any means, but let’s put it this way, he wasn’t the type of guy I’d want to hang out with.

LS: You know, that’s true. I’m not a big Wahlberg guy. Maybe it was the atrocity called the PLANET OF THE APES remake (2001) that really turned me off to the guy, I don’t know. But even though I think he’s miscast here, and they could have hired someone funnier, he does kind of grow on me as the movie progresses. I at least find it believable that he would care about Ted and really want to hang out with him all the time. Hell, by the middle of the movie, I didn’t really mind him anymore.

And as for you not wanting to hang out with John and Ted—you gotta be kidding me! Those guys look like wicked fun!

MA: They looked like a couple of losers to me.

KL: I’ve always liked Wahlberg. THREE KINGS (1999), THE DEPARTED (2006), and BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) are three of my favorite films. However, he hadn’t done much comedy until the past couple of years. His small role in DATE NIGHT (2010) was memorable, but he was the saving grace in THE OTHER GUYS (2010). His tough guy sarcasm was the only thing that kept me hanging on in the face of Will Ferrell.

LS: As for Ted himself, he’s kind of amazing. He’s a CGI creation who seems pretty flawless. Since he’s a teddy bear come to life, he doesn’t have to look like a real person, and the way he moves is pretty great. The voice thing bugged me a little bit, since we’ve heard this same voice many times before, but after a while, it didn’t bother me as much. I think the character is actually pretty cool.

KL: The detail on the bear and his animation were solid. He didn’t look too much like a CGI cartoon. His facial expressions and reactions were always perfect, so expressive.

MA: Yeah, Ted is very funny, and nearly all his jokes work. The problem is he’s stuck in a movie with a predictable plot and unlikeable, boring characters.

LS: Mila Kunis is on a hot streak, and she’s good here as the hot girlfriend who loves John, but wants someone more responsible. She’s not in the movie to be funny, but she does a good job as the “straight man” here, and Walhberg and MacFarlane play off her well.

KL: Yep, Mila Kunis is blessed to be so likable in every comedy she’s in. Her role here as The Girlfriend With The Ultimatum could come off as a real bitch, but manages not to.

LS: Yeah, I dig her.

MA: Really? I thought she was completely, utterly boring.

LS: Boring? Maybe there’s something wrong with your eyesight, boyo. I could just look at her and that would be enough. She doesn’t have to say a word.

MA: I didn’t say I didn’t like to look at her. I said her character was boring.

LS: She didn’t bore me.

MA: I did find a couple of other supporting characters funny, though. I really liked Jessica Barth as Ted’s girlfriend Tami-Lynn. The scene where she tells off Lori over dinner during their double date is one of the funnier bits in the movie.

LS: Yeah! I thought she was great!

KL: Am I an idiot?  I had to Google Tammi-Lynn because I was convinced that was Denise Richards.

MA: I also enjoyed Bill Smitrovich in a small role as the manager of the supermarket where Ted works. His brief scenes with Ted had the audience laughing out loud. Smitrovich played the Vice President in the ill-fated TV show, THE EVENT.

LS: Oh yeah! He rocked, too! I loved all his scenes. What a great boss!

There’s also a long segment of the film where John and Ted meet their childhood hero, Sam J. Jones himself, star of the 1980 version of FLASH GORDON, at a party, which is one of my favorite parts of the movie (Jones is actually pretty funny and very cool here).

MA: Yeah, that was the funniest sequence of the whole movie, the party scene with Sam Jones. I enjoyed all the 80s references, from ALIENS to T.J. HOOKER, they were all pretty funny, but the Sam Jones/FLASH GORDON stuff was the funniest.

LS: You better believe it! In the universe of this movie, I believed, without a doubt, that Sam Jones was the coolest guy on the planet. I wanted to hang out with the guy, too! That’s called good direction.

MA: I wouldn’t go that far.

KL: Well, I disagree. I enjoyed the FLASH GORDON stuff, but I thought many of the pop culture jokes missed the mark. A lot of them seemed to be thrown in unnecessarily and randomly. That’s one of the gags that has prevented me from getting into McFarlane’s FAMILY GUY. I’d like to see him tone that down a bit.

LS: Well, to set the record straight, Michael is the one who raved about those 80s references. I just wanted to do shots with Sam Jones!

MA: I didn’t quite get the running gag about Tom Skerritt. I’m assuming it had to do with his appearance in TOP GUN (1986)? I forgot he was even in that movie, but that’s because I’ve blocked that movie from my consciousness.

LS: I’ve actually avoided seeing it somehow, maybe it’s my Tom Cruise allergy, although I may correct that. TOP GUN sounds campy as hell.

MA: TOP GUN was about as shallow and boring as the TWILIGHT movies. That’s my memory of it.

LS: But seriously, I didn’t really “get” the Skerritt thing, either. But I think that’s the point. Everyone thinks he’s such a big star and that they’re cool for knowing him, and he’s not that big a deal. The line Skerritt says toward the end, though, is hilarious.

To any dopey parents who want to bring their kids to see TED – it’s rated R for a reason!

MA: And let’s not forget, for the STAR TREK fans, Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, serves as the narrator in this one.

LS: Yeah, he does a good job.

The movie actually had some similarities to the FX series WILFRED (which is itself a remake of an Australian version of the series), where Elijah Wood sees his neighbor’s dog as a man in the dog suit, and the two of them are always sitting on the couch, smoking bongs, much like John and Ted. TED is much more than that (and it’s funnier), but I thought the similarities of these scenes were interesting.

There were some scenes where I didn’t laugh much at all, and other scenes where I laughed a lot, but despite my complaints, I liked this movie for the most part. Enough of it works to make it an enjoyable comedy.

I give it three knives out of five. This is exactly the kind of movie that I think will grow on me more over time, and I’ll like it even better.

KL: I liked it a lot, too.

All in all, it’s also a sweet little movie, without being too heavy-handed about life lessons or messages.

MA: Wow. Of all the words I could have used to describe this movie, “sweet” isn’t one of them.

KL: You have a heart of iron, Arruda!

LS (starts to sing in a deep voice): You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!…

KL: But there were some things I didn’t like…

Something that I can’t stand in films is when a character takes to a stage in a public place to sing to the angry boyfriend or girlfriend to try to win them back or say sorry. That ridiculous stunt always pulls me right out of the film and makes me roll my eyes.

LS: I hate that, too. I just figured it’s a good time to get some popcorn.

KL: However, the Norah Jones cameo and material was funny. She shot up a few notches in my book for being a great sport.

I’ll give it a solid four knives. The only reason I can’t give it five is because of that ridiculous singing stunt that I hate like poison each time I see it. Also for the overdone “Where Are They Now?” end credits round-up. Other than that, the whole thing worked for me.

MA: Yeah, I didn’t like that end credits round-up either. I thought it was lame.

LS: Me, too.

MA: I laughed at some things but not at others, like you said earlier, L.L., but when all was said and done, I guess I liked it less than both of you did.

Here’s my problem with TED—the jokes for the most part, especially the 1980s references, work and they’re all pretty funny, but the story this movie tells is lame, dull, and cliché, and the characters aren’t likeable, and so I didn’t really care about them. I could care less if John and Lori get together or not. I was hoping they’d just break up so the movie could move on and forget about them. They were two very unlikeable characters.

LS: I don’t think so at all. I liked them both.

MA: As a result, while I laughed frequently during this movie, but I didn’t really enjoy it.

And for a movie about a talking Teddy bear, it wasn’t all that imaginative. I kept wondering, why was Ted attracted to human women? He’s a  teddy bear. Shouldn’t he be attracted to other stuffed animals? Likewise, why were human women attracted to him?

LS: Because it’s funny! HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) —okay, awful movie, but great character from the comics— dated a human woman, too. It works. It’s a funny idea—a funny animal banging a human woman.

MA: If you say so. There were creative paths this movie could have taken but didn’t. It was too interested in making jokes about getting high and farting.

Speaking of which, I thought some of the vulgar jokes misfired. For example, what the hookers leave on the floor of the apartment didn’t make me laugh one bit. All it did was make me stop eating my popcorn. Vulgarities can be funny sometimes, don’t get me wrong. So, where do I draw the line? Well, if it makes me laugh, then I’m good with it. In this movie, a lot of these scenes weren’t making me laugh.

KL: The humor is raunchy. Really raunchy. The guy sitting behind me brought his ten-year-old son to the showing I attended. I wondered if the guy was slightly misinformed and thrown off by the cute teddy bear.

MA: Oops!

LS: Actually I think the guy was just plain stupid. How hard is it to find out about a movie these days before you see it? You can check it out on the Internet in like two seconds and find out why it’s rated R.

KL: The kid laughed through the whole thing, but I did a few double takes as the kid whooped it up at the sex jokes. I’m not sure if I hoped the kid didn’t know what some of those terms meant or not.

LS: I don’t know, I guess it was kind of raunchy, but after a while, I didn’t notice it anymore.

And I thought the “present” the hooker left behind tried more to be a “shocking funny” moment than a laugh-out-loud funny moment. I’m okay with that. But hey, not all the jokes were for us. I’m not a big fan of fart jokes myself, but I know people in the audience I saw this with laughed their asses off whenever there was a fart joke. C’est la vie.

MA: I also didn’t like the subplot about the obsessive guy and the little boy trying to kidnap Ted. I thought it was the worst part of the movie.

LS: I thought that worked fine—the scene in their house was really creepy, and I liked it, especially Ribisi was dancing to an old Tiffany video, that cracked me up—but I wish Ted had kicked that creepy boy’s butt.

MA: The movie takes place in Boston, and the city looks great! There’s even a chase scene in Fenway Park, although this scene bugged me. In trying to rescue Ted, John and Lori in effect break into Fenway Park at night. Afterwards, they’re back home, no problem, even though we see the police on the scene. You’re caught trespassing at Fenway Park by the Boston Police and you’re not arrested? Yeah, that’s realistic!

LS: Yeah, you got it…And a talking teddy bear. Yeah, that’s realistic!

MA: Even a movie about a talking teddy bear needs to have realism. Otherwise, it’s stupid.

LS: Not really.

Personally, I thought the Boston references were a double-edged sword. Since I’m from Boston, I thought a lot of those jokes were funny, and seeing a lot of locations that I know was interesting—but after a while it was just distracting me from the story. And if people are from outside of Boston, they’re not going to get the joke, which means a lot of the jokes aren’t going to work for them. I guess I’m just not a huge fan of “inside jokes” about a city of something. Hell, when a stand-up comedian says “Hey, how’s it going, Boston!” I wanna kick him in the nuts. Get on with the jokes!

MA: Well, I lived in Boston for 10 years, and I always enjoy seeing the city in a movie.

KL: I only lived there for four years, but the Boston scenery was a lot of fun. I had to stop myself from staring at the background to pick out familiar spots. And the climax at Fenway Park was a nice treat. It gave me flashbacks to the climax of THE TOWN (2010).

MA: Yep, I thought of THE TOWN too.

(LS snores)

MA: (nudges him): Wake up!

I saw TED in a packed theater, and the audience was very generous in their laughter. They laughed much more than I did. I can’t deny that I was disappointed with this movie.

LS: The audience I saw it with liked it a lot, too. Then again, where I saw it, they served beer.

MA: I expected a more complete movie, with the jokes balanced by a likeable story. TED isn’t balanced at all. Its jokes are stuck inside a lame plot that doesn’t go anywhere.

Wise-cracking Ted speaks like a foul-mouthed stand-up comedian, and at times, listening to him speak, that’s how I felt, as if I were at a comedy show listening to him perform, and you know what? That would have been more enjoyable.

I give TED two knives.

KL: A heart of iron, Arruda!

LS: Well, everybody’s entitled to their opinion. Including them. (Points to the army of talking Teddy Bears all wielding knives marching towards MA.)

BEARS (chanting as they approach MA): Kill, kill, kill!

LS: Hey, I really like these toys. I might buy a couple of them.

KL: I’ll stick with my Pooh bear, thank you very much!

MA (to BEARS): Are one of you guys named, Chucky? I really hate to do this, but sometimes, a guy has to do what a guy has to do.

LS: Of course.

(MA pulls out a machete and leaps at bears, striking them down just as the little boy, his mom, and the store manager appear.)

MANAGER (into walkie-talkie): Security to the Teddy Bear aisle.

MA: Wait a minute. I can explain. (To LS) Tell him.

LS: Tell him what, strange person? (to cops) I’ve never seen this man before in my life.

MA: Kelly?

KL: Those poor teddy bears! Do they wanna grab a drink later?

(Security arrives and arrests MA)

LS (to audience): Don’t worry. I’ll bail him out. Some day. (laughs.)

MA (off-camera): Take your stinking hands off me, you damned dirty Teddy Bear! It’s a madhouse!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Kelly Laymon

Michael Arruda gives TED~ two knives out of five!

LL Soares gives TED ~three knives!

Special Guest Reviewer Kelly Laymon gives TED ~four knives!

THAT’S MY BOY (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adam Sandler Movies, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2012 by knifefighter

If THAT’S MY BOY!…You Can Keep Him!
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon

Unlike most Adam Sandler comedies, I had slightly higher hopes for THAT’S MY BOY. The plot uses torn-from-the-headlines cases like Mary Kay Letourneau as a jumping-off point. We start with a thirteen year old Sandler in the mid-1980s embarking on a romantic and sexual relationship with one of his teachers. They get caught, she gets knocked up and sent to jail for 30 years, and he cashes in on the tabloid celebrity of his situation.

However, by 2012, the money has run out, he’s got almost 20 years of unpaid taxes, his car painted with a Rush logo is beat to shit, and he’s facing jail time if he can’t pony up $43,000 by the first business day after the Memorial Day holiday weekend. And, wouldn’t you just know it, his son, played by Andy Samberg, who he hasn’t seen since the kid turned 18 and went off on his own, is now a successful financial businessman…who also happens to be getting married that very weekend. The idea is to get his son to the prison where his school teacher mother is serving the 30 year sentence for a family reunion on a Jerry Springer-esque talk show.

Obviously, hilarity ensues. The loud and ill-mannered Sandler is an embarrassment around Samberg’s rich business associates. There’s some bonding over a slow-motion bachelor party full of wacky clichés, an overweight stripper, a stripper in a large neck brace, a blow job in the parking lot, etc.. And, of course, motives are discovered, feelings are betrayed, blah, blah, blah. I won’t explain anything from the final act because, aside from not giving away most of the ending, you’d think I was dropping acid in the theatre because things get…un-realistic. VERY un-realistic. Any cars that were still on the tracks after the first 90 minutes completely derailed by the end.

You can certainly count on bit parts from un-funny SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE cast members, such as Will Forte, Rachel Dratch, and Anna Gasteyer. Rounding out the barrage of un-funny is Nick Swardson, who seemed to be doing a terrible Danny McBride impression. Vanilla Ice has a significant role as himself and Todd Bridges has a cameo that lasts a few scenes.

The humor is all fairly juvenile and the dialogue and scenarios don’t have a shred of reality to them. When comedy isn’t grounded in a believable universe, it’s usually pretty lost on me. Rather than taking a real situation and drawing the humor out of it, this film plays like a bunch of “writers” sat around and tried to come up with “funny” kitchen sinks to throw in.

I enjoyed Sandler back in the SNL days, but his film career is getting to be more and more hit or miss. With 2009’s FUNNY PEOPLE, which I adored, he made fun of his career and the kinds of films he’d made. I wondered if perhaps he was seeing things clearly and wouldn’t make that kind of crap any longer. To his credit, he really commits to this lousy material.

One of the cool things, and, trust me, there aren’t many, is the uncanny similarity between the woman who plays the younger version of the school teacher and the present day version played by Susan Sarandon. It’s no coincidence. It’s not even just great casting. It’s her real-life daughter, Eva Amurri Martino. She has also played the younger version of Sarandon in DEAD MAN WALKING (1995) and has also played Sarandon’s daughter in THE BANGER SISTERS (2002).

All in all, two knives are more than plenty. There’s not much redeeming or humorous about this. If you want something totally mindless, watch it. But if you want to watch something in a similar vein, but much better, dig up THE HANGOVER (2009), THE WEDDING CRASHERS (2005), or OLD SCHOOL (2003). Those have genuine laughs and clever dialogue.

© Copyright 2012 by Kelly Laymon

Kelly Laymon  gives THAT’S MY BOY! ~ two knives!