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Out in Theaters: ‘BLOCKERS

Cockblocking. That thing one does, inadvertent or not, to impede the sexual congress of another. Just about anyone can be a cockblocker. The douchebag who stole your date. The overweight wingman paying way too much attention to her obviously interested friend. Your overbearing, sensitive dad. Anyone who desires, for a myriad of reasons, two people’s nether regions not to mate. Cockblocking can be fueled by jealousy. A sense of machismo competitiveness. Or your mom being driven into a state of controlling mania by the thought of you losing your flower on Prom night.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MY BLIND BROTHER’

In Sophie Goodhart‘s intentionally lackadaisical comedy My Blind Brother, Nick Kroll sharpens his post-television presence as unambitious deadbeat Bill whose doomed purpose in life is to be a seeing-eye underdog for his egotistical handicapable brother Robbie (Adam Scott). Complications arise when Bill and Robbie have eyes, er feelings, for the same girl, the spirited, wanna-be-do-gooder Rose (Jenny Slate). The result is a well-meaning, socially awkward meditation on the comedy of disability. Following the sacred rule book of Matt and Trey, either everything is fair game or nothing is and this mentality leads My Blind Brothers down some delightfully uncouth corridors. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING’

It was 2003 when I first stumbled across the The Lonely Island. Their rib-tickling send-up of soapy MTV teen dramas ‘The Bu’ played top billing on Channel 101, an off-color, online shorts fest where hungry filmmakers featured their work gratis for weirdos like myself to ingest. Credit Frazzles the Squirrel (and his unfaltering demand for removing and reapplying one’s 3D glasses) for inviting those curious few to investigate these Lonely Island boys down a certifiable rabbit hole of YouTube oddities starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. Preeminently awkward shorts from the Lonely Island trio included such deadpan standouts as ‘Just 2 Guyz” (later adapted into ‘We Like Sports’ for their 2009 album Incredibad), ‘The Backseatsman’ and ‘Ka-Blamo!’. After a momentous run on SNL that saw the three breach viral numbers with just about every digital short they dropped, Sandberg, Taccone and Schaffer have reunited for their second feature film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and have demonstrated that though their production value may be more refined and expensive than ever and their cameo catalogue infinitely more vast, their comedic stylings have adamantly refused to mature, a tendency which proves to be both a gift and a curse for The Lonely Island and their creative offspring.     Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘MY BLIND BROTHER’

In Sophie Goodhart‘s intentionally lackadaisical comedy My Blind Brother, Nick Kroll sharpens his post-television presence as unambitious deadbeat Bill whose doomed purpose in life is to be a seeing-eye underdog for his egotistical handicapable brother Robbie (Adam Scott). Complications arise when Bill and Robbie have eyes, er feelings, for the same girl, the spirited, wanna-be-do-gooder Rose (Jenny Slate). The result is a well-meaning, socially awkward meditation on the comedy of disability. Following the sacred rule book of Matt and Trey, either everything is fair game or nothing is and this mentality leads My Blind Brothers down some delightfully uncouth corridors. Read More

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Out in Theaters: 22 JUMP STREET

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A truly great comedy movie requires three things: pitch-perfect chemistry between its charismatic stars, a treasure trove of visual gags (preferably sans dongs, ball sacks, and/or fecal matter) and a waterfall of jokes that feel rightly organic; ad-libbed zingers that don’t come across like sweat-shop products whittled down by mouth-breathing jurors in some distant focus-lab. Overstuffed with these three golden characteristics, 22 Jump Street has all the makings of a comedy classic. A healthy improvement over the original, this higher budgeted follow-up chiefly takes on sequels and bromance in a deeply meta and surprisingly charming manner. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s saucy avenue for comedy is aptly winking and righteously unbarred, stirring up just the right amount of chagrin for the platitudes of (notoriously lame) studio sequels. In acknowledging the shortcomings of what their product could have been, Lord and Miller’s film is transcendent. It’s smart, funny and flowing with in-jokes for industry insiders and casual filmgoers as well. It’s a comedy for movie lovers by movie lovers and joke for joke, the funniest movie of the year. Further, it’s one that will likely remain in the “best of” comedy conversation for years to come.

The table is set with a playful “Previous on 21 One Jump Street” recap that doubles as an homage to the original Johnny Depp-lead television program while still providing a brief summation of the first film for people like me who haven’t seen it in a number of years. We reacquaint with odd couple cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as they’re about to intercept a drug deal, or so they think. A hilariously off Mexican gangster impersonation follows and hijinks quickly sour with Schmidt receiving hickey by octopus and Jenko strung up from the heels.

Even though they majorly biff their first outing, these two flunky street cops soon find that the higher ups have them squarely in their sights. After the success of their first “mission”, the Mr. Money Bags on top are gambling even more on Schmidt and Jenko this time around. They’re dished out more money to throw around but expect an even greater degree of success. “You need to do things exactly as you did last time,” Nick Offerman‘s mustache of a Deputy Chief commands. The only way to achieve success after all is to play it safe. As the film pitches this very concept, the bastions of this artfully devious script do all they can to switch hit and deliver much meatier blow for it.

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Screenwriters’ Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman‘s gumming is a devilishly obvious allusion to the studio system’s tight grip on franchising – whose “creativity” is more in tune with reproduction by assembly line than true originality – with third wall breaking so mightily pronounced that Hill and Tatum all but stare directly into the camera. But the irreverence of the entire cast and crew is deeply comic. Its seven layers of meta has sarcasm running so deep that their pot shots come fast and loose. Tatum essentially acknowledges how bottomed out White House Down was just as they later acknowledge how easy it would be to milk this franchise for all its worth. Also with a higher budget, we get things like Ice Cube‘s Ice Cube office. That’s right, Ice Cube has an office shaped like a cube of ice.

Schmidt and Jenko make their way to their next assignment, investigating a hybrid drug called WHYPHY (pronounced wifi and standing for Work Hard? Yes, Play Hard? Yes) at a local community college. While there, the two best buddies/partners begin to tear in different directions as Tatum and his bulbous throwing arm fall into the frat bro crowd, leaving Schmidt to find sentimental solace in gallons of ice cream and Friends re-runs and the artsy, fartsy community.

As far as ying and yang go, Hill’s wounded fay routine synchs perfectly with Tatum’s prom king duncemanship. As a college football announcer says (however not about their two characters) “They’re two peas in a pod.” Their comic timing is perfect as it their oddball dichotomy of character. Tatum’s cob-webbed thought process is blunted by Hill’s smart aleck ways and Lord and Miller find many opportunities to exploit their differences in hilarious and oft-kilter ways. Even if some of the laughs are expected, the amount of them will catch you off guard. It’s a non-stop flight of guffaws, a bullet train of side-splitters. Also, be sure to stick around for the credits which will likely have you rolling on the floor.

With their tongues planted deeply in cheek, Lord and Miller bring the same slapstick routine that defined The Lego Movie to this more adult adventure and it’s nothing short of a riot-fest to watch them peel back the many layers of this joke onion. But licking your way to the creamy center, one might be surprised to find some real heart buried amongst the awkward and yet sweet relationship between Hill and Tatum. While their matching at first looked like some kind of Frankenstein’s monster, in 22 Jump Street, they really are two peas in one hell of a funny pod.

A-

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Out in Theaters: BLENDED

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You know you’re in trouble when people laugh at your production company sequence before the movie even starts. Alas, that’s where we’re at with Happy Madison and Adam Sandler. It’s the same tired schmaltz and shtick and spiel that it’s always been.

Blended employs the same combo we’ve seen too many times before: Drew Barrymore as a cute ditzy blonde, Sandler as the weird funny guy with a hard edge and a soft side. What spark they once had has gone stale. It’s like they’re really stuck in the 50 First Dates love-trap: now they’re trying to find something, anything that works. This combo used to be nougat. Now it just smells like nutsack.

Lauren’s (Barrymore) divorced with two little boys. Their characters revolve around typical boyhood challenges: the older one masturbates to pictures of his babysitter crudely taped to Playboys; the younger one sucks at baseball and his Dad (a douchey Joel McHale) never wants to play catch. Lauren organizes closets for “Closet Queens” with her friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey, who seems to have taken acting lessons from the Grandma in The Room), who’s dating Dick from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Yeah, that Dick.

Jim (Sandler) manages a Dick’s alongside Shaquille O’Neal. His wife died of cancer (the film could’ve gone by the title 50 First Dead Mom Jokes), leaving him to struggle with three daughters: Hilary, Espn (named after his favorite TV network!) and Lou. Espn’s got Haley Joel Osment’s sixth sense when it comes to mommy: she saves a seat at the table for momma, she talks to her in her bedroom. Hilary (“Larry”) is a tomboy teen that daddy won’t let come out of her shell. Lou is a cute little girl who says “butthole.”

Jim takes Lauren on a date to Hooters, which goes swimmingly: she spits out hot buffalo shrimp and spills French onion soup all over herself, he drinks her beer. They end up hating each other. Let’s cut to the chase: afraid of being bad parents, they both get their hands on tickets “TO AFRICA!!!” without knowing that the other family’s going along with them. Typical shenanigans and bonding and romantic tension ensues. Do I have to say it? This premise is fucking terrible.

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“Is everyone ready to see the real Africa?” an African guy asks as they get off the plane. Blended leaves it at that. Sandler’s Africa never goes as far as to mention what part of Africa they’re in, or who these people are. Instead, we’re led to believe that the entire continent is filled with singing and dancing sweaty black folk surrounded by an endless safari of crocodiles, lions and elephants. The fact that Sandler so often uses “Africans” as entertainment and fodder for bad humor is downright offensive. Terry Crews leads an acapella group that follows Sandler and his crew around everywhere while singing stupid shit. Everyone is there to serve the rich white folk that have ventured their way into this “wilderness.” Sandler’s Africa is nothing but cheap accents and cheaper African garb.

But cheapest of all are the jokes, and gosh darn is there slapstick. Grandma’s crash into things on ATVs, Sandler falls into a vat of Dodo urine, Barrymore’s profession is mined for lesbian jokes, Adam tries to out-fart an elephant, the “Africans” say goofy African things, Barrymore catches her kid masturbating…the list goes on. You’d think they would’ve gotten tired of all these crap jokes: Blended is just 50 First Dates Does Africa.

Blended then tries to take on gender identity, in the most basic way possible. Sandler has difficulty as a father of three girls, while Barrymore just can’t figure out how to raise her two sons. Their simple solution: pops can buy the porn while momma buys the tampons. Throughout, there’s the assumption that men and women find figuring out the opposite sex impossible. Sandler doesn’t want to let his daughters out of their tomboy casing, but his girls just want to dress up and look pretty. Barrymore’s boys want to be good at sports and the older one is constantly horny. Screenwriters Clare Sera and Ivan Menchell don’t know what to do with their characters, so they resort to the same conclusion every dimwit always seems to come to: boys have penises and girls have vaginas.

Sandler’s Rotten Tomatoes page is more verdant than a fresh can of Green Giant. You’ve gotta go down a long ways until you can find anything worthwhile. Grown Ups 2? Why is this a thing? That’s My Boy? Try again. Just Go With It? I’ll go without, thanks. Grown Ups? Groan. Jack and Jill? Fuck no.

What’s happened to Sandler is truly a disaster. Trust me; I’ve seen The Wedding Singer at least thirty times. It’s classic Adam: quirky, brooding, clever, timeless slapstick. Happy Madison is the same way. Back then he could afford to gamble, to put himself out there. Now his ruminating, dark comedy shtick just comes off as sad: all that’s left is a depressive sack that can’t cope with getting old, fat and tired while watching his kids grow up. His well ran dry somewhere in between Grandma’s Boy and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and he’s been scraping at brick since then.

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Funny People
(directed by Judd Apatow) was Sandler’s last great movie: a movie about comedians that’s not funny and doesn’t try to be. There, we saw Sandler’s dark side: George Simmons, a lonely, lost, scared comedian who’s afraid to be a nobody and even more afraid to be famous. Sandler’s Simmons wasn’t funny. His stuff was sad. But his vulnerability came out. Funny People was fitting because we saw Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill—new blood, the hot kids in town challenging him for his thrown—right next to Sandler. The truth is, they were funnier. Sandler didn’t need anyone to tell him that because he saw it up close: no one wants to see a 47-year old guy do a little boy voice anymore.

One has to wonder where the self-reflective Sandler went. Maybe he’s too afraid to be vulnerable, or he’s still clinging to the glory days. Really, the same should be said for Drew Barrymore too. They’ve earned each other. Blended was the appropriate title for this place in their careers: at this point, everything seems to mix together into nothingness.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to find out why Blended was even made, and who it was made for. Really, who is the demographic here? It boggles the mind. Maybe this one will go over well in old folks’ homes and at the zoo. Anyone older than 12 can’t possibly like this stuff, right? I would tell you not to go see this film, but you don’t need me to tell you that: Sandler’s name already did the work for me.

Can you still call yourself a comedian if people are laughing at you?

D

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SXSW Review: ARLO AND JULIE

“Arlo and Julie”
Directed by Steve Mimms
Starring Alex Dobrenko, Ashley Spillers, Sam Eidson, Chris Doubek, Mallory Culbert, Hugo Vargas-Zesati 
Comedy
United States

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Anyone who’s ever put a jigsaw puzzle together before understands the acute stages of puzzle insanity. At first, it’s an exciting endeavor, like diving into a new George R.R. Martin tome or deciding that you’re gonna start hitting the gym again. After about twenty minutes of turning over white pieces, you already feel the first tinge of frustration, that beading realization of what you’ve just committed to. Finally, you’ve put together the exterior, that beautiful border to encapsulate all, fencing in that headless herd of jigsaw madness. Cue feelings of adequacy, and perhaps even ecstasy. Then comes the middle bits, the monotony of a sea of monochromatic shades, so unanimously uniform that you may as well piece them together blindfolded. Eventually, parties become frustrated, tensions rise and deep-seated issues simmer up between you and your in-it-to-win-it puzzle partner. Maybe you shout, cry, give it all up. Maybe even a table gets flipped. But what happens when a puzzle gets so out of control that it takes over your life? That’s exactly the question Steve Mimms asks in Arlo and Julie.

The answer? Well if you’re Arlo and Julie, you allow the obsession to take the helm, survive only on the sustenance of delivery pizza, let your career and relationships all but descend into shambles and pace in front of the parcel box waiting for the mailman like a dog for its master. “Mail?” you may ask. Well this cryptic puzzle – a triptych of muted oranges, reds and yellows – randomly starts showing up in the mail, arriving in increasingly larger sealed packets from Mexico. At first one piece is enclosed, then two, four, eight, sixteen and on and on until Arlo and Julie are faced with thousands of little cardboard zigs and zags and dozens of man hours needed to put it all together.

As the puzzle outgrows their cozy dining room table, secrets within their relationship come to light with both eventually wondering how well they know the other party. At first, their puzzly plight is admirable and Mimms’ uncertain direction leaves the floor open for what could be a vast highway of possibilities. Suspenseful elements slip in under the radar, adding a touch of foreboding to the otherwise squarely indie film proceedings. While we wade in the darkness wondering what all these little pieces will eventually add up to, it’s the two titular characters who must keep us entertained, and by the end are the only real components that make it worthwhile.

Julie, played by a geeky chic Ashley Spillers, is defiantly bohemian, perhaps so much so that she doesn’t even know it. Her smooshy facial expressions, shaggy bob and frumpy natural beauty all help to make her relatable. Her gorging on pizza makes her lovable. Spillers plays her well, offering a character you’d expect from an 80s Woody Allen flick with some real depth behind her quirk. Her partner Arlo (Alex Dobrenko) is a bit of a misanthropic dweeb. His mind always in the past (he’s writing what he believes is the great untold biography of Ulysses S. Grant), he’s got the inflated ego to fit his aspiring writer hat but it also makes him a bit of a challenge to really assimilate with. He’s a bit of a flippant kook, his conflated ideas of relevancy definitively hipster. Arlo is a guy you can only take in small doses but beneath his moppy-headed think box is a manchild who’s a bit mystified with the world at large, who treats love like a bit of a puzzle itself.

Cute and quaint, Arlo and Julie might be one of the better second-tier Woody Allen movies that Woody Allen never made. It’s mumblecore deadpan meets Austin angst, big city stressing in the near desert. The dialogue culled from a workshop on the neurotic and maladjusted, everything always feels an arm length from reality. The first two acts throw in enough quirk to keep the adventure light enough and often engaging. With some coincidentally staged entrances and exits, the screenplay seems cooked up by a career playwright. The staged contrivances kind of work but aren’t consistent enough to really sell the stage as a whole.

Undoubtedly the biggest problem that Mimms runs into is that he only gets limited mileage out of the quirky mystery aspects of the piece. By the third act, the tank is running on empty, all the lingering questions have been abandoned or shoddily answered and the film sputters towards a conclusion that’s slight and saccharine, even if it does fit the mood.

C+

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SXSW Review: SPACE STATION 76

“Space Station 76”
Directed by Jack Plotnick
Starring Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Matt Bomer, Marisa Coughlan, Jerry O’Connell, Kylie Rogers
Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
93 Mins
United States

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The 1970s were an age of looking towards the stars. From Star Wars to Star Trek, it was a decade of endless possibilities, a time that saw instant dinners, laser weaponry and hovercrafts around every corner. It witnessed the culmination of the space race, the end of the Vietnam War, and the birth of a new unchartered epoch in the suburban trenches of Americana. Mimicking the uneasy blend of conservatism and forward-looking gung-ho-manship that defined the generation, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Jack Plotnick has made Space Station 76 a soapy space opera; a smartly satirical smoothie of 70s manifest destiny – ripe with the impractical hopes of intergalactic expansionism – cut with the tedium of suburban ennui.

At the forefront of this final frontier are an unlikely cast of characters, each representative of the many uncertainties and insecurities of the era. There’s the boredom weary housewife, Misty (Marisa Coughlan), who spends her days slurping down Prosacs, “programing” the crew’s meal du jour, and occasionally sleeping around with Steve (Jerry O’Connell). When she’s not confessing her feelings to the on-board robotic psychiatrist, Dr. Bot – whose toy-sized presence and pre-programed wisdoms are always accompanied by fits of laughter – she mopes and gossips. An icon of post-50s feminine guile, her boozy, unscrupulous mannerisms are as sardonically iconic as her down-on-his-luck everyman husband, Ted, played by Matt Bomer.

Having never quite caught a break, and now sporting a clunky robotic arm – a perfectly retro-futuristic brand of low-budget prop – Ted is haunted by his lack of accomplishments, caught in a cycle of self-destructive lethargy lead by his penchant for illegal horticulture and unsure of his place in the world (er, universe). His emotional arc reflects the pathos of those who nervously straddled The Draft, haunted by the withering courage of a fresh faced soldier never to see a day in combat. He’s shaken but for all the wrong reasons.

Enter new co-pilot Jessica (Liv Tyler) who is at her core representative of the shifting winds of the feminism movement, a firmly competent and confident substitute for a traditionally male role. Striking up an affectionate relationship with Ted’s daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers, who looks adorable in a nerdtastic pair of specs,) long-gone sparks of tenderness begin to rekindle the purpose in Ted’s life.

Jessica’s maternal instincts juxtaposed against her inhospitable womb is an example of the tragic irony that Plotnick hits on again and again, to such great effect. But it’s Patrick Wilson, who plays Captain Glenn with startling sensitivity, that is the most outstanding of the bunch and the pinnacle of Plotnick’s satirical heights. As the gruff but gay commander, Glenn’s sexuality is a thing of great shame, something he keeps deeply closeted. Glenn’s stern persona is encapsulated in Wilson’s patriarchal mustache, a metaphorical affront to shield others from the shame he buries, a mask to disguise his bleeding soul. The arrival of Jessica, who doggedly seeks the true reason behind Glenn’s last co-pilot (and secret lover’s) sudden reassignment, sets him on a crash course with his own inner demons…and some asteroids.

The stocky sets, “pew pew” sound design and clunky CGI – that look like crafted on a circa 1976 computer – are as kitschy as they come but the human relationships they serve to frame always feel universal and timeless. Through satire, Plotnick has stumbled upon some brave new world. Bold and esoteric, he’s shown that one doesn’t need to look at the future from behind the jaded lens of an iPhone 5, that things may well be all the more interesting if we rewind the clock and only then begin to look forward.

B

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SXSW Review: BAD WORDS

“Bad Words”
Directed by Jason Bateman
Starring Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall, Allison Janney, Steve Witting
Comedy
88 Mins
R

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Jason Bateman
‘s directorial debut, Bad Words, is aptly congruously to his post-Arrested Development career. That is, it’s no good. Like Identity Thief and The Change-Up before it, Bateman has proved that having his name on a movie’s billing is a blaring warning sign of slow and low-blow comedy to come, a notice of an impending La Brea-sized originality tar pit, a Bat-Signal in the shape of a crotch kick. While some of us may have suspected Bateman of being on the receiving end of some Les Grossman-level manhandling – a puppet maliciously directed into comic obscurity – as the proud director of this comedy clunker, Bateman has shown his wisecracker cards, revealing that he may not be playing with a full comic’s deck after all.

To call him a hack seems harsh but it’s the only description I can find fitting the dreck that he continuously churns out. The pedestrianly crafted Bad Words, for example, earns Bateman his gold standard R-rating with a string of unimaginative and unfunny curse words. Since R-rated comedies have turned into something of a marketable commodity since the first Hangover movie, we’ve seen more and more comedies (which once mostly existed within the PG-13 realm) turn to this “Restricted” hail sign. But rather than employ that R-rating to their artistic advantage, the folks behind the helm of Bad Words simply use it to check mark their way through George Carlin‘s seven dirty words like a record stuck on repeat. In essence, Batman has made the equivalent of a feature film version of the Blink-182 song so sophisticated titled “Shit Piss Fuck”. Charming.

Comedy being as sink or swim as it it, it’s a true tragedy that Bateman has relied on the life raft of obscenity to keep him afloat over the past five year. Subbing in swear words for jokes is a shortcut cohabiting the same hoary level of the time-honored fart. The first time history heard a squeak of gas passing through an actor’s anal cavity and into the light of day, it must have been an uproariously occasion. The first time the word ‘fuck’ was used in the film Ulysses (1967), I’m sure people were gasping “Well I never”s as they minted their juleps, pinkies upturned.

In 2014 though, we’re in a post-Three Stooges-era. Last year, we saw The Wolf of Wall Street drop the infamous f-bomb a total of 522 times. Though Wolf still probably wasn’t the easiest film for the more conservative film-goers to digest, it hardly elicited the “Off with their heads!” outrage that it would have in years past. So even though the crew behind this missed the message, us in the real world are aware of how humdrum and trite swear words in themselves have become. They’re not shocking, they’re not gasp-inducing, and when used as a fill in for comedy, they’re boring, inert and downright lazy. Now don’t get me wrong, I cuss like a sailor but it’s just part of my regular lexicon, not to be confused as a substitute for real comic goods. Batman and crew miss the distinction.

In Bateman and script writer Andrew Dodge‘s out-dated notion that everything needs to be racketed up to the next level, that bigger is indefinitely better, we come to see these bad words transform into snoozy strings of non-sequitors. Again though, it’s nothing more than lazy cliches playing dress up as comedy. If this is Bateman riffing, he needs to enroll in an improv course. If this junk was actually written down, Dodge shouldn’t quit his day job. With Bateman’s rump half-stuck down the farty, sweary rabbit hole, he’s stuck confusing racism, boobies and cussing for something truly funny. When he tells a 10-year old Indian kid to “shut his curry hole,” the writing is on the wall. And that’s only about 20 minutes in.

The premise itself is somewhat intriguing, if not at all profound: 40-odd-year old Guy Trilby (Bateman) enters spelling bee competitions after discovering a loophole that stipulates contestants must have have not yet finished the fourth grade. Being an elementary school dropout and gifted speller, there’s no regulations in place to keep him out of the contest that he’s become intent on winning. At the cost of becoming a national pariah and the target of scorn from hordes of maligned parents, Guy won’t reveal why he in enduring such derision. There’s a $50,000 prize at the end of the tunnel but we’re repeatedly told its about more than that. “Hmmm,” we think, “where could this all be going?” But after stringing us along for 88 minutes of watching Trilby be a flat out bad person, the ultimate payoff is unsatisfying and predictable. Another tired excuse for resolution, another narrative shrug.

No matter how adorable little Rohan Chand is as Guy’s unsuspecting sidekick, the chemistry to develop between the two feels like it was cooked up with all the artistry of a bowl of instant ramen. We’ve seen it before but, in the past, we’re at least lead to like the curmudgeonly protagonist by the end of it all. Here, it feels like we’re dealing with Holden Caulfield who’s bigged himself into Jason Bateman. Immature and unlikable throughout are not admirable traits in a main character. But in its attempts to be Bad Santa, its always more Bad Teacher. I guess if you find humor in being racist and borderline sexually abusive towards kids, you’ll probably get a kick out of Bad Words. Otherwise, it’s probably a good choice to avoid this one.

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Out In Theaters: DELIVERY MAN

“Delivery Man”
Directed by Ken Scott
Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Bobby Moynihan, Britt Robertson, Jack Reynor, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat
Comedy
103 Mins
PG-13

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Whether our viewing sensibilities are just outgrowing Vince Vaughn or people just aren’t writing good showcases for him, it is undeniable that his career is not what it once was. Wedding Crashers came out eight years ago. Let that sink in. I’m of the opinion that the problem has been the material. Ken Scott directs the remake of his own 2011 film Starbuck, which provides an avenue for Vaughn to branch out a little from his typical snarkiness. The result is a surprisingly heartwarming film, if not a bit on the forced side. With some serious revisions, this could have been a great film.

 Comedies these days have such farcical plots that you have to just roll with it. If the idea of a man being hunted down by over a hundred of his own illegitimate children doesn’t instantly set off your BS meter, you can probably handle Delivery Man’s multitude of plot holes, inconsistencies, and “yeah right” moments. In reality, the contract of an anonymous sperm donor is rock solid. In the world of Delivery Man, however, David Wozniak has to deal with the fact that 142 of his 500 plus sperm donations are suing to know his identity. On top of this, he has to deal with becoming a “real” father as he accidentally knocked up his on-again-off-again girlfriend.

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After Vaughn learns the identity of the lawsuit children, he takes to stalking them and playing guardian angel. Stalking one of his “daughters”, he defends her from catcalls. For a musician “son”, he encourages donations to his street performances. One particularly offensive thing is the way Scott portrays a daughter who overdoses on heroin. Vaughn has the opportunity to send the 17-year old addict to rehab, but instead chooses to take it on faith that she can handle it herself, making it painfully obvious that Scott has never dealt with drug addiction in any capacity. For anyone reading this, in case you didn’t know, send them to rehab. Disappointingly (for the films own potential), she keeps her word to this man she has never met before, presumably kicking her nasty drug habit and becoming a tax-paying citizen overnight. What a great opportunity to teach Vaughn’s character a harsh lesson about parenthood wasted.

Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt plays opposite Vaughn, as his comically stupid lawyer friend. Their exchanges are often hilarious, but still fail to carry the necessary weight, given how much screen time they take up. Pratt brings much of the films comedy, but might conflict a little too much with the realism of the film. It seemed the writers could not decide whether to make Pratt the responsible one of the duo, or to make him Homer Simpson. He alternates between the two, but plays both roles well. In some scenes, he gives lucid legal advice to Vaughn, while other scenes show him being entirely cartoonish. It may be a nitpick, but it just shows another symptom of a sloppy screenplay, that such a crucial character is not entirely focused. His childlike demeanor in the courtroom scenes exist to show just how open-and-shut this case is.

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Vaughn’s character also owes 80 grand to some seedy folk, adding a sense of urgency to the film that feels artificial. This is basic screenwriting 101 stuff. A plot device like this should be more ingrained within the film. It ends up being his reason for countersuing the sperm donation facility for defamation. Wouldn’t greed be a much more interesting motivator, though? Also, this falls flat because the stakes of his trial aren’t that serious. There should be some consequences when his children find out who he is. Instead, they are joyous and relieved. This is all fine and good for the feel-good factor, but I wanted some more authenticity added to the stakes.

In the end, Delivery Man doesn’t quite have the comedic chops to be a great comedy, nor does it have the dramatic chops to be a great dramedy. And that is the problem. No matter how much I was enjoying the movie, I just felt it wasn’t something I would ever want to come back to. When I think of any film that I love, I think of those classic moments, moments which were sorely missed in Delivery Man. Still, there are a lot worse films in theaters right now and this one is quite enjoyable.

C

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