Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Jessica Mas
Directed by: Carlos Cuarón (debut)
Written by: Carlos Cuarón (“Y tu mama tambien”)
Reuniting for the first time since their sexually-expressive outing in 2001’s “Y tu mama tambien,” Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna play two soccer-playing brothers experiencing fits of sibling rivalry in “Rudo y Cursi.”
When Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) are accidentally discovered by a professional soccer recruiter in their small Mexican village, the brothers begin to butt heads when they find out there is only room for one of them to join the pro ranks. Through some suspicious luck, Tato ends up moving to Mexico City to make a name for himself as a soccer player although his passion for singing is his real priority.
Beto, who needs to earn money so he can pay off a gambling debt with some dangerous bookies, earns his chance soon enough to play for another team in Mexico City, and the brothers find themselves on opposite teams for the first time in their lives. Despite the sporadic soccer moments, “Rudo y Cursi” is more about the relationship between brothers who are slowly growing apart and the changes each of them are going through as they become popular among fans.
In his feature directorial debut, Cuarón tackles some multi-layered topics and gives his dim-witted but generally likable characters enough subtle comedic material to play off one another well. Bernal and Luna’s chemistry, while not as essential as it was in “Y tu mama,” is lighthearted enough to overlook some of the film’s more formulaic scenes like the inevitable penalty kick between the brothers you could have predicted during the opening credits.
Starring: Mike Epps, Wood Harris, Donald Faison
Directed by: Benny Boom (debut)
Written by: Blair Cobbs (debut)
While its style may scream of director Benny Boom’s music-video background, which, at times, breaks up much of the clichéd narrative into ingestible doses, the new drug comedy “Next Day Air” packs some pretty light weight.
In the film, Mike Epps (“Soul Men”) and Wood Harris (“Remember the Titans”) play Brody and Gutch, two petty thieves living in Philadelphia whose lives change the moment they open the door to receive a package from a local courier service.
Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) plays Leo, a pot-smoking, laid-back delivery truck driver who works for his mother and never takes his job seriously. Even when his infuriated mother threatens to fire him, Leo still works half-heartedly, which leads to a major mistake during one of his routes.
Instead of dropping off a hefty load of cocaine sent by California drug dealer Bodega Diablo (Emilio Rivera) to his Puerto Rican contact in Philly, Leo leaves the bricks of blow in the hands of Brody and Gutch who begin to dream of a new life after they discover what’s inside the cardboard box.
“God sent that,” Brody emphatically states. “I’m getting a new Escalade.”
Unfortunately for the duo, Bodega finds out the package never made it to its rightful owner when his dealer Jesus (Cisco Reyes) and his girlfriend Chita (Yasmin Deliz) nervously let him know it went missing.
The comedy caper (filled with a lifetime supply of stereotypes) all leads to a showdown between Bodega and his crew and Brody’s drug-dealing cousin who’s interested in buying the merchandise. Mos Def does his part as a couriering co-worker of Leo’s, but Boom and company miss out on any chance to build on his character for more than a couple of scenes.
While Epps is able to hold most of his comedic scenes together without much help from anyone else, “Next Day Air” decelerates after a quick start and completely stalls when debut screenwriter Blair Cobbs decides he wants to throw an awkward life lesson into the story followed by a psychotic ending that comes out of nowhere. A drug dealer pretending to be in “Reservoir Dogs” I can scoff at, but a drug dealer with a heart of gold is a bit too much to believe even in something as bipolar as “Next Day Air.”
Starring: Zach Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon
Directed by: Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”)
Written by: Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”)
Even when out-of-body fantasies were a groundbreaking movie genre back in the 80s, there wasn’t much creative storytelling behind any of the projects with the exception of “Big” starring Tom Hanks. (Even then, “Big” wasn’t necessarily that type of movie since there wasn’t any switching of bodies between characters).
From “Vice Versa” to “Like Father Like Son” to “18 Again!,” the films told the same coming-of-age tale either about an adult wanting less responsibility or a kid wanting to experience freedom as an adult. While director Penny Marshall was able to capture all the sweet-natured and awkward moments of a boy wanting to become a man before his time in “Big,” (the role gave Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination of his career) the others simply fell by the wayside as conventional comedies.
The same can be said about Zach Efron’s new film “17 Again.” Despite the similar title, this is not a prequel of the George Burns 1998 movie where he switches bodies with his comatose grandson. Instead, the Efron vehicle is set up like the opposite version of “Big” or more recently “13 Going on 30.” It begins with Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a down-on-his-luck, underappreciated sales manager in the middle of a divorce, who wishes he could turn back the hands of time and become a teenager again so he can revisit some of the questionable choices he made when he was young and dumb.
After meeting his “spirit guide,” who is working as a janitor in the hallways of his old high school, Mike is given the chance to live his teenage years over again when he is magically swept into a watery wormhole. Once out, he discovers he has transformed back into a 17-year-old. While it really isn’t necessary to explain how exactly this happens in these types of films (remember Voltron in “Big,” the oriental skull in “Vice Versa,” and the Najavo elixir in “Like Father Like Son?”), “17 Again” stands extraordinarily idle by making this portion of the script so open ended.
As a high school senior again, Mike (now played by Efron), returns to his old stomping grounds to play a personal game of “what if” all while keeping an eye on his teenage kids (Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg) and trying to find out why his wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has filed for divorce. Actor Thomas Lennon is an annoying thorn in the screenplay as Mike’s rich, grown-up best friend Ned, who pretends to be his father so he can enroll him back into high school.
Now back in school, we return to Mike’s glory days as he rejoins his old basketball team and attempts to find out where his life went wrong. It starts off wrong for screenwriter Jason Filardi when he puts too much emphasis on paying homage to films of the past like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future.” While most Efron fans probably haven’t seen any of the aforementioned movies, there’s still a familiar aftertaste once “17 Again” is all said and done. Sure, it might be made for an entirely different generation, but even Efron can’t squeeze out enough charisma and charm to get past the lazy script, tween dialogue and references, and unoriginality of it all.
Starring: Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta
Directed by: Jody Hill (“The Foot Fist Way”)
Written by: Jody Hill (“The Foot Fist Way”)
Take it for what it’s worth: the new comedy “Observe and Report” is the best mall-cop movie of the year.
That doesn’t say much since the only other film under that category this year is the terrible “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” where we were able to witness actor Kevin James hamming it up on a Segway against skateboarding ninja wannabes. After that, who wouldn’t want another mall-cop movie, right?
In “Observe and Report,” Seth Rogen is our anti-hero and he’s got a lot more punch behind the silver badge he wears so proudly than James has in his porn-stache. As Ronny Barnhart, a bipolar security cop working at the local mall, serving and protecting the establishment’s patrons is everything he cares about.
His pride takes a hit, however, when a streaker in the mall starts showing off what’s under his trenchcoat to shoppers. When the pervert, as he is referred to in the movie, flashes himself to Ronnie’s love interest, cosmetics girl Brandi (Anna Faris), the shriveled-up exhibitionist becomes Ronnie’s only link to her life and therefore the only way he can win her over.
With that, Ronnie sets forth to catch the perv with help from his curly sidekick Dennis (Michel Peña) and a few other uninteresting secondary characters that rely on their physical awkwardness and not their actual personality to make them memorable additions to a sometimes hilarious script. Ray Liotta (“Wild Hogs”) as a city police officer befuddled by Ronnie’s acute stupidity is the only saving grace in this aspect.
While the narrative pushes the breaks one too many times, Rogen, Liotta, and especially actress Celia Weston (“In the Bedroom”) as Ronnie’s drunk mother, are enough reasons to tip the scales of justice toward favorable. And if you do find yourself less than entertained by another mall-cop movie in 2009, stay for the third act, which pushes the humor onto a level very few comedies dare to tread.
Starring: Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Raquel Alessi
Directed by: Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (TV’s “The Whitest Kids U Know”)
Written by: Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (TV’s “The Whitest Kids U Know”)
“Miss March” may start off like a sharp and dirty-minded coming-of-age tale about two young boys who find their sexuality through a Playboy subscription, but that’s just what directors/writers/stars Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore want you to believe before they pull the poop-covered rug from under your feet.
While the stars of IFC’s “The Whitest Kids U Know,” are fairly edgy and smart in the first 20 or so minutes of “Miss March,” the comedic pacing takes a detour and becomes a set of infantile and second-rate jokes that revolve around human excrement, a bestial nickname, and the oh-so hilarious topic of (tee-hee) virginity.
The movie follows Eugene Bell (Cregger), a straight-laced high school student who falls into a coma the night he’s supposed to have sex for the first time with Cindi (Raquel Alessi), his girlfriend of over two years. When Eugene finally wakes up four years later, everyone who was important to him, including Cindi, has moved on with their lives. The only one still at his bedside is his best friend Tucker (Moore, doing his best impression of Ace Ventura), who had a hand in reviving Eugene from his deep sleep.
After four years in a hospital bed, there is only one thing Eugene wants to know: Where is Cindi? The duo is surprised to learn that she lives in L.A. and has become a model for Playboy. With little planning, Tucker and Eugene head out on a road trip to California where they attempt to get into an anniversary party at the Playboy Mansion so Eugene can see Cindi again.
Although it seems to want to be a raunchier version of “Dumb and Dumber,” Cregger and Moore bottom out from the beginning when they try to pass off Tucker and Eugene’s spontaneous road trip as an asset to the script. The story, however, shouldn’t flow like the Cregger-Moore team is writing just as impulsively, and it does.
If Cregger and Moore were to come out and admit they used “Miss March” not as a window into the film world, but as a device to meet beautiful girls, there might be some respect to offer for the effort. But why release it to a wide audience? Why not imitate National Lampoon and toss it on a DVD with a few deleted scenes and a blooper reel? Or even better, why not premiere it right after “The Whitest Kids U Know?” That’s one way to guarantee no one will see “Miss March,” a movie that’s just as cringe-inducing as the idea of Hugh Hefner in bed with 19-year-old twins.
Starring: Nicholas D’Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer
Directed by: Will Gluck (debut)
Written by: Freedom Jones (debut)
If debut screenwriter Freedom Jones didn’t seem so vigilant to create the next big movie catchphrase or T-shirt slogan in “Fired Up!,” there might have been more to the teenage-cheerleading-buddy comedy than goofball one-liners and catty shenanigans.
While its touting itself as the anti-cheerleading movie, “Fired Up!,” when stripped down (and we’re not talking about the unexciting skinny-dipping scene) is exactly that. The only difference between it and something like “Bring It On” and its two pointless sequels is that “FU!” plays out more like a parody of something awful instead of just something that’s truly awful.
In the film, actors Nicholas D’Agosto (“Election”) and Eric Christian Olsen (“Dumb and Dumberer”) play best buds Shawn Colfax and Nick Brady, two popular high school football jocks who forgo summer football camp in El Paso, Texas to join up with their less-than-formidable cheerleading squad and attend cheer camp so they can scam on girls.
With over 300 girls and only one straight guy (whose actually there to get earn a cheerleading scholarship) in attendance, Shawn and Nick don’t have much trouble adding notches to their belts as they “leave no girl unturned” during their horny tramping through cheer camp.
While “Fired Up!” could have easily been rated R if Jones were to have done what most teenage comedies do and replace actual dialogue with expletives for shock value, she pulls back and leave the F-bombs behind to get a generous PG-13 designation. Despite the rating, there’s plenty of sexual innuendo and lowbrow humor for those moviegoers who are into the most recent National Lampoon straight-to-DVD flicks that are plaguing your local video store by the dozens.
Still, “Fired Up!” – no matter how admirable it becomes by taking itself less and less serious with each exaggerate scene – is too smart-alecky for its own good. After Shawn says, “You’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit” for the fourth time, it’s evident that Jones and first-time director Will Gluck have heard the jokes far too many times and still considered them just as funny as the first time they read the script. Unfortunately for “Fired Up!” they’re not.
Starring: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Kristen Scott Thomas
Directed by: P.J. Hogan (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”)
Written by: Tracey Jackson (“The Guru”), Tim Firth (“Kinky Boots”), and Kayla Alpert (debut)
Give credit to screenwriters Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert. No, not for their dopey adaptation of author Sophie Kinsella’s work, but for figuring out a way to incorporate both her books (“Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan”) into only one movie. Now, we don’t have to sit through a second one.
In “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” rising star Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers) stars as Rebecca Bloomwood, a Manhattan reporter who spends her days drooling over Gucci bags and dodging credit collectors because of her unhealthy addiction to shopping. (“They said I was a valued customer, now they send me hate mail” is the funniest line Fisher delivers in the entire movie).
With 12 credit cards maxed out, Rebecca finds herself over $9,000 in debt just when the magazine she writes for goes bankrupt. Setting her sights to work at one of the most prominent fashion magazines in the city (who better to write about clothes than someone who has so many?), Rebecca, instead, ends up landing a job at a financial publication when she impresses the editor (Hugh Dancy) with her out-of-the-box ideas on topics most people would find tedious.
After only one column, Rebecca becomes a star journalist and everyone wants to meet her. While she manages to rub elbows with publishers and work her way to the top, Rebecca lives in fear that someone will find out she is giving financial advice to her readers when she, too, is living in debt.
While Fisher has proven she can hold her own in comedies like “Wedding Crashers,” there simply isn’t enough material in this faux “Sexy and the City” episode for her to perform to that level. Fisher is better than exaggerated slapstick, but there’s nothing here to showcase her natural talent. In one of the funnier scenes of “Shopaholic,” Fisher reacts to how ugly a bridesmaid’s dress looks on her. With a few squeals and some hilarious facial expressions, she makes the scene work.
But those occasions are too few and far between in “Shopaholic.” It’s disappointing since the film is directed by P.J. Hogan, who helmed one of the best rom coms of the 90s in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” It’s less surprising when you find out producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s name is attached. Just when you thought he couldn’t possibly ruin anymore film genres, Bruckheimer manages to aimlessly wander into no man’s land and will definitely wander out a few dollars richer. Somebody stop him before he figures out what a musical comedy is.
Starring: Steve Martin, Emily Mortimer, Jean Reno
Directed by: Harald Zwart (“Agent Cody Banks”)
Written by: Steve Martin (“The Jerk”), Scott Neustadter (debut), Michael H. Weber (debut)
It’s so dispiriting to remember when Steve Martin was actually funny.
The eccentric things he did during his stand-up act with just a pair of Groucho glasses and a few balloons; sulking through his mansion collecting his essential belongings (e.g. a paddleball) in “The Jerk”; prancing around with Martin Short to “My Little Buttercup” in “¡Three Amigos!”; spooning with the late John Candy in “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”; coming up with “20 something betters” during a dart game in “Roxanne.”
There are so many hilarious scenes Martin has taken part in over the years (most of them in the ’80s), it’s difficult not to wince when you watch him devote his entire self to something as cushy as “The Pink Panther 2,” see it implode, and wonder why no one bothered to tell him how lousy the first one was.
As he did in the film’s 2006 predecessor — a pointless remake of the Blake Edwards 1963 comedy — Martin plays Inspector Jacques Clouseau like a shoddy carbon copy of Peter Sellers’ original French detective. Where Sellers embodied the character, Martin seems to clock in just long enough to trip over police tape and mispronounce the word “hamburger” for the umpteenth time.
In this predictable addition to the franchise, Clouseau is promoted from his “top-level” post as a meter maid to the leader of an “international dream team” of detectives on the trail of a globetrotting thief known as the Tornado who has stolen precious artifacts from around the world, including the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, and the Imperial Sword. Summoned moments before the Pink Panther diamond is pocketed from Paris, Clouseau teams up with fellow gumshoes (played by Garcia, Molina, Bachchan, and Yuki Matsuzaki) to track the Tornado to Rome.
Considering the first movie earned an unimpressive $82 million at the box office, one can only speculate why any of these series newcomers (not to mention Lily Tomlin, John Cleese, and Jeremy friggin’ Irons!) decided to sign on. It’s fairly evident Clouseau isn’t the only one who’s clueless here.
Whatever the reason, their enlistment can’t possibly be for the humorless material — written by Martin and first-time screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber — which confuses dry comedy with witless banter. A scene in which Clouseau’s right-hand-man, Ponton (Jean Reno), spends an evening washing his friend’s hair in the sink falls flat from the onset, but director Harald Zwart (“Agent Cody Banks”) gives Martin free reign to do just about anything he wants for as long as he sees fit. The excessively infantile sketch turns into a joke about the pronunciation of “jojoba shampoo” while the duo dance a conga in the kitchen.
The only real evidence of Sellers’ earlier films is, of course, Henry Mancini’s timeless theme song, which only dulls the pain for so long. Then you’ll be paralyzed by dull slapstick and forced to suffer alongside a wasted secondary cast and an unimaginative leading man who, at this point, no punch line could save.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen
Directed by: Gary Winick (“13 Going on 30”)
Written by: Greg DePaul (“Saving Silverman”), Casey Wilson (debut), June Diane Raphael (debut)
A guy would have to be completely insane to break up with someone like Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway. What would have to possess him to actually end a relationship with two of the most beautiful and talented women working in Hollywood today?
Despite the incomprehensibility of the act, that’s where I am right now after watching the ladies’ new movie “Bride Wars.” Stop printing the invitations, put the ice sculpture in a big freezer, and cancel the stringed quartet. With Hudson and Hathaway hamming it up as Bridezillas, the bachelor pad is looking a lot more comfortable from this side of the aisle.
As best friends, Liv (Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) have been dreaming of the perfect white wedding since they were little girls. It was at an early age when they knew a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel was what they’ve always wanted.
But when an employee working for Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), the iconic wedding coordinator at the Plaza, accidentally books Liv and Emma’s wedding on the same day, the women’s claws come out as both refuse to be flexible with their arrangements.
Instead, in an array of misguided and cheaply-written jokes, Liv and Emma set out to sabotage each others weddings. In one instance, Emma pretends she is Liv’s fiancé and sends her desserts knowing she will eat them because she was once overweight. Liv goes as far as ruining the hue of Emma’s spray tan causing her skin turn the color of a pumpkin.
The childish and mostly unfunny attempts at humor continue back and forth until the big day when Liv and Emma have to realize their friendship means more to them than Vera Wang dresses and five-tier cakes. But by the time the lethargic characters are settled and everyone is back to their lovely selves, all you really want to do is throw back a couple more glasses of champagne and call it a night. Give me a “chick flick” about weddings any day of the week (I love “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Father of the Bride”), but don’t lose the wit while doing it.