May 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria
Directed by: Rob Greenberg (debut)
Written by: Rob Greenberg (“Meet Dave”) and Bob Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”)

Cinematic purists beware! They’re coming for your ’80s movies — and they’re coming hard and fast and with little justification.

It seems nothing is sacred in Hollywood these days. That’s especially true for those relatable and entertaining, albeit often cheesy, ’80s flicks. They have a target on their back, and studios are banking on the idea that nostalgia is far too powerful for moviegoers in their thirties and forties to ignore.

Now that remakes of movies like “The Karate Kid,” “Hairspray,” “Robocop,” “Ghostbusters” and many others — which achieved varying levels of critical and box-office success — are behind us, next on the list for an uninspired reimagining is “Overboard,” the 1987 comedy starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell about a rich heiress with amnesia who is tricked into believing she is the wife of a poor carpenter with four boys.

In this new reiteration, gender roles are reversed, with Russell’s character going to comedian Anna Faris (“The House Bunny”) and Hawn’s going to Mexican box-office champion and funny man Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”). But as different as it would like to declare itself to be because of the gender switch, there isn’t much to the “Overboard” remake that warrants a second shot on the big screen.

The setup is roughly the same as the original. Kate (Faris) is a single mom raising three daughters and working a few dead-end jobs while studying to be a nurse. She meets millionaire playboy Leonardo (Derbez) when she is hired to clean his yacht. When Leonardo demands that Kate go find him a mango, she refuses, and he stiffs her out of her pay and pushes her off his ship. Later, when Leonardo falls off the boat himself and is found washed up on the beach with amnesia, Kate decides to get her revenge by claiming to be his wife and making him work off his debt as a faux husband and father.

It’s virtually impossible to watch the updated “Overboard” and not compare it to the first since so much of it follows the same exact plot points and even borrows chunks of the original dialogue. Aside from the role reversal and the casting of Derbez, the latter of which gives focus on a somewhat more Latino-centric story, there is nothing remotely fresh or updated about the narrative. In fact, the screenplay hits a major snag right from the start when its screenwriters expect audiences to believe that in 2018, a person of Leonardo’s stature could go missing for more than a day without someone jumping on social media and piecing it together in a few seconds.

The most glaring problem with “Overboard,” however, is the underwritten relationship between Leonardo and his fake family. In the original, Hawn bonds with her boys in such a sweet and authentic way that when the heartbreaking reveal comes, there is a sense of real loss and sadness. When Derbez’s Leonardo gets his memory back, it doesn’t feel like he’s leaving behind anyone who made an impact on his life in any meaningful way. And let’s face it: If the original film was missing that deep, emotional connection, there would’ve been no reason to join Dr. Death for a final rescue mission.

The Dictator

May 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley
Directed by
: Larry Charles (“Borat”)
Written by
: Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat”), Alec Berg (“EuroTrip”), David Mandel (“EuroTrip”), Jeff Schaffer (“Bruno”)

It was only a few years ago that actor Sacha Baron Cohen could take one of his eccentric, ignorant and goofy characters across middle America and hold up a mirror to the country’s uneasiness with foreigners and homosexuals, among other things. But then “Borat” was released and became an instant comedy classic, shooting the extremely talented actor responsible for the hilarious “Da Ali G Show” into superstardom. Though he was still able to fool people in the less successful follow-up “Bruno,” Cohen’s box office success combined with his increasingly recognizable face and lanky frame made his formula of pestering oblivious people under the guise of a documentary become less possible. With this in mind, Cohen makes his first foray into the world of scripted narratives to bring another larger than life character to the screen in “The Dictator.”

While in the U.S. fixing to speak to the U.N. about a potential military intervention, the racist and nuclear weapon- obsessed Republic of Wadiya dictator Admiral General Aladeen (Cohen) is kidnapped and replaced with a look-alike. The plan is orchestrated by Aladeens uncle and advisor, Tamir (Ben Kingsley) in an effort to democratize Wadiya and open up its oil supply. While staggering around New York City, Aladeen runs into a local vegan store operator named Zoey (Anna Faris) who gives him a job while he plots a way to stop the decoy from signing the document to change Wadiya.

As usual, Cohen immerses himself in a character complete with a crafted accent and exaggeratedly unethical cultural customs. Like 2009’s “Bruno,” this film doesn’t feature one of Cohen’s stronger characters, though without question, he commits to a performance more than most comedic actors. As the love interest, Faris plays the role of Zoey pretty straight, mostly reacting to the absurdness of Aladeen. It makes for an okay, if not slightly disappointing performance considering how strong her comedic chops can be. The strongest member of the supporting cast is Jason Mantzoukas who plays Aladeen’s right hand man Nadal. Perhaps best known for his work on TV’s “The League,” Mantzoukas is able improvise lines and infuse great comedic timing to deliver some of the films funnier moments. Other than the role played by Kingsley, the rest of the cast is essentially a revolving door of cameos which work to varying degrees. John C. Reilly’s intensely racist character stands out in particular, while the Megan Fox cameo seen in trailers and commercials is particularly stale.

While the film misses more than it hits, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have humorous moments. The problem with these scenes, however, is that every single joke in “The Dictator” is easy. It isn’t just the excessive usage of shock and gross-out humor for an easy laugh. It’s pretty much every joke in the film. From the opening credits dedication of the film “in loving memory of Kim Jong Il” to the wacky customs of Wadiya to the androgynous appearance of Zoey, every joke can be spotted from a mile away.

There’s no question that Cohen is one of the most talented character creators in the film industry today. But based on the quality of his last two character-driven films, perhaps it’s time to move past the zany foreigner conceit. The fact that there are enough body hair jokes to count on two hands should inform potential audiences the humor in “The Dictator” can often be eye-rollingly lazy. And even when a joke comes around that works, one is more likely to crack a smile than bust a gut.

Yogi Bear

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris
Directed by: Eric Brevig (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”)
Written by: Jeffrey Ventimilia (“Tooth Fairy”), Joshua Sternin (“Tooth Fairy”), Brad Copeland (“Wild Hogs”)

As beloved as William Hanna-Joseph Barbera’s TV cartoons have been since the late ’50s, their recent resurrection as live-action/CGI-animated feature films has been hugely disappointing. Somewhat inspired casting choices like John Goodman as Fred Flintstone in “The Flintstones” and Matthew Lillard as Shaggy in “Scooby-Doo” (zoinks!) were spot on, but the films themselves were a firm reminder that without a competent script, nostalgia can only get you so far.

With “Yogi Bear,” another of these bizarre live-action/CGI hybrids, Warner Bros. aims their attention at a new generation of indiscriminate four-year-olds unfamiliar with the short-lived animated spinoff of the early ’60s. While the simplistically-drawn “Yogi Bear Show” only aired 35 episodes over two seasons, it’s considered a classic in the Hanna-Barbera canon.

In the new film version, which is the first picture not to be produced in some capacity by either creator (Hanna passed away in 2001, Barbera in 2006), the basic premise of the original cartoon remains the same. Yogi (Dan Aykroyd doing his best impression of comedian Rodney Dangerfield), along with his faithful sidekick Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake, whose take on the pudgy little bear is about as wonderfully wussy as his role in “The Social Network”), spend their time in Jellystone National Park evading Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and stealing campers’ “pic-a-nic” baskets. The troublemaking duo becomes the park’s main attraction when a filmmaker (Anna Faris) chooses them as the subject for her next nature documentary.

Jellystone can use all the publicity it can muster. The town is going bankrupt and a corrupt mayor (Andrew Daly) wants to sell the park to a company planning to cut down all the trees (cue an unoriginal green message and a plot centered on zoning regulations). Penned by three screenwriters, whose less-than-stellar credits include “Tooth Fairy” and “Wild Hogs,” and directed by longtime special-effects whiz Eric Brevig (“Total Recall”), “Yogi Bear” wears thin even at a merciful 82 minutes, which includes an unfunny, outdated dance sequence to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Yogi can still refer to himself as “smarter than the average bear” if he’d like, but his movie hardly supports the self-description. Instead, “Yogi Bear” joins other brainless live-action/CGI combos of the last decade like “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and “Garfield” to become yet another forgettable addition to the dullest of kid-friendly fare.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris and James Caan
Directed by: Phil Lord (debut) and Chris Miller (debut)
Written by: Phil Lord (“Extreme Movie”) and Chris Miller (“Extreme Movie”)

We might not get as hungry as we would if we were watching “Julie & Julia” or any number of culinary shows on the Food Network, but the new film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is an amusing romp through the refrigerator that proves Pixar isn’t the only animation studio cooking up winners.

While it’s going to be hard to one-up Pixar’s “Up” as this year’s best animation, “Meatballs” gets as close to doing it than any other computer-generated family film has in the last nine months. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett, the story follows Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), small-town aspiring inventor whose weird contraptions aren’t what someone would consider ingenious (spray-on shoes sound nifty if there were a way to take them off your feet).

With his father (James Caan) gently encouraging him to give up on his childhood dream and help him work at their family-owed bait and tackle shop instead, Flint’s future as an inventor rides on whether or not he can get his newest gadget – a machine that morphs water into food – to work properly without creating a catastrophe.

But when his experiment is accidentally launched into sky and causes it to start raining cheeseburgers, cherry pie, and a whole bunch of other fatty foods (can’t a guy get some lettuce wraps around here?), the once-economically unfortunate town sees Flint’s mistake as an opportunity to make money on “food tourism.”

However, when the machine goes haywire and stars pouring down food in massive proportions, Flint and his pet monkey (he’s strapped into a translation device like the dogs in “Up” and blurts out random words) must figure a way to stop the “techno food” from falling before the weather gets out of control (spaghetti tornadoes whooshing by in 3-D are such a delight!).

After seeing “Meatballs,” parents may want to keep a closer eye at the dinner table for those children who want to reenact the food showers, but that shouldn’t stop them from spending an afternoon savoring this visually scrumptious CG feature from Sony Pictures Animation. Just remember that saying “clear your plate” might mean something completely different once out of the theater.

Filled with wackiness and witty jokes, “Meatballs” is a riot that doesn’t pander to kids or over-think its humor for adults in the audience. The characters – including Anna Faris as a perky weather girl and Mr. T as a burly lawman – are written with a sharpness that is difficult to capture in a film with essentially two demographics. But where other animations have tilted in favor of one over the other, “Meatballs” serves up a nice balanced meal everyone will enjoy – even if the chicken drumsticks are as big as Mack trucks.

Observe and Report

April 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

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.

The House Bunny

August 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone
Directed by: Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”)
Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz (“She’s the Man”) and Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”)

With drama happening in the real life Playboy Mansion (if you haven’t heard, word on the street is Hugh Hefner is moving in another bunny and his three girlfriends aren’t very happy about it), it’s great publicity for the new comedy “The House Bunny,” which is being released by Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison.

I bring this up because Happy Madison’s track record isn’t one to boast. “Strange Wilderness,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” and “The Benchwarmers” are just a sample of the refuse the studio has put out in the last two years. In “The House Bunny,” not much has evolved except for the addition of more T&A. And even then, the T&A we are talking about is attached to actress Anna Faris, who may look like a Playboy model, but can’t carry a film on her own – at least not with this material.

The story begins by introducing us to Shelley Darlingson (Faris). Once an unwanted orphan, Shelley grows up, gets boobs, and ends up living in the Playboy Mansion along with Hugh Hefner and the other Girls Next Door. Shelley isn’t quite centerfold material, although she has posed in a nude pictorial called Girls with GEDs, but she is happy just being part of the gang of blonde bombshells.

But when Shelley is booted out of the mansion for supposedly being too old (she just turned 27, which is “59 in Bunny years”), she turns to sorority life and tries to become a house mother for a group of unpopular and socially-awkward college girls, whose Zeta Alpha Zeta house is going to be taken from them if they can’t come up with 30 new pledges before the start of the semester.

Cue the predictable and formulaic montages beginning with Shelley teaching the girls about style, how to apply makeup, and how to get guys to notice them. The so-called ugly girls are actually pretty ones hiding behind thick glasses, baggy clothes, and/or any other number of distracting props a la Rachel Leigh Cook in “She’s All That” or Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls.” The girls return the favor in a medley of ridiculous scenes by showing Shelly that while boys might be into looks, some, like Oliver (Colin Hanks), a guy who Shelly is crushing on, like girls with a little smarts, too.

It’s no surprise that writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith of “Legally Blonde are behind this cinematic travesty. While “Blonde” had its moments, “Bunny” is a bad rehash of the same story this time with a bit more skin. In it’s basic form, it’s a 97-minute long blonde joke without a noteworthy punch line.