Bridget Jones’s Baby

September 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey
Directed by: Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”)
Written by: Helen Fielding (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”), Dan Mazer (Bruno), Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility”)

It’s never a good idea to milk a film franchise when the story has already dried up. Such seemed to be the case with 2004’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” the pitiful sequel to the highly satisfying original “Bridget Jones’s Diary” three years prior. As one of the best romantic comedies in the last 15 years, “Diary” set the bar so high (Renee Zellweger was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress), “Reason” really had no purpose for existing.

Now in an attempt to round out the trilogy and capture some of the appeal of the first film, original director Sharon Maguire returns to helm the third installation “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” a cheery and charming addition that might be considered “jumping the shark” if it was a TV sitcom.

Instead, “Baby” is a bubbly way to re-introduce audiences back to Bridget, now 43 years old and still single, but living life her own way and in less of a state of self-pity than before. After having a one-night stand at a music festival with dating website entrepreneur Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey filling in for Hugh Grant as the romantic foil) and hooking up with old flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget discovers she is pregnant but doesn’t know which of the two is the father.

Of course, with Bridget, things can’t be as simple as telling the men one of them is the father. Instead, she strings them both along allowing each of them to believe he’s the baby’s daddy. It’s not until she breaks down and reveals the truth to Jack and Mark and the two men decide to stay in it for the long run that “Baby” becomes less of a sideshow and more of a story about what is in the best interest of Bridget and the baby.

Without Grant’s character, however, all we’re left with is two good guys to cheer for until the very end. Sure, the narrative shouldn’t be as much about the men as it is about our title character and her bun in the oven, but there’s not much conflict when either of the possible men in her life would probably make fine fathers. It’s hard to find much fault in some of that dry British humor though. With Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility”) thrown into the mix, “Baby” definitely takes a step up from where Bridget left off.

Dirty Grandpa

January 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch
Directed by: Dan Mazer (“I Give It a Year”)
Written by: John Phillips (debut)

Although comedy is not the first thing one would think of as a cornerstone of Robert De Niro’s illustrious career, the two-time Oscar winner has had a few moments of levity with performances in films like “Meet the Parents” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” De Niro’s comedic chops, however, are usually wasted on subpar scripts where his characters turn out to be one-dimensional and bland (“Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle,” “Showtime,” the “Meet the Parents” sequels, “The Family,” just to name a few). The same can be said of his recent foray into the comedy genre with “Dirty Grandpa,” an embarrassingly unfunny and mean-spirited project that could only be described as the cinematic equivalent of a kick to the groin.

In “Dirty Grandpa,” Zac Efron (“Neighbors”) stars as Jason Kelly, a young and uptight lawyer who is tricked into driving his grandfather Dick (De Niro) to Florida right after burying his wife, Jason’s grandmother. While Dick unconvincingly reminds audiences he loved her, he is ready to move on soon after she is put in the ground. The reason Dick is so adamant about going to Florida is because after 15 years of life without having sex, he wants to get laid. A lot.

That’s the basic premise of “Dirty Grandpa.” It’s a movie featuring a grandson unwillingly driving his grandfather around so he can find a Spring Break-ing college chick to ride him back to 1963. Of course, raunchy things happen along the way that might have been considered darkly humorous if there was some sort of direction to all the cruelty (date raping jokes, pedophilia jokes, swastika jokes, homophobic jokes, and about a thousand penis puns), but these one-off attempts to shock audiences are nothing more than lazy and superficial gags that hang out there like disgusting little dingleberries.

Aside from grandpa being horny, director Dan Mazer (“I Give It a Year”) and first-time screenwriter John Phillips try to add some unearned emotion into the film with a side story about Jason rethinking his marriage to an overbearing fiancée and falling in love with a girl from the past. There’s also a badly executed storyline about fathers and sons and how making amends with one another is important. Mazer and Phillips want it both ways. Sadly, “Dirty Grandpa” refuses to understand that with a comedy like this it’s impossible to wear your heart on your sleeve if it’s already covered in semen.

Brüno

July 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Clifford Bañagale
Directed by: Larry Charles (“Borat”)
Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat”), Anthony Hines (“Borat”), Dan Mazer (“Borat”), and Jeff Schaffer (“EuroTrip”)
 
There’s no denying the devotion Sacha Baron Cohen exhibits when he transforms into one of the satirical characters he made famous in the U.K. and then later on HBO. Whether you are a fan of his streetwise poser Ali G, his socially-awkward Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev, or his homosexual Austrian character Brüno, Cohen is doing the most nervy comedy routines in recent film history.
 
In “Brüno,” Cohen’s follow-up to his hilariously over-the-top 2006 mockumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the British comedian takes his sometimes shocking antics to places you have to see to believe. During the process, he creates extremely uncomfortable scenarios that will leave you squeamish if they’re not making you keel over in laughter some of the time.

In case you’re not familiar with Brüno, he is a flamboyant gay model/host of an Austrian TV show called “Funkyzeit.” Brüno’s career tailspins when there is a mishap on the fashion runway, which leads to his firing. Although he is distraught, Brüno sees his dismissal from the show as an opportunity to do something else. Thus, he packs his bags with designer clothes and moves to Los Angeles with his assistant’s assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) to become Hollywood’s next big star.

Like in “Borat,” no one within a few hundred feet of Baron Cohen is safe in “Brüno.” It’s really difficult, however, to believe some of the places the actor is able to infiltrate as a fictitious fashionista. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that most people in foreign countries (other than Kazakhstan) probably don’t know who he is, but why didn’t anyone in Paula Abdul’s entourage do a little research to find out who exactly she was sitting down with for an interview? And why does a scene where Brüno trains in the military feel like a skit instead of a realistic situation?

Still, with every scene that could possibly be simulated or that just isn’t funny (a joke about hummus and Hamas is ridiculous as is an African-American baby joke that fizzles out), there’s one that feels entirely too real. In one such scene, Baron Cohen fakes a technical difficulty during an interview with U.S. Congressman Ron Paul so he can get him to come into a bedroom at a hotel to wait until the lighting problem is fixed. During the scene, Brüno attempts to seduce Paul with wine, music and a strip tease before the Texas Republican storms out of the room wondering what the hell is going on.

In “Brüno,” the jaw-dropping moments like this far outweighed the actual humor the movie delivers. Where “Borat” was a quasi-sociological experiment with a bigger agenda, “Brüno” feel more like a reason to let Baron Cohen see how far he can push the rating system. “Bruno” is rated R. Without some of the censorship black boxes the Motion Picture Association of America probably demanded for Universal Pictures to use, the film could have easily received an even more adult rating (we’re not talking about NC-17 either).

Whether you care for full frontal male nudity or not, “Brüno” definitely has its moments. It’s the portions of the film that feel less stagey that illustrate the true brilliance and sickness of Baron Cohen. Still, “Brüno” feels more like something Steve-O from “Jackass” could have done if he had more talent than just stapling things to his scrotum. For his skill to humiliate and horrify, Baron Cohen deserves credit. But there’s a better movie in him after he retires his entire fleet of familiar roles.