Pixels

July 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”)
Written by: Tim Herlihy (“Happy Gilmore”) and Timothy Dowling (“Just Go With It”)

Sure, the big-screen’s “Pixels” is ostensibly based on a short film of the same name, a glorified demo reel that features classic arcade characters attacking New York City, but in reality the film is a rip-off and re-skinning of four superior products that came before it. Take the “aliens misunderstand vintage media as how Earth really works” inciting incident from “Galaxy Quest,” season liberally with the crumbs of classic video game nostalgia left behind by “Wreck-It Ralph,” hint at the underdog spirit of the guy who just can’t beat the brash, be-mulleted bad guy in “The King of Kong,” lift, well, pretty much the entire plotline of one segment of an anthology episode of “Futurama”—called “Raiders of the Lost Arcade”—and toss in an indifferent, fading movie star in Adam Sandler and you’ve got the recipe for “Pixels,” a boring excuse for a summer movie that thinks talking about Donkey Kong or Pac-Man appearing on screen as they appear on screen is entertainment in and of itself.

The movie begins somewhat promisingly in 1982, when young Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito here, Adam Sandler as an adult) and his best pals Will Cooper (Jared Riley, grown up as Kevin James) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Jacob Shinder, Josh Gad grown up) ruled the local arcade with their skills. Sam was so good, in fact, that he was able to compete in the video game world championship that year, only to lose his Donkey Kong game in the finals to Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge as a kid, Peter Dinklage as an adult), a flashy, arrogant video game rock star. Thirty something years later, Sam never really recovered, living his existence as a lowly flat screen TV installer instead of doing something meaningful with his life. That all changes, though, when Cooper—now the goddamn President of the United States, for some reason—calls upon Sam’s expertise to battle video game villains who somehow mistook a time capsule video of classic arcade games as an act of war.

“Pixels” could have been something special, but alas, director Chris Columbus (himself a faded star) seems content in just referencing classic video game characters instead of exploring why they would be doing what they’re doing as bad guys and what such a retro-gaming friendly alien invasion would mean. The movie treats Sandler and crew like the only people on the planet that understand Pac-Man, for crying out loud, as if iterations of the game haven’t been released on every single video game console for the last 30 years. Summer special effects movies can get away with being a lot of things: stupid, childish, shallow, and so on, but the cardinal sin is to be incredibly boring, and “Pixels” is just that. Download Pac-Man or Donkey Kong to your phone and play those for an hour and 45 minutes instead.

The Zookeeper

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb
Directed by: Frank Coraci (“Click”)
Written by: Nick Bakay (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Kevin James (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Jay Scherick (“Norbit”), David Ronn (“Norbit”), Rock Rueben (debut)

Deep inside the ferocious land of Hollywood, grazing around the talent pool like a fat warthog at a watering hole, a stumpy beast hunkers down waiting to pounce on the first screenplay too weak to defend itself. His eyes dart back and forth as other more agile predators pick off the meatier prey one by one. Suddenly, the creature gets his chance. A scrawny script has been separated from its herd and is helpless. Within seconds, the brute leaps from his squatting position and takes aim. His broad calves push him forward for the kill, but it isn’t meant to be. His feet are caught in the brush and he lands on the ground with his face in the mud.
 
This is what the narration might sound like if the Discovery Channel featured a Kevin James Week.
 
Unfortunately for audiences, James, best known for the TV series “The King of Queens,” which ran for nine seasons before ending in 2007, gets his paws wrapped around more flimsy screenplays than anyone who likes to laugh would hope.
 
Despite his terrible movie choices over the last four years (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Grown Ups”), James is as harmless as a collection of chubby cherubs, which is one reason he continues to get second-rate roles in comedies like “The Zookeeper,” another dismal product from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Production Company (AKA Rob Schneider’s meal ticket).
 
Directed by Frank Coraci, who delivered one of Sandler’s best movies with “The Wedding Singer,” “Zookeeper” takes a page from another James flick, 2005’s “Hitch.” Instead of taking dating advice from Will Smith, however, James, who plays insecure lead zookeeper Griffin Keyes, is schooled in the subject of love by a zoo-full of chatty wildlife. Voice work includes Sylvester Stallone as a discerning lion, Nick Nolte as a depressed gorilla, and what sounds like a constipated Sandler as a capuchin monkey.
 
Although it might sound like another wannabe “Charlotte’s Web,” the talking animals don’t make up much of the story, which centers on Griffin trying to win his materialistic ex-girlfriend back. In one unfunny scene, a wolf explains that a male mammal must mark his territory to get the female species’ attention. Acting like even more of a numskull and for no particular reason, Griffin relieves himself in a potted plant at a dinner reception as if the advice was actually useful.
 
Let’s just hope James stops pissing on things long enough to realize his film career is already sufficiently soaked.

The Dilemma

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder
Directed by: Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”)
Written by: Allan Loeb (“The Switch”)
 
Academy award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) has given us some exceptional films over the course of his nearly 25-year career as a director. Despite making a couple of memorable comedies during that time (“Splash” and “Parenthood”), the genre isn’t one you’d consider his forte. With “The Dilemma,” it’s safe to say he still doesn’t have it quite figured out.
 
In “The Dilemma,” Vince Vaughn and Kevin James deliver their usual buffoonery as best friends and business partners Ronny Valentine and Nick Brannen. When Ronny (Vaughn) discovers Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) is cheating on Nick, he can’t decide whether or not to break the news to him while he is under a critical deadline for work.
 
Without much chemistry between Vaughn and James, “The Dilemma” allows its two stars to take turns in the spotlight. Vaughn does his usual nonsensical rambling (sometimes it works, here it doesn’t) while James grumps it up and even finds time to have a conniption fit on the dance floor (when will James learn he’s not Chris Farley?).
 
Where “The Dilemma” truly fails, however, is in its awkward tone. Howard has no idea what type of film he wants to create. While there is definitely a darker side to the comedy, it never feels like a true dark comedy. When it goes for the lowbrow humor, “The Dilemma” proves it has a major identity crisis that is impossible to remedy with such a weak and misguided script.

Grown Ups

June 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”)
Written by: Adam Sandler (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”) and Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”)
 
Adam Sandler’s reputation may proceed him as an actor, comedian, and screenwriter, but it’s probably time we refer to him differently now that his career seems to be on autopilot. Meet Adam Sandler the humanitarian. Since first forming Happy Madison Production Company in 1999, Sandler has single handedly kept his closest – and least talented – friends employed for a good part of the last decade.
 
For those of you who thought “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Strange Wilderness” or “The Benchwarmers” (all movies under the Happy Madision umbrella) were actually funny, “Grown Ups” might be just the summer nonsense you’ve been waiting for.

In “Grown Ups,” Sandler and his crew, which includes Kevin James, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and a very much out-of-place Chris Rock, play five childhood friends who reunite after 30 years when their middle school basketball coach passes away. Not only did Coach Buzzer (Blake Clark) teach them how to be champions on the court, he taught them to live life without any regrets.

Somehow the sound advice translates into the geeky grown friends deciding they should spend the Fourth of July weekend together at the same campground they frequented as boys. Lenny Feder (Sandler), a hotshot sports agent, wants to show his bratty sons and fashion designer wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) they can survive without luxuries.

Schneider plays a holistic vegan with an elderly wife he swaps spit with; Rock plays an underappreciated stay-at-home dad; Spade is the life-long bachelor; and James is, well, the fat guy (most of his moments come in the form of sight gags written specifically for the portliest actor of the group).

Written by Sandler (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”) and Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”), “Grown Ups” is nothing more than lowbrow mockery between characters that is on par with a brainless collection of “your mama” jokes.

It’s painful and awkward to watch these men lounge around with goofy smiles and nothing interesting to say. While most of the dialogue seems improvised, the only ones that seem to be snickering at the stupidity of it all are the actors themselves.

Centered on a terribly-written, pun-filled screenplay, “Grown Ups” is another lame entry into the more juvenile projects Sandler can’t seem to kick. If he has any interest at all to make movies with more to offer than one-liners you could find on the walls of a public bathroom, Sandler will have to cut the cord that connects him to Dugan and his regular army of idiots.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kevin James, Keir O’Donnell, Jayma Mays
Directed by: Steve Carr (“Are We Done Yet?”)
Written by: Kevin James (debut) and Nick Bakay (TV’s “In Living Color”)

As a physical comedian, Kevin James will never reach the level of someone like the late Chris Farley or Jerry Lewis, but if you’ve seen his TV show “The King of Queens,” there are some instances when James can toss himself around with the best of them.

But in his new film “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” the teddy-bear-of-an-actor can’t carry an entire production even on his broad shoulders. Plus, smashing his face into as many things as humanly possible doesn’t really constitute as entertainment unless you’re searching the phrase “epic fail” on YouTube or watching a “Three Stooges” marathon. (Farrelly Brothers, take note. Could James be your Curly?)

In “Mall Cop,” James plays title character Paul Blart (yes, it rhymes with fart, how amusing), a New Jersey security officer who settles for protecting the local mall after he fails to pass physical training to become a state trooper. It’s not that Blart is incapable of getting past the tires and ropes of the obstacle course (he’s fairly limber for a man of his girth), but his hypoglycemia makes him pass out if he’s not gnawing on a Snickers bar every 15 minutes.

Blart’s ability as a security guard is tested when a gang of ninja-like X-gamer thieves infiltrate the mall on Black Friday and take a small group hostage inside the mall’s bank. The hostages include Amy (Jayma Mays), a cute kiosk girl Blart is crushing on, and Blart’s biracial daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), whose mother abandoned her after she used Paul to get a green card.

With only his Segway and his intuition to guide him (“The mind is the only weapon that doesn’t need a holster,” he says), Blart is the lone, er, law enforcement with eyes on the inside that can stop the criminals from getting away with their tactless plan.

Directed by Steve Carr (“Are We Done Yet?,” “Daddy Day Care”), “Blart” begins and ends with a foolish script penned by James and TV writer Nick Bakay. Most of the jokes run longer than they should while others fall flat on delivery. We get that Blart is supposed to be this lovable moron who can’t get a break in life, but he comes off as more annoying and pitiful than he should.

Sure, fat can be funny if the story falls into place, but with “Mall Cop” scenarios and storylines get way too ridiculous and James as a bumbling chubster plays out juvenile at best.