Baywatch

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses,” “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”)
Written by: Damian Shannon (“Freddy vs. Jason”) & Mark Swift (“Friday the 13th”)

Somewhere in the world, there’s someone upset about the state of the industry of turning corny, old TV dramas into theatrical tongue-in-cheek raunchy comedies. A grown man is angry right now because “21 Jump Street” was turned into a hilarious meta-commentary on the ridiculousness of action movies and their sequels instead of a gritty reboot, or that “CHiPs” was made into, well, I don’t know because no one saw “CHiPs,” but it looked like it was supposed to be a comedy, too.

Anyway, now we’ve got a comedic reboot of “Baywatch” on our hands—once certifiably the most popular show in the world—and I imagine there are a few lost souls desiring an existential crisis-filled lifeguard movie highlighting the psychological rigors of saving people while you yourself are lost or some other horse shit, but nope. Instead, it’s kind of just as doofy as a normal “Baywatch” episode caught mid-transformation into a half-baked mess of a comedy drowning in weak dick and boobs jokes and not much else.

Borrowing loose characterizations from the syndicated cleavage- and slo-mo-filled TV show, “Baywatch” focuses on hotshot lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his posse of crime fighting lifeguards, including no-nonsense Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and blonde bombshell CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach). Several spots have opened up on the squad, and just in time, too—the beach (now apparently somewhere other than Los Angeles, for tax reasons I guess) is being overrun with a new drug called Flakka and a ruthless realtor (Priyanka Chopra) is looking to gobble up beachfront real estate. Enter a trio of candidates: sometime dim-bulb disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), sincere, dedicated Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and schlubby-but-determined Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). Will they have what it takes to make the squad and save the beach? Yeah, of course.

Clearly modeled after the “Jump Street” films, “Baywatch” belly flops when it comes to effective satire and face plants into the sand when it comes to raunch. Forgive my crassness here, but some movies demand nudity, and a simple prosthetic penis won’t do the trick. The screenplay, which well-known script doctors of unsalvageable crap Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant have a story credit on, never decides what to do with its willing cast. Is Efron’s Ryan Lochte send-up the dumbest guy in the room, or the only guy who can see how weird it is that a bunch of lifeguards fancy themselves as crime fighters? Is Mitch a bullying alpha male or a too-sincere leader? Is CJ running in literal slow motion absurd humor, or a weak attempt at “Naked Gun” style parody? It’s all these things and more, but mostly it’s an awful misfire.

Identity Thief

February 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau
Directed by: Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”)
Written by: Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”)

Though Kirsten Wiig might have been the star and creative force behind the smash hit “Bridesmaids,” perhaps nobody benefited more from the films success than actress Melissa McCarthy. Not only did she have the entire country talking about how funny she was, but she rode that level of acclaim and popularity to heights like hosting “Saturday Night Live,” winning an Emmy for her work on “Mike and Molly,” and even being nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Bridesmaids.” Like many before her, McCarthy’s status now gives her the chance to jump from scene-stealer to leading lady. She starts that venture off in the new comedy “Identity Thief.”

When Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) notices that his identity has been stolen, he must travel to another state to catch the person who is using bank accounts. His trip leads him to Diana (McCarthy), a long-time criminal who uses illegal schemes to excessively spend other people’s money. When Sandy and Diana’s safety is threatened by a crime boss Diana scams, they must travel cross country together before trouble finds them both.

With the television show “Arrested Development,” Bateman proved himself to be one of the best straight-man comedic actors around. His seemingly normal character surrounded by complete chaos served as a perfect springboard for others to play off of him. What made Bateman so great, however, was his ability to find laughs himself through reactions and subtle humor. Unfortunately, Bateman’s post “Arrested” career has him stuck in a similar role to the Michael Bluth character he played on the show. Like his characters in “Horrible Bosses,” “The Switch,” and “Extract,” Bateman once again plays an uptight, seemingly normal man who can’t catch a break. In “Identity Thief,” most of Bateman’s purpose is to stand back and let McCarthy do her thing. Because of this, he does not get to showcase the comedic talent he possesses. It’s unfortunate to see a talented actor fall the victim to typecasting, but Bateman can’t seem to shake this particular persona.

In her first post-“Bridesmaids” leading role, McCarthy whiffs in the humor department, though it isn’t entirely her fault. Flat out, the biggest issue is that director Seth Gordon banks on the most of the humor in the film coming from the audience finding McCarthy unconditionally funny. Time and time again throughout “Identity Thief,” the audience is expected to laugh at the barrage of unfunny scenes and situations simply because it is McCarthy doing it. Simply put, it is putting faith that audiences find her inherently funny. It’s the same thing that happens with Will Ferrell. Someone pitches “Will Ferrell as a figure skater” or “Will Ferrell as a 70’s basketball player.” They skimp on quality, bank on people to find laughs because they find everything that Will Ferrell does funny, and end up with massive duds like “Blades of Glory” or “Semi-Pro.” There are more than a few scenes in “Identity Thief” that dig for cheap, lazy laughs rooted in a woman of McCarthy’s size doing physical acts or acting over the top.

Of course, the main reason why the comedy in “Identity Thief” fails is because of screenwriter Craig Mazin, who penned “The Hangover Part II” and the last two movies of the “Scary Movie” franchise. It’s hard to tell what the goal of the film is, but whatever pieces that are attempted fall short. The film doesn’t evoke the mismatched chemistry and build the complex and humorous relationships that road-trip comedies typically have. This also includes the few scenes of raunchy, gross-out comedy. The films few amusing moments come from clear improvisation from its two leads. There is a tonal shift towards the end of the film that features some attempts at dramatic moments that don’t fit. Even though the scenes don’t work in the context of the film, McCarthy is able to show her emotional range as an actress and proves that if perhaps given better material, she can really shine in a role that calls for humor and dramatic chops.

One of the more interesting storylines to follow with “Identity Thief” will be if McCarthy can prove herself to be a big box-office draw as a lead actress. Perhaps there are enough people who do find her funny in any situation and will devotedly show up at the box office for her latest films. While her time as a burgeoning lead comedy star is off to an inauspicious start, one wonders what she can do if she’s not forced to be the female version of Kevin James.

Four Christmases

November 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall
Directed by: Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”)
Written by: Matt Allen (debut), Caleb Wilson (debut), Jon Lucas (“Rebound”), Scott Moore (“Rebound”)

You have to feel a little sorry for director Seth Gordon. After helming 2007’s “The King of Kong,” a well-received and very entertaining documentary about a video game rivalry between two Donkey Kong world-record holders, he somehow finds himself stuck with four unproven screenwriters during his first feature, “Four Christmases.”

To make matters worse, “Four Christmases” isn’t the kind of holiday family movie a writer can really use to spread his or her wings. It’s a basic Christmas slapstick comedy where most of the characters end up on their backs in the most painful ways and someone learns a valuable lesson about the importance of family.

Unlike other crappy Christmas comedies in recent years like “Christmas with the Kranks,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Surviving Christmas,” the only thing “Four Christmases” has going for it is likeable albeit mismatched lead characters. Vince Vaughn (who was also pretty bad in last year’s holiday horror “Fred Claus”) and Reese Witherspoon star as Brad and Kate, a couple who decides to take a vacation to Fiji instead of visiting their families for Christmas.

The weather, however, doesn’t cooperate with their plans and Brad and Kate are forced to make four separate trips to their divorced parents when they’re caught on the local news trying to make a break for it at the airport.

Each home visit brings along its own cliché family calamity. For example, at the backwoods home of Brad’s dad Howard (Robert Duvall), social statuses clash when Brad’s cage-fighting brothers Denver (Jon Faveru) and Dallas (Tim McGraw) are offended when he buys the family expensive gifts. Other parents on the list to receive a yuletide house call: Brad’s mom Paula (Sissy Spacek) and her much-younger lover, Kate’s mom Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen), who has started dating a church pastor (insert baby Jesus jokes here), and Kate’s dad Creighton (Jon Voight), who’s really the heart of the whole movie but is cut short by a thinned-out script.

Cheesy joke after cheesy joke, “Four Christmases” might not make you gag as badly as Brad does when he sees a baby puke, but you definitely won’t feel good after watching these family members butt heads under the mistletoe. Nor should director Gordon feel too terrible for squeezing as much as he possibly could from the mess he was handed. Making mansions out of matchsticks probably isn’t easy either.