Delivery Man

November 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Ken Scott (“Starbuck”)
Written by: Ken Scott (“Starbuck”) and Martin Petit (“Starbuck”)

In “Delivery Man,” manchild and meat company delivery truck driver Dave Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) faces parenthood in a way he couldn’t have imagined: as a sperm donor, he is the biological father of 533 kids. Through this process, Dave finds out that 142 of these children are pursuing a lawsuit against him in order to discover his identity after his privacy forms from the clinic are under the alias of “Starbuck.” As Dave seeks out his children and spends time trying to take care of them, he wrestles with the idea of revealing his identity.

To his credit, Vaughn bucks his conventional role of the fast-talking, neurotic jokester seen in most of his roles and turns in a more subdued performance. It’s a welcome change, especially since his role in this year’s “The Internship” further proved that his schtick is wearing thin, but it is perhaps too dialed back and at times a little lifeless. Most of the humor from the film comes from his lawyer friend Brett played by Chris Pratt (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”), who is knocking on the doorstep of stardom with roles in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the long-awaited fourth installment of the “Jurassic Park” franchise. While Pratt’s full range of comedic abilities isn’t put to use, he is the funniest part of the film and is able to inject some energy into a picture that is surprisingly dour.

Tone is a big problem for “Delivery Man.” It’s almost difficult to call it a comedy, not just because it isn’t particularly funny, but there seems to be a lack of jokes being made at all. The film overshoots for far too many dramatic moments, many of which feel manufactured. There is also an issue with the conceivability of the story. While the narrative might be loosely based on real life situations of sperm donors fathering large amounts of kids, 533 is such a preposterous number to choose that it distracts from the movie itself.

As a comedy, the most humorous part of “Delivery Man” might be the irony that a movie containing a central plot line of a man who donated enough sperm to father a small army of children is being distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It’s riddled with problems, but its main downfall is its lowkey tone that at times robs the film of any vibrancy. Some of the more sentimental moments are well-executed and it’s nice to see Vaughn branch out and try a new role, but ultimately, “Delivery Man” can’t get out of neutral.

The Internship

June 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne
Directed by: Shawn Levy (“Date Night”)
Written by: Vince Vaughn (“Couples Retreat”) and Jared Stern (“The Watch”)

When the modestly budgeted comedy “Wedding Crashers” came out in 2005, few people (not to mention the studio) anticipated its mammoth success. Not only was it the highest grossing comedy of the summer, but it, along with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” spawned a resurgence in the edgy R-rated comedy genre, a trend that still hits box office gold today. Arguably the biggest reason for “Wedding Crashers’” success was the pairing of actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Eight years later, Wilson and Vaughn join forces again in “The Internship.”

After their company goes bankrupt, middle-aged watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are forced to throw themselves back into the job market. Desperate for something new, Billy and Nick apply for an internship program at Google. When they arrive, they find themselves to be the oldest interns (by decades) and are teamed up with a group of youngsters and an enthusiastic Google employee. As they go through a series of challenges to try land a job, Billy and Nick realize they’re in over their heads in a program full of tech-savvy people.

Predictably, Wilson and Vaughn fall into character structures similar to the ones they had in “Wedding Crashers.” Wilson plays the part of the charming go-getter while Vaughn is his neurotic and persuasive counterpart. Unfortunately, these characters are far more flimsy than the ones in “Crashers.” Wilson probably fares the better of the two, as his relationships with his fellow interns and Rose Byrne work decently. Conversely, Vaughn’s fast-talking, stumbling-over-his-own-words shtick is tiring and becomes grating very quick. The rest of the cast is rounded out by secondary characters and a few cameos, none of which are particularly noteworthy.

For a film that boasts bankable comedic talent, “The Internship” really struggles to find consistent laughs. Most of the jokes fall flat, including a bizarre recurring 30-year-old reference to the movie “Flashdance,” which is never funny despite the three or four times they go back to it. In place of a clever screenplay, the film relies too heavily on Vaughn and Wilson for laughs. Another bothersome wrinkle in the film is its obvious product placement for Google. Everything is green, yellow, blue and red, and virtually every service that Google provides is name-dropped at some point during the film. It wouldn’t be so bad if each scene didn’t contain some sort of corporate shilling.

At its core, “The Internship” is an underdog story about people who are being phased out by a new generation. From a sheer storytelling perspective, director Shawn Levy follows the formula close enough to sustain the films watchability, especially through the back half of the movie. The problem, however, lies in the unfunny script, average characters, and overextended run time. It’ll take something a little more substantial and effortful for Vaughn and Wilson to regain their once held spot as kings of the summer comedy.

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.

Couples Retreat

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell
Directed by: Peter Billingsley (debut)
Written by: Vince Vaughn (debut), Jon Favreau (“Swingers”), Dana Fox (“What Happens in Vegas”)

Pack light. “Couples Retreat” might seem like an island paradise at first glance, but the star-powered date movie quickly turns into something as enjoyable as the most annoying parts of a free timeshare vacation.

Directed by Peter Billingsley (he played Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”), “Couples Retreat” is not the kind of comedy anyone should take their fiancé (or fiancée) to if they plan to keep the thought of marriage positive before the big day. With so many unlikeable and featureless characters and a script that reads like a fall TV sitcom begging to get axed after six episodes, “Retreat” recoils into childish and repetitive jokes, character clichés (Carlos Ponce steals Hank Azaria’s role from “Along Came Polly” and plays a macho womanizer) and a whole lot of unfunny foolishness.

Basically, the film capsizes right from the start. Married couple Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) are thinking about getting a divorce. They’ve weighed all the pros and cons of splitting up, but don’t think they can come to a conscious decision unless they make one last effort by going to a tropical island resort where they can spend quality time with each other and get some much-needed marriage counseling.

Problem is, Jason and Cynthia can’t afford the trip on their own (here’s an idea: plan a cheaper trip), so they ask their friends to go with them so they can take advantage of the group rate. It takes some groveling on Jason’s part, but before anyone can say Beach Blanket Bingo Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Ackerman), Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis), and Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) are getting off an airplane at a destination described as “Disneyland for adults.”

But what is supposed to be a fun-filled week for a majority of the group becomes a dreaded marathon of couple-building exercises when relationship guru Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno) makes everyone wake up a the crack of dawn to talk about their feelings and participate in other nonsensical icebreakers (who knew throwing bloody chum at sharks could save a marriage!).

Each couple has their specific problems, but none of them are of much significance in the hands of screenwriters Favreau, Vaughn, and Dana Fox (“What Happens in Vegas”). What the writing trio identifies with the most isn’t the deep-seeded problems of a broken relationship, but instead how far they can push their couples (and the audience) to the brink of boredom.

The funniest scene of the movie comes when the men are discussing whether or not thinking about other women while having sex with your wife should be considered cheating. It’s not a groundbreaking joke or anything, but the guys refer to it as a personal “highlight reel” (the best sexual experiences of one’s life), which is fairly clever in terms of sports metaphors. A few misplaced chuckles, however, don’t make up for the movie’s major limitations.

“When you’re married, love is having someone to go to Applebee’s with,” Vaughn’s Dave proclaims by the end of the movie. It might sound like the same kind of cute gibberish you would hear someone like actor Michael Cera deliver in a romantic comedy, but something about “Couples Retreat” makes us think all the characters involved are just dense enough to believe it.

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.