St. Vincent

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Release: Friday, October 24, 2014

[Theater]

Written by: Theodore Melfi

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

In St. Vincent Bill Murray is the sort-of-bad guy, and Melissa McCarthy is the sort-of-saint. The role-reversal almost seems self-congratulatory it’s so overt. But does that make this comedy a bad movie?

That largely depends on how you define ‘a bad movie.’ That nine-letter phrase can imply so much. So let’s, before the headache, establish that ‘bad’ in this case translates as lazy; predictable; easy. In which case, you might as well stick a fat check mark in that box. St. Vincent rests on formula when it’s strongest and tugs violently on the heart-strings when all else fails. Had it not been for solid performances (I suppose here’s where I could include ‘predictability’ within the parameters of ‘bad movie’) this unapologetically manipulative and downright boring affair would likely be one of the year’s biggest letdowns.

Bill plays a curmudgeon named Vincent — a veteran of some war (let’s call it the Vietnam War — that’s the one where American troops were appreciated the least, right?) who these days is more comfortable with a bottle of whiskey in hand rather than a woman. But he’s not completely stupid. He makes sure to exude the one other classic symptom of hardened-vet status: a fascination with ladies of the night. In particular, it’s this Daka girl — I can only hope Naomi Watts isn’t usually this annoying — whom Vincent is taken by. He manages to scrape by with a pack of cigarettes and his shitty home cooking and makes regular rounds to the horse track to pay off whatever debts he owes to whomever it may be.

Oh yeah, that reminds me: Terrence Howard is in this.

Vincent’s ability to wall himself off from everyone becomes a character defect best disposed of when the script calls for it; i.e. when young and earnest Oliver (an undeniably excellent 11-year-old Jaeden Lieberher) needs a place to hang out for a few hours while his hard-working mommy (McCarthy) slaves at the hospital to pay the bills after moving to Brooklyn in the wake of a nasty divorce. Credit needs to also be given to McCarthy who, for the first time in some time, seems to be caring about what she offers a film. She’s fantastic. She’s the rock currently holding the two together as she staunchly defends her right, as a good and basically decent human being, to entrust another person to look after her son while she tries to fix things at home.

Too bad her mistake was to loan the babysitting reigns to next-door-neighbor Vincent. After all, isn’t he a man still trying to make things work with a stripper? In a series of “unlikely” events — made actually quite likely given the grouch’s understandable routine of bars, booze, and race track backtrackings — the man and the boy grow into a weird friendship of sorts. Again, this is at the behest of this script. I see no natural development here. (Nor do I have much inspiration to go back and find it, either.)

While enrolled in a private Catholic school, Oliver is asked by his teacher (Chris O’Dowd) to find someone students know, or know of, who may have qualities befitting a saint. Well gee-golly-willickers — I wonder who our fearless Oliver is going to pick? Surely not the bastard who once guilt-tripped his own mother into paying for the fence (and the fucking tree branch) that the moving company she hired was truly responsible for destroying. Yup. That’s the one. Yeah.

In the same way I’m willfully dismissing St. Vincent as a hollow exercise director Theodore Melfi is trying to prove his production has depth; originality. It relies heavily on Bill Murray to provide the gravitas, Melissa McCarthy the humor, and the child actor the quotient of precociousness a film like this needs to survive. Well you know what? It all just fails. Nothing about it seems saintly or even vaguely redeemable.

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2-0Recommendation: I really don’t recommend this to many. For fans of Bill Murray, go watch Ghostbusters; pop back in the Caddyshack DVD; Moonrise Kingdom; hell, go re-watch Space Jam for something that better showcases his talents. Just stay away from this if you’re thinking all things Bill Murray. Unfortunately I’m in a bit of an awkward position because Melissa McCarthy is indeed saintly here. She’s great because she offers a great counter-balance to the permanence of Vincent’s depressive state, which is something Murray sells to great effect.

Rated: R

Running Time: 102 mins.

Quoted: “A saint is a human being we celebrate for the sacrifices they make, for their commitment to making the world a better place.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

We’re the Millers

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Release: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

[Theater]

And Clark Griswold thought the time he had spent with his family on vacation was difficult. Jason Sudeikis stars alongside Jennifer Aniston in a film that thinks its a family comedy but what it’s more like is a raunchy, ill-parented spoiled brat of a comedy. It may otherwise be viewed as an hour-and-forty-minute-long reason to see Jennifer Aniston strip down and do a dance to convince everyone that she’s a stripper. To each audience persuasion their own.

While that’s a true highlight, We’re the Millers makes leading the domestic life look about as difficult and stressful as performing last-minute neurosurgery during a power outage. That may sound funny, but that’s not what the film is unfortunately. In fact, it’s insanely weird and uncomfortable. Rawson Marshall Thurber, responsible for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, was tasked to direct this film and also unfortunately this feels nothing like the spirited, “we’re screwed but we’re going to still enjoy the moment anyway” brand of humor that washed over Dodgeball‘s cliched storyline; the direction here feels hesitant, unsure and quite frankly amateurish. There is hardly any excitement going on at all and while there are funny parts, the vast majority of this film is almost painful to watch.

Regard the somewhat interesting premise: David Clark (Sudeikis) gets his pot stolen from him one day and realizes he now owes his guy (Ed Helms) — a wealthy drug dealer who’s quite the prick — a good amount of money that he currently can’t get back to him. Helms’ Brad Gurdlinger offers David an alternative: ‘If you go across the border and tell the guys there’s a pick-up for Pablo Chacon, you and I are all good. It’s just a smidge of weed. Okay, a smidge-and-a-half.’ Naturally, David knows he himself is too sketchy to cross international borders to retrieve “a smidge of any drugs,” so he quickly comes up with a plan to falsify a family and act as if they are on a vacation to Mexico. He recruits a couple residents of his apartment building, including Rose (Aniston) who is a stripper and will be his wife; and a really dorky, awkward kid named Kenny (Will Poulter) as the son. Kenny turns out to be quite hilarious, as a matter of fact.

He also recruits a young girl who seems to be living on the streets at the current moment — a girl named Casey (Emma Roberts), who also thinks Kenny is like, so major dorky. Perfect for a sister. They all fake their way across borders to “smuggle” (not deal) drugs — there’s a difference — and they become mostly successful. The whole thing really is quite a fun gimmick, but the script simply lacks weight and the story comes across as flat as any rodent David could have potentially converted into roadkill along his highly illegal journey.

Still, can’t go on throughout this family affair without mentioning performances. In spite of the weak script, Aniston is pretty damn good here, and is a funny, strong character who is a good match with Sudeikis, surprisingly. Even though the script most of the time didn’t allow any real romance develop between them (even though it tried), you could see it being a decent re-edit of the film that is currently released. If this movie had received some touch-ups, this might have been a very decent movie.

I really just can’t move on beyond how suffocatingly bad the script was. I’m like, so totally over, like, not good writing, gosh. . . .

Sudeikis as David has moments of being funny, but mostly he’s just a jerk and unlikable. The real winner, and a big source of the guffaws in We’re the Millers, is within Kenny’s dorky teenager trying to break out of his shell. I enjoyed him quite a bit, and far more than Sudeikis. Helms is more or less a nonsensical jackass (which I suppose we have gathered from his Office repertoire) that is not likable at all, either. The movie’s sophomoric writing and plot development basically makes all of these would-be-funny characters wooden puppets, slaves to the strings of bad writing that limits the funny moments to a few every half hour — even that might be generous.

There is some underlying merit to the film, despite how impish the script was in trying to spin the thread of morality that was obviously there from square one; how so many jokes failed in adding to the story much beyond raunchiness. At the heart of the story is something heartwarming, a weird attraction that ends up pulling all these formerly random individuals closer together to the point of actually desiring a family life together. The experiences they go through — as contrived, artificial and damn tedious as they are presented — establish legitimate relationships between the characters, and that was also rewarding.

We’re the Millers satisfies on some kind of mindless entertainment level, but if that’s a compliment, I don’t mean for it to be.

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Shameless. So I have to share.

2-0Recommendation: Though the film really means well, I feel there is far too much potential wasted in this movie for me to recommend it fully. Dollar-theater material, people?

Rated: R

Running Time: 110 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com