Buddy Games

Release: Tuesday, November 24, 2020 (internet) 

👀 Hulu 

Written by: Josh Duhamel; Bob Schwartz; Jude Weng

Directed by: Josh Duhamel

Starring: Josh Duhamel; Dax Shepard; Olivia Munn; Nick Swardson; James Roday Rodriguez; Dan Bakkedahl; Kevin Dillon




Party movies are supposed to be fun, right? Well, Buddy Games proves that stereotype wrong. 

It is a rough start for Josh Duhamel, who makes his directorial debut with this odious and generic copy of more successful bro-team comedies, namely 2009’s The Hangover and 2018’s Tag. There’s also a “wonderful” (your adjective may vary) rip-off of a certain Van Wilder gag-inducing gag but I won’t spoil that for you.

In what feels more like a ploy to diversify the IMDb stats than an inspired choice with which to begin a directing career, the Transformers actor does his best Robin Hood, thieving both plot and prank from the aforementioned bro-downs to give to his poor man’s Entourage. This less-than-purifying cocktail of debauchery, misogyny and fabergé male egos concerns a group of 40-something dudes — lifelong pals, so says this movie — who are getting back together after a falling out to do what they used to do best: get shit-house wasted and compete in a grueling weekend-long competition for a cash prize and/or the chance for complete and total humiliation.

Despite having five main characters in the cast the movie really boils down to tension between two of them, Shelly (Dan Bakkedahl — Veep; Life in Pieces) and Bender (Nick Swardson — Grandma’s Boy; Jack & Jill), leaving the rest to be defined either by profession or, uh, sexual orientation. Suffice to say, something went down between those two, something you have no trouble believing even close friends would take a long time to come back from. Several years later Bender, who just endears with humble brags of blowing through his inheritance “and shit,” is considered persona non grata and Shelly is living in an assisted living facility, permanently berobed and eating cereal out of his own belly button. Stand back — this man’s losing it!

At wit’s end, his own mother calls in a favor from the Bobfather (Duhamel), the only individual she knows that can snap him out of this deep a funk. Bob not only has money but he has, apparently, a way of pumping people up. Something else we quickly learn: He’s good at being buddies with his wife Tiffany (Olivia Munn — X-Men: Apocalypse; The Babymakers) but even better at maintaining a marriage to his buddies and all their shenanigans. Granted, there is a degree of subversiveness to the way this ostensibly stable relationship trends but ultimately Tiffany is yet another doormat role for the underratedly funny Munn. Duhamel, meanwhile, doesn’t so much bring personality to the role as he does cliches and handsomeness.

As to the directing, he similarly relies upon tired mechanisms, lazy jokes and stale archetypes to fill in the time that isn’t spent on the titular competition. The collaborative script kicks into a higher gear once it’s putting into action this ridiculously elaborate event inexplicably made possible by the efforts of only five men. In fact much of the story feels like it is just stalling for time until it gets to use the big set piece, stumbling and bumbling around with its half-baked themes of friendship and confidence and trust, with only but a few character foibles truly having any bearing on the story. On top of that, Kevin ‘Drama’ Dillon fans are going to have to be cool with less of him and a heavy dose of Nick Swardson’s niched brand of self-loathing humor to stay attached here.

The set-up is unabashedly, appealingly simple. Not to mention bro-unions are a time-honored tradition that I have a lot of time for. Get everyone back together, paper over some old wounds, learn something about friendship in the process, accidentally drink one another’s semen, yay we all go home. Often simplicity is enough for these things to work wonders. I mean literally The Hangover is a movie that made a puzzle out of tracing one’s steps backwards after a night of heavy drinking. Plots don’t get much more basic than that. Tag, meanwhile, had the benefit of being based on a semi-outrageous true story. But this movie is so damn loud it is obnoxious and frequently insufferable. In compensating for its lack of originality Buddy Games doubles down on testosterone to the point of drowning in it. 

I would actually accept almost all of this — the neanderthalic attitude towards women excluded — were the characters on some level likable. But Duhamel appears to assume that torn scrota and bruised egos make for all the sympathy and character-building a d00d movie ever needs.

Go out and drink your best life

Moral of the Story: It’s a movie about basically reclaiming past glory and manhood, in this case literally. Kevin Dillon (of Entourage) got me to bite. But it’s Swardson who dominates. If you’re a fan of his, like a super-fan I mean, you might just be the kind of viewer Buddy Games is looking to haze. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 90 mins.

Quoted: “I bet this place brings back fond memories!”

The . . . holy crap, it’s a green-band trailer (?!) . . . that, in retrospect, hides nothing at all and, in a way, makes my review seem naive 

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

Photo credits: flickeringmyth.com; imdb.com 

Park City


Release: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 (limited)


Written by: Hannah Rosner; Julia Turner

Directed by: Hannah Rosner

Undoubtedly best viewed through the eyes of a filmmaker, Hannah Rosner’s mockumentary offers up a fairly fun adventure for those curious about behind-the-scenes action in the life of an aspiring indie film crew.

A mostly satisfying blend of documentary-style intimacy and mumblecore imperfection, Park City follows passionate director Joey (Joey Mireles), diva actress Jill (Jill Evyn), business-savvy producer Hannah (Hannah Rosner) and stoner/moral support/assistant Dave (David Hoffman) as they make their first trip to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah armed only with their first film Hearts and Cash, and a few dollars to their name.

Crammed into a Prius with her co-stars and camera equipment (iPhone(s), perhaps?) Rosner makes the most of a literal low overhead by intercutting footage of the adventure with interviews with the crew as they describe the experience before, during and after. The crux of Park City arrives when, after a successful evening of “mingling” with some of the movers and shakers and partying down with the more accessible crowd (that was more the successful part), Hannah and Joey are rudely awakened by the discovery that their only copy of Hearts and Cash has disappeared.

With mere hours before their screening, they attempt to rationalize last night’s events and possibly track down the film reel. Naturally there are obvious suspects in fellow filmmakers, and Jill’s self-centeredness makes her a candidate as well. Meanwhile, Dave’s eyes have glazed over in the fog of marijuana and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the developments. With frustration mounting and time running out, will the team’s first attempt at getting exposure end up blowing up in their face? Is a generally bad experience ultimately still good experience?

In posing these questions this low-key, relatively amateurish misadventure doesn’t aspire to reinventing the reel. It aims for crowd-pleasing, if not the general public then a specific group of like-minded individuals. Then again, and in spite of an ostensibly exclusive subject and a starlet who seems intent on portraying performers in an unflattering light (Evyn ironically might be the best actor on display as she is good at getting on your nerves), Rosner is knowingly winking at anyone who has taken those first, scary steps in pursuing a life goal. Okay, so perhaps this generalization overloads the film’s quota of cliché, but I’d like to think Rosner’s work isn’t as pretentious as some are likely to write it off as.

While it’s difficult to overlook the shaky acting and occasional technical difficulties — audio seems to be spotty in places and it’s more than likely this film was shot using an iPhone — Park City is an experience worth soaking up.


3-0Recommendation: Park City might be aimed more for those plugged into the industry but there’s enough here to recommend to anyone with a general interest in film and the filmmaking process. The mockumentary has its moments of weakness (what film doesn’t?) but Rosner manages to overcome many of them by offering fun and interesting twists along the way. Think The Hangover on a much more modest budget, and with less set destruction, less vulgarity and definitely less Mike Tyson.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 86 mins.

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

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

The Hangover – Part III


Release: Thursday, May 23, 2013


…..sigh. I suppose the momentum of the party had to slow down sometime. Too bad that it happened when we all needed energy the most. In a trilogy, it’s never a good move to make your third and final installment the weakest in the series, even though that’s usually what happens.

Many Most trilogies spend a lot of time introducing characters, creating atmosphere, and providing a storyline in the first installment that will have us addicted at the get-go. The second film, ideally, is an expansion on what made the first film a success while managing to go to new places and new heights. It is most often where fans of the original, and even some newcomers, will butt heads with their opinions about the direction we’re going in — whether or not these are directed at that particular sequel or the differences/similarities between one and two is a matter of opinion that will widely vary. Regardless, a sequel more often than not bears the burden of living up to a standard. The first is free of such pressure, hence we often think back on the first film with fond memories, more often than not tagging them as THE film in the series to see.

And then we get the finale.

The third film has the most difficult job to do: expand further on where the others were taking us while bringing everything to a logical and fitting conclusion that not only contributes to the overall tone of the piece but satisfies this particular link-up of the story. A lot of the time, either one of these elements do not get met (and in some really bad cases, neither do), leaving us at times wishing they never continued to add to the story.

Todd Phillips’ drunken debauchery comes to a slam-bang close in The Hangover – Part III, but this time he has scrapped one of the major elements that made his previous two so funny: that moment you wake up and have no idea why you’re missing a tooth, parenting a random baby, or you’ve had your face tattooed in the style of Mike Tyson. “The morning after” discoveries really don’t have a place in this film since it is now time to prove what each member of the Wolfpack is made of. Phillips replaces this hilarious shock value with a much more traditional and quite frankly, boring, storyline that caters more to the likes of one Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) after he escapes prison and is being tracked down by some very mean gangsters indeed (led by none other than John Goodman) when he steals $21 million in gold bricks.

The involvement with our beloved Wolfpack is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Whilst the gang is minding their own business taking Alan (Galifianakis) to a facility where they hope he can receive the mental help he’s been clearly needing for a long time, they are run off the road by Goodman and company and find themselves with no other option but to help find the missing gold and Chow, otherwise Doug gets killed. At this point, Doug’s gotta be thinking his friends’ shit is just not worth putting up with anymore.

Regardless, the trap has been set and off we go on the third adventure that involves burglary, the defiling of bodies and the use of bath salts. The resultant story to justify it all is nothing more than a mess. Alternately chuckle-worthy and depressing, Part III demonstrates why comedy is not  the best foundation for making a trilogy. Most of this film focuses on Chow’s hijinks, some of which are hilarious, a lot of them not so much. We are no longer truly having a good time here. Part III is far less a comedy than Part II was (if you can believe that), and we really struggle to understand how any of these idiots have become married men.

If they’re not as dedicated to their wives, they are at least dedicated to trying to sell us on the same levels of panic and anguish as they had evinced in Bangkok — because, let’s face it, the stakes were much higher there than in Vegas the first time around. However, when Stu screams “What the f**k is going on?!!” in response to some bizarre sequence of events, the line comes across as more of a film tagline than an earnest reaction. This is but only one example of the many fraying edges we witness as the story goes on.

There are, however, a few redemptive moments throughout that come close to the spirit of earlier scenes in the trilogy. The house raid scene with Chow and Stu is priceless, as well as the climactic scene in Vegas. . . where it all began. Phil (Cooper) very boldly declares that “It all ends tonight.” Let’s hope so. I’m not sure anyone — the Wolfpack especially — can withstand anymore of this abuse. At the very least, Part III has worn out the comedic element; there’s plenty of drama to still go around. But that’s not why we paid for our Hangover really. And of the drama we really care about here, a lot of it is really just dumb melodrama, spurred on by Alan’s immutable stupidity.

As far as tying together all the loose ends, Phillips manages the job fairly well. The end is not so much predictable as it is appropriate, and may give some of the more hardcore fans of this trip some goosebumps. It would be a stretch to call it a bittersweet goodbye, but I would be remiss in not giving Phillips at least one thumbs-up for wrapping up the story nicely. It’s nothing even close to realistic, but then again, none of these films were! At the heart of The Hangover is a story of brotherly love, of sharing all the good memories one could ever want along with the bad, and surviving it together, come hell or high water. Or hookers. Or Mike Tyson. Or roofies.

Without getting too sentimental (considering this is surely the worst of the three), I’ll miss seeing this group of actors together but it’s good to finally get the hangover out of the way so we can move on about our day and get on with what we were meaning to do before we got so fucked up we couldn’t tell left from right. Shall we toast to that at least? I think we should.


2-0Recommendation: I would try to avoid seeing for as long as possible. Try visiting Vegas this time at your local dollar theater; this is by far the worst in the series and is not worth $10 since you’re not getting nearly the number of good laughs as you did in the first two. It’s a different story structure, which is a commendable risk that the director took here, but it resulted in unfamiliar territory that may take awhile to get used to. It’s less of a Hangover story as it is a drama with some very funny moments peppered throughout.

Rated: R

Running Time: 100 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