5 posts categorized "crime comedy"


Second 'Hangover' more like a leftover

OK, "The Hangover Part II" is "Bridesmaids" for men.

How's that for equality?

What the above statement means is that men may have gotten the jump on women (no pun intended; maybe a little) when it comes to bottom-feeder raunchy comedy.  But women, as displayed recently in "Bridesmaids," are just as capable as men when it comes to comic carnal knowledge on the Neanderthal level.

A contrived follow-up to the huge box office success of "The Hangover" in 2009, "Hangover Part II" takes its vocal rancor, blatant nudity and dumb guys buzzard luck not only to Thailand, but also to the very bottom of soft-porn shock raunch.

And this time director Todd Phillips ("Old School," "Road Trip"), who can be booked on charges of conspiring against decency by directing the first "Hangover," is packing a monkey.

Not just any monkey, either.  This capuchin monkey smokes cigarettes, peddles dope, snorts a little himself and engages in monkey-on-monk simulated sex.

Too tough for you?

Then you'll definitely want to move on down the hall of the multiplex to something a little more tame, like the third sequel of "Pirates of the Caribbean."A quick note, though.  There's a nasty, snarling monkey in that one, too.

The key cast members of the first "Hangover" all return.  That includes Bradley Cooper as Phil, the leader of the Wolfpack and Ed Helms ("The Office" on TV) as Stu, who lost a tooth the first time around and is the groom-to-be (seriously messed-up) this time.

Also, Zach Galifianakis returns as Alan, the self-proclaimed stay-at-home son, and Ken Jeong gets to get naked and screeches his lines again as Mr. Chow, an international man of crime.

Exceptional actor Paul Giamatti ("Sideways"), who appears to have forgotten to go on his pre-shooting diet and looks uncomfortably pudgy, joins the cast briefly as a businessman who just happens to be in the crime business.

In case you haven't already guessed, "Hangover Part II" travels the same path of lowest brow humor possible.  Just like the first, but then some.  Instead of misplacing the groom this time, a night of Bangkok debauchery leads to a morning where Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law Teddy, a 16-year-old played by newcomer Mason Lee (director Ang Lee's son), is missing.

At least most of him is missing.  One of Teddy's severed body digits is discovered cooling in an ice bucket, which sets this less-effective misadventure in motion.

"The Hangover Part II," like its precursor, reveals all in a groan-inducing montage of gross-out photos during the final credits.

The good news is that no 3-D glasses are required for this one.  A barf bag might come in handy, though.


'Hornet's buzz is all wrong, but enjoyable

I got a kick out of "The Green Hornet" for the very reason fanboy comic book geeks and devotees of the former radio drama, serial feature and TV series won't.

In the hands of Seth Rogen, a formerly chubby big screen comic schlub who stars and co-wrote the script, the "Hornet" aims its stinger primarily at the funny bone.

I'm pretty sure that if offbeat French director Michel Gondry ("Human Nature," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") didn't pull back on the creative reins at times, Britt Reid (Rogen) and his gadget guru/weapons creator/coffee chef Kato (Jay Chou) might just hang around the Los Angeles mansion and read comic books about themselves much of the time.

As it is, Britt, who inherits his recently and mysteriously deceased dad's (Tom Wilkinson) newspaper, is a playboy lout stunned into crime fighting as a way to get back at his old man.

Once Britt decides to fight crime, he has no idea what The Green Hornet should do.  So while he's hanging around his late dad's newspaper, Britt hires a new secretary (Cameron Diaz, who keeps hanging in there).  She thinks she's doing research, but actually she's calling Hornet shots.

Rogen and  Chou, an Asian pop music star, play off each other well.  The reason many of the fanboys even care about this big-screen adaptation of "The Green Hornet" is that chop-socky hero Bruce Lee played Kato during its one-season run on ABC in 1966/'67.

Chou, a singer not a martial arts guy, recreates Lee's cool demeanor.  From this aisle seat, though, Chou's lack of English language command dilutes some of the rhythmn of scenes.

The twist here is that Britt and Kato want their own niche for The Green Hornet and his unnamed sidekick.  So they pretend to be bad guys, irritating both the local authorities and L.A.'s unofficial crime lord, a dapper little ruthless guy named Benjamin Chudnofsky portrayed by Christoph Waltz.

If you're anything like me, you'll have to push Waltz's marvelous, Oscar-winning performance in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" in '09 to the far reaches of the memory bank to enjoy what's going on here (pretty silly stuff).  

You should also know that although much is being hyped about "The Green Hornet" being presented in 3-D, that decision was made after principal photography was already in the can.  So the 3-D, with the exception of a fiery explosion or two, is no big whoop.

I may be all alone on this, but I like Rogen's laid-back, goofball turn as the title character.  In a stand-off between The Green Hornet, Batman and Spider-Man, the bat and the spider dude would probably laugh so hard they'd wet their spandex just looking at this masked avenger.

Don't go expecting a superhero flick you will reverently admire.  Go for a film that looks a lot like what a comic book-to-big screen conversion should usually look and feel like.

Just not this time, Seth.  Not that I mind, but the tight-lipped fanboys won't appreciate going for the gags.


Ferrell, Wahlberg drive arresting cop comedy

Power outages at a local theater stopped "The Other Guys" dead in their action-comedy tracks twice earlier this week.

Yet before the film flickered off and after power (electrical and comic) was restored, I laughed.  A lot.  It takes a pretty strong movie to regain an audience's attention under undue duress.

"The Other Guys" teams Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as hapless New York cops stumbling and bumbling through a case of big-money pilfering.  They're dubbed "the other guys" because although they're NYPD detectives they are also considered wimp cops, and thus pushed aside as desk jockeys.  

Buddy cop movies set in New York are nothing new, of course, no matter what the genre.  Robert De Niro and Al Pacino took the dramatic route with "Righteous Kill" a couple years back, and Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan amped up the buffoonery in February in "Cop Out."

"The Other Guys" definitely tilts to the silly side.  What impresses me, however, is how smartly and subtly (at times) director/co-writer Adam McKay and writer Chris Henchy ("Land of the Lost") steer the comic ship.

Make no mistake; buffoonery is in full bloom, especially in the first reel.  Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson chew the scenery shamelessly as superstar action cops who are full of themselves to a fault (literally).

When Gamble (Ferrell) and Hoitz (Wahlberg) speed off, sort of, in Gamble's cherry red Toyota Prius to crack a big pending case, the fun really begins.

After directing Ferrell in "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," and "Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy," McKay knows how to get the most from the gifted comic.  

It's been a while since Ferrell had a chance to really explore some nuance in a comic character.  But he does here.  His accountant detective was a pimp back in his college days.  So what we get is a meek Clark Kent character with flashes of superfly Superman bursting out at times.

Wahlberg can be funny as well.  He showed that in April as the constantly shirtless computer genius opposite Steve Carell and Tina Fey in "Date Night."  Comic success is all about timing, and Wahlberg's got what it takes here.

In fact, Ferrell and Wahlberg make a surprisingly appealing buddy-cop odd couple.  Ferrell downplays his character's appeal to the ladies beautifully, even to the point of insisting his knock-out gorgeous wife played by Eva Mendes is "plain."

On the contrary, "The Other Guys" is all about flash and dash visually.  Cars and vans fly almost as fast and furious as the punchlines.  That should please action junkies.

When the smoke clears, though, listen carefully to the dialogue.  The most effective comic entertainment comes from the words spoken and spoken well.

From this aisle seat, that's a refreshing change.


Blowing the whistle on a distracting soundtrack

"The Informant!" opens with the chatterbox biochemist played by Matt Damon preaching the virtues of corn.

It's too subtle a warning, however, that director Steven Soderbergh will wait until at least halfway through to reveal his corn pone approach to a dramatic story.

While the idea of a corporate whistle blower eager to help the FBI fascinates throughout, "The Informant!" veers off the tonal path in the name of finding a unique niche. 
Soderbergh, an Oscar winner for directing "Traffic" in 2000, appears to want to avoid the dramatic tone of "A Beautiful Mind," the bio-drama starring Russell Crowe, or even anything remotely of like confused mind.

So Damon, who put on 30 pounds and a mustache to portray real-life whistle blower Mark Whitacre, mutters under his breath about everything from neckties to polar bears.

It's not until Soderbergh allows his lead actor to ease an itch under his character's toupee that he truly reveals a playful nature to match the bouncy soundtrack.  Up until that moment, it's as if Woody Allen's "Bananas" soundtrack is being used as temp music for a dramatic story that will change some lives.

Based on Kurt Eichenwald's book "The Informant (A True Story)," Scott Z. Burns' screenplay peels away layers of Whitacre's mental facade as the vice president of agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland turns government informant.  There's price fixing going on, by golly, and Whitacre would rather wear a wire for the FBI than see his company (not to mention global partners) bilk the good citizens out of millions of dollars.

If you want to enjoy "The Informant!" as a corporate mystery that'll slowly reveal the bad apples as it bounces along merrily and musically, please skip the next paragraph.

From this aisle seat, I think it's more fun to know that Whitacre is a major manipulator from the get-go.

That said, just know that Damon, who finally gets to do some real acting outside the confinement of those "Bourne" action-thrillers, makes a competent corporate chameleon.

I also like Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap") as constantly baffled FBI Agent Brian Shepard.  And Melanie Lynskey (Stalker Rose on TV's "Two and a Half Men") adds mystery spice as Ginger, Whitacre's supportive (and compliant?) wife.

We can always count on Soderbergh ("Che," the "Ocean's" franchise driving force along with buddy George Clooney) to bring something offbeat and often daring to the movie screen.

"The Informant!" has its plot, dialogue and acting in the right place.  For the first half, at least, the unnecessarily goofy music just took me completely out of the story.


Gloom, 'Bloom' and kaboom

"The Brothers Bloom," written and directed by emerging filmmaker of note Rian Johnson, is one of those intricate con-man comedies full of quirks.

If you liked "The Sting" and especially "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," there's a good chance you'll at least be intrigued by Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as con men siblings who agree to pull off one last sting operation.

Johnson's screenplay lives in a lower tonal octave than either "The Sting" or "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," however. This one's all about gloom and, come to think of it, boom. Things blow up real good at times.

Stephen (Ruffalo) is the mastermind. He makes up elaborate scenarios and -- usually after much prodding -- convinces younger brother Bloom (Brody) to go along.

Bloom has had it with the game playing for profit, though. He reluctantly agrees on one last big job and, wouldn't you know it, he falls in love with the mark. She's an eccentric, bored, wealthy New Jersey heiress portrayed without a flaw by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener").

Once he's entrenched in her life, Bloom asks Penelope (Weisz) what she does to occupy her time.
"I collect hobbies," she replies in monotone before demonstrating a dozen or so of her acquired skills (skateboarding, ping pong, etc.).

Ruffalo, who had the misfortune to co-star in "Blindness," and Brody, an Academy Award winner for his fine work in "The Pianist" in 2002, are believable enough as brothers. And certainly Weisz can only improve almost any movie she graces.

"The Brothers Bloom" comes close, but it never quite blossoms into a globe-trotting con game you're likely to be enthralled by all the way through.

I must say, though, Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, an Oscar nominee for her work as the deaf teen in "Babel," is a load of fun as the usually silent Bang Bang, the gang's demolition expert.

Johnson took a Sundance Film Fest prize for originality for "Brick," his first feature. He shows here that he hasn't quite reached his full potential as a filmmaker. But it's coming. I'm sure of it.

"The Brothers Bloom" bogs down in its own gloom at times.