5 posts categorized ""Saturday Night Live""


Field plows into frumpy, fantasizing 'Doris'

Sally Field as the title character in "Hello, My Name Is Doris." Seacia Para/Roadside Attractions

Generally speaking, when an extraordinarily gifted actress like Sally Field, a two-time Academy Award winner (Norma Rae, Places in the Heart), is out front, a film is strong enough to warrant a trip to the neighborhood movie house.

That’s almost the case with "Hello, My Name Is Doris," but not quite.

Field, nominated for a third Oscar as Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in 2012, pours her acting soul into Doris. She’s a 60-something New Yorker from Staten Island who has just lost her mother and now must fend for herself at work, with her friends and, perhaps most importantly, when she’s alone.

Not unlike Doris, however, there’s just too much baggage in this layered comic-drama for even a gifted pro like Field to carry herself. Doris is not just conflicted, as any lonely woman in her 60s might be after losing her closest human contact (her mother).

In many ways, Doris is still a teenager in her mind, even though she’s nearing retirement age at the office where she keeps accounts in a cubicle that can barely contain her volatile angst. Let’s just say her path to happiness and mental stability is as cluttered as her home, where she throws a fit when relatives and a psychologist try to get her to part with a hoarded single snow ski she has no use for.

There’s enough going on in Hello, My Name Is Doris to suggest that Field would have a Field day (if you’ll pardon the pun) rumbling through the mental mess that is her title character. Unfortunately, this tale of an aging wallflower desperate to blossom into a relationship with the handsome young new art director named Max (John Fremont) careens off into something that’s a little bit Walter Mitty (an uncontrollable fantasizer) and a lot made-for-TV movie material.

Director Michael Showalter, who also co-wrote the script, is working with material first explored in an eight-minute NYU student film. Expanded to 90 minutes, however, Hello, My Name Is Doris runs out of creative gas, much like so many of those funny Saturday Night Live skits that died on the feature-film vine.

Field is fine, more than fine, in fact. She jumps into the lovable frump bag that is Doris body and soul. There are no complaints from this aisle seat about Fremont, currently starring on the small screen as Schmidt opposite Zooey Deschanel on the Fox sitcom New Girl. And it’s fun to see Tyne Daly as Roz, a steadfast best friend to Doris.

Unfortunately, Hello, My Name Is Doris is not constantly compelling enough to live on eccentricity alone on the big screen. It might play well on TV in prime time, but somewhere down the list of cable channels that attend more to matters of the heart than matters of essential cinema.


MPAA rating: R (profanity)
90 minutes
Jalapeño rating: 2½ (out of 4)


Bride and prejudices

First, the good news about the raucous comedy "Bridesmaids."

I laughed.  I laughed a lot, and so hard that I shook a couple of times.

And the bad news?  As funny as it is, this "Hangover"-for-women is sloppy at times and overindulgent.   Still, "Saturday Night Live" standout Kristen Wiig is so good that I'm ready to dub her "the new Lucille Ball."

Director Paul Feig, however, apparently doesn't know how to trim a scene down to its golden comic core.  I'm guessing Feig, creator of TV's "Freaks and Geeks" who has been working in TV lately, probably eats bananas peel and all.

"Bridesmaids" is, however, very, very hilarious much of the time.  And it proves women can be just as raunchy as men when it comes to bottom-feeder dark comedy.

Wiig teams with two close friends.  The modern female genius of goofball comedy (Come on, did you see her in "Paul"?) co-wrote "Bridesmaids" with former Groundlings co-member Annie Mumolo.  In front of the camera, Wiig joins forces with Maya Rudolph, the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member.

Wiig takes on the role of downtrodden jewelry store clerk Annie, who might as well be called "second-hand Rose."  Her dream -- to own a bakery in Milwaukee -- fell victim to the lousy economy.

Annie sleeps with a jerk named Ted ("Mad Men's" Jon Hamm) she doesn't even like and -- when she's really down in the dumps -- gets in a shouting match with a teenage girl who wants "Best friends forever" engraved on a locket.

Much of "Bridesmaids" involves a series of set pieces, which generally work but may remind audience members of extended sitcom or "Saturday Night Live" sketches.

Wiig is so good, though, that it matters little.  What the writers and Feig do right is allow Annie to suffer through angst that many of us snacking in the dark can identify with.  She has money problems, for one thing, and drives an old clunker car that may or may not start.  

That would be funny enough by itself.  But when Annie's asked to be her best friend Lillian's (Rudolph) maid of honor, she must somehow attend high society way beyond her means -- an expensive dress, parties at the country club and such.

Anyone who's ever been forced to drop off a beat-up old car for valet parking in a line of Mercedes and other ritzy rides will appreciate Annie's dilemma.

"Bridesmaids" is boiling over with humor like that, and much of it scores.

It also helps that Wiig is surrounded by very solid support.  Rudolph is always terrific and she is here.  So is the late Jill Clayburgh in her final film role.  Clayburgh plays Annie's mom.

Rose Byrne ("Insidious") does some interesting things with Helen, the high society bridesmaid trying to horn in on the longtime friendship between Annie and Lillian.  And Melissa McCarthy, co-star of the TV sitcom "Mike & Molly," might just have you rolling in the aisles as Megan, a woman of size who has a heart of gold and a suggestion for the bridal shower theme:  "Fight Club."

"Bridesmaids" ultimately, though, is Wiig's show.  With a little editing help, it could have earned extrememly high marks as brilliant lowbrow.

Still, I love Lucy.  I mean Kristen.


'Paul' needs to phone home for more guffaws

Although comic actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost might not admit it, before "Paul," their latest effort, they were Great Britain's version of Abbott and Costello, or Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

In comedies like "Shawn of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "Run Fatboy Run," Pegg pegged the straight role (Abbott and Martin) while Frost goofed around as the funny, or at least funnier guy (Costello and Lewis).

To put it bluntly, there are two Abbotts and a definite need for a Costello in "Paul," a mildly funny alien/human road picture featuring the voice of funny guy Seth Rogen in the title roll and a scene-stealing featured role for "Saturday Night Live's" Kristen Wiig.

Wiig made me laugh the most as Ruth Buggs, a one-eyed religious zealot who breaks away from her Bible-thumping, shotgun-toting father to join the adventure.

Adventure doesn't necessarily mean a consistently comic one, however. This one, written by best pals and frequent collaborators Pegg and Frost and directed by Greg Mottola ("Adventureland," "Superbad"), is rather pedestrian.

That's despite a computer-generated extra-terrestrial (Rogen) on the run to hook up with his mother ship and get home. Of course, there are buffoons (government and from Hicksville) who get in the way.

I kept waiting for Pegg and Frost to make me laugh, as they have many times before. But the duo of Brit wits are resigned to being reactors in this one, relying on the CGI alien and Rogen's quips to do the comic heavy lifting. Unfortunately, that just never materializes.

"Paul," and thus screenwriters Pegg and Frost, borrow heavily from Steven Spielberg's "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Somehow (movie studio nudging, perhaps?) they even get Spielberg to phone in during an embarrassing conversation with the alien.

The talents of Jason Bateman ("Up in the Air," "Juno"), Jane Lynch ("Glee" on TV) and "Saturday Night Live's" Bill Hader are pretty much wasted in secondary roles.

"Paul" isn't a total washout. There are spotty laughs to be found here and there.

When it comes to the sparse comedy, though, it's impossible to tell who's on first.


'MacGruber' is funny, outrageously raunchy

"Ninety minutes, MacGruber!"

That was my admittedly negative thought going into the screening of "MacGruber" Thursday night.  

My skepticism about turning yet another three-minute "Saturday Night Live" skit into a feature film soon segued into:

"Hey, this is around-the-bend goofball fun, but it's also -- how can I delicately put this -- NASTY!"

Raunchier than "The Hangover," which is no easy feat, "MacGruber" fills the screen with Will Forte as the seriously off-kilter, bull-headed action hero with a carry-over '80s mullet hairstyle and -- at least once -- a stalk of celery up his arse.

I told you it was raunchy.  Forte co-wrote the devilishly raucous script with "SNL" writers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone, who makes his feature film directing debut.

"MacGruber" offers no pretense of Academy Award campaigns to come, or even an attempt to be taken seriously.  The aim here is silly fun in the outrageous "Austin Powers" mode.   From this aisle seat, it's the most entertaining "SNL" skit supersize since the late John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd hit the big-screen road as "The Blues Brothers" 30 years ago.

Ten years after his wedding and his bride Casey (Maya Rudolph) blew up in his face, gadget special operative MacGruber is lured out of a South American monastery by his old commander, Col. Faith (Powers Boothe).  MacGruber agrees to leave behind his decade of peace for two reasons:

His old nemesis, black market arms dealer Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), has stolen a missile with a nuclear warhead and is up to no good.

Also, the kids of the South American village, whom he believed adored him, tell MacGruber to "go s%&)$ himself."

It's that kind of lovingly sarcastic movie, folks.  This kind of over-the-top silliness may not be your cup of cinematic cappuccino.  If it is, however, the trio of creative minds behind this nonsense spare no raunchy laugh, pratfall or nudie gag along the way.

Forte, a solid member of the current "Saturday Night Live" troupe, appears right at home in the shaggy MacGruber wig and the bumbling persona.  This special ops hero prefers gadgets to guns, but he's not above going for the throat to drive the humor home.  And you can take that throat reference literally.

Ryan Phillippe ("Flags of Our Fathers," "Crash") makes the most of his chance to flex comic muscles as Lt. Dixon Piper, MacGruber's reluctant comrade in arms.

Kristen Wiig, the finely tuned comic engine that makes "SNL" worth watching after 35 years, excels here as Vicki St. Elmo, MacGruber's assistant.  The writers are smart enough to allow Wiig enough screen time to explore hilarious nuance in a character that only sets up the time line in the TV skits.  By the way, the love scene in this film is the funniest I've seen since Woody Allen got horizontal with Diane Keaton in "Play It Again, Sam" in 1971.

"MacGruber" is far from a perfect film.  The dialogue is stilted at times.  And even though the actors appear to be acting in a skit from time to time, it never feels like the "MacGruber" skit from "SNL" stretched thin to an hour and a-half.

In fact, when Vicki calls out "Three minutes, MacGruber" to the anti-hero, you might just feel like you're sharing a dark room with an old familiar friend.


I love 'Man,' man

We’ve all had our share of romantic-comedies.  There’s nothing wrong with the well-worn boy-meets-girl scenario.

It’s just been done and done and done some more.

Here’s some good news for comedy fans.  “I Love You, Man,” starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, ushers in something new.

Are you ready for the “bromantic” comedy?

Well, you should be, especially if you like bawdy comedy, big laughs and bottom-feeder material that won’t insult your intelligence.

Rudd (“Role Models”) and Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), who appeared with Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up,” share the screen with Rashida Jones, a talented TV actress (who has appeared on “The Office”) making a strong impression on the big screen.

“I Love You, Man,” written and directed by John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly”), comes out of the chute looking like a typical romantic-comedy.

Somewhat shy L.A. realtor Peter Klaven (Rudd) asks Zooey (Jones), the girl of his dreams, to marry him.  She says yes and babbles the news, as well as intimate details about their relationship, to her gaggle of best gal friends.

It isn’t long before Peter realizes that he’s going to be a few groomsmen shy at the wedding.  In fact, he’s so short of male friends that he can’t even come up with a best man.

Enter Sydney Fife (Segel), an outgoing cool guy who lives down at the beach and seems to know everyone.  Peter and Sydney become fast friends, even though they’re as different as any “Odd Couple” Hollywood has ever touted on a movie or TV screen.

Zooey, very happy to see her fiancé expand his realm of friends at first, begins to resent the newcomer who has quite an influence on her husband-to-be, maybe.

Even though it’s full of often extremely crude sexual references, “I Love You, Man” earns audience acceptance through clever lines, new situations and excellent acting all around.

Rudd, Segel and Jones are out front, of course, but this is at times an inspired ensemble piece spilling over with excellent support.  Jaime Pressly (“My Name Is Earl”) and Jon Favreau (“Swingers,” director of “Iron Man”) are show-stoppers as a bickering married couple.  Also, Andy Samberg (“Saturday Night Live”) impresses as Peter’s gay brother, and J.K. Simmons (“Juno’s” dad) has some excellent brief scenes as his father.

I laughed out loud more than once at this raunchy comedy-with-a-twist.

I say bring on more bromantic-comedies if they’re going to be as good as this.