Category Archives: Comedy

‘Game Night’ is a Great Dark Comedy

When executed properly, I don’t think there is anything better than a black comedy.

“Game Night” follows a group of friends (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) who get involved in a possible kidnapping mystery during their weekly game night get together. Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Wright also star as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein direct.

I have enjoyed every project that John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have done, grant it to varying degrees. I love “Horrible Bosses” and despite its critical backlash I liked the unflinching mean-spirit of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Their directorial debut, the “Vacation” reboot, has a decent amount of chuckles (many from Chris Hemsworth) and they also had a hand in the Frankenstein script of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” They didn’t write this film, that credit goes to Mark Perez (although the duo apparently did an uncredited rewrite) but their trademark dark comedy touch is on it and thanks to a talented cast this is a fun film that works.

The names on the poster of this film are incredible and Daley and Goldstein get A-games out of them all. I adore Jason Bateman and his trademark deadpan shines here yet again and partners well with Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams’ simple charm. McAdams made a name for herself with “Mean Girls” but actually doesn’t do too many comedies so here’s hoping this opens up the demand for her to star in more.

Lamorne Morris has some great impersonations and reaction shots (he’s basically playing his “New Girl” character) and there are several cameos I won’t spoil that add a layer of mystery and fun to the film.

The absolute scene-stealer is Jesse Plemons, who plays a socially inept neighbor. Absolutely crushing his toe-to-toe deadpan matchups with Bateman and using dictionary-level vocabulary, Plemons is so wonderfully awkward and dark that a lot of the time the audience didn’t know if and when to laugh because the uncomfortable pauses he creates are so masterful. Really, I enjoyed every performance here and have a big crush on J̶a̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶B̶a̶t̶e̶m̶a̶n̶ Rachel McAdams but Plemons is the hands-down best part of this film and it’s no coincidence that he is featured in its best scenes.

The whole selling point of the film is the “what is real, what is a game” aspect but that really is just all it is: a selling point. There are a few twists along the way but nothing you haven’t seen before (and probably done better) and the film does lag a bit toward the end of the second act (even though it only runs 100 minutes).

“Game Night” has gross-out gags, deadpan and mean-spirited deprecation, all of which are right in my comedy wheelhouse so this was always going to be my slice of pie. I do think that it has enough broad humor for audiences who just want a fun time at the movies, though, and with a cast like this it would be hard to go wrong.

Critic’s Grade: A–

Cruise Tries His Best to Save ‘American Made’

american_made_filmTom Cruise did some damage to his reputation this past summer with “The Mummy” so at least this earned him back a little bit of street cred…


“American Made” is the based-on-a-true-story tale of Barry Seal, a commercial airlines pilot who began smuggling guns for the CIA and cocaine for the Medellín Cartel in the 1980s. Cruise stars alongside Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Jesse Plemons as Doug Liman directs.


The trailer for this film seemed pretty mundane, to put it nicely. It’s not that it looked bad but given Cruise’s recent slump, partnered with the typically bland September release date and a sense of “been there, done that” I just wasn’t really looking forward to this, even though I do tend to enjoy Cruise and love me a period piece. And “American Made” is essentially exactly what the trailers pitch it as, so how much the trailers gave you pleasure will likely equal your level of enjoyment from this film.


There is a lot going on in this film and a 117 minute runtime isn’t enough to do all the stories justice. Barry Seal lived an incredibly fascinating life and if Liman had just stuck to what Seal knew and saw then perhaps that would have been sufficient enough for the film. However, he crams upwards of 10 years of events and several threads into the runtime and it leads to some lulls and pacing issues, and a lack of identity.


There’s a little bit of “Narcos” with the involvement of Pablo Escobar and the Cartel, a little bit of “Goodfellas” because of the setting and the style the film is shot in and a dash of “Wolf of Wall Street” because a hard-working (good looking and charismatic) underachiever suddenly makes more money than he knows what to do with by illegal means. We’ve been down all these roads before and those roads led to much better mediums than “American Made.”


Tom Cruise’s star may be fading in the United States but he shows here he can still carry a movie. Unlike “The Mummy” Cruise is able to play a cocky jerk (his trademark) and for the most part is why this film works; he gets some good one-liners and seems to be having fun. Unfortunately there really isn’t much arch to his character, as we are introduced to him flying commercial planes then in the very next scene he is recruited by the CIA. We don’t really get too much of a look into his life before the smuggling began, and the struggles or lack of fulfillment in his life that would lead him to take on such a venture.


The aesthetics of the film are all mostly good, with a solid soundtrack and production value that places you in the world of 1980 Columbia and Arkansas, and the cinematography by César Charlone emphasizes use of handheld cameras, which adds to the dizzying and frantic nature of Seal’s story.


There are some things to like about “American Made” but they all feel like smaller parts ripped from better movies (or at least stories that each deserve their own better movie). Still, fans of Cruise should find enough to enjoy here and if you want to get out to the theater but killer clowns and spy sequels aren’t your thing then you can do worse at the movies right now. Unlike Barry Seal, however, just know what you’re getting into before making the call.


Critics Rating: 5/10

Trey Parker Steals Show in Better-Than-Expected ‘Despicable Me 3’


Maybe the Minions aren’t as much a sign of the Apocalypse as I once feared…


“Despicable Me 3” is the third film of Illumination’s most popular franchise, and follows ex-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who meets his long-lost twin brother (also Carell). The duo must then team up to defeat a childhood actor-turned-supervillain (Trey Parker). Kristen Wiig, Steve Coogan and Jenny Slate also star as Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda direct.


I think the first two “Despicable Me” films are perfect children entertainment, with enough laughs for adults to stay amused, too. The “Minions” spin-off, however, was everything wrong with kid’s films nowadays (reliant on fart jokes and lazy animation), and the trailers for this third entry appeared to be more of that. However it is clear from the opening sequence that the writers are trying to make a film for everyone again, creating an animated romp that is nothing special, but it will keep all who view it entertained.


Trey Parker, best known for creating and voicing many characters in “South Park,” absolutely steals the show here. The film opens with Parker’s Balthazar Bratt stealing a diamond off a boat and it’s fantastic. Bratt was a child actor on a show where he portrayed an adolescent villain but when his show got cancelled he vowed revenge on Hollywood. He moonwalks, wears shoulder pads and blasts Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and even though I wasn’t alive in the 80s I loved all the references and Parker gives as great a vocal performance as one may expect.


The Minions were a fun in the first film but then Illumination realized what they had on their hands and shoved them down our throats in the sequel; then of course they got their own film and become the face of the franchise. They’re toned down here, really not affecting the plot and just having some simple cutaway jokes every few minutes and return to their cute and chuckle-inducing ways.


Some of the animation is inspired and original however (in traditional Illumination fashion) there are plenty of lazy bits, too. Non-main characters are recycled designs and some backgrounds and settings are basic and flat, because Illumination was literally founded to make movies that turn out profits. Their animated films only cost around $75 million, compared to Pixar, which has not made a film for less than $150 million in more than 15 years, so they often turn profits of over $300 million.


The moments leading up to the climax somewhat lag and even kids in my audience were getting anxious, but once Gru faces off against Bratt in Los Angeles things pick back up.


I enjoyed most of “Despicable Me 3” and that is really all that matters. It has enough clever references and innuendos for adults and more than enough stupid humor and pretty colors for the kids, Trey Parker and Steve Carell remain top vocal talents and even if this isn’t going to win any Oscars (or is as culturally or historically significant as, say, “The Boss Baby”) there is enough here to put a smile on your face if you’re having a despicable day.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

This ‘House’ Built on a Pile of Wasted Talent


Will Ferrell really needs to stop making R-rated comedies, they’re never good.


“The House” stars Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents who start an underground casino in order to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins and Nick Kroll also star as Andrew J. Cohen makes his directorial debut.


I was looking forward to this one ever since it was announced in early 2015. Even though he has had a losing streak lately I always try to give Will Ferrell films a chance, and writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien penned “Neighbors,” its sequel and the entertaining “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” so there was a lot here to make one opportunistic, and I would have been willing to bet on this being a success. But just like “Semi-Pro,” “Get Hard” and “Step Brothers” (don’t @ me), Ferrell again stumbles with his R-rated attempt as “The House” wastes its cast in a thinly scripted, dull and uninspired romp.


Like I said in my review of “Rough Night,” I am pretty generous to comedies. If it makes me laugh, I tend to give a film a passing grade, since a point of a comedy is to make you laugh. But “The House” doesn’t really have that many genuine moments of comedy, and the best parts of the film are in the trailer. The film is stretched so thin (it’s only 88 minutes long) that it almost doesn’t feel like a real movie, which would explain why there was only one trailer for this; had they made a second one they would have ended up showing entire film.


Some scenes last for 30 seconds simply to deliver a single punchline, while other sequences come and go without even attempting to create a laugh; or at least, no one in my audience laughed. Which is always awkward, when a film delivers a punchline then has the beat before the next line of dialogue so the audience can laugh without missing a line. But when no one laughs, the silence in the theater is only more uncomfortable.


To their credit, Ferrell and Poehler seem to be putting in at least some effort and in another project I’m sure would be a great comedic pairing. But the script doesn’t make them anything besides cookie-cutter “parents who are losing their kid to college and dread empty nest syndrome” and the supporting cast are all over-the-top characters that only exist in movies. The film’s lone bright spot is Jason Mantzoukas, who I am normally not a fan of, I think he is grating and always has the dial turned to 11 out of 10, but he is a little more tame here and has some great delivery of lines that had no right being so funny (someone asks him why he didn’t drive his car to the party and he simply goes “ha, I can’t find it.” I don’t know, I laughed).


There really isn’t much more to say about “The House.” I saw it just a few hours ago and it’s already all but gone from my mind. I can’t see this being entertaining enough for anyone to really enjoy and it is certainly a letdown given the talent on both sides of the camera. The last time Ferrell had an R-rated film in the first half of a year was “Get Hard” in 2015, and he followed it up with the not-so-great “Daddy’s Home” later than holiday season. “Daddy’s Home” is getting a sequel this November, so here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.


Critics Rating: 4/10

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Baby Driver’ is Well-Acted and Original, but It Just Wasn’t For Me


Every time I see Kevin Spacey in something I’m reminded how much I love seeing Kevin Spacey in things.


“Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort as a young getaway driver for a crime boss (Spacey) who has to do one last job before getting out of the life and running away with his girlfriend (Lily James). Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx also star as Edgar Wright writes and directs.


I’ll give Edgar Wright all the credit in the world, when the man makes a film he often takes the most basic, cliché genres and plots (like zombies, cops and heists) and somehow manages to put a fun, unique twist on them. I enjoy his trilogy of films with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and was looking forward to his version of “Ant-Man” before he left the project. Here, his “Baby Driver” is a heist film set to music, and while I can appreciate the attempt at originality there was something about this film just didn’t work for me.


I’m more than sure this is going to be one of those instances where I’m in the very minute minority opinion of a film and that’s fine. I wanted to like this movie; it was near the top of my 2017 watchlist. The cast is great, the trailers seemed fun and like I said, I’m a fan of Wright’s style, ambition and previous works. But about 15 minutes into this film I got “that feeling” that you occasionally get when you’re watching a film that has gotten good buzz, that “ohhhh no, I’m not gonna like this, am I?” feeling.


The cast is solid and they all play their roles well. Basically playing caricatures of who they play in everything they do, Jon Hamm is solid as the rogue and mysterious  badass, Jamie Foxx is the wise-cracking gangster and Kevin Spacey is the dry “don’t dare double cross me” leader. Ansel Elgort, having seemingly survived the “Divergent” franchise, does good work in his first starring role without Shailene Woodley, although he does more swaying and nodding through Ray-Bans than actual talking. The characters all have nice dynamics between one another and Wright continues to excel at writing nice banter.


The chase sequences are cool, but they suffer from two things: the best shots being in every trailer and TV commercial, and failing to compare to other car chase films. The most impressive moments of the car sequences (and there’s really only two of them in the film) are shown in the ads, whether it is when Baby does a 180 degree whip around a backing up truck or kicks the police road spikes back at them. Also, nothing in this film is as intense as, say, the opening scene to “Drive,” and that featured no real dialogue or musical score, just the commentary to a LA Clippers game (YouTube that fantastic sequence if you haven’t seen it).


One of the things everyone will talk about in regards to this film is how it pretty much always has a song going on in the background, to represent how Baby is constantly listening to his iPod. For the most part this is interesting and there are times the editing and character movements coincide with the beats which was cool.


But despite the good performances and ambitious take on a worn genre, I just sat there looking at the screen waiting for something to happen that would grab me and suck me into the world, but it never came. I felt like I should be enjoying things a lot more than I actually was, and the last thing you ever want to do is resent a film just because it didn’t meet your expectations.


“Baby Driver” isn’t bad and it’s the type of film that Hollywood needs right now- relatively fresh and upbeat-but it just wasn’t for me. Maybe down the road I’ll watch it again and realize I was horribly naïve and that this is a masterpiece, and I’m sure everyone and their uncle will be praising it all summer long, but this is my review and my thoughts, and for me, even the perfect Kevin Spacey wasn’t enough to validate this ride.


Critics Rating: 5/10


TriStar Pictures

‘Rough Night’ is One Rough Comedy

Rough_NightThis movie will quickly be forgotten by most people, but it has skyrocketed Zoë Kravitz to the top of my bae list…


“Rough Night” follows a group of college friends who reunite 10 years later for a bachelorette party, only to have things go wrong when they accidently kill a stripper. Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer star as Lucia Aniello directs.


I was slightly intrigued by this film. The trailers weren’t anything great (my theater was dead silent when it played before “The Mummy”) but the premise seemed amusing, if not familiar, and the cast was appealing. And while the film isn’t as rough an outing as it could have been, the actors can only do so much to save it from being overly scattershot.


I’ll start with the cast as most of them are entertaining. It’s always fun to see Scarlett Johansson in a lighter role (after her blah turns in “Lucy” and “Ghost in the Shell”) and she is by far the biggest name on the poster here. Zoë Kravitz seems to be having the most fun and I really enjoyed her presence and chemistry with Ilana Glazer, and Paul W. Downs (who co-produced and co-wrote the film with Aniello, his real life girlfriend) has a few funny scenes as Johansson’s fiancé, too. However Gazer, Bell and McKinnon are all varying degrees of mixed bags, often going one note and either not taking a joke far enough or letting it go on for too long, and McKinnon has become a caricature of herself, here sporting an Australian accent.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems, is as both a writer and director Aniello doesn’t seem to know how to deliver a punchline. Characters’ voice inflections or the amount of time a pause lasts just seem off, and it feels that there were a lot of missed opportunities for some great material and punchlines.


The film goes by at a nice enough pace, even if it feels a little longer than its 101 minute runtime, and there are a few twists near the end that I did find enjoyable; this is far from a bad film.


Normally I am pretty liberal with grading comedies. If I laugh then I tend to give a film a passing grade; after all, that’s the point of a comedy. And while I chuckled here or there and had one laugh-out-loud moment, I never really was finding things funny, and it goes back to the almost annoying feeling of there being jokes seemingly left on the table.


“Rough Night” is a watchable enough summer flick but it isn’t too funny and at the end of the day that’s what you judge a comedy off of. The cast is dedicated and attractive and there are moments of amusement throughout, but it all just feels like an undercooked idea that could have been a great black comedy, but settles for being a meh “Hangover” wannabe.


Critics Rating: 4/10

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

‘Captain Underpants’ About as Fun as a Wedgie

Captain_Underpants_The_First_Epic_Movie_posterWell, they can’t all be “The Boss Baby.”


“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is an adaptation of the children’s book series of the same name. The film stars Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as two elementary schoolers who hypnotize their mean principle (Ed Helms) into becoming a superhero. Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal also star as David Soren directs.


I was actually a big fan of this series growing up, so with it finally getting a film it completes the trifecta of my top three favorite children books getting big screen adaptions (the other two being “Harry Potter” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events”). And maybe it’s because this series is aimed at six-year-olds and I’m, you know, not six, but the long overdue film version of “Captain Underpants” just isn’t that fun or inventive and commits the biggest movie sin possible: it’s boring.

This only cost $38 million to produce as part of an experiment by DreamWorks to see if they could create a cheap but successful animated film (may as well start with a brand name item to guarantee at least some business). To put that into perspective, most animated films cost around $125 million to make, and companies like Illumination take flack for only making their films for $75 million and getting lazy with some of the animations.


The lower budget here is felt, as a lot of the motions and scenes are flat and uncreative. Characters flail around and don’t really interact with their environment because that would cost money. This looks like a straight-to-DVD film from 2003, which is when this film should have been released; I don’t think too many kids even know about Captain Underpants nowadays. There are a few humorous moments where the film implements real stock footage of a tiger or sock puppets, but when the best scenes of your animated film are the ones that aren’t animated, that’s a red flag.


The voice acting here is uninspired and a lot of the time just downright awkward. Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch have seemingly no chemistry despite supposedly being best friends, and I get that the two likely recorded their lines in different booths on different days but look at a film like “Boss Baby;” the dynamic between Alec Baldwin and child actor Miles Bakshi felt genuine and they came across as real characters. I’m not sure if it is Nicholas Stroller’s script or Hart and Middleditch just not caring but their performances are hardly up-to-par with both other animated films and their own previous works.


I know I’m not the demographic for this film, I get that, but I have never subscribed to the “it’s a kids film so it’s OK that it’s stupid” because that is just an excuse for filmmakers to make bad movies with minimum effort just to make money. The good animated films, and even the second-tier ones, have jokes for both adults and kids and don’t just make a character run around and scream or fart when they can’t think of a clever way to end a scene.


There were kids in my theater laughing here or there, but even they didn’t seem to be overly enjoying “Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie.” I got a brief sense of nostalgia watching one of my favorite childhood heroes finally get his place on the big screen, but about 40 minutes in I felt my eyes getting heavy and my head slowly dropping, and at the same time my friend then leaned over to me and said “I’d so rather be in ‘Boss Baby’.” Truest words have never been spoken.


Critics Rating: 3/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The Unfunny ‘Baywatch’ Isn’t Worth a Watch

Baywatch_posterStudios really need to stop trying to capture the “21 Jump Street” lightning in a bottle…


“Baywatch” is the R-rated big screen adaptation of the 1990s television series. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario star as members of a Florida lifeguard team that find drugs on their beach and take it upon themselves to investigate. Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass and Ilfenesh Hadera also star as Seth Gordon directs.


Adapting old TV shows into movies is nothing new, and taking a premise of a series and turning it into an over-the-top PG-13 or R-rated romp isn’t revolutionary, either. But ever since “21 Jump Street” burst onto the scene in 2012, studios have been trying (and failing) to duplicate its commercial and critical success. Even two months ago we had “CHIPS,” an unfunny and mean spirited film based on the California cops show from 1980. This time, we have Paramount casting Zac Efron and The Rock and sinking $69 million (more on that insane budget in a second) into a property they think people will recognize, however what they fail to do is surround their attractive cast with anything funny or exciting to do.


I guess I’ll start with what little good there is. Most of the cast is solid and seem to turn in relatively committed performances; at least considering the material they were given. I’ve been an Efron apologist for years and the “Neighbors” films showed that the man can in fact be funny, and here he is intermediately amusing. Dwayne Johnson is as charmable as ever with his big muscles and even bigger smile, although he continues to choose projects that are undeserving of his talents. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (say that five times fast) is probably the film’s bright spot, starring as the cop who keeps having to remind Johnson and company to stay in their lane and let the actual police do their jobs. He reminded me of Bashir Salahuddin from “Snatched” because while he only has a few scenes, he leaves the biggest impression and I can’t wait to see him in more.


The rest of the cast members are solid enough, but the females are mainly here to look attractive in two-piece bathing suits and tight dresses (of which they succeed) and the men are just supposed to look stupid and/or have good bodies (which, again, job well done on that front).


Most everything else here is a mess. I loved Seth Gordon’s “Horrible Bosses,” it’s one of my favorite comedies of all-time, but his other films are stinkers. I’m not sure if he is a one-hit wonder or what, but the man doesn’t seem to know how to direct a scene (or a film for that matter) to have any sort of rhythm or flow, and as such sequences drag on for far too long. A good comedy knows its purpose and each line of dialogue exists simply to build to the punchline. Films like 2016’s “Ghostbusters” are sluggish and unfunny because of all the riffing and randomly inserted insults in conversation; it ruins any flow. “Baywatch” goes for the easy laugh more often than not, and when you can see a joke coming it lessens its impact.


And ok. So this film’s budget. Apparently this cost $69 million to produce. Ignoring that I am 100% convinced the actual budget was $70 million but the producers found a way to save $1 million just so their budget would read “69,” this film shouldn’t cost that much. Hell, it shouldn’t cost half that much. I know Johnson is the highest paid actor in Hollywood so his quote is around $15 million but this film looks like it was made in 2004 for $20 million. The greenscreen is awful and distracting (how hard would it be to shoot on location in an actual boat?) and the fightscenes are way too up close and shaky. “Deadpool” cost $58 million and we all saw how (relatively) polished that turned out to be.


Look, “Baywatch” isn’t good. For some, it may have a guilty-pleasure way about it and sure, there were a few members of my audience who were dying laughing and clapped when the credits started rolling. But even for me, who has a record of going easy on comedies and chuckled enough throughout this to not hate it, there isn’t enough here to recommend you even check this one on cable. I guess you could say this is one bay that ain’t worth watching…


Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

‘Snatched’ is Just Funny Enough to Work

Snatched2017posterIt’s kind of funny this film comes out the same weekend as a (very bad) Guy Ritchie film, and he directed another movie called “Snatch…”

“Snatched” marks Amy Schumer’s second starring role on the big screen and features Goldie Hawn’s return to movies for the first time since 2002. The duo star as a mother and daughter who go on vacation in South America, only to be kidnapped and need to escape. Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and Christopher Meloni also star as Jonathan Levine directs.

I don’t mind Amy Schumer. I used to be a fan of her on the Comedy Central Roasts and her early standup, but like a lot of comedians (read: Kevin Hart) once she got big and made the transition into film and television, all her jokes become rinse and repeat of one another (not that I’m putting Schumer in the same breath as Kevin Hart as far as talent). I liked Schumer’s debut film “Trainwreck” (which she also wrote) and even if Schumer has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately (blaming internet trolls for her awful standup special getting one-starred so much that Netflix actually changed their rating system), “Snatched” seemed funny enough. And it turns out, it is; it is literally funny enough.

What makes this film is its supporting cast. Ike Barinholtz (great in the “Neighbors” films) and Bashir Salahuddin (a “Late Night” writer who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page) have fantastic chemistry as Hawn’s agoraphobic son and the Embassy officer. Their back-and-forth is by far the best aspect of the film, and I really hope to see Salahuddin in more things as soon as possible. Wanda Sykes (always welcome) has a few great lines, too, including one that is in the trailer which makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Schumer and Hawn are both fine, but their roles could have been played by anyone. It isn’t as awkward or forced a relationship as Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon in “Tammy,” but outside a few scenes the two never really share much chemistry. Schumer does her vulgar jokes (albeit toned-down from her usual shtick) and Hawn jumps between enjoying acting again and simply reciting dialogue.

The script, written by Katie Dippold, is probably the film’s weakest point. First things first, the plot isn’t that original; we’ve all seen the “American tourists get kidnapped in a foreign country” thing before. Also, much like Dippold’s other works (“The Heat” and “Ghostbusters”) the film has randomly inserted lines that act as punchlines. When they land, they’re funny; when they don’t, things get awkwardly quiet in the theater.

Despite only running a little over 90 minutes, the film feels longer but for the most part never drags. Editor Zeke Baker (best known for doing a lot of Seth Rogen’s films) has a knack for knowing how long to keep a scene going for before it begins to get overlong or repetitive, and even if the climax feels abrupt, this is a breezy enough film.

There really isn’t much to “Snatched.” While there were no laugh-out-loud moments, I found myself chuckling quite a bit, and even if the mother-daughter dynamic didn’t quite win me over in the film, my own mother enjoyed herself while watching it, as did I. What I’m getting at is this: if you just want to laugh, and plot and creativity aren’t high on your list of demands, then this is worth a view.

Critics Rating: 6/10


‘Fist Fight’ as Much Fun as a Punch to the Head

Fist_FightMy friend made a good point while we were watching this: who says “fist fight?” That’s not a thing that is organically said by normal humans.


“Fist Fight” stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as teachers at a high school who plan on fighting each other after one of them gets fired on the last day of school. Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan also star as Richie Keen directs.


Comedies released outside of the summer season have a track record of being not very good. Whether it’s January (the “Ride Along” films, also starring Mr. Cube), April (last year’s “Keanu,” one of the least funny films I have seen in quite a while) or Christmas (“Daddy’s Home” and “Why Him?”), studios clearly like to keep their prime comedies for when kids are out of school and snow is off the roads. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that “Fist Fight,” despite all the talent involved, is a lazy mess that has less laughs than an episode of “It’s Always Sunny” but lasts three times as long.


Charlie Day is typecast at this point as shrieking and hyperactive but to his credit he is a little toned-down here. He still has his panic attacks but they’re far, few and in between, and he manages to get a few chuckles when they do spring up. As I’ve written in both my “Ride Along” reviews I find something oddly hilarious about Ice Cube growling, so the first time he showed up on screen here I couldn’t help but laugh. However he isn’t given too much to do after the opening scene, and he and Day have almost no chemistry together.


One could argue that they’re advisories so naturally they wouldn’t have chemistry, but if you look at any (successful) James Bond or Avengers film even the hero and the villain have some sort of back-and-forth and screen presence; here the two are mainly just reciting lines (or doing very awkward improv) to each other.


And while we’re on the subject of these characters, they obviously imply that Day is supposed to be our main character and protagonist–they even give him a pregnant wife and young daughter so we know he’s relatable!–but he is so slimy and unlikable that you find yourself rooting for Ice Cube’s cookie-cutter strict teacher to beat him in the fight (oh, and his character’s name is Mr. Strickland, in case you wanted your head to be sore from being beaten over the head with analogies).


There are a few fleeting bright spots sprinkled throughout “Fist Fight” but most of the time you actually feel guilty about laughing at them. Day’s pre-teen daughter (Alexa Nisenson) is by-and-far the best part of the film for reasons I won’t spoil, but not only is she a kid actor who isn’t awful she actually left me wanting to see more from this young actress. The titular fight sequence is also entertaining in a ludicrous, random sort of way, but by that point in the film you’ve almost forgotten about the showdown altogether and just want to go home.


“Fist Fight” is the sort of film mistakes a penis joke or f-bomb in every other sentence as comedy, and thinks that letting actors improv nearly all their lines will inevitably lead to something funny. However that ruins the flow of the film and creates an unfunny experience that is about as entertaining as getting kicked between the legs.


Critics Rating: 3/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.