Category Archives: Comedy

‘Why Him?’ Wastes Talented on Both Sides of Camera

Why_HimWalter White meets Harry Osborn. Hilarious, right?!


“Why Him?” stars Bryan Cranston as a father who meets the man his daughter is dating (James Franco) and starts a feud with him during Christmas. Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key also star as John Hamburg directs.


Both James Franco and Bryan Cranston have been very funny men in very funny projects. Zoey Deutch was the bright spot of “Dirty Grandpa” and Keegan-Michael Key has had some great supporting roles in his career. Plus John Hamburg directed “I Love You, Man” and wrote “Meet the Parents.” So all these people together should have been able to create a very funny movie; or at least one that wasn’t this lazy.


Winter comedies usually aren’t the strongest. “Daddy’s Home,” “The Interview” and “Grudge Match” are all average-at-best films that ended their respective calendar year with thuds. “Why Him?” continues this tradition as it wastes two proven leads with a script that is determined to put the f-bomb in every other sentence, all while having no idea what it truly wants to accomplish.


The highlight of the film (which in this case is a flashlight in a black hole) is Franco, who is having a blast playing a man-child, running around shirtless with random tattoos and swearing in all the wrong settings. We’ve seen Franco do every kind of role imaginable but this is one where he just looks like he’s having fun and isn’t as pretentious as he has occasionally been accused of being.


Bryan Cranston gives an inexplicably dedicated performance, but he isn’t given many actual jokes. He’s almost the film’s villain, because he doesn’t want his daughter marrying Franco just because the old trope “you’re not worth her.” The two have an underdeveloped feud but Franco is consistently trying to patch things up, so we just see him as the innocent nice guy; having him try to outsmart Cranston to win the daughter’s approval would have made for more compelling cinema.


The rest of the cast turns in awkward performances, including a horrible turn from Griffin Gluck as the young son. His delivery is off, his tone is often wrong and he overacts every line; each time he talked I cringed. I hope Megan Mullally got a nice vacation home from her paycheck, because her twerking and trying to strip Bryan Cranston while high was embarrassing to watch.


Now the film is not without its share of laughs, and while they’re pretty spread out the ones that do hit hit hard. Most of the time it is because the circumstance is so ludicrous and unexpected (or unrealistic) that it is impossible to not be amused. There are also a few cameos that steal their respective scenes, and when they showed up the audience seemed happily surprised.


“Why Him?” isn’t that funny and it wastes its cast, but neither of those things should be that big a surprise given the patterns established by mainstream cinema 2016. “Office Christmas Party” is funnier and more festive (never thought I’d be endorsing that film) so if you want laughs at the theater this winter, that’s your best bet.


Critics Rating: 4/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Bridget Jones Delivers a ‘Baby’ and Some Charm

Bridget_Jones's_Baby_posterOf all the “it’s been over 10 years, did we really need a sequel?” films of 2016, this one is certainly the best.


“Bridget Jones’s Baby” (the grammar there hurts my brain) stars Renée Zellweger in the title role in the third installment of the franchise, and the first since 2004. This time around, Jones gets pregnant and either Colin Firth (also reprising his role) or Patrick Dempsey (making his first theatrical appearance since 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”) could be the father. Sharon Maguire, who directed the original “Bridget Jones” film, returns to helm here.


The first “Bridget Jones” was innocent and fluffy enough but ultimately too hollow for me, and I tried to watch the second film as homework to prepare for this but despite my love of Hugh Grant I couldn’t even finish it. So that partnered with an awful trailer really had my bar for “Baby” set low; which may be why it surprised me.


What is impressive about this film is its dedication to be more than a fluffy, feel good comedy aimed at middle age women. It has f-bombs and raunch (albeit tamer than most R-rated comedies), as to be expected from a screenwriter of “Borat.”


Zellwegger is solid in the title role, however to me her character has never really come off as real; she seems like a caricature of a woman who can’t get her life together. And speaking of people who don’t act like a real human, Patrick Dempsey’s character is…something else. He’s an American who runs an online dating site but talks like Rob Lowe’s character from “Parks and Rec” (in fragmented. Sentences. And. All about. Negative. Energy.) Hugh Grant he is not, and Grant’s charming gentleman way is missed here. Firth’s character has always been intentionally awkward and at times it’s funny, at others it’s grating.


All three actors have solid chemistry together and occasional moments of hilarity, although you never get a real feel for why they would every truly interact or like one another were they not connected by a baby. Emma Thompson (who also co-wrote the script) steals every scene she is in playing Bridget’s gynecologist, and is so fun and charming that, as my friend so eloquently put, “I just really want to get drinks with Emma Thompson.”


The film’s largest problem is its pacing. It clocks in 123 minutes and you feel every second of it. The first half of the film is mostly exposition, reintroducing us to Bridget and then acquainting us with side characters. Not much happens and if the first 45 minutes were wiped out altogether we would have a much tighter, coherent film.


“Bridget Jones’s Baby” is the type of movie where if you saw the trailer and wanted to see it, then you will love it despite its overly quirky characters and monotonous pacing. If you just want a fluffy, feel-good film that features a fun as hell performance from Emma Thompson (really can’t understate how much she elevates this) then this should also do the trick.


In a year where “Zoolander” (2001) and “Independence Day” (1996) both got long-delayed sequels, this one actually has a story worth telling and wasn’t made simply as a cashgrab, and the fact that it is a relatively enjoyable film at that is commendable enough.


Critics Rating: 6/10



Hill Steals the Show in ‘War Dogs’

War_Dogs_2016_posterI know Jared Leto spent months in psych wards trying to get his Joker cackle just right, but Jonah Hill’s laugh in this is the best one cinema has had all year.


“War Dogs” stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as two 20-somethings who get government contracts to supply weapons to soldiers in the Middle East during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Todd Phillips co-writes and directs.


The trailer for this had a real “Pain & Gain” vibe, with a little bit of “The Big Short” thrown in. Now this was partially a compliment, since both of those films had solid trailers that made it seem like they would be colorful, irrelevant fun, but it also was a bit worrisome, since neither of those movies are very good. Well “War Dogs” is better than those two films and even if it isn’t as much fun as it could have been, it is still a mostly entertaining, slightly intelligent commentary on the Middle East wars.


Much like Adam McKay and “The Big Short,” “serious social commentary filmmaking” doesn’t come to mind when you think of Todd Phillips, the director of “The Hangover” and “Old School.” And while he technically has an Academy Award nomination (I mean, I say “technically” because it was a five-way nom for “Borat,” a film with basically no script), he has never really given us any actual quality films (“Hangover” and “Old School” are funny but they’re not great pieces of cinema). “War Dogs” is arguably Phillips’ best film and is by far his best directorial effort; take both those statements with as big a grain of salt as you like.


To Phillips’ credit, he never beats us over the head with any message here. He lets the audience decide for themselves when our main characters have crossed the moral line of no return, and if what the U.S. government is doing by holding open contracts is ethically alright. He for the most part balances his comedy and serious moments with surprising finesse, even if there are times an unfunny joke is played up to an awkward degree.


This film would be nothing, however, without two time-Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill (I just love typing that). Hill steals the show by playing a money-hungry gun runner who will not flinch at the idea of selling his own mother for a nickel. The entire film we get the uneasy feeling he could snap at any second and his laugh, a half chuckle partnered with a sinister grin and gleam in his eye, brings some very hardy laughs early on, even if by the end Phillips realized this was Hill’s bread and butter and milks the laugh dry.


What holds “War Dogs” back is its middle portion. After Hill and Teller (as charming as ever but never rises above serviceable) set up their company and make their first big arms deal, the film takes its foot off the gas and it shows. We see Teller with his new baby and Hill trying to make his gun running business legit, and you just want to shake the two and yell for them to get back to driving around foreign countries with illegal merchandise in the trunk (which they eventually do).


I didn’t love “War Dogs” but I was never bored, and every scene Hill is in it is impossible to take your eyes off the screen. It may not be able to carry the same amount of high energy throughout the entire film that it shows flashes of throughout, but if you just want a film with enough chuckles and brain to coast by an August evening (you know, in the DOG days of summer!!), then this may be your ticket.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘Sausage Party’ as Funny as it is Thought-Provoking

Sausage_PartyFor an animated movie about swearing hot dogs, this thing has a surprising amount of intelligence.


“Sausage Party” is a (very) R-rated animated film about food who believe humans are gods sent to save them, but begin to realize what actually happens to them once they are taken out of the supermarket. It stars an ensemble voice cast, including Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek, among a half dozen others. Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, best known for their work on other raunchy comedies like “Thomas the Tank Engine” and “Shrek 2,” respectively, direct.


I was excited for this, because I love Seth Rogen but also the premise of this film is brilliant and the red band trailer may be the funniest trailer of all-time, no hyperbole. And while “Sausage Party” is never laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is a very funny, consistently entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking piece of adult cinema.


One of the great things about the film is it pokes fun of every race, religion and creed, so that way no one can call foul. The entire premise of the film is that the food’s installed beliefs in gods and a “great beyond” is a sham and all who believe in it without proof are fools, however it will then flip the script and insult those who question it just because that is the easier thing to do. There’s plenty of jokes about Middle Easterns not getting along and how foolish those feuds are, as well as more racist jokes than PC people will care to count. There are also some brilliant food puns and references, like a Hitler-esque character wanting to destroy the juice (get it?).


Even when the film isn’t making you laugh you are still entertained, as the all-star cast keeps things going at a light, breezy pace, even if at times things do begin to feel a bit repetitive and aimless.


And that’s one thing that does hold “Sausage Party” back from being great, is that after a while a hot dog saying the c-word or a bun making jokes about her buns gets old, and as much as I love food puns (or any kind of pun), Nick Kroll’s talking douche makes so many they begin to become forced (which is the point, but awareness doesn’t excuse it). Speaking of Kroll, his Jersey Shore bro voice gets annoying after a while, and his revenge plot is inserted into the plot purely to get it to a theatrical runtime.


I really had a good time with “Sausage Party.” I never had a riotous laugh out loud moment, but I had a lot of well-earned chuckles, and the film does make you think about how our own world works. Much like “Popstar” (which I please implore you to see) the film is very stupid and irrelevant yet very intelligent and self-aware all at the same time, and it is a great way to end the summer.


Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Finding Dory’ Familiar but Fun Family Adventure

Finding_DoryAnd so, the summer of the sequels we didn’t really ask for continues.


“Finding Dory” is the sequel to the 2003 film “Finding Nemo” and follows the forgetful fish Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) as she searches for her long lost family. Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence and Ed O’Neill also star as Andrew Stanton directs.


No one really asked for a sequel to “Finding Nemo.” The events of that film wrapped up nicely and as much as we all adored the characters 13 years ago I never heard anyone clamoring to see more of them. However in a summer season that has already given us sequels to “Neighbors,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Now You See Me,” why not have Pixar throw its hat into the ring?


Pixar sequels are a fickle business. Some best the original (“Toy Story 2”), some are fun and solid follow-ups (“Monsters University”) and others crash and burn (“Cars 2”). “Finding Dory” falls in the middling ground in that it is colorful and entertaining, but it’s clear there wasn’t enough original content her to warrant a new film.


“Finding Dory” features everything that was great about classic Pixar but also everything that people have grown to question about Pixar. It has some great humor for both kids and adults (including one hilarious sequence in touch tank at an aquarium that plays out like a horror film) and is gorgeously animated; this may be their best-looking film to date.


The voice acting is all top-notch, two. Big names including Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy and Idras Elba (man, that guy is making bank from Disney this year following “Jungle Book” and “Zootopia”) all are perfectly cast and play off each other well, and it is fun to try and recognize the actors as they pop up.


However people have recently questioned the quality of Pixar films and their reliance on sequels (before “Inside Out,” at least), and “Dory” does offer some fuel to that fire. The whole thing doesn’t quite come off as nostalgic but it certainly never feels new. It is kind of just there and we never really get a true purpose for its existence. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Nemo and his tiny flipper again was great, I remember being enamored by the first film as a child, but unlike “Toy Story 3” or even “Monsters U,” this just feels like a rehash of the original instead of its own story.


“Finding Dory” is a solid film and great family entertainment, even if it does feel a little too familiar and derivative of the original works. It is beautifully animated and the voices actors nail it, and although the emotional side of the narrative falls short there is still plenty wonder to behold under the sea (oops, wrong Disney movie…).


Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Central Intelligence’ Funny but Tad Underwhelming

CentralIntelligencePosterTrying to decide if this movie is “Twins 2” or “Ride Along 3”…


“Central Intelligence” stars Dwayne Johnson as a former high school outcast who grows up to join the CIA and gets in contact with the coolest kid from his class (Kevin Hart) to help him on a mission. Amy Ryan also stars as Rawson Marshall Thurber directs and co-writes.


This was on my list of 2016’s most anticipated. I have jumped on The Rock’s bandwagon (the dude is just so damn charming), I enjoyed director Thurber’s first two efforts (“Dodgeball” and “We’re the Millers”) and even though I have only like him in small doses, I continue to hold out hope Kevin Hart has a great movie in him. This may not be that great movie, but overall it is one of Hart’s better ones.


If you’ve seen the trailers for this then you know exactly what you’re getting into. Kevin Hart will do his shrieking thing, Johnson will smile and wink while flexing his muscles and they’ll stroll through a simple buddy cop plot. The film makes no (intentional) efforts to throw any wrenches into the formula so depending on how forgiving a filmgoer you are, this could be a fun summer time at the movies.


Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have solid chemistry together, which is good because if they hadn’t this thing would have collapsed on top of itself. Hart actually tones it down and doesn’t go on many high pitched rants as normal, and instead plays the straight man of the duo. It was a nice change of pace which made his trademark outbursts even more enjoyable.


As good as he is interacting with Hart, Johnson is more of a mixed bag. His character is a big man-child and when we first meet his character I thought it was just a charade; but nope, he talks like he is 12 for the entire film. It works in some scenes, and you can somewhat empathize with him because of how he was bullied in high school, but it teetered on annoying for most of the film.


Like I said earlier, I enjoy Thurber’s other two films. Both “Dodgeball” and “Millers” are gleefully stupid, but they have so many laughs and run at such a quick pace that you overlook the lack of intelligence (CENTRAL intelligence! *clears throat*) because they’re so damn enjoyable. This time around, as many solid belly chuckles as there are (and the film has its fair share), there aren’t enough big laughs to make you forgive the formulaic plot or lazy handling of the narrative. The middle of the film drags and the whole thing feels longer than 107 minutes.


The best way I can summarize “Central Intelligence” is like this: Kevin Hart’s character goes from prom king and voted “most likely to succeed” to working as an accountant. While he admits it isn’t a bad job, he feels he isn’t reaching his potential. That it “Central Intelligence;” it is a fine enough film that does its job, but given the talent assembled it could have been great.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘Popstar’ Is 2016’s Best Comedy

popstar 2I hope one of the songs from this film gets an Oscar nomination, if not just so I can ironically say “Academy Award nominee Andy Samberg” for the rest of my life.


“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a mockumentary following Conner4Real (Samberg), a Justin Bieber-esque popstar who must cling onto fame after his latest record tanks. Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows also star as Schaffer and Taccone direct.


Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer make up The Lonely Island, the group you probably know from their SNL shorts “I’m on a Boat” and “Dick in a Box,” which won the trio an Emmy. Together they made the 2007 cult hit film “Hot Rod” (if you have never seen that film, do yourself a favor and find it), as well as made cameos together in films such as “Neighbors.” “Popstar” is incredibly dumb, but that’s always been Lonely Island’s thing, and it turns out being a hilarious, slightly brilliant, satirical look at the music industry and what fame does to young stars.


Andy Samberg has always been a mixed bag for me. I love him on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and in “Hot Rod,” but he was very hit-and-miss on SNL and wasn’t funny in “That’s My Boy” (but in his defense, who was?). Here, back with his boys, Samberg is mostly great as the egocentric Conner, playing a star whose newest album gets panned and he must hold onto the fame he has become so accustomed to. Samberg isn’t over-the-top and sometimes just lets his facial expressions do all the talking, and has great chemistry with every one of the actors (in pretty much just a revolving door of cameos).


Even though the fictional record gets bad reviews, the musical numbers in “Popstar” are fantastic, often catchy and hilarious at the same time. One song by Samberg about gay marriage (poking fun at Macklemore) had me in actual tears and trying to stop laughing so loud because I was afraid I was going to miss the lyrics and/or annoy the people around me. It could be a long shot, but if one of the film’s songs could get some award season love, it would be well warranted.


Most of the film’s big laughs (and when I say big, I mean absolutely side-splitting) come in the first act, and the second act is mostly deprived of anything besides a few chuckles here and there. The climax brings everything together and even if it doesn’t end on a killer punchline or the film’s best song, it still makes up for the slight lull in the middle.


Two random things of note:


1)      Will Arnett portrays the head of a parody TMZ and it is simply amazing (thank God he got a redemption from his fellow newcomer this week, TMNT 2)

2)      The film is shot and edited great; it looks very sleek and despite being just a brisk 86 minutes it never feels rushed


“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is the best comedy so far of 2016, on top of one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. I really did enjoy this movie and will for sure see it again, and I implore you to check it out, too. It’s everything a summer comedy is supposed to be.


Critics Rating: 8/10



‘Neighbors 2’ a Rare Comedy Sequel That Works

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingIs that a unicorn? No? Just a comedy sequel that is as good as the original? Huh. Well, they’re both magical and rare. [cough] I apologize for that lame intro. Onto the review.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the sequel to the 2014 hit “Neighbors,” which is Seth Rogen’s highest grossing film to date. When a sorority led by Chloë Grace Moretz moves in next door, Rogen and his wife (Rose Byrne) must enlist the help of former frat leader Teddy (Zac Efron) in order to make sure their house sells. Nicholas Stoller returns to direct.


I enjoyed the original “Neighbors” a fair amount on my first viewing and very much on my second. It just has a fun watchability about it, even if it isn’t Rogen’s best comedy. When they announced a sequel was in the works I wasn’t surprised but I was worried; there really wasn’t much more they could seemingly do with these characters, plus the trailers made the sequel out to look like an exact replica of the first film. But after seeing the movie, I can tell you: I was right, it is literally the same movie. But for all the best reasons.


Everything that worked about the original is once more a strength here. Zac Efron again shows that his true calling is comedy (he saved “Dirty Grandpa” from being a disaster) as he reprises the role of clueless but lovable frat-head Teddy. Teddy isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he means well, and Efron plays his character with the right blend of simple, vulnerable and charming. I have always been a supporter of him (not a fan, but…) so as long as he keeps accepting that he is the dumb hot jock, I think Efron will be ok.


The guy I am a fan of is Seth Rogen and he is his normal Seth Rogen self, that meaning he makes pot jokes, pokes fun at how fat he is and says the f-word a lot. He and Rose Byrne (as charming and bae-able as ever) have good chemistry and you do buy their relationship as stressed parents.


The film is for the most part paced well thanks to sharp editing by Zene Baker and colorful cinematography by Brandon Trost (Rogen’s normal duo). Director Nicholas Stoller knows how long scenes should last to not have them overstay their welcome, which keeps things moving along at a nice pace (the film is only 92 minutes long).


The film makes a few good points about the hypocrisy of men and frats vs women and sororities, like how it is actually against sorority rules to host a party (which is crazy and definitely not OK), and for this the film is to be commended. However it then begins to really shove “women can do anything men can do and probably better!” down the audiences throat (not in an aggressive way, but almost every scene tries to offer commentary) and it got tedious for me be the end.


Also there are small things that require you to suspend belief of reality. When it’s an exploding airbag I can do that but when someone breaks into another person’s home and then openly brags about it and sells the stolen item, and then the owner doesn’t go to the police simply because it would end the movie, that makes you take a step back.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” isn’t necessarily a great comedy but it is a great comedy sequel, in that much like “22 Jump Street” it is fully aware it has no reason at all for even existing and never tries to one-up its predecessor (unlike the sequels to: “The Hangover,” “Horrible Bosses” or “Zoolander”). Is it side-splitting funny? No, but I had a smile on my face for a majority of the runtime and so long as familiarity and genital jokes don’t bother you, you should do yourself a favor and check out Zac Efron’s abs—er, sorry, I mean, this movie.


Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Nice Guys’ a Middling Detective Tale


I could watch Ryan Gosling’s high-pitched shriek from this on a 12 hour loop every day until I die.


“The Nice Guys” is the third directorial credit for writer Shane Black, who previously wrote and directed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3.” His latest effort places Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in 1977 Los Angeles amid a conspiracy involving a missing girl and the mysterious porn industry.


I love Shane Black’s writing. I adore the grossly underappreciated/underseen “Kiss Kiss,” and I really liked “Iron Man 3” despite its twist. I also love Los Angeles (ask anyone who knows me, read any other review I’ve written about LA-set movies or read my Twitter bio and that will be quickly be made clear). So those two factors placed “The Nice Guys” near the top of my 2016 watchlist; which is why I walked out with my heart broken.


OK, so “broken” is a bit of an extreme statement, but this movie is certainly a letdown given the talent involved. Everyone gives it their all, and all the pieces should be there for a fun detective film, but they just don’t add up to a success.


Gosling has shown he can balance comedy and drama (he stole “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”) and he is the star of the show here. He plays a pouty, drunk private investigator that cries, complains and scams extra money out of his clients but still manages to get the job done. Russell Crowe tries his hand at comedy and it is amusing to see, and this was a nice film to get his feet wet with. His natural large frame and brute physique make him the muscle of the duo (neither of them are really the brain) and although he doesn’t have too many actual laugh-out-loud lines, he gives a fun performance.


Matt Bomer and Angourie Rice both turn in solid work as well as the film’s villain and Gosling’s daughter, respectively.


Normally the script is the strongest part of a Shane Black film, but here I think it is the weak link; it just isn’t up-to-par with his normal work (you have no idea how much I just died inside writing that sentence). If you don’t know Black’s style and “Iron Man 3” is the only film of his you’ve seen (his first-ever script was “Lethal Weapon” and he also wrote “The Last Boy Scout”), normally his films have characters who know they’re in a movie and the dialogue pops and is full of quips (I call him a more tongue-in-cheek Aaron Sorkin). Here, there just aren’t too many of the quotable lines or laugh out loud responses that we’ve been spoiled by in year’s past.


But not only is the film not as funny as Black’s previous efforts, but the first half just isn’t that interesting. There is a lot going on and almost none of it is explained (intentionally). Once the second half of the film rolls around and the characters begin to unravel the mystery, things do get a bit more interesting but by then it was too little, too late. Also, and this isn’t the movie’s fault but it’s worth noting, most every big laugh is shown in the trailers and those aforementioned trailers have played before every film the last five months. So I all too often knew what was coming.


About 20 minutes into “The Nice Guys” when I wasn’t as engaged as I felt I should be, I thought to myself,“oh no, this isn’t going to be that good, is it?” And lo and behold, it wasn’t. Which kills me.  Because in the age of sequels, capes and talking dogs, this is a (relatively) original film, or at least the type of film Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. Starring two likable guys and written/directed by one of the more underrated guys in the industry, this is the type of project that you want to like, but I just couldn’t force myself to.


Because like I said, all the ingredients are there for a fun summer movie: charismatic actors, a fun screenwriter and a neon-lit, groovy setting. But it’s like having pizza, chocolate and soda; just because they’re great on their own doesn’t mean they’re going to create a good end product when mixed together.


Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Daddy’s Home’ Lazy Effort By All Involved

Daddy's_Home_posterThey say lightning doesn’t strike twice, and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have gone through lengths to prove this.


“Daddy’s Home” stars Ferrell as a stepdad who must win the affections of his two stepkids when their estranged biological father (Wahlberg) shows up.  Linda Cardellini and Hannibal Buress also star as Sean Anders directs.


Will Ferrell is hit-and-miss for most people, but there is a pattern that makes you able to tell if a movie of his will likely be good or not. Was it rated R or PG-13? Because his R films (“Semi-Pro,” “Get Hard”) are usually unfunny while his PG-13 ones (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”) work. However there’s a follow-up question: was the movie written and directed by Adam McKay? Because when it is (“The Other Guys”) the film works but when it’s not (“Land of the Lost”) it doesn’t. And guess what? “Daddy’s Home” was not directed by Adam McKay.


It was, however, directed by Sean Anders, who has directed such comedic gems as “That’s My Boy” and “Horrible Bosses 2” (sarcasm alert). It is somewhat hard to tell direction styles in comedy since camera work is usually standard and there aren’t usually many emotional scenes to have to perfect, but Anders somehow makes his films have a distinct level of laziness and snail-like pacing to them. Just like in his other directorial works, Anders allows his actors to sleepwalk through their roles here, and much of the film feels like the same scene rinsed and redressed for 96 minutes. Also like his other works, Anders feels the need to rewrite the script with his partner John Morris, which is likely how so many unfunny jokes made it into the final cut.


Will Ferrell always gives at least some effort in his works, but there are times where it is clear that it is simply about the paycheck, and this is one of those times (even millionaire celebrities have bills to pay). Ferrell seems toned down from his usual antics and high-strung rants, which sometimes works to the film’s advantage (like “Stranger than Fiction”) but more often than not is a disappointment.


Speaking of disappointment, Ferrell and Wahlberg’s last collaboration, “The Other Guys” was arguably Ferrell’s funniest film, and was what made us all realize that Marky Mark could be funny. Their chemistry in that film was off the charts, so it would be fair to assume that the same energy would come into play here, right? It doesn’t, though; Anders makes sure to smother any hope for that real quick. It’s like how Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were great together in “Wedding Crashers” and then everyone assumed “The Internship” would be just as fun, but it turned into the opposite of that.


There are some laughs to be had in the film. As Ferrell’s boss Thomas Hayden Church offers several funny monologues about his ex-wives, although he clearly is phoning it in and Cardellini has some genuine moments as the mother, but she is for the most part wasted in a plot-dependent role.


“Daddy’s Home” isn’t an awful film, but it is certainly a frustrating one given that we’ve seen every actor in here be able to deliver hilarious products. Guess it goes to show that even comedies need good directors to keep their actors in check and make things flow, and if any Hollywood exec is reading this review (which, why wouldn’t they be?), let me tell you: Sean Anders will never be that director.

Critics Rating: 4/10