Tag Archives: melissa mccarthy

The Happytime Murders’ is Dumb, Vulgar and Only Occasionally Funny, but What Else Did You Expect?

This film is a lot like “Sausage Party” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” had a lovechild…

“The Happytime Murders” takes place in a world where puppets and people co-exist, and follows a human cop (Melissa McCarthy) and a puppet private investigator (performed and voiced by Bill Barretta) that must solve a recent string of killings. Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale and Elizabeth Banks also star as Brian Henson, son of the late “Muppets” creator Jim Henson, directs.

This project went through a long development period. The film was first announced 10 years ago and featured numerous actors, including Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, rumored to star before McCarthy eventually signed on. The studio was also sued by the makers of “Sesame Street” but won rather quickly. The premise itself is somewhat amusing, playing up the “typically innocent things says bad words” (like “Sausage Party” did with animated movies) and mixing it with a world where fictional childhood beings interact as second-class citizens with people (like cartoons in “Roger Rabbit”). “Happytime Murders” is not as clever as the latter nor as funny as the former, but it does have enough going for it to give it the ever-so-slightest of recommendations.

I’m a sucker for most anything noir or set in Los Angeles and this film-at least for a while-plays up to those aspects as strengths. The early stages really do have a “Roger Rabbit” vibe to them (I hate to keep making that lazy comparison but it’s clear what the filmmakers were going for) and the puppeteer work is commendable. Brian Henson has been around Muppets all his life and even has directed a few of their films (most notably the ever-enjoyable “The Muppet Christmas Carol”) so he knows how to film puppets so their interactions with humans isn’t awkward and the framing is proper (some footage during the credits shows the extents the crew went through to get some shots, including raising sets and operating in greenscreen suits).

The comedy here is graphic and pretty one-note, as to be expected from the trailers. I personally thought this film looked painfully unfunny and one of those “R-rated films that swears and makes genital jokes just for the sake of it” romps and while I was completely right it isn’t as grating as one may think. I only laughed out loud a handful of times, and more than once it feels as if the delivery or phrasing of a punchline ruined a possibly clever joke, but the film is light and paced well.

McCarthy continues to be hit-and-miss with me and does once again show that she needs Paul Feig in order to give a genuine great performance, but she is (randomly) dedicated here and does provide a few chuckles. I personally like Joel McHale and he has a couple amusing moments with his normal d-bag shtick and it’s nice to see Leslie David Baker in something in this post-“Office” world.

Like, I don’t really know what you can expect from an R-rated neo-noir murder mystery raunch comedy involving puppets. It’s stupid and thin and really hopes you find puppets swearing funny for 90 minutes because it has little else in the tank. If the trailers or my description made you smile then this will certainly give you your late-summer fix but if you want to have a genuine great time and laugh a lot then I suggest you instead check out one of 2018’s best films, “Game Night.”

Critic’s Grade: C

STX Entertainment

McCarthy Back to Being Funny in ‘Spy’

Spy2015_TeaserPosterAnd the rollercoaster ride that is Melissa McCarthy continues.

“Spy” is the latest collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. When the identities of every CIA agent are blown, an analyst (McCarthy) must go out into the field to stop a nuclear bomb deal. Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne co-star as Feig writes and directs.

I had pretty much given up on Melissa McCarthy after last year. She stood out in “Bridesmaids,” but then made the disappointing “Identity Thief.” She then rebounded with the surprisingly great “The Heat,” before crashing back down to Earth in spectacularly awful fashion with the abysmal “Tammy” (my review/rant). “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” were directed by Feig; the other two…well, weren’t. So all McCarthy has to do is only make movies with Paul Feig directing and her career will be great.

First things first, “Spy” is a very funny film. McCarthy tones it down and while is still poking slight fun at her appearance and goes on her foul-mouthed rants, she never overdoes it, which is both appealing and appreciated. This is only Feig’s second-ever movie screenplay that he has written (after the 2003 drama “I Am David”), and while it follows the spy genre cliché checklist to the letter, it is still full of plenty of witty dialogue and is briskly paced.

While the script and McCarthy complement each other each other quite well, the real standout in the film is Jason Statham, who has never starred in a full-out comedy before. While some of his delivery and timing could use some polishing, Statham is perfectly cast as the arrogant CIA agent who sees himself as indestructible. Every scene he is in features him listing impossible tasks that he’s completed, and the funny thing is that you almost buy it because it’s Jason Statham; you can totally see him jumping off of a bridge onto a moving train while on fire.

It’s like how back in 2010 when Mark Wahlberg, then known just for drama, starred in “The Other Guys” and everyone went, “huh. I guess Marky Mark is funny”. Statham should start seeing a few more comedies offered to him in the future (and he should please take them).

But of course, a spy movie would be nothing without quality action and exotic locations, and this film delivers both. McCarthy’s mission takes her all across Europe, from Paris to Rome to Hungary, and Feig makes sure to get plenty of (albeit passé) shots of landmarks and monuments to give the film a nice flavor.

As for the action, Feig has some wonderfully fun pieces staged. Whether it be a shootout, a knife fight or a car chase, Feig utilizes slow-mo and some nifty camera tricks to really make the sequences engaging, and McCarthy is able to mostly sell that she can kick some serious butt. Just like “The Heat,” “Spy” can be surprisingly graphic at times, but it is never over-the-top gore level. Just know this isn’t going to be like “Get Smart” where the bad guys trip or hit their head on a pipe; there are quite a few kills in this movie (and I loved that).

The only real flaws of “Spy” are nitpicks; overall it is a pretty well constructed comedy. Some conflicts end rather abruptly and you just have to accept the outcome, and if you are looking for any real twists and turns than you’ll be in for a letdown (I guessed the ending within the first 10 minutes, you know, not to brag).

I really was surprised how much I liked “Spy,” and it has, at least for now, restored a little bit of faith in Melissa McCarthy. It has some fun banter, a few engaging action scenes, and the right balance of parody and homage to the classic spy genre. It’s just a really fun film that had me laughing throughout, and I walked out having thoroughly enjoyed myself. And isn’t that all comedies aim to do?

Critics Rating: 8/10



Bill Murray Shines as ‘St. Vincent’

St_Vincent_posterWelcome back, funny Bill Murray. After several years of making cameos and starring in indie dramas, Murray returns to his roots of comedy in “St. Vincent”, where he plays a cranky old drunk who is saddled with babysitting the son of his new neighbor, played by Melissa McCarthy. Hollywood rookie Theodore Melfi writes and directs.

It is a testament to a film when it can overcome all of its genre clichés and narrative familiarities and still be generally entertaining. “St. Vincent” is pretty standard, as we’ve seen the “grumpy guy bonds with the nerdy young kid and the two go on crazy adventures together” formula numerous times before (“Bad Santa” or “Bad Words”, for example). But in spite of all this, Murray shines in an honest, emotional and at times very funny performance.

Without Murray, chances are this movie would not work, and would have been stuck in the “schmaltzy and overdone” category. However Murray elevates the film with his dry wit, and it is a blast seeing him teach the young boy (played by Jaeden Lieberher) how to gamble on horses, mow dirt patches and stand up to bullies.

Melissa McCarthy, toning down her performance here, gives one of her best performances because she isn’t playing the swearing slob. She portrays a single mother who is simply trying to make a better life for her son, and in that he gets a few chuckles, but for the most part just displays true emotion and relatability.

The strongest points of the film are its opening act and its climax, for two very different reasons. The first scenes when we first meet Murray are genuinely funny and harken back to the golden days of his career. The final minutes of this scene are masterfully acted by the entire cast, especially Murray, who for much of the final scene speaks only with his facial expressions. The scene is very well done and will hit you right in the feels (seriously, I had a lump in my throat).

There is a point about halfway through “St. Vincent”, though, where the film seems to be aware that it is being too goofy and sentimental, and thinks it needs to fix this by adding extreme drama. This would have been fine, except the tone switch comes completely out of left field, and just doesn’t seem natural. Suddenly the movie becomes a dark, almost depressing drama, and it really just felt out of place. This likely falls on the shoulders of rookie director Melfi, but other than this one segment he does a great job mixing emotion and laughs, both with his direction and the script.

“St. Vincent” won’t win any awards for originality, but I really hope it wins something for Murray. He is the reason this film is as good and enjoyable as it is, and he alone is the reason to see this movie. It is an entertaining, multi-layered performance, and every scene he is not in, as few as there are, you notice his absence.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Tammy’ a Large, Unfunny Mess

Tammy_poster            I’m not going to sugarcoat it: ‘’Tammy” may be one of the most unfunny movies I’ve ever seen. And I endured through “Grown Ups 2”.

Starring and co-written by Melissa McCarthy, and directed and co-written by her husband Ben Falcone, “Tammy” follows McCarthy as she embarks on a road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon, only 24 years older than McCarthy in real life).

McCarthy really has been typecast at this point as the larger, sloppy woman whose life is a mess. Think about all her movies and tell me I’m wrong.  Speaking of which, her films are really hit-and-miss for me; I really liked “The Heat”, however “Identity Thief” was very underwhelming. But compared to “Tammy”, “Identity Thief” looks like comedy gold.

Not much in “Tammy” works. From the script, to the direction, to the performances, everything ranges from average to boring, near all of it being unfunny.

The script, written by McCarthy and Falcone over the period of a few years, is just so jumbled. There is a point in the film when Tammy turns to her grandmother and says “I don’t know where I’m going”. The movie has no idea, either. There are points where two characters will be in the middle of a conversation and it will just take a turn and go into darkly dramatic territory. And it doesn’t do it with finesse like “Funny People”, but actually makes you feel awkward and depressed.

Even McCarthy and Sarandon, two generally likeable actresses, are given near nothing to do and their characters are both pretty one note. Tammy is a caricature of McCarthy and doesn’t really have a character arc; Grandma is an alcoholic and that is pretty much the only thing we learn about her for the whole film. There is a brief second that Tammy addresses her grandmother’s drinking, but that is breezed over in one scene.

If the film was funny, even in a stupid way, it would be easier to forgive its structure flaws but the fact is I may have laughed twice. And those laughs were awkwardly forced because I appreciated what the effort of the actors. But I’m going to be honest: I was bored during a large portion of this movie.

“Tammy” should have been better than it is; much better, in fact. With McCarthy starring, people like Mark Duplass and Gary Cole in supporting roles, Will Ferrell producing and even Dan Aykroyd making an appearance, this kind of feels like 2012’s “The Watch”: lots of big comedic names that add nothing to a sloppy, unfunny mess.

I went into “Tammy” with an open mind; it’s been a month since “22 Jump Street” so I haven’t had a solid laugh at the movies since then. But I would watch Jump Street a hundred more times before sitting through “Tammy” again, and you would be wise to follow me. Jokes are set up and never executed, and the film is poorly edited and paced. It isn’t the point of a comedy to have fun? Because someone forgot to tell the makers of “Tammy” that.

Critics Rating: 3/10