Tag Archives: Jason Mantzoukas

The Long Dumb Road

Nat (Tony Revolori) is driving his van across the American Southwest toward L.A., and art school. He’s a little sheltered and a little naive due to a cushiony upbringing, but with his trusty camera (with real, actual film, a relic from his granddad) by his side, he’s ready to turn this drive into a sight-seeing tour to get into the right head space before his education properly begins.

18544-1-1100Nat does not count on bumping into Richard (Jason Mantzoukas), a mechanic just out of a job when Nat’s van is in desperate need. They trade labour for a ride, and soon the two are unintentionally road tripping together. Richard is an odd duck; he’s volatile but sensitive, impulsive and oddly sweet. Richard gets them into a LOT of trouble, from failed romance to successful highway robbery. But his constant need to put himself out there means they also meet a lot of interesting characters along the road, and a lot of “wisdom” gets dropped. Richard is much more worldly and experienced, but he’s probably not the role model a young man such as Nat needs. But he’s the one he gets.

Tony Revolori could have easily been a Wes Anderson flash in the pan but I’m constantly glad to see him crop up elsewhere. Nat does his growing up, coming of age thing in this film, which means Revolori is in turns adorably nervous all the way to confidently heroic. That’s quite an arc. Richard might be further along the hopeless scale, but he’s confronting his own issues head on, even if he never learns the lesson. Jason Mantzoukas has so far been pretty one-note as an actor – he always turns in these rambunctious, beastly, off-colour characters, but he gives such a committed, over the top performance you can’t help but love him.

Richard is an erratic juggling act for Mantzoukas, and it’s a thrilling to watch.

I’m happy to report that director Hannah Fidell turns in a movie that is neither long nor dumb. It’s just funny and clever enough to be spent amiably. While I wouldn’t want Richard in my car, or heck, even on my bus, and definitely not on my plane, odd couple road trips are a tried and true genre for a reason, and these two put forth a solid, likable entry.

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The House

I’m feeling uninspired. I’m not sure I can identify the exact problem with this movie. It has a talented cast and a promising premise – and truth be told, it did make me laugh, sporadically. But its squandering of potential deflated my enjoyment of the film.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play parents who love their kid to death and are deeply embarrassed that they can’t afford to send her to her dream college when a town scholarship falls through. Instead of coming clean they decide to open an underground casino with their shadiest friend, who has just been left by his wife in large part due to his gambling addiction.

TELEMMGLPICT000133626218-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqrpfQw2hJyG_yckwxPAr0ggGNY_A2dHyghdflyNWj5P8When The House has the strongest pulse, it’s cutting close to satire: the tragic middle class, the American dream, the panic of empty nesters. But unfortunately it relies too heavily on its stars to do “bits” rather than writing actual characters who could stand up on their own. I don’t know who Ferrell and Poehler were supposed to be as people, and it’s possible they didn’t know either. They just pop up, unformed, clown around, and never even stumble into an arc.

The comedy pinballs from farce to the strangely violent; yes, it’s uneven, but it’s also way darker than it needs to be. It’s trying to be wild and crazy, and adding Jason Mantzoukas to the mix is definitely the right choice as he electrifies every scene he’s in. But it’s not enough. The movie falls flat every time they step away from him, the Ferrell and Poehler characters seeming lost and sending out mixed signals. They seem content within their little bubble, then they rail against, then they profit from it. They pay for their mistakes by taking from their friends and neighbours. It feels unseemly, and it’s hard to root for them. Hectic editing tries to cover for plotting that’s just plain absurd. And the writing’s just lazy. I wasn’t even allowed to turn in a first draft of a seventh grade composition, yet this whole $40M budget movie got made based on a rough draft. A very rough draft.

It feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy, but this isn’t it. It cracked me up in a few places, but never without letting me see how hard the actors were working to land the sub-par material. It’s a meh of a movie and easily forgotten.

Dirty Grandpa

Robert De Niro clearly relishes his role in Dirty Grandpa as, you guessed it, the dirty grandpa. He cusses lots and spikes drinks with Zanex and flirts with Aubrey Plaza and takes his shirt off a lot and clearly is having a ton of fun all the way through.  Zac Efron also takes his shirt off a lot but throughout this movie he looks as uncomfortable as the middle aged, flip-phone owning couple sitting directly in front of us at last night’s screening. Maybe, as Jay observed, Efron is coming to the sobering realization that being shirtless is his thing and the best he can hope for is to be brought back as the shirtless grandpa if this movie is the start of a Rocky-like franchise.

My money’s on there being no sequel. Dirty Grandpa has a lot of laughs and an abundance of dick jokes, but it also seemed unnecessarily long and unnecessarily concerned with plot. I didn’t need to see everyone learn a lesson. I certainly did not need three generations of lessons being taught to De Niro, Efron, and Dermot Mulroney. And we see stereotypes of hippies, lacrosse jocks, and gang members learn something too. The only ones exempt from this rule seem to be the very funny Jason Mantzoukas (a.k.a. Rafi from the League!) as a Daytona Beach drug dealer, and Adam Pally as Efron’s cousin.  At least the writers had the good sense to allow those two to do their crazy guy routines the whole way through Dirty Grandpa.  I wish they had given everyone such free reign.  I was just there to laugh and didn’t need everything to be wrapped up perfectly, or at all.

I thought all the lessons really took away from Dirty Grandpa’s momentum, mainly by taking the focus off dirty De Niro.  That hurt this movie a lot because De Niro as the dirty old guy is by far the best part.  He’s really, really funny, but all too often he’s jolted out of that role when sad Efron calls him the worst grandpa ever (which happens every ten minutes or so).  Take out all the grandpa-grandson make-up sessions and Dirty Grandpa would have been far more enjoyable.

Dirty Grandpa is a decent comedy, much better than I expected, but since the story seriously impedes these characters’ escapades, it seems like an opportunity missed.  I give it a score of seven horny octogenarians out of ten.

They Came Together

Okay…. Whaaatttt???

they came together 1

A lot of funny people came together to make an all-out spoof of Hollywood date movies and, mostly because of the cast, it works better than it really deserves to.

I can’t decide if they weren’t trying hard enough or if they were trying way too hard but the jokes are constant and usually way too obvious, with rom com cliches being called attention to as directly as possible. (The waiter literally has a pole up his ass). There’s a lot here that really doesn’t work. Some jokes go on way too long practically daring you to yell at the screen. But at the rate that they’re spitting out jokes and gags, some are bound to stick and the ones that did had me laughing through the ones that didn’t.

they came together 2

Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play the two leads and they’re likeability go a long way in selling some pretty lazy writing, a lot of which would probably not make it past dress on an average week at Saturday Night Live. Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Cobie Smulders, and New York City are just the tip of the iceberg in a supporting cast that should really know better. Too many funny people worked on this movie for it not to be funnier and I’m almost embarassed that I laughed at all.

I blame Jay a little. I watched it with her and when she laughs I laugh. Don’t watch it alone.