Tag Archives: jemaine clement

Boy

Last week I blogged about watching What We Do in the Shadows, the latest endeavour from Taika Waititi, whose work in my opinion cannot be missed. This week I went back in time to watch 2010’s Boy.

“Boy” is 11 years old in 1984. He loves Michael Jackson and girls, employing the former’s dance BOY_1moves to lure and impress the latter. He lives on a small farm with his grandmother, his younger brother Rocky, and several young cousins. When grandma has to go away for a funeral, Boy is in charge of the household. At home he’s a grown up, cooking and cleaning and caring for the little ones. At school he’s still just a kid, making up stories about his jail-bird dad and getting into fights when those stories aren’t believed.

But then one day his dad shows up, along with two friends. They’re only intended to stay long enough to find the stolen money they buried before being pinched by the cops, but Boy sees it as potential bonding time.

It’s clear that the father is even less mature than his sons. He doesn’t know how to join them in grieving their dead mother, doesn’t know how to make up for lost time, doesn’t know how to boyput others first, and certainly doesn’t know how to give a decent haircut (though this doesn’t stop him from trying).

Watching this movie, I was struck by how Waititi feels a bit like a low-budget, New Zealand version of Wes Anderson. I don’t mean this in a copycat way, but rather that his movies share a certain randomness paired with an attention to detail that makes for a delightfully off-kilter movie going experience.

Waititi is bursting with talent, but he doesn’t spread himself too thin. He’ll workshop a script for years just to get it right, which means that there’s far too little of this innovative filmmaker to be boy-taika2had. I first came across him with what has become one of my favourite laugh-out-loud, painfully awkward comedies, Eagle vs. Shark. Turns out, he was already an Oscar nominee by then, having received a nom for his live-action short, Two Cars, One Night (he lost but famously pretended to doze off as the list of nominees was read). He’s written and directed stuff for Flight of the Conchords (Jemaine Clement is a longtime friend and collaborator; the pair toured together as award-winning comedy duo The Humourbeasts). He’s also had a taste of big Hollywood, having starred opposite Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern. But it’s these three movies (Eagle VS Shark, Boy, and What We Do in the Shadows) that are GOLD. You can’t ask for better than that. But I am asking for more.

What We Do In The Shadows

In 2008 I came across this brilliant movie, Eagle vs Shark. It’s a special brand of dry and awkward humour that’s only really appreciated by about 0.3% of the population and so of course I started using it as a social barometer. It’s how Sean went from ‘guy I’m sleeping with’ to ‘husband’ (we clementshadowshad no in-between). That’s not to say he didn’t shoot me weird looks during the movie, but he laughed in the right places and so I knew it was safe to fall in love.

Taika Waititi wrote and directed Eagle vs Shark, bringing along pal and fellow countryman Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) to star, and they’re back again with What We Do in the Shadows, sharing duties and screen time. It’s not easy to get such an offbeat comedy from New Zealand shown in North American theatres (I believe crowd funding was involved) so I consider myself lucky that one lonely theatre is showing it here in Ottawa.

The movie is a mockumentary involving the daily lives of a small group of vampires who decided for better or worse to eschew the typical haunted castle in Europe route and room together in taikashadowsNew Zealand instead. The documentary crew follows them as they encounter the normal highs and lows of flatting together, sorting out who does the dishes, who picks up the dry cleaning. A chore wheel goes unused. A couch that wasn’t red now is – one vampire suggests putting down newspapers before they eat someone, or towels, perhaps, but “We’re vampires, we don’t put down towels” responds another. Like The Real World, only they just happen to also be vampires, sometimes many hundreds of years old.

The vampire genre might be overworked and overtired these days, but this one feels fresh and what-we-do-in-the-shadows-image-1inspired, living up to the high bar set by Christopher Guest and the likes of Best in Show.  My sides ached from constant laughter, the nicest ache I know. Waititi, Clement, and co-stars work really well together. It’s clear that tonnes of improvisation must have gone into this, the dead-pan delivery spot-on, the timing the best you’ll see. It never feels like a straight parody. It’s much too clever for that. Instead it finds humour in the mundane, staying for away from the obvious and easy but finding gold everywhere else.

 

 

Muppets Most Wanted

muppetsThis movie picks up exactly where the last one left off, with a rousing musical number about how this is a sequel, and as we all know, the sequel’s never quite as good.

The gang is lured into a world tour by Ricky Gervais playing Mr. Badguy, an agent who’ll give them everything they want, but is secretly the number two to Constantine: world’s most dangerous frog (!). Constantine and Badguy are on a crime spree and are using the Muppets as a front, except for poor Kermit who’s been sent to a Russian gulag as a stand-in for his look-alike, Constantine. Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Mr. Eagle are on the case (Interpol, CIA), and as soon as Napoleon’s leisurely European 6 hour lunch break is over, they might actually solve it and save the day.

Gervais looks like his appearance in this film is court-mandated. He’s not having any fun and he tysucks the life out of all the scenes he’s in. Burrell is made for this stuff, and has actual chemistry with a big blue eagle. Tina Fey, playing the gulag’s strict warden, is the stand-out. The moment Kermit is rolled into the prison wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask, you know the Siberian scenes will be your favourite. Fey’s number “In the Big House” seals the deal; it’s the best of the bunch. And the fact that she’s backed up by doo-wopping prisoners played by Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta and Jemaine Clement wearing a crown of sporks just cements it. In fact, seeing Ray Liotta with wagging knees and jazz hands just might make the movie. The only problem with that is that these most cherished scenes are virtually muppet-MUPPETS MOST WANTEDfree, and if muppets are upstaged by humans in a Muppet movie, you’re sunk.

Bret McKenzie, (the other half of Clement’s Flight of the Conchords) is back again after winning the Oscar for his work on the first film (“Man or Muppet”, best original song), but the music has lost its lustre. It’s a lustreless film in general. Maybe we’re just missing the magic that Jason Segel brought, his fandom really breathed life into the franchise and nostalgia played high for us all.

Muppets Most Wanted is just as chock-full of cameos as the its predecessor. Blink and you’ll miss them: Tony Bennett, James McAvoy, the dude from Downton Abbey, Christoph Waltz dancing the waltz, Salma Hayek, Stanely Tucci, Zach Galifinakis, Puff Daddy. And the list continues! It feels a little like more time was spent on lining up cameos than thinking up plot, and that’s too bad, because on paper this film had all the potential of the 2011’s The Muppets, but this is a sequel, and as we all know, the sequel’s never quite as good.