Tag Archives: Will Ferrell

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.

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Dick

I wonder why I’m so attracted to satirical political movies lately? I’m in some kind of mood I guess.

Two ditzy, boy-crazy blonde teen girls (Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst) are on a field trip to the White House in 1972 when they wander away only stumble upon the President himself, Richard Nixon! This film is a parody, a not-true imagining of who and what brought down Nixon with the Watergate scandal. What if Deep Throat is actually two fifteen year old girls?

MSDDICK EC003In light of recent events, I suppose a film like Dick actually harkens back to simpler times, and I don’t just mean a time when Dunst would get top billing over Oscar-nominated  Williams. It was a time when teenaged girls had the luxury of not thinking about the president very much.

With a cast including Harry Shearer, Dave Foley, Dan Hedaya, Will Ferrell, and Bruce McCulloch, it’s a great big serving of farce, an alternate version of history, and maybe one we could live with. I can’t help but wonder how people will rewrite the new administration, and if Trump’s legacy will eclipse Nixon’s as Biggest Joke Ever. The thing is, it seems to take at least a generation before we can find these things funny. At the time, Nixon was the guy swimming in corruption, sending your brother off to die in Vietnam. The reality of Trump as president may be even worse than that. It seems to already be inspiring some extremely  gross acts of hatred.

In order to buy the girls’ silence, Nixon appoints Arlene and Betsey dickpromo02sthe official White House dog walkers. Meanwhile, Trump’s shoe-horning his kids into his cabinet is an even scarier prospect. Since when can a 70 year old man not do business with being able to ask  his kids for advice? I guess that’s what you get for electing a dude with no experience. His kids are probably the least scary amid the many “contestants” he’s considering for staffing the White House.

As Nixon’s “secret youth advisors”, Arlene and Betsey have the president’s ear, and manage to influence a lot of his policies. Which has more positive outcomes for America than, say, Putin’s input will, or the KKK’s. And eventually it’s these sweet, optimistic young women who reveal the truth, which is a stirring reminder that the youth can indeed make a difference (whether or not they accidentally witness majorly classified evidence of wrongdoing).

Actually, I read an article recently that really broke my heart. It was about the fracture between young women and their fathers. The fathers, middle-aged white men, are the demographic who voted Trump in. Their daughters, however, not only abhor him, but will suffer the consequences of his actions for years to come. It feels like a betrayal to learn that their fathers so devalue their worth, their health, their bodies, and their prospects. That the men who raised them can also vote for a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist, a candidate who violates almost every lesson we teach our children from the youngest age. If you want to give it a read, you can find it here. And if you want to give yourself some hope that this too shall pass, watch Dick, a movie that re-writes a painful political past.

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s Home

One of the things that made Will Ferrell so great on Saturday Night Live was his versatility. For every out-there cheerleader, there was a guy who drove a Dodge Stratus (for the record, the Dodge Stratus guy is one of my all-time favourites, the cheerleaders, not so much). But even the Dodge Stratus guy ended up being over-the-top, you just didn’t know it at first. The one thing we never really saw was low-key Will Ferrell.

His movie roles continued that trend with only one or two exceptions (like Stranger than Fiction and judging from the trailer, Bewitched). Of course, with those low-key movies being flops, in almost everything else we have gotten from Ferrell he’s a cartoon (Anchorman, Zoolander, Blades of Glory), a cliche (Get Hard, The Other Guys, A Deadly Adoption), or both (Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights).  And more often than not, those movies have disappointed.

With all that in mind, and especially in light of the awfulness that was Get Hard, my expectations for Daddy’s Home could not have been lower, because a half-assed Will Ferrell riff on a loser step-dad is one of the least-funny characters I could picture.

But you know what?  Will Ferrell’s step-dad in Daddy’s Home isn’t a cartoon or a cliche.  Maybe he’s a bit of a loser but he’s also a sweet and genuine guy that is loved by everyone around him (even his step-kids are warming up to him).  And then the kids’ sleazy, deadbeat biological dad (Mark Wahlberg) appears and throws everything into chaos.

For the first time in years, we finally get something fresh from Ferrell.  He is clearly using his whole ass in Daddy’s Home and it’s glorious.
With Ferrell bringing his A-game, everyone else steps up as well.  Mark Wahlberg plays (or is?) a fantastic charming asshole, and I also thoroughly enjoyed Thomas Haden Church as Ferrell’s boss and Hannibal Burress as Ferrell’s contractor/unwanted houseguest.

Daddy’s Home deserves praise as well for a script that avoids the easy way out and sets up something greater.  It is wonderful to see jokes come together the way they do in Daddy’s Home.  A perfect example is the daddy-daughter dance sequence, which has to be seen to be believed.  It’s set up so well that in hindsight it’s obvious but I didn’t see it coming until it happened.  Daddy’s Home delivers these types of scenes again and again, right until the credits roll, and will keep you laughing the whole time.

Daddy’s Home gets a score of nine long and shiny broadswords out of ten.  Be sure to catch it when it opens on December 25.

 

 

Made For TV?

MCDGROF EC011Grace of Monaco was supposed to be a brilliant piece of Oscar bait for Nicole Kidman but ended up getting so screwed up along the way that it went to small screen rather than the big one. I watched it recently (it’s available on Netflix) and I didn’t think it was awful, at least not god-awful, but it’s clear that something went wrong. That something seems to have been tension between director Olivier Dahan and distributor Harvey Weinstein. The film had two distinct cuts and the two men could never reconcile them. The screenwriter, caught in the middle, refused to attend the opening at Cannes because of the controversy. This isn’t the first time Weinstein has tried to intervene between a movie and its director; he tried to kill Snowpiercer and luckily didn’t succeed.

Both the script and the direction feel wooden. There’s no blood running through the grace-of-monaco-vogue-3-13may14-pr_bveins of this movie. Physically, Kidman embodies the role of Grace Kelly, especially as a newish princess still trying to make the transition between royalty and Hollywood. The actual royal family, children of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, have gone on record that this is a patently inaccurate recounting, fictionalized, fabricated, pointed not a biopic. Either way, Nicole doesn’t do Grace justice. She seems blank a lot of the time, and the performance is uneven. Tim Roth as Rainier isn’t any more inspiring.

So this movie went from getting booed at Cannes to being released on Lifetime, and then straight to video on demand where presumably it can hang out with other ill-conceived disappointments like the Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper piece of crap everyone wants to forget about, Serena.

Meanwhile, Lifetime is ramping up its cred by making fun of its own reputation. At least, I tumblr_nq7rlkyifi1tb8iyko2_500thought the Lifetime movie A Deadly Adoption was supposed to be a parody. I mean, you cast Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell and I just assumed. The movie, though, doesn’t really feel that way until the last 15 minutes or so. Up until then, Wiig and Ferrell are a little too earnest, their parts and the story a little too straight. It’s actually pretty straight up Lifetime sexual thriller, with requisite DAUGHTER WITH A DISEASE!, REVENGE PLOT WITH A TWIST!, and my favourite, SLOW MOTION FOR MAXIMUM DRAMATIC IMPACT!

I actually felt pretty deflated about this movie. I was expecting something a little more…good? tumblr_nq7rmebtxx1tb8iyko2_500Entertaining? Funny? Worthwhile? Subversive? I don’t really get what was in it for Wiig and Ferrell. Is this a James Franco on that soap opera thing? Like, I’m so square I’m cool? I’m so big I can do anything? If so, it was largely lost on me. I’m voting missed opportunity.

Have you seen either of these? Or anything else on TV that rose above or crashed and burned?

Twofer: Get Hard & Furious 7

What can these two movies possibly have in common, other than me miraculously sitting through both?

Matt wrote all you need to know about the new Will Ferrell\Kevin Hart movie Get Hard. If you’re wondering if you should see it, talk to Matt. If you did see it and you’re wondering what the hell, read on: (spoilers ahead!)

Get Hard has all the nuts and bolts of a smart social farce but never really puts it together. The first 15 minutes have a lot of potential in their view of the haves vs the have nots, but the movie ti-will-ferrell-get-harddevolves into all of the racial stereotypes it’s supposed to be making fun of. I thought it was super damaging and sad that they made the Kevin Hart character so uneducated. Will Ferrell is the dumb one, the one who got framed and never noticed, who is terrified of black people but isn’t afraid to offend them by misappropriating their culture, who treats any person of colour so indifferently he subjects them unthinkingly to his nudity because they might as well be just another fixture in his palatial home. And yet the script goes out of its way (3 times that I noticed) to have Will Ferrell make a literary reference that Kevin Hart just doesn’t get.

The whole premise of the movie relies on Will Ferrell’s (incorrect) assumption that like most black men, Kevin Hart is an ex-convict. Actually, he’s spotless…although it turns out that he does have a cousin who’s a gang banger. So there’s that. You know, because even the non-criminal black men roll with thugs. Is that the worst of it? Hardly? One scene that goes on way too long has Kevin Hart pretending to be prison characters – a scary black dude, and an angry Hispanic GH_D42_009.dngone. He throws out every stereotype he knows but we never once talk about why prisoners are overwhelmingly one minority or another when we have verifiable proof of white guilt right in front of us. I came out of this movie thinking a lot about what it failed to do or say.  It had every opportunity to talk about race, and about economic disparity, and white privilege, but it didn’t. Instead it was a tired, two-hour long repetitive rape joke, and what does that say about our culture that we feel better laughing about rape than we do about confronting racial bias? Yeah, I know this was a comedy that exists to make us laugh, not to be a teachable moment. But Trading Places managed to be both. There’s a lot of great satire out there, funny as heck, and while this one has the veneer of social commentary, underneath it’s just cheap particle board.

Furious 7 manages to tell us more about race without even trying. It’s hard to believe we’re seven movies into this franchise – you may think that’s seven too many, or you may already be eagerly awaiting number eight. But have you ever noticed how ethnically diverse the cast is, and has been since day one?

It feels a little tacky for me to sit here and list all the non-white people, but there are lots, and not just side kicks and bit parts – real marquee characters with back stories and dimensions, and they’re not necessarily the first to get killed off! The series has also visited a lot of non-English speaking countries along the way – trips to Brazil, Japan, and Mexico have only expanded the diversity of the cast, proving it doesn’t matter what colour you are so long as you’re buff and can drive a stick.

And that’s a great thing, actually. 54% of North American movie goers are white, but the actual Fast 5population is actually a little over 60%, which means minorities, and Hispanics in particular, are the fastest-growing ticket buyers. If audiences are multi-cultural, so should be the movies they watch. And whatever else The Fast and Furious franchise has been, it has consistently delivered a varied group of people capable of interracial relationships. And this inclusive trend exists behind the camera as well. The second one was directed by black filmmaker John Singleton, movies 3 through 6 were done by Justin Lin, and the most recent two were directed by Malaysian-born James Wan.

But the most impressive part (aside from y ability to start so many sentences with the word But) is that race is just a fact of li fe in these movies. It just is. Your boss might be Asian, your girlfriend could be Iranian, your best friend could be The Rock, your own step-kid could be Hispanic, but nobody need mention any of it, let alone pat themselves on the back for it. furious-7-header-1Generally, when Hollywood makes a movie starring a white guy and a black guy, the movie is about a white guy and a black guy: the culture clash! the misunderstandings! they’re so different but maybe also kinda the same! It can never just be a guy and his friend, who happens to be black. Get Hard is dripping with exactly this kind of guilt, which is sad because Ferrell and Hart are both funny guys and (I’m guessing that) in real life, Ferrell doesn’t talk down to Hart, isn’t afraid he’ll steal his car, and has maybe even shared a bowl of popcorn with him while watching Boyz N The Hood (directed by John Singleton, by the way! — coincidence? Yeah, probably).

Movies are the one place in America where segregation is still allowed to exist. There are tiny pockets of all-black Tyler Perry movies to counter the enormity of Hollywood’s white washing, but that misses the point. We don’t need more segregation, we need integration. And I’m not talking about movies “about race”, I’m talking about movies that have people in them, stupidly beautiful versions of people from all backgrounds standing around in tight tank tops talking about what really matters to America: fast cars and freedom.

 

Get Hard at Cineplex VIP Cinemas

Get Hard
The days of sneaking rum into my Coke and worrying that everyone in the theater can smell it are over. Not only will the friendly staff at Cineplex VIP Cinemas not judge you for having a drink with your movie, they’ll bring it to your seat with a smile and a debit machine. If there are three things in life I enjoy they’d be movies, going out for drinks with Jay and Sean, and being called a VIP and on Saturday I got to enjoy them all at once.

There are a lot of drinks to choose from on the menu and it has me thinking about the perfect pairing of drink and movie the way sommeliers talk about food and wine pairings. I know beer makes me ready to laugh, wine makes me sentimental, and martinis make me feel smart. I also know that margaritas that are mixed by Sean sometimes make me throw up so it’s a good thing that I didn’t see any of those on the menu. So for Get Hard- the new Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy- I thought a Heineken would help get me in the right mood.

I’m not sure if I chose the wrong drink or the wrong movie but Get Hard didn’t make me laugh nearly as consistently as its trailer did. We saw Focus at a packed pre-screening a few weeks ago and the preview seemed to be a big hit with the entire crowd, with many of us laughing well into the next preview. All of those same jokes got worked on Saturday’s crowd (although maybe not as well) but there weren’t many new ones in the finished film.