Archive for the ‘ Comedy ’ Category

Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots, 2011, USA

By Jennifer Hanson

I avoided this film in theatres as I saw the Shrek franchise grow progressively worse.  I just didn’t trust this movie to be worth the price of admission and refreshments.  I was wrong.

Puss in Boots represents a new life for the Shrek film series.  It’s a prequel to the series that focuses on the early life of Puss (Antonio Banderas).  After years of living as an outlaw, Puss runs into Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), who is trying to steal magic beans from the notorious Jack and Jill (Bill Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris).  He discovers that Kitty’s partner in crime is Humpty (Zach Galifianakis), who was the childhood best friend of Puss.  This reunion is not a happy one, as Humpty betrayed Puss many years prior.  The three reluctantly team up to steal the magic beans, and plant them, in order to get their hands on the legendary golden eggs.

The movie was charming, and avoided the pop culture humour that doomed the Shrek franchise.  The film is a satire of the Zorro films, but it offers more of a timeless quality than the pop culture references of Shrek, which are already dated.  Several new fairy tale characters separate from the Shrek franchise are introduced in this movie, as well.  I’m not sure if any of the supporting characters will ever have the likability of Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon), who was always my favourite character in Shrek.

Banderas continued to bring charm to Puss, and both Hayek and Galifianakis are welcome additions to the series.  Banderas is an excellent voice actor.  I worried that I’d feel removed from the film, as Banderas has such a distinct voice, but he really got into character, and I was able to focus on the film, and not the fact that it was Banderas.  I did feel that Hayek was a bit underused and would have liked to know more about her character.  Galifianakis was excellent, though.  His character was written well, and had a great story arc.

The highlight of the movie (for me, at least) was seeing the early life of Puss.  The animators did an awesome job animating Puss as a kitten.  As a cat lover, I was on a cute induced high during the entire sequence.  I could never really imagine Puss as a kitten, and, while his origin may have been slightly cliché, satire works by mocking these sorts of clichés.  The animation as a whole was beautifully done.  I wish I’d rented the HD version of the film off of Apple TV.  When one contrasts the original Shrek with Puss in Boots, you can really see just how far computer animation has come in just over a decade.

I highly recommend this movie.  It was such a refreshing surprise.  It was exciting, heartfelt, and funny.  Too often in movies aimed more at children, adults find themselves bored by childish humour or overly simple plot lines.  Puss in Boots manages to appeal to both children and adults with a dynamic plot, powerful characters, and the occasional joke that may just go over the heads of young children!

4/5

Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher, 2011, USA

By Andrew Burns

I thought long and hard for something funny or witty to open this review but this flick just sucked all the humour out of me.  You might think with some top notch comedic talents in the credits this movie would be good for a chuckle or two.  Sadly no, barely even a smirk.

Ok so before I rip into this attempt at a comedy I’ll give a quick rundown of the premise.  Cameron Diaz plays the world’s worst seventh grade middle school teacher, Elizabeth Halsey.  No that’s too specific, she plays the world’s teacher.  Elizabeth is about to quit teaching for good as she is about to marry into a huge inheritance when her groom to be calls it off.  Thinking the best way to find another loaded smuck to marry for his money Elizabeth decides all she needs is to get herself a boob job.  Elizabeth goes back to teaching to save up for her implants and when that isn’t enough she rips off and uses her students to turn a profit.  One fellow teacher catches on to Elizabeth and the two secretly feud back and forth.

Most viewers are going to have a hard time swallowing the terrible messages Bad Teacher has in it.  Diaz’s character has zero redeemable qualities to her so not once would anyone watching this flick root for her.  Elizabeth lies, cheats, steals, back-mails, embezzles, and even drugs people to get what she wants and then in the end she actually does.  Meaning if you walk all over people, and then stab them in the back, happy endings do come true.  To be perfectly honest none of that stuff mattered to me.  I could care less if I didn’t want to root for the main character because she is an awful person.  It was almost refreshing to see a cruel character not do a 180 with their personality after some kind of epiphany in the movie’s third act.  Almost.

No it wasn’t the film’s poor life messages I had a problem with, it was the comedy.  I never found Diaz’s whole reckless bad teacher act funny but I figured some of the other cast members would shed comedic light on this film.  After all, Diaz co-stars with the very funny and hugely popular Jason Segal, arguably one of the funniest SNL host in recent years in Justin Timberlake, and the always hilarious John Michael Higgins.  Yet nothing but some mildly humorous moments scattered too far apart to string together any laughs.  Now a days studios rarely put this many big names into a rated R comedy in fear that it might limited their potential audience.  When this does happen actors and filmmakers normally take advantage of the ability to use of crude and vulgar language and/or situations, but here every bit of talent is wasted on a couple F-bombs and a pair of fake beasts.

If I had to say one good thing about this movie I’d say it’s only 90 minutes long.  Even that being said that’s still 90 minutes I’ll never get back.  I went into this movie with low expectations because I’m not that much of a Diaz fan but I did expect some funny considering her cast mates.  Segal is probably the best thing about this movie and he is only on screen for about 5-10 minutes total, so that right there tells you something.  Whatever laughs you think you might get out of this movie, I assure you just watching the trailer will give you the same results.  Blaming the writing or direction seems unfair so I’ll just blame the movie as a whole.

0.5 / 5 Stars

50/50

50/50, 2011, Canada/USA

By Andrew Burns

Marketing a comedy film can be a tricky and often risky thing to pull off right.  A lot depends of the film’s trailer to spark word of mouth and lore in potential audience members.  The trailer should include some of the funnier moments of the film, but also use them sparingly, not to give too much away.  But most importantly the trailer should not advertise it’s film to be something it’s not.   50/50 breaks the ladder of those rules but it’s touching story still won over the heart of this audience member even if I was expecting a few more chuckles.

Loosely based on the life of Will Reiser, comedy writer and lifelong friend of the film’s co-star Seth Rogan, 50/50 tells the story of a young man named Adam dealing with his earth shattering cancer diagnose.  Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or JGL for short), who often finds himself dealing with his decease alone as everyone from his girlfriend, best friend, parents and even his therapist all are unequipped to deal with his situation.

50/50 is an awkward solo dark comedy rather than the upbeat buddy comedy it was advertised to be.  The film’s funniest moments actually come from Adam’s worst experiences while at his lowest points.  JGL does a great job bringing down the film’s emotional tone as Adam’s condition worsens.  So just when the film begins to get to that inevitable depression threshold either Rogan or JGL makes light of Adam’s situation with some morbid or sarcastic humour to lighten the mood.  Adam isn’t the most likable character to root for, but for me it was refreshing to see JGL use some different comedic talents in a strong dramatic performance.  Sure Adam comes off as a dick for half the movie, and depressed for the other half, but that makes the character feel more real.

 

Rogan as Adam’s best friend Kyle doesn’t have a very large supporting role but delivers some of his funniest work since The 40 Year Old Virgin.  Roles like the Kyle character in this film are where Rogan’s talents are best used.  Don’t get me wrong, the guy is able to carry a comedy film as a lead actor, but hands down he is funnier when he is doing supporting work.  Maybe it’s the small doses of Rogan or that there is less pressure for him as a minor character that make it work.  With Adam not being the most likable hero to cheer for Rogan’s Kyle becomes important to make sure the film’s number one asshole spot isn’t filled by it’s protagonist.

Even though its been at least a decade coming from a very different comedic background on 3rd Rock From The Sun, JCL surprised me with some impressive dramatic work in addition to his witty humour.  50/50 never seems to add jokes just to cut the tension in a scene, it rather uses strange realistic moments or encounters that would actually happen if it wasn’t a movie.  This obviously is because the film’s story is loose true story of Reiser’s life but I found that level of realism helped rather than hurt the film.  This won’t be one of those types of comedies that you’ll hear people quoting from it or re-enacting certain scenes, but it will (or should) put a smile on your face despite the gloomy subject matter.

3 / 5 Stars