Leslie Mann

She’s the One (1996, Edward Burns)

She’s the One has a fantastic first act. Some of the banter doesn’t connect, but all of the performances are strong and when the banter does connect, it makes up for the rest. Director, writer, and star Burns relies a little too much on “gentle” homophobia for the banter between his character and Michael McGlone’s. They’re brothers–John Mahoney (easily giving the film’s best performance) is the dad. Mom never appears. I thought she was deceased, but no, Burns just doesn’t give her an onscreen presence, which is a big problem later on. Anyway, Burns’s reliance on the “sister” jokes for McGlone end up just being foreshadowing for the real problem with the film–Burns and McGlone are lousy leads.

But, wait, still being upbeat about the first act. Maxine Bahns is great as Burns’s new wife. They meet in his cab in the second or third scene and go off to get married. Jennifer Aniston is excellent as McGlone’s suffering wife. She gives the film’s second best performance. But she’s not just suffering because McGlone’s an alpha male jerk, but because he’s carrying on with Cameron Diaz.

Diaz, it turns out, is Burns’s ex-fiancee, who he left after she cheated on him. Eight million stories in New York City, of course it turns out everyone knows each other. Except they don’t, so Burns isn’t even trying to do an interconnected thing. Once the second act hits, Burns fully embraces the “movie about nothing.” Short scenes, usually in long shot, setting up what someone else says and then everyone else talking about it. Maybe if it were intentional, but it seems like Burns is trying to find the story. He never does. She’s the One has roughly thirty minutes of actual content. It runs over ninety minutes.

Along the way, there’s some fine acting from Mahoney and Aniston. Frank Vincent is hilarious as Aniston’s father. McGlone’s a funny jerk. The problem is he’s pretty much the lead, because Burns is exceptionally passive in his performance. He gives himself the shallowest character. Well, it’s between his character and Mahoney’s, but at least Mahoney gets an arc, at least Mahoney gets some agency.

Diaz is bad. She’s got a terrible part, which just gets worse for her along the way, but she’s not good in it. The film requires her to have exceptional chemistry with Burns. She has none. She ought to have some chemistry with McGlone too, since he wants to leave Aniston for her. But nope. Aniston and McGlone, when they’re with other people and not just in their own subplot, are great together. Bahns is best in the first act, then her part goes to crap too.

She’s the One is about Burns and McGlone having to accept some responsibility for themselves and doing whatever it takes to get out of it. Burns, as director, tries as hard as he can do get them out of it too. The women of She’s the One are all universally more interesting than the men; Burns just doesn’t want them to be. So there’s some internalized, “gentle” misogyny going on too.

The last act is a rush to save everything and, thanks to Mahoney and Bahns, Burns is almost able to pull it off. Almost.

Great songs and score from Tom Petty (though it’s usually just for Burns and Bahns, McGlone and Aniston don’t get music). Frank Prinzi’s photography is solid, even if a lot of Burns’s composition is questionable. When he finally gets around to letting characters talk and actors act–i.e. the third act–She’s the One shows some of the promise of the first act.

It’s just too little, too late.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, Frank Prinzi; edited by Susan Graef; music by Tom Petty; production designer, William Barclay; produced by Ted Hope, James Schamus, and Burns; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Edward Burns (Mickey Fitzpatrick), Michael McGlone (Francis Fitzpatrick), Maxine Bahns (Hope), Jennifer Aniston (Renee), Cameron Diaz (Heather), John Mahoney (Mr. Fitzpatrick), Leslie Mann (Connie), Malachy McCourt (Tom), Amanda Peet (Molly), Anita Gillette (Carol) and Frank Vincent (Ron).


Knocked Up (2007, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

Once upon a time, I read how what Apatow really does with Knocked Up is make a film about how men need to change to be acceptable for women. I think the article used stronger language. While that aspect of the film is present, it’s an extreme reading. It could just as well be about how a contentless young woman learns there’s something more important in life than shoes. Apatow backs off that aspect in terms of lead Katherine Heigl (she couldn’t have handled it anyway), but does give Leslie Mann (as her sister) a decent arc.

Unfortunately, he eventually loses track of Paul Rudd (as Mann’s husband) on his arc.

The film never really succeeds because it eventually requires the viewer to believe Heigl’s a good person. She’s not a murderer or anything… but good person is a stretch. Heigl doesn’t have any dramatic range (though her comedy timing is surprisingly good) and the romance between her and Seth Rogen, which one might say is essential, fails.

So, instead, Knocked Up is often just really funny. Even when Apatow’s doing his heartfelt scenes, he manages to get in a bunch of dick and fart jokes.

It helps he’s got Rogen, who’s fantastic, and the rest of the supporting cast. Jason Segel’s awesome; Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, all good. Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig (especially Wiig) are great in small parts.

Apatow seems to want the viewer to think about Knocked Up, which doesn’t play to its strengths.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Judd Apatow; director of photography, Eric Alan Edwards; edited by Craig Alpert and Brent White; music by Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright III; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Apatow, Shauna Robertson and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Seth Rogen (Ben Stone), Katherine Heigl (Alison Scott), Paul Rudd (Pete), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Jason Segel (Jason), Jay Baruchel (Jay), Jonah Hill (Jonah), Martin Starr (Martin), Charlyne Yi (Jodi), Iris Apatow (Charlotte), Maude Apatow (Sadie), Joanna Kerns (Alison’s Mom), Harold Ramis (Ben’s Dad), Alan Tudyk (Jack), Kristen Wiig (Jill), Bill Hader (Brent), Ken Jeong (Dr. Kuni) and Craig Robinson (Club Doorman).


Funny People (2009, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

Funny People plays a little like Judd Apatow wrote two-thirds of something he really loved so he decided to keep going… adding another two-thirds. So he ended up with four-thirds of a movie and because he’s Judd Apatow, he got to make it without skinning it down. I don’t think I’d even call him on it, except he doesn’t close it. He needs at least another third (so five-thirds) to get Funny People to finish right.

I think, somewhere in that paragraph, I meant to say it’s mostly outstanding. I’d heard great things about it, but even so… it’s far better than I expected from Apatow’s other work. The first two-thirds—which basically closes with Eminem musing on the meaning of life—is sublime. The rest is more of what I expected, but still good. It’s Apatow reality—it looks like a promotional photo for a nice hotel, but with cursing and human struggle.

Adam Sandler’s great. I almost wonder if Apatow realized how great he’d be (sort of playing a riff on himself) because Seth Rogen ends up getting too much screen time. Rogen’s good, but not as good.

Jason Schwartzman and Eric Bana are both excellent. Leslie Mann’s all right, but the script doesn’t let her character be complex enough.

Jonah Hill’s starting to get annoying.

Amazing RZA cameo.

Apatow runs long with Funny People; it really felt like he realized he couldn’t stop until he made it sublime again.

But he didn’t.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Judd Apatow; director of photography, Janusz Kaminski; edited by Craig Alpert and Brent White; music by Michael Andrews and Jason Schwartzman; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Apatow, Barry Mendel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

Starring Adam Sandler (George Simmons), Seth Rogen (Ira Wright), Leslie Mann (Laura), Eric Bana (Clarke), Jonah Hill (Leo Koenig), Jason Schwartzman (Mark Taylor Jackson), Aubrey Plaza (Daisy), Maude Apatow (Mable), Iris Apatow (Ingrid), RZA (Chuck), Aziz Ansari (Randy), Torsten Voges (Dr. Lars) and Allan Wasserman (Dr. Stevens).


The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

I don’t get it. I mean, I kind of get it–the movie’s cute and funny–but I don’t really get it. Not the critical acclaim. I think it’s actually my first Judd Apatow movie–I don’t remember Celtic Pride though I know I saw it–and I’m disappointed. It’s like a sitcom. Apatow directs it like a lot of unimaginative sitcoms are directed. It looks like an episode of “Joey.” A bad episode of “Joey.”

But the script’s not particularly strong either. It’s really heavy on sentiment and it’s version of gross-out humor (gross-out but heartwarming, something Something About Mary did seven years earlier and more successfully), but it’s not at all heavy on creating realistic characters. I don’t believe in The 40 Year Old Virgin. I believe in them, in their existence, I might even believe Steve Carell’s character is one… but I don’t believe he’s a real person. The film goes through lengths to seem “real,” from the eBay store to the lame jobs, but it’s very… sitcom-like. A lot of that fault is Apatow’s direction, but the script isn’t helpful. The characters aren’t real. I don’t believe Paul Rudd has a close friend who’s been to prison twice.

I am also iffy on Carell as a movie star. He was so successful in this one, he turned it into his character for “The Office.” Laughable but sympathetic.

Some of it might have to do with the joylessness of it all. It felt mechanical.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Judd Apatow; written by Apatow and Steve Carell; director of photography, Jack N. Green; edited by Brent White; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Apatow, Clayton Townsend and Shauna Robertson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Steve Carell (Andy Stitzer), Catherine Keener (Trish), Paul Rudd (David), Romany Malco (Jay), Seth Rogen (Cal), Elizabeth Banks (Beth), Leslie Mann (Nicky), Jane Lynch (Paula), Gerry Bednob (Mooj), Shelley Malil (Haziz), Kat Dennings (Marla), Jordy Masterson (Mark), Chelsea Smith (Julia) and Jonah Hill (eBay Customer).


Last Man Standing (1996, Walter Hill)

Before Last Man Standing came out–when it was, presumably, going to be a hit because Willis was on one of his career upswings–I remember seeing Walter Hill say this film, his film, was going to improve on the source material (that source material being Kurosawa’s Yojimbo).

Hill borrows more liberally from the first remake of that film, A Fistful of Dollars, and adds some idiotic ingredients. The narration from Bruce Willis is atrocious, which isn’t a surprise, but worse is Willis’s performance. He got a big payday for this one and he’s clearly not interested in it, which isn’t surprising. It’s visibly–thanks to terrible performances from Bruce Dern, Ned Eisenberg, Michael Imperioli and Leslie Mann–a disaster. Hill’s script is full of lousy dialogue and is poorly paced, as he doesn’t seem to understand the viewer is going to recognize some of his “homage” to Dollars.

The music, from Ry Cooder, is awful. The opening, with it and Willis’s narration, would be enough to get up and walk out of the theater and demand a refund. It was a huge bomb (it barely made enough money in the States to cover Willis’s paycheck, let alone the other costs).

Hill doesn’t seem to understand what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Instead, he makes this confusing reality where the viewer has to participate instead of enjoy… and Willis brings zero charisma to the role. He does a lousy Clint Eastwood.

It’s not even worth watching as a curiosity.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Walter Hill; screenplay by Hill, based on a film by Kikushima Ryuzo and Kurosawa Akira; director of photography, Lloyd Ahern II; edited by Freeman A. Davies; music by Ry Cooder; production designer, Gary Wissner; produced by Hill and Arthur M. Sarkissian; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Bruce Willis (John Smith), Bruce Dern (Sheriff Ed Galt), William Sanderson (Joe Monday), Christopher Walken (Hickey), David Patrick Kelly (Doyle), Karina Lombard (Felina), Ned Eisenberg (Fredo Strozzi), Alexandra Powers (Lucy Kolinski), Michael Imperioli (Giorgio Carmonte), Ken Jenkins (Capt. Tom Pickett), R.D. Call (Jack McCool), Ted Markland (Deputy Bob), Leslie Mann (Wanda) and Patrick Kilpatrick (Finn).


George of the Jungle (1997, Sam Weisman)

For what it is, George of the Jungle is a rather successful film. It has to appeal to kids (since it’s a Disney movie), teenage girls (who I presume liked Brendan Fraser and might buy the soundtrack–from Disney Records, of course), and even “George of the Jungle” fans. Viewers of the show would be parents of the kids seeing the film, but there’s a real attention to minutiae and it works–George of the Jungle is a pleasant diversion. It immediately establishes itself as absurd, then proceeds to amuse the audience. When the film either shifts focus (from slapstick comedy to romantic comedy, for example) or, in particular, leaves the jungle sets, chafing occurs. In some ways, mostly because of Leslie Mann’s excellent performance as the love interest, George of the Jungle is an effective romance. It’s in a syrupy way, but a pleasing one. While Brendan Fraser is better playing a general buffoon than acting, he earns enough credit to glide over those scenes where he has trouble. But that success is an overall one–there are scenes throughout, this long dance scene, where I couldn’t figure out why they were filming it… then I remembered the Disney Records soundtrack.

The effects problems are different and complex. Since it’s a goofy comedy, the obvious CG isn’t a problem, neither is the obvious composite shots and jungle sets. The Creature Shop’s animatronics, however, are fantastic. But it’s the transition from set to location shooting where George of the Jungle starts to feel wrong–it isn’t supposed to be real and introducing elements, even simple visual cues, rips the viewer from the experience. When George ends up in San Francisco, I kept looking at the clock, waiting for him to go do something else. At those moments, the film felt the most like a romantic comedy (I imagine it’s where romantic comedy writer Audrey Wells did the majority of her work). Maybe it if had all been done on sets or something… but it just didn’t fit, visually or tonally, with the rest of the film. Holland Taylor plays Leslie Mann’s evil mother, who prefers fiancé Thomas Haden Church (who’s hilarious, though he’s just playing an evil, rich version of Lowell from “Wings” for most of it) to the Jungle King. Taylor, who’s usually good, has played this role maybe nine times before and it’s visible from her performance. It’s hard to be engaged when the actor is bored.

Besides her, however, the cast is fine. John Cleese voices the ape named Ape and it’s an excellent fit. For some reason, I agree with that character regarding the Tookie Bird. It’s damn annoying.

Also, the film’s one of those rare ones where the last couple minutes pulls the whole thing up a notch, just because it gets goofy again.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells, based on a story by Olsen and a cartoon by Jay Ward; director of photography, Thomas Ackerman; edited by Stuart Pappe and Roger Bondelli; music by Marc Shaiman; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by David Hoberman, Jordan Kerner and Jon Avnet; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Brendan Fraser (George), Leslie Mann (Ursula Stanhope), Thomas Haden Church (Lyle Van de Groot), Richard Roundtree (Kwame), Holland Taylor (Beatrice Stanhope), Abraham Benrubi (Thor) and John Cleese (An Ape Named “Ape”).


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