Paul Rudd

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, Joe Chappelle)

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers doesn’t even run ninety minutes and gets boring fast; the last twenty minutes are completely mind-numbing. Nothing makes sense, characters act without motive, cults cult without purpose, it just goes on and on. At least Donald Pleasence is lucky enough to get knocked out for a bunch of it.

Pleasence isn’t in Curse very much. The scenes he does get are usually silly, sort of half expository, half bridging scenes to keep things moving. He has no narrative of his own, which is fine. He’s so uninvolved with the film’s events he shouldn’t have one. Of course, no one gets their own narrative in Curse. At least, nothing approaching a completed one.

Lead Paul Rudd doesn’t. His character survived the first Halloween as a kid, which makes him early-to-mid-twenties. He lives in a boarding house and obsesses over Michael Myers while peeping on new neighbor Marianne Hagan across the street. She’s a single mom moved back in with her family–mom Kim Darby, dad Bradford English, brother Keith Bogart. Devin Gardner plays Hagan’s kid.

So Hagan and Rudd don’t show up for about twenty minutes, maybe a little more–though Rudd does narrate the opening titles, which are set over J.C. Brandy giving birth and then running from Michael and a cult. From a basement. Director Chappelle likes his basements. He likes to poorly direct scenes in them; cinematographer Billy Dickson lights these basement scenes poorly, like everything he lights in the movie. It’s all poorly lighted. Dickson and Chapelle shoot their night exteriors with a lot of blue light. Bright blue light.

Back to Brandy. She’s from the last couple movies but it was a different actress. The movie introduces her in the Rudd voiceover during the titles and there’s no time spent establishing her character. Even though her escape subplot goes on forever, it’s filler. And badly directed. Chappelle badly directs everything in Curse. The movie doesn’t just not having anything to recommend it, it has nil positive elements.

Chappelle’s direction? Bad. Daniel Farrands’s script? Bad. Dickson’s photography? Bad. Randy Bricker’s editing? Bad. Alan Howarth’s music? So bad.

And none of the actors are any good. Once Rudd and Hagan take over the movie, it’s all about Rudd finding Brandy’s baby and then trying to find Pleasence. Meanwhile Hagan’s got a subplot about… nothing? She’s got a couple scenes showing she’s suffering–dad English is physically and mentally abusive, Gardner’s a weird kid–but no subplot. On one hand, it’s good Rudd and Hagan don’t have a romance subplot, but it’s also bad because it’d be so godawful it might be fun to watch.

Rudd’s really bad. Hagan’s better. Darby’s okay. English is bad. Bogart is bad. Mariah O’Brien–as Bogart’s girlfriend–she’s bad. She’s got this subplot about bringing Halloween back to the town. There’s a festival, which doesn’t appear to have actually been staged because Chappelle’s terrible at establishing shots. He, cinematographer Dickson, and editor Bricker are really terrible at tying scenes shot in different locations together. Sure, the plotting is herks and jerks along, but Bricker has no rhythm. There’ll be a bad establishing shot, then a second–longer–bad establishing shot, just on a first unit location. Curse is a visual mess.

Leo Geter is awful as a shock jock who figures in, but not enough.

Mitchell Ryan is in it a few times as Pleasence’s old boss, who wants to hire him back even before Michael Myers returns. Even though Pleasence is clearly not in shape for a nine-to-five.

The jump scares are all cheap, usually red herrings, usually with terrible Howarth music accompanying. But mostly there’s gore instead of scares. But the gore is often insert shots; obvious insert shots. Like Chappelle has something to prove. He can keep finding ways to make the move worse, even as every other “creative” impulse runs out.

Curse is bad. And it goes on too long to be amusing at all in its badness.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Chappelle; screenplay by Daniel Farrands, based on characters created by Debra Hill and John Carpenter; director of photography, Billy Dickson; edited by Randy Bricker; music by Alan Howarth; production designer, Bryan Ryman; produced by Paul Freeman; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Donald Pleasence (Dr. Sam Loomis), Paul Rudd (Tommy Doyle), Marianne Hagan (Kara Strode), Mitchell Ryan (Dr. Terence Wynn), Devin Gardner (Danny Strode), Kim Darby (Debra Strode), Bradford English (John Strode), Keith Bogart (Tim Strode), Mariah O’Brien (Beth), Leo Geter (Barry Simms) and J.C. Brandy (Jamie Lloyd Carruthers).


Fun Mom Dinner (2017, Alethea Jones)

The best thing about Fun Mom Dinner is the soundtrack. It’s all mainstream early-to-mid eighties hits–some Cars, 99 Luftballons, the song from the end of Sixteen Candles because a Jack Ryan crush is a major plot point (which is a little weird since it’s lead Katie Aselton was six when Sixteen Candles came out and she formed that crush). Sadly Jack Ryan doesn’t appear in the movie. Instead it’s Adam Levine semi-standing in as the object of her infidelity fantasy. Fun Mom doesn’t have a lot of great writing, but it’s never godawful. It’s trite and benign, but it’s not godawful. So Levine’s laughably godawful performance is all his own. Especially since it’s things like… he can’t pretend to listen to people.

Aselton is one of the four not really fun moms out at the Fun Mom Dinner. She ends up being the lead because maybe she’s going to cheat on not good parenting partner and perpetually stressed out husband Adam Scott with Levine. Also because she brings the moms together. She’s friends with Toni Collette, who seems like she’s going to be the lead at the beginning; she’s the disaffected pot-smoking mom. Only it turns out the script’s got nothing for her to do after she buries the hatchet with other fun mom Bridget Everett in their third scene together. Before the end of the third act. There’s some more character development for Collette after that point, but it’s when her husband (Ron Huebel) talks to Scott about it. Huebel and Scott are taking care of their kids while the moms are out having fun.

Everett’s kids and husband don’t matter. They don’t show up after a brief opening introduction. And the four fun mom, Molly Shannon, is in a similar situation. Only she’s divorced so the film isn’t ignoring her husband, just her kid. Or kids. They make so little impression it’s hard to remember how many Shannon or Everett have. And Shannon does get a romantic flirtation subplot with Paul Rust, which could have been cute. It’s proto-cute.

For not getting any story to herself, Everett still is the backbone of Fun Mom Dinner. She has enough energy to make moments connect, even if they don’t always work. Shannon’s character is written too slight; her performance isn’t too slight, the writing is too slight. Collette just loses anything to do except procure pot for the outing or encourage smoking pot and drinking. Aselton’s got the one-two punch of a slightly written character–really, Julie Rudd’s script has the depth of a television commercial–and a too slight performance. Aselton’s never believable. The movie’s never believable, but you can pretend with Everett, Collette, and Shannon. With Aselton. No.

Fun Mom Dinner is not some raunchy, raucous affair. If it weren’t for the moms toking some reefer and dropping f-bombs, it’ll be PG. Aselton’s threatened dalliance with Levine isn’t just bad because Levine’s awful or Asleton’s writing and acting is thin, it’s because director Jones doesn’t do dramatic tension. Not even when it seems like Everett is going to throttle Collette for being such a nasty elitist. Oh, right. It’s never explained why Collette’s such an elitist since she’s married to super-nice, super-supportive doofus Huebel.

Clearly there’s not much budget. When the moms are roaming the streets, the streets are empty. When they’re in restaurants or bars, the shots are very careful not to include too many other people. If Jones weren’t shooting it in Panavision and filling the wide frame with nothing, the movie might not seem so visibly sparse. Sean McElwee’s photography isn’t bad. It’s not great, but it’s thoroughly competent. He’d have been able to shoot the frame more concise.

Jon Corn’s editing is terrible, however; he’s worst with Levine, which is kind of hilarious. Not really. It’s just unfortunate, like everything with Aselton once she becomes the de facto lead.

Fun Mom Dinner is also really short. Eighty-one minutes. And full of filler. Karaoke filler. The movie’s target audience is moms neglected by spouses who daydream about smoking pot and singing Karaoke. Hopefully. Because otherwise it doesn’t even have an intended audience. Otherwise it’s just an exercise is fodder.

Actually the Karaoke deserved more screen time. Everett and Collette can sing. Embracing it–though Everett gets two singing scenes–would’ve helped. It would’ve had to help at least a little.

There’s an extended cameo with Paul Rudd and David Wain as a pair of pot shop owners who avoid any contact with their wives. As much as possible anyway. Like so much else in the film, no one does anything with it except the actors. The actors make it work. Sort of. They keep Fun Mom from being overrun by its own disposability. They don’t make it respectable, but they keep it from being miserable.

Except Levine. And Aselton when she’s with him.

Fun Mom Dinner isn’t terrible enough to be a curiosity. It’s inoffensively pointless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Alethea Jones; written by Julie Rudd; director of photography, Sean McElwee; edited by Jon Corn; music by Julian Wass; production designer, Tracy Dishman; produced by Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, and Naomi Scott; released by Momentum Pictures.

Starring Katie Aselton (Emily), Toni Collette (Kate), Bridget Everett (Melanie), Molly Shannon (Jamie), Adam Scott (Tom), Rob Huebel (Andrew), David Wain (Wayne), Paul Rudd (Brady), Paul Rust (Barry), and Adam Levine (Luke).


Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018, Peyton Reed)

Despite being in the first scene in the movie and sharing most of Paul Rudd’s scenes with him, Evangeline Lilly is definitely second in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The film gives her her own action scenes–some truly phenomenal ones–but very little agency. She’s entirely in support of dad Michael Douglas; even after it’s clear Douglas–in the past–was an egomaniac who hurt lots of people, it’s not like Lilly has any reaction to it. Or the film for that matter. During the scene maybe, with Rudd laughing about what a dick Douglas has always been, someone getting very upset remembering how Douglas treated them, Douglas looking bemused, and Lilly looking vacant. There are a few of those scenes and they really define the film’s dramatic qualities.

It doesn’t have many.

It’s got a lot of humorous qualities and a lot of charming ones, but not dramatic. Nothing ever gets as emotionally intense as the first act, in flashback (either straight flashback or dream sequence). Even when there’s all the danger in the world, as Rudd, Lilly, and Douglas race against time to save Lilly’s mother (and Douglas’s wife), Michelle Pfeiffer, from being trapped in the Quantum Zone. Realm. Sorry, Quantum Realm. There’s a lot of quantum things in Ant-Man and the Wasp, it’s hard to keep track.

But the film isn’t about dramatic possibilities so much as good-natured, comedic special effects action ones. There’s this omnipresent theme about parents disappointing children–Douglas and Lilly, Rudd and his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), not to mention the villain (Hannah John-Kamen), who’s got her own father issues. But if the film never acknowledges it’s a theme, is it really a theme? The screenplay (by five screenwriters) never worries about it and director Reed really doesn’t narrative echoes. It’s not his thing. His thing is humor and pacing and the film excels at both of them.

Because, even with those five writers–including Rudd–it’s not like there’s much depth to characterizations. Walton Goggins is one of the villains and he’s basically doing a really broad caricature of Walton Goggins being in a Marvel movie as a Southern tech-gangster. Randall Park plays a goofy FBI agent who Rudd keeps on one-upping and it’s even broader. Michael Peña excels with similiar treatment; he’s always played for obvious laughs and Peña plays through, fully, successfully embracing it. Goggins and Park act obviously to the joke. Not Peña.

None of the leads have much heavy lifting either. Rudd and Lilly are so adorable–and find each other so utterly adorable–it’s hard not to enjoy every minute they spend together. Douglas is one note, but the script doesn’t really ask for much more. Pfeiffer does more in her two scenes than Douglas does in the entire film. And she doesn’t even do a lot.

Meanwhile, Larry Fishburne–as one of the many people Douglas screwed over in the past–is able to bring some gravitas to his part. He takes it seriously, even when no one asks him to do so.

But none of it really matters because everyone’s really likable, including villain John-Kamen (far less Goggins, who’s nowhere near as funny as he needs to be to warrant so much plot import), and Ant-Man and the Wasp is full of delightful special effects action sequences. Whether it’s when Lilly is shrinking down and growing big to kick ass in fight scenes, flying all over the place, throwing people all over, or when it’s Rudd growing big instead of shrinking down and using a flatbed truck as a scooter. Reed and the screenwriters know where to find every laugh, every smile–it doesn’t hurt Rudd and daughter Fortson have such cute scenes. Opening on Lilly, making the movie about her missing mother, her lost childhood, it almost seems like it’s a movie about daughters. Oh, right, John-Kamen too. But it’s not. It’s about being cute and funny. It’s never even heartwarming when it’s not cute. There’s not much depth to it.

And, for a movie without much depth, it’s an awesome time. The special effects sequences alone–it isn’t just the fight scenes with awesome shrinking and growing effects, it’s sight gags and car chases and everything else (not to mention adorable giant ants). The film’s inventive as all hell. Except with John-Kamen’s villain, who’s not just occasionally invisible, but also immaterial. Her powers make narrative sense, Reed doesn’t visualize them as well as the rest.

By the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, you want another one. It’s a delightful, thoroughly competent amusement. Even if Christophe Beck’s score is never as good as it seems to be.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peyton Reed; screenplay by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari, based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Dante Spinotti; edited by Dan Lebental and Craig Wood; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Shepherd Frankel; produced by Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard; released by Walt Disney Pictures

Starring Paul Rudd (Scott), Evangeline Lilly (Hope), Michael Douglas (Hank), Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost), Laurence Fishburne (Bill), Michael Peña (Luis), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie), Walton Goggins (Sonny Burch), Randall Park (Jimmy Woo), T.I. (Dave), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), Judy Greer (Maggie), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), and Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet).


Captain America: Civil War (2016, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)

I wasn’t aware it was possible, but go-to Marvel superhero movie composer Henry Jackman is actually getting worse as he does more of these movies. His score for Captain America: Civil War is laughable, which is too bad, because if the film hit the thematic beats Jackman failed to achieve? Well, it wouldn’t fix the script, but it would definitely make the film flow a bit better.

The film is two and a half hours of action scenes every ten minutes or so. Unless the action scene goes on for longer than ten minutes, in which case it screws up the rhythm of subsequent scenes. But directors Russo keep it on schedule. Their job is getting this train ride to its conclusion and they do it. Their action direction is a bunch of sped-up fight scenes and they’re usually pretty boring. The opening one, with its strong performances from the way too big cast, could’ve been amazing with better direction. And the big superhero showdown is awesome for the most part, only… it doesn’t make much narrative sense as far as keeping the players in motion.

But there’s a lot quite good about Civil War. They blow the chance to give Robert Downey Jr. an actual character to play here, but they get pretty close on occasion. His scenes opposite Tom Holland are fantastic and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script does give Downey the opportunity for character development. The film just rejects it.

The real standout is Sebastian Stan, who never quite gets enough to do because there’s always another action scene for the Russo Brothers to get through–they have a really lame chase sequence, more is usually just more–but Stan is hypnotic. He also has great chemistry with ostensible lead Chris Evans (and Evans’s replacement sidekick, Anthony Mackie). Less action, more character; would’ve helped Civil War a lot. Especially since that way too big cast is often pretty good together.

Elizabeth Olsen is good, she and Paul Bettany are great together. Bettany’s got a bit of a crap part. So does Jeremy Renner, but Renner does get better material. Markus and McFeely–or maybe it was the Russo Brothers–seem to acknowledge they need to hit emotional beats and then they skip them. Paul Rudd’s fun, though his character’s pretty thinly written. William Hurt is embarrassing himself. Emily VanCamp gets the worst part in the movie. Seemingly intentionally.

As for the newcomers to the brand? Well, Holland’s great. He’s playing the Marvel Studios (sorry, Walt Disney) version of Spider-Man. Can’t wait for his movie. Chadwick Boseman’s fine as the Black Panther. It really ought to be his movie, but there’s so much pretending it’s Evan’s. Instead, Boseman’s basically Boba Fett. Sort of literally. Villain Daniel Brühl gets a terrible part (though still better than VanCamp) and not much opportunity to act.

Rather weak cinematography from Trent Opaloch, but otherwise Civil War is a completely competent outing.

There’s a lot of potential to this film and the filmmakers didn’t go for any of it. Instead, they went for a bunch of mediocre action scenes, one heck of a superhero battle (proving having ten superheroes fight on the big screen is an accomplishment in itself) and a really weak ending.

Evans and Downey both look exhausted throughout the film. Evans doesn’t get the material he (and the film) deserves, while Downey rejects the material. But until the denouement, it’s perfectly fine stuff.

And Sebastian Stan is truly phenomenal.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Trent Opaloch; edited by Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt; music by Henry Jackman; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Daniel Brühl (Zemo), Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / Falcon), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter), Don Cheadle (War Machine), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton), Paul Bettany (Vision), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) and Tom Holland (The Amazing Spider-Man).


Ant-Man (2015, Peyton Reed)

Ant-Man is almost a lot of things. It’s almost a kids’ movie, but not quite–there’s a maturity to the material without it getting overly complex. It’s almost a heist planning movie, but director Reed can’t quite bring all the elements together. He does get them into the right place–the crew hanging out in a particular location and the crew being mismatched–but then he doesn’t spend any time with them.

Frankly, it makes Michael Douglas seem like he doesn’t want to spend the time with the other actors, which is unfortunate. There’s a lot of chemistry to the film, though it’s sometimes not where it should be. For example, even though Evangeline Lilly is fine in a thankless role (as Douglas’s daughter and star Paul Rudd’s love interest), she doesn’t have any romantic chemistry with Rudd. She works off his humor well, but she doesn’t connect quite right. Maybe because Rudd’s actually out of place with Douglas and Lilly; he’s far more comfortable awkwardly interacting with his kid (Abby Ryder Fortson), his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and the ex’s new boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale).

Rudd does fine with the rest, but it’s mostly just humor. His performance is downright sincere with the family stuff. With Douglas and Lilly? Reed uses Rudd for comic relief. It’s kind of weird, especially since Reed doesn’t set up those scenes for comic relief. It’s partially a script problem–Douglas’s character is too thin–but it’s also Reed’s inability to find a tone for the film.

And Ant-Man is a great looking film. Great photography from Russell Carpenter, great editing from Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr. There’s lots of amazing, unimaginable action–it’s about a guy who shrinks down to the size of an ant, after all. I don’t think anyone’s done miniaturization with excellent CG before.

Corey Stoll’s excellent as the villain, even though his character is thin too. There’s a lot of comic relief with Michael Peña as Rudd’s partner-in-crime. It’s silly and way too forced (hence Ant-Man almost being a kids’ movie–the humor is broad), but it doesn’t get in the way. Until the end, at least, when Ant-Man sacrifices its humanity to tie into the Marvel movie universe.

It’s also nice to see Wood Harris, even if he isn’t getting anything to do. He’s in good company. Ant-Man isn’t even Rudd’s show. It’s the special effects and the heartwarming message. It succeeds on both those counts, well enough to get a pass for its missteps.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peyton Reed; screenplay by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, based on a story by Wright and Cornish and the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Russell Carpenter; edited by Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr.; music by Christophe Beck; production designers, Shepherd Frankel and Marcus Rowland; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Paul Rudd (Scott Lang / Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie Lang), Judy Greer (Maggie Lang), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross / Yellowjacket), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Michael Peña (Luis), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), T.I. (Dave), Wood Harris (Gale) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / Falcon).


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, Joe Chappelle), the producer’s cut

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers spends about twenty minutes resolving the previous movie in the series and, gingerly, setting up the characters for this one. Chappelle sets these events to a radio talk show–Curse screams early nineties–but there is an attempt to make it feel “real.” The shock jock is a ludicrously bad Howard Stern imitation.

When the movie does actually start, the setup isn’t terrible. It even reminds of the unproduced John Carpenter treatment about a town recovering from a masked spree killer. Sadly, Chappelle’s direction is laughable, the script’s terrible and the acting is mostly atrocious. Somehow Kim Darby manages to maintain some dignity.

Leading lady Marianne Hagan isn’t particularly believable as a young mother, but she’s not bad. The kid playing her son, Devin Gardner, is terrible. So’s Bradford English as Hagan’s abusive father. And Paul Rudd (in his first film)? He’s hilarious. If he were in it more, Curse might be worthwhile as comedy.

Poor Donald Pleasence looks exhausted; he died soon after production finished. Given he’s acting opposite Mitch Ryan (who gives English a run for the worst performance prize), he doesn’t come off too bad. Maybe because Pleasence doesn’t really need directing, which Chappelle’s incapable of providing anyway.

Daniel Farrands’s script is astoundingly stupid–it’s full of cults, basement lairs, eugenics and so on. Curse never has a chance; it blissfully ignores the solid town recovering concept.

Worst of all (comparatively), Alan Howarth’s score is terrible.

I’ll avoid a cursed pun.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Chappelle; screenplay by Daniel Farrands, based on characters created by Debra Hill and John Carpenter; director of photography, Billy Dickson; edited by Randy Bricker; music by Alan Howarth; production designer, Bryan Ryman; produced by Paul Freeman; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Donald Pleasence (Dr. Sam Loomis), Paul Rudd (Tommy Doyle), Marianne Hagan (Kara Strode), Mitch Ryan (Dr. Terence Wynn), Devin Gardner (Danny Strode), Kim Darby (Debra Strode), Bradford English (John Strode), Keith Bogart (Tim Strode), Mariah O’Brien (Beth), Leo Geter (Barry Simms) and J.C. Brandy (Jamie Lloyd Carruthers).


Wet Hot American Summer (2001, David Wain)

One of the best gags in Wet Hot American Summer is having the twenty and (some) thirty somethings play teenage summer camp counselors. One big problem? Not making the gag clear until the end of the movie. It would have gotten a lot more mileage throughout.

Summer goes out on an awkward note–almost an homage to “M*A*S*H”, which is cute (director Wain loves the eighties homages) but it can’t disguise the lack of an ending. There’s no great finish; instead, there’s a weak exit for erstwhile protagonist Michael Showalter. He’s not the most compelling part of the film, though he’s a fine enough (erstwhile) protagonist, and Wain needs a stronger closer.

Showalter’s story arc involves lusting after Marguerite Moreau and trying to win her from her dolt of a boyfriend (an awful Paul Rudd). It’s nothing compared to Ken Marino’s crazy wilderness trek to meet up with a girl or Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce saving the camp from a falling piece of Skylab.

Other great little arcs include Molly Shannon’s divorcée getting life coaching from her charges and a camper “running” a radio station.

Moreau is okay. She’s better without Showalter or Rudd. Garofalo and Hyde Pierce are both excellent. Their skill works a little against Summer‘s absurdist nature, however. It’s just not as funny when it’s so well-acted.

Marino’s great, so are Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler. Christopher Meloni’s fantastic as the deranged cook.

Summer isn’t completely successful, but it’s close enough.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Wain; written by Michael Showalter and Wain; director of photography, Ben Weinstein; edited by Meg Reticker; music by Theodore Shapiro and Craig Wedren; production designer, Mark White; produced by Howard Bernstein; released by USA Films.

Starring Janeane Garofalo (Beth), David Hyde Pierce (Henry Newman), Michael Showalter (Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg), Marguerite Moreau (Katie), Michael Ian Black (McKinley), Zak Orth (J.J.), A.D. Miles (Gary), Paul Rudd (Andy), Christopher Meloni (Gene), Molly Shannon (Gail von Kleinenstein), Ken Marino (Victor Kulak), Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), Amy Poehler (Susie), Bradley Cooper (Ben), Gideon Jacobs (Aaron), Liam Norton (Arty ‘The Beekeeper’ Solomon), Marisa Ryan (Abby Bernstein), Elizabeth Banks (Lindsay), Gabriel Millman (Caped Boy), Kevin Sussman (Steve), Kevin Thomas Conroy (Mork Guy), Christopher Cusumano (Medieval Kid), Cassidy Ladden (Mallrat Girl), Madeline Blue (Cure Girl), Nina Hellman (Nancy), Peter Salett (Guitar Dude), Judah Friedlander (Ron von Kleinenstein), Jacob Shoesmith-Fox (Bert ‘Moose’ Flugelman) and Michael Showalter (Alan Shemper).


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).


I Love You, Man (2009, John Hamburg)

Could Paul Rudd make less of an impression in I Love You, Man? Even before Jason Segel shows up, Rudd is completely ineffectual. He’s supposed to be ineffectual, of course, but he’s also the protagonist of the movie. He doesn’t garner sympathy, he garners pity.

But Hamburg’s whole approach is peculiar. He opens the movie with Rudd proposing to Rashida Jones. It kicks off the plot–Rudd’s search for a best man. The structure is awkward. Hamburg seems to acknowledge people will mostly be watching Man on home video and so he doesn’t need to make the opening at all cinematic. It’s defeat from the opening Los Angeles montage.

Hamburg does have some secret weapons. First is Segel, who’s hilarious as the sort of bumbling, sort of charming potential best who throws Rudd’s boring life for a spin. A measured spin (Man‘s rather boring overall). Second is Jon Favreau, who has a small role as Jaime Pressly’s husband. He’s astoundingly great. Pressly (one of Jones’s friends) is surprisingly good too. Hamburg gets these excellent supporting performances, but not one out of Rudd. It hurts the movie.

There’s also Jones. She’s quite good, but her character has absolutely no backstory. It’s like Hamburg didn’t want to give her white parents, but wasn’t willing to confirm she’s biracial. It screams cop out.

Other good supporting turns from Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons and Andy Samberg as Rudd’s family.

I Love You, Man‘s only really funny twice. But it’s genial, if uninventive, throughout.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John Hamburg; screenplay by Hamburg and Larry Levin, based on a story by Levin; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by William Kerr; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Andrew Laws; produced by Hamburg and Donald De Line; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Paul Rudd (Peter Klaven), Jason Segel (Sydney Fife), Rashida Jones (Zooey Rice), Jaime Pressly (Denise McLean), Sarah Burns (Hailey), Andy Samberg (Robbie Klaven), J.K. Simmons (Oswald Klaven), Jane Curtin (Joyce Klaven), Jon Favreau (Barry McLean), Lou Ferrigno (Himself), Rob Huebel (Tevin Downey), Joe Lo Truglio (Lonnie) and Thomas Lennon (Doug Evans).


Role Models (2008, David Wain), the unrated version

Role Models is shockingly good. It fuses the inappropriately blunt comedy genre with a listless thirties white men growing up genre. The result is a constantly funny film–I mean, it’s Seann William Scott swearing at kids… from the two minute mark–with a solid emotional core. And it’s never artificial.

Scott isn’t the lead (though he gets top billing), rather Paul Rudd. Rudd plays a miserable thirty-something, depressed over the lack of substance in his life (of course, he’s ignoring having a grown-up relationship with lawyer girlfriend Elizabeth Banks), who lands he and Scott in trouble.

Their punishment? A Big Brother program.

The film overcomes its occasional contrivances–besides Banks being a lawyer to represent Rudd and Scott, the midsection has a painful juxtaposition of both men realizing they aren’t being the best Big Brothers they could be. But Wain, whose strength as a director is making the absurdities wholly believable, keeps the sequence going until it works.

Scott is hilarious–he’s playing his American Pie role aged–but Rudd makes the film. He doesn’t worry about being appealing, since Scott fills that function, instead selling the character’s developing self-awareness.

As their charges, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb’e J. Thompson are both good. Mintz-Plasse probably gives a better performance, but Thompson is funnier.

Banks is solid too, grounding the film.

The supporting cast is excellent, Jane Lynch and Ken Marino in particular. Especially Lynch.

Role Models is earnest and thoughtful. It’s a fantastic grown-up comedy.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by David Wain; screenplay by Paul Rudd, Wain, Ken Marino and Timothy Dowling, based on a story by Dowling and W. Blake Herron; director of photography, Russ T. Alsobrook; edited by Eric Kissack; music by Craig Wedren; production designer, Stephen J. Lineweaver; produced by Luke Greenfield, Mary Parent and Scott Stuber; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Rudd (Danny), Seann William Scott (Wheeler), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Augie), Bobb’e J. Thompson (Ronnie), Jane Lynch (Sweeny), Elizabeth Banks (Beth), Ken Jeong (King Argotron), Joe Lo Truglio (Kuzzik), Ken Marino (Jim Stansel), Kerri Kenney (Lynette), A.D. Miles (Martin), Matt Walsh (Davith of Glencracken), Nicole Randall Johnson (Karen), Alexandra Stamler (Esplen), Carly Craig (Connie), Jessica Morris (Linda the Teacher) and Vincent Martella (Artonius).


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