Richard Ayoade

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e06 – The Prisoner

It is a dark time for “The Adventures of Baby Yoda.” Second lackluster episode in as many weeks, with the show creators really thinking anyone cares about the adventures of “Mando the Mandalorian” Pedro Pascal when he’s not being an adorable dad with Baby Yoda. This episode’s director, Rick Famuyiwa, isn’t much better than last episode’s director—and as far as the use of wipes to move between characters, in real-time, meaning a wipe every minute and a half, is the worst creative decision in “The Mandalorian” so far. Whether it’s Famuyiwa or editor Jeff Seibenick’s idea, it’s a terrible device and kills any suspense in the scenes. Though it’s unclear if there’d be suspense in the scenes given the middling Ludwig Göransson music and the ineffectual sound design.

What’s so bewildering about “Mandalorian”’s recent fails is how obvious they’ve been. This episode has Pascal teaming up with some space mercenaries to do a heist. There’s humanoid leader Bill Burr, who manages to give one of the episode’s better performances just because he’s not awkwardly bad. There’s Richard Ayoade voicing a really boring insect-headed droid (I think I had the figure). Then there’s Clancy Brown as a devil alien with horns. He’s terrible. And it seems like he’s terrible because his makeup is done in such a way he can move his facial muscles. As for other aliens Natalia Tena and Ismael Cruz Cordova, whether they’re bad because of the makeup or the performances, it doesn’t matter. Famuyiwa and company’s lack of interest in having good performances is aggravating, especially since there’s so little Baby Yoda and so many minutes (at forty-three minutes, The Prisoner is the longest episode so far).

Mark Boone Junior shows up as the heist planner. He’s okay, though completely phoning it in. They also credit him as “Mark Boone Jr.,” which isn’t his name but whatever. They don’t have to be accurate or even good. They know if you’re hooked on Baby Yoda, you’ll keep showing up.

Actually, when you think about it, they didn’t know everyone would be hooked on Baby Yoda because Jon Favreau really thought people wanted to watch him play with his classic Kenner Star Wars figures.

But it’s concerning bad Famuyiwa does with the direction. It’s a kind of intensely pedestrian and makes me want to avoid his other work. Very different from the previous directors (oh, wait, the women), whose direction encouraged interest.

The Watch (2012, Akiva Schaffer)

The Watch deals in caricature and stereotype. Ben Stiller’s the anal-retentive, Vince Vaughn (can anyone even remember when he tried acting) is the aging bro, Jonah Hill’s the kid in his early twenties who lives with his mom (and hordes guns, which dates the film) and Richard Ayoade’s the deadpan, socially awkward British guy. If anything, hopefully The Watch at least got one person to see Ayoade’s good work.

Oh, and Rosemarie DeWitt’s the sturdy, but doesn’t have enough to do wife (to Stiller). Actually, more than anyone else in the cast, Will Forte has the most to do as the dumb local cop. He at least gets to emote. Vaughn should get to emote because he has a whole (lame) subplot with daughter Erin Moriarty (who, like DeWitt, Forte and Ayoade, acts instead of apes), but it’s Vaughn and he doesn’t. Obnoxious charm is supposed to carry him, just like awkward charm is supposed to carry Hill and persnickety charm is supposed to carry Stiller.

Watching The Watch, I couldn’t help but think of it as ephemera. None of the jokes are smart enough on their own– Jared Stern’s script, with a credited revision from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, has no aspirations. Not even to be appreciated multiple times. The Watch is designed to amuse once and never too much. Thanks to Akiva Shaffer’s mediocre direction, comes off like an unambitious episode of “Home Improvement.” One with a lot of product placement.

But, thanks to the cast, it’s amusing enough. They’re good at their schticks and the movie does move rather well. It’s a little too forced with its attempts at edgy humor, but the whole thing is too forced. Shaffer’s doing an alien invasion movie without, apparently, any knowledge of any alien invasion film ever made.

Really bland photography from Barry Peterson doesn’t help anything and Christophe Beck’s music (which starts all right) doesn’t either.

In trying too hard to be dumb, The Watch occasionally succeeds. Though the pointlessness of Billy Crudup’s (uncredited) supporting role sort of sums up the entire misdirection of the film.

Everyone should watch “The IT Crowd” instead.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Akiva Schaffer; written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; director of photography, Barry Peterson; edited by Dean Zimmerman; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Doug J. Meerdink; produced by Shawn Levy; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ben Stiller (Evan), Vince Vaughn (Bob), Jonah Hill (Franklin), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus), Rosemarie DeWitt (Abby), Erin Moriarty (Chelsea), Will Forte (Sgt. Bressman), R. Lee Ermey (Manfred) and Billy Crudup (Paul).


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