The first in what is hopefully a series of posts I’ll venture to make instead of not writing at all. The point is to say a few words about movies I’ve caught up on recently, but which are too old, outdated, or inconsequential (or some combination of the above) to turn into full reviews or posts. Thanks to the library of titles on Virgin America (and being seated in Main Cabin Select, giving me free reign to watch whatever) and a 6-hour flight back from the East Coast, I got a chance to watch three movies. I decided to choose films I wasn’t interested in giving a ton of attention to (like END OF WATCH, which was available — but I’d rather wait for Netflix to deliver me the Blu-ray where I can watch it at home with proper equipment and circumstances) but was still curious about. Yes, this involved an Andy Samberg double-feature.
TO ROME WITH LOVE (2012, Woody Allen): 4/10
It seems like we get “minor Woody Allen” a lot more often than major Woody Allen these days, and this is — much like YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER — a forgettable, loosely connected group of tepid stories Allen has trotted out so often before. The setting is no longer Paris or London, but titular Rome — but the beats are the same. Allen himself is starting to look a little lost on screen, even speaking his own dialogue as if it no longer makes sense to him. Not sure he was ever a very good actor, but he’s standing out now as a below average one. Jesse Eisenberg proved in ROGER DODGER he would be a great Allen surrogate, but when finally given the chance he doesn’t get any good material. There are a few good laughs and everything moves along in an amiable, Allen-ish rom-com way, but if Allen is going to keep dumping movies like this onto us, just to get one out every year, he may as well save the time and money and wait until he has something good again.
CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER (2012, Lee Toland Krieger): 6/10
Starts off perfectly fine, but then sinks bit by bit into a fairly lame emo-drama with a creepy subtext. At first there’s great chemistry between Jones and Samberg, but when they split up, Jones’s character becomes fairly unlikable quickly. And as the story delivers its arbitrary plot machinations to all characters, Jones gets the short end of the stick — almost as if the movie is trying to teach The Women of the World something: imagine that this movie is a dude who just got dumped, and the dude is saying “You fucked up, and here is everything you lost by making that choice and how miserable you’ll be until you change and hopefully get a second chance.” But it’s Jones who wrote the script, so is this some sort of weird self-punishment? Maybe I don’t get it. But that said, all the performances are great — even small ones like Elijah Wood’s uncomfortable-being-gay journalist — and the film is expertly edited (by Yana Gorskaya, who seems to know every single frame to cut on and which ones to linger on). It’s no FRIENDS WITH KIDS, but it could be worse.
THAT’S MY BOY (2012, Sean Anders): 5/10
Maybe it was my low expectations, and maybe it was the cabin pressure of the airplane, but I laughed A LOT during this movie. It is irredeemably vulgar in many ways, and hard to defend on intellectual grounds given how stupid the premise and proceeding scenarios are, but this is probably the best of the shitty “wacky Adam Sandler” comedies I’ve seen (and I haven’t seen a lot of them; e.g. no way am I going to sit through JACK & JILL). Director Sean Anders (who wrote HOT TUB TIME MACHINE and directed the also better-than-it-should-have-been SEX DRIVE) is a step up from Sandler staple Dennis Dugan, and maybe it’s Anders who should be directing all of this crap — perhaps ZOHAN and JUST GO WITH IT would have been more watchable with Anders behind the lens. And the script is credited to David Caspe, who created what is currently the funniest sitcom on network TV in HAPPY ENDINGS (now that COMMUNITY is Harmon-less and 30 ROCK is history). Together their comic sensibilities keep Sandler from relying on stupid accents and people being hit in the balls for laughs (not that those things are absent from this film — but Sandler’s Boston accent is fine here and more people get hit on the head with empty bottles than suffer groin shots). It’s hard to believe how misogynist this film is; it goes out of its way, it seems, to have no realistic, redeeming, or remotely likable female characters in it. On those grounds alone it’s impossible to recommend. But there’s only so much resistance I can put up when Anders directs an entire New England island of yuppies to re-enact the Budweiser “WAZZZZUUUP!!!” ads in the hopes that “it’s back.” Plus there are entertaining supporting turns from Will Forte, Milo Ventimiglia, and of all people Vanilla Ice. Yes, it’s retarded, yes I laughed. Sue me.