SLEEPWALK WITH ME (2012, Mike Birbiglia & Seth Barrish): 4/10
There’s a reason Birbiglia is so good at telling stories on stage. From The Moth to This American Life to guest spots all over the place, I love listening to him spin a yarn — especially because it comes from such an honest place. And whatever that reason is, whatever is making him so affecting as a tale-teller, it’s exactly what makes him a bad filmmaker. Turning his life story into a movie is akin to those horrible animated shows on HBO that turn Ricky Gervais’s podcast into a cartoon — there’s absolutely no reason to watch something that’s better off being heard. Or more accurately, it’s like watching a drunk on a dance floor acting out the lyrics to a song. So my piece of advice to the very talented Birbiglia is this: tell, don’t show.
THE DICTATOR (2012, Larry Charles): 4/10
Charlie Chaplin made a satire with a similar title, only his had the word “Great” in it. Similarly, the movie itself had a lot more great in it than this lame, lazy, barely intermittently amusing film does. Every time SBC’s let’s-poke-fun-at-both-Arabs-and-Americans farce starts to show some conceptual balls, it slips back into crowd-pleasing gross-out humor almost as if it were afraid to really think about how caustic it could be if it tried. The one big speech SBC gives at the end, while accurately satirical, is such a pathetic way to get the point across — he has basically given up on proving his point cinematically, and now just has to stand there and spell everything out to the audience so they can pat themselves on the back for hating the likes of Dick Cheney. Tossing in a cavalcade of cameos from Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Corrigan to Edward Norton and Megan Fox isn’t a substitute for quality, despite some game performances (especially from Hahn, who is never not funny). There are a couple of hearty laughs, but they are way too few and far between in an 83-minute movie that’s still about 10 minutes too long. [Also, it’s bizarre that a big-budget summer comedy would have such awful editing, continuity errors, half-assed special effects, and awkward direction. They can’t even get the technical stuff right anymore?]