Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Balls of Fury" -- * 1/2

“Balls of Fury” is likely to dismissed as “stupid” by many, but “stupid” isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to comedy. The problem with this “extreme ping-pong” comedy is not that it’s stupid (which it certainly is), but that it’s a lazy, pedantic movie with just barely enough funny moments to fill up the length of a movie trailer. If this weren’t bad enough, these moments are entirely attributed to actors whose roles amount to one-scene cameos. Without the contributions of Patton Oswalt, Terry Crews and Diedrich Bader, “Balls of Fury” would be a strictly laugh-free affair.

To give the movie credit, it has its one funny joke/idea: a “Karate Kid” parody by way of ping-pong, given a tough-guy martial arts setting. However, that one joke is all the movie has, and doesn’t even offer any particularly funny one-liners or sight gags to go with it. I have a feeling the movie will play best with 9-12 year old boys who haven’t yet seen other “stupid” comedies made by people with a greater concept of what’s funny (e.g.: Adam McKay, the Farrelly Brothers, David Wain, even Todd Phillips).

These are filmmakers who actually attempt jokes, rather than simply showing someone getting kicked in the groin, or implying characters are gay and “gross.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone involved with “Balls of Fury” thought they were making anything particularly hilarious or original. In fact, I read the script a year or so ago, and they seem to have actually taken out the few jokes that worked.

What seems to be fueling most of the marketing of “Balls” is the presence of Christopher Walken as the film’s sadistic, homosexual villain, Master Feng. Walken completists should know going in that he doesn’t make his first appearance till well past the movie’s halfway point, and that despite his amusing Geisha-esque get-up, this is a miserable performance. Walken’s been doing self-parody for ages now, but he plays this as if he’s doing an imitation of someone doing an imitation of himself; it’d be a fascinating case study if it didn’t feel so uninspired. Rather than making me titter—which Walken could do with a raise of an eyebrow—hearing him utter lines like “Okay dokey artichokey” and “I bid you toodles” just seemed shameless and pandering, and made me angry that the filmmakers were so lazily relying on the actor’s trademark quirk.

The film’s real lead is Tony Award winner Dan Fogler as frizzy-haired Def Leppard aficionado Randy Daytona. Fogler isn’t terrible, but he really doesn’t have the presence of a leading man, and after his very funny and endearing stage turn in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” this comes as a disappointment. “Balls,” as well as the trailer for “Good Luck Chuck” seem to indicate that he might turn out to be a strictly irritating film presence, but we’ll wait and see.

“Balls of Fury’s” trailer proclaims it as “From the makers of ‘Reno 911!’”—writers/director Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant—but that’s really not saying much. While “Reno 911!” is frequently funny, take a look at every other script by these guys: “Taxi,” “The Pacifier,” “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “Let’s Go to Prison,” “Night at the Museum.” It’s become clear that “Reno’s” success is due to the actors’ improvisational skills, not these guys’ scripting abilities. “Balls of Fury” suffers from being wildly overscripted, with lame, flat gags at every turn. Clearly no one is improvising here, and almost nobody seems to be having any fun.

The exception to that rule would be the legendary James Hong. Even though forced to play horrible “blind guy” gags and Asian clichés, the 78-year-old gives it his all, and seems to be one of the few cast members really trying and/or enjoying himself. George Lopez and Maggie Q put in supporting roles as well, but make little impression besides Lopez’s sequence aping “Scarface.”

I wish I could recommend “Balls of Fury” for the Oswalt, Crews and Bader cameos, but they’re really not worth sitting through the rest of “Balls’s” 80 minutes to get to. With “Superbad” and “The Simpsons Movie” still playing, and other better-looking comedies on the horizon, I would advise, at best, you wait for “Balls” to premiere on Comedy Central a couple years from now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

As for "Halloween"....

In the interest of full disclosure, I
saw Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” at a test screening in New York in the middle of June. Despite my passion for Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects," I wasn’t too… pleased… with what I saw. However, I’ll hold off on a review until I see the finished version, re-shoots and all, when it opens on Friday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Perhaps today you gave a nod...

Now that's a bit more like it...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Ten Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2007

Despite my tendency towards feeling this way virtually every single year, I am convinced we are going to have a never-ending surplus of, at the very least, interesting movies this fall/winter, and it looks to be a truly great movie season. Looking at the release schedule, literally every week there’s at least one movie opening that made me giddy with excitement just thinking about the possibilities. This was a harder-than-usual list to narrow down to just 10, best here’s my best efforts (and keep in mind, the only reason “Eastern Promises,” “The Kingdom” and “Reservation Road” aren’t on here is because I’ve already seen them—and no, I can’t talk about them):

10. “Leatherheads,” directed by George Clooney (December 7th)

Okay, it sounds like a not-terribly-inspired romantic comedy, concerns Football—the sport I’m least interested in (and that’s saying a lot)—and happens to co-star the prissy young actress who gives this blog its namesake—but I’m willing to overlook all three of these aspects for a new film directed by, and starring the Clooney, who is by far my favorite person is Hollywood, and as far as I’m concerned, hasn’t led me wrong in nearly a decade.

9. “I’m Not There,” directed by Todd Haynes (November 21, limited)

I’ve always been interested in Hayne’s experimental Bob Dylan film—where the iconic musician’s different musical/personality facets are portrayed by six different actors, including a woman and a small black child—but haven’t been convinced it would actually work, and/or not be a total mess. Well, I’m still not totally convinced, but this new (fantastic!) teaser trailer has assuaged by fears a little bit, has planted the seeds into my head that it might be brilliant, and ensured to me that even if it’s a disaster, it’s a disaster I definitely want to watch.

8. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” directed by Andrew Dominik (September 21, limited)

To me, Brad Pitt as Jesse James is perfect casting, so this one intrigued me right off the bat. Then I heard it’s an incredibly haunting mood piece that runs nearly three hours and features an amazing performance by Casey Affleck as Ford. On top of the best title of the year, the trailer makes the film look gorgeous, and after months and months of delays, I’m just ready to see the damn thing.

7. “Margot at the Wedding,” directed by Noah Baumbach (November 16, limited)

Baumbach’s “The Squid & The Whale” proved that the young filmmaker was capable of making a movie that was funny, oddly moving, featured characters that were all-too-familiar, and a master of a very specific style and tone. Judging by the trailer for “Margot,” his latest effort should offer more of the same, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s juiciest role in a dog’s age and what appears to be a solid dramatic-esque part for Jack Black.

6. “Across the Universe,” directed by Julie Taymor (September 14 limited, September 21 nationwide)

Even if it's a horrific catastrophe, it should be a fascinating one-- the concept of a Beatles Musical (especially one directed by Taymor) just seems can't miss to me. Supposedly, the movie’s final cut runs about 130 minutes, a compromise between Joe Roth’s 100-minute cut and Taymor’s initial 155 minutes. From those I've heard that have seen it, the whole movie's like a glorious acid trip while listening to 33 of the Beatles’ best songs. Does that seem like it can go wrong to you?

5. “The Savages,” directed by Tamara Jenkins (December 26, limited)

While I’m a fan of Jenkins’ “Slums of Beverly Hills,” my anticipation of “The Savages”is almost entirely due to the pairing of one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite actresses in a movie that actually seems to be worthy of their talents, and Is riding some very positive buzz from the few who saw it at Sundance. If only Fox Searchlight wasn’t making us wait till 5 days before the year ends to see it…

4. “The Darjeeling Limited,” directed by Wes Anderson (September 29, NY only)

“The Royal Tenenbaums” is my favorite film, “Rushmore” is in my top 5, and I even love “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” which had many writing off Anderson, so naturally, I’m eagerly anticipating the filmmaker’s latest. The trailer seems to indicate the film will be exactly what I thought it would be based on its screenplay, which I read last summer: more about relationships between characters than style, feature a back-to-basics intimacy in response to some peoples disappointment with “Life Aquatic,” significantly more dramatic and quirky than overtly comedic, and great. If the ending is the same a it was when I read it, it’ll be moving/intriguing/infuriating audiences all throughout the fall.

3. “There Will Be Blood,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (December 26, limited)

I know nothing about what this is about, however: It’s based on Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!” It stars Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie in 5 years. His last three movies have been unqualified masterpieces. His next project could be “Transformers 2” and I would see it multiple times.

2. “No Country by Old Men,” directed by The Coen Brothers (November 2 limited, November 21 nationwide)

The Coen Brothers are the greatest filmmakers living today, and I’m convinced I’m their biggest fan. Even their “bad” movies (“Intolerable Cruelty,” “The Ladykillers,” “The Hudsucker Proxy”) are classics to me, and they’ve yet to fuck up in my eyes. Word on this movie from Cannes was absolutely insane, and based off reading 100 pages of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, it seems like it’s going to be a perfect marriage between content and the Coens’ style. I’m anticipating this baby enough that I refuse to watch the trailer. I’ve seen two movies in the last few weeks to which it’s been attached, and like a small child, I ran out of the theater when it started to avoid being spoiled. If there’s one movie this season I’m sure will be great, it’s this one.

1. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” directed by Tim Burton (December 21 limited, January 11 nationwide)

As I’ve stated before on here, the 2005 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical is probably the greatest piece of art/entertainment I’ve ever seen, so the prospect of a possibly successful film version that stays true to Sondheim’s vision is supremely exciting to me. Given Burton’s penchant for making the movie he wants to make no matter what, the questionable singing talents of the actors involved, the early production stills indicating a revival of the aesthetics of “Sleepy Hollow,” I’m significantly more nervous than I am actually excited, but just the possibility of Burton getting this one right (the casting of Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin is a huge step in the right direction) gets me all worked up.

Also excited about: "Shoot 'Em Up," "Into the Wild," "Lust, Caution," "Grace is Gone," "Michael Clayton," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Lars and the Real Girl," "Gone, Baby, Gone," "Rendition," "Dan in Real Life," "American Gangster," "Lions for Lambs," "Southland Tales," "Beowulf," "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," "The Mist," "Cassandra's Dream," "The Golden Compass," "Atonement," "I Am Legend," "Juno," "Charlie Wilson's War," "The Orphanage"


....or, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" finally, less than a month before opening, has a full-length trailer. From what I've heard: (1) multiple cuts of wildly varying running-times of this movie have been screening, (2) the film's supposed to be fantastic, (3) the studio seems to not give a shit about it. Regardless, I've been excited for it for ages now, and am even moreso that it's finally coming out-- it's one of my 10 most anticipated movies of the the fall/winter of 2007. This trailer seems to only confirm that it's going to be something special that (a) was worth the wait and (b) has no shot of connecting with a mainstream audience.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jeffrey Wells is rapidly approaching senior citizen status

As any of you who has frequented his site, Hollywood Elsewhere, have ascertained, Jeffrey Wells is a crotchety old man, who prides himself on his liberal Bush-bashing, but seems to show prejudice and stereotyping towards homosexuals and blacks whenever he can. Recurring characters on his blog are hypothetical “homies” talking in ghetto fashion about “Dreamgirls” and other films/events he construes blacks being the majority audience for.

He also has made statement remarking that all gays go ga-ga over big splashy musicals and will surely eat up any campy performance. But beyond any sort of prejudice, he’s always made it clear that he’s a stubborn, grizzled man in his mid-60s who desperately wants to be hip (he’s posted to no end about “Superbad’s” supposed greatness) yet often comes off as out-of-touch (he dismisses any fans of Will Ferrell or Judd Apatow as hairy-backed frat guys), nasty and seems to have a monstrous sense of self-entitlement (he’s bitched about having to pay for a movie, about not being seated to a screening when showing up late, and not being shown movies early enough).

Despite my disdain for him as a human being, he’s still interesting to read, and on occasion, I have been known to comment on some of his postings. Recently he posted a piece about him going to a movie where someone was saving seats for their friends, and he demanded that they give up the seats and just sat down in them (yes, he is indeed an asshole), and proceeded to talk about how he was in the right in the situation, according to “natural jungle law.” Anyway, finding this to be a bit (read: way) off the mark, I posted (under my username ‘PantheFaun’):

“What if you don't have "territorial markings" with you?

Aren't people allowed to go piss or get concessions before a movie starts without worrying that some douchebag, sixty-something elitist journalist will snatch up their seats, claiming "natural jungle law"?”

Minutes later, Wells posted, apparently believing that the threat of being banned from his message boards would shatter the bane of my existence:
“Wels to Pan the Faun: Bring your territorial markings (jackets, napkins, bags, pocketboooks) to the theatre with you, and if you haven't brought anything with you then live within the Animal Planet rules like any adult human or wolf or coyote or fox or dog...simple. Don't like the rules? Tough. And if you get personal with me one more time, you'll be out of this space for the rest of your life. Mine is the hand that smiteth,”

When I looked back at my posting, it was intact except for the removal of the word “sixty-something.” Aghast that me simply declaring his age was the part he considered uber-personal, I posted:

“Wow, Wells! You would think a person would be more insulted by being called ‘elitist’ or a ‘douchebag’ than simply having their age stated…”

Soon after, my comment was deleted completely, and I was banned, with Wells writing:

“Farewell, Pan the Faun...I told you what not to do, told you not to do it again or else, and you did it anyway, douchebag.” [I checked back minutes later, and he had removed the word 'douchebag']

One or two commenters wrote back saying I deserved it, and (in more or less words) you don’t talk shit about someone on their own site. The only thing is, EVERYONE talks shit about Wells on his site. If he deleted all the negative posts, he’d scarcely have anything left. What he took such great offense to was me mentioning his age. He oh-so-desperately wants to be thought of as hip, that someone mentioning his age (even without condemnation of it) was too much for him to bear.

I’ll continue to read Hollywood Elsewhere, not commenting anymore of course, and my bitterness is wholly towards Wells’ vanity and lack of character, not due to my world falling apart at the seams due to being unable to post anymore. So, let me just state it from the hills: Jeffrey Wells is a crotchety, craggly, sixty-something-year-old douchebag.

Saw "Superbad" again on Friday and...

My audience ate it up fully and completely.

But I'm saying it here and now: "Superbad" is this summer's "Wedding Crashers"--- a wildly bloated buddy comedy that has its moments and a rapid-fire starmaking performance at its center, but runs about 40 minutes too long, contains far too much extraneous material that isn't funny at all, and completely pales in comparison to a film written and directed by Judd Apatow released in the same summer. Your thoughts?

Sorry for the lack of updates in the last week, but in the coming week I will be attempting to post reviews of Rod Lurie's "Resurrecting the Champ," John Turturro's "Romance & Cigarettes," Peter Berg's "The Kingdom," a semi-review of Rob Zombie's "Halloween" and an as-yet-unconfirmed filmmaker interview.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Superbad" -- * * *

When the word on a new film is “it’s the funniest movie ever!” or other ejaculatory praises of the like, it’s difficult to keep your expectations in check. So when I got around to seeing “Superbad” for the first time a little over a month ago, I admit the baggage I was carrying in was a little much to bear. Is it the funniest movie ever? No, and not even of the year. But thankfully, it’s still often hilarious.

Our leads, Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill) have been best friends forever, but as graduation is approaching, they’re starting to realize—but not acknowledge—that their going to separate colleges may be the beginning of the end of their friendship. Seth didn’t work as hard as Evan throughout high school, and now Evan is heading off to Dartmouth and Seth is going to be left in the dust. Looking at a weekend party as a last rites of sorts, the two will attempt to procure booze and put into action their as-yet-untested sexual skills on two girls they’ve been eyeing through high school. After all, as Seth says, “You don’t want a girl to think you suck dick at fucking pussy.”

On the actual night, after their acquaintance Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has obtained a fake ID with the name ‘McLovin,’ has fumbled his attempt at getting beer for the three, Seth and Evan are on their own and do what they can to have the night pan out successfully. Fogell/McLovin spends the remainder of his night with irresponsible cops (played by co-writer Seth Rogen and “SNL” cast member Bill Hader), and experiences what is sure to be the defining night of his life.

The plot of “Superbad” isn’t going to be the driving force behind it—“nerdy high schools try to get beer and get laid” isn’t exactly an innovative concept—what’s going to possibly turn this into a iconic film is the star-making performances at its core and the fall-down-funny quotable dialogue. Even if not all the jokes work, there’s still a high enough success rate for it to be an especially successful entry in the “teen-sex” genre and offers enough depth to rise about the branding.

Except for the Rogen/Hader cop characters (more on them later), these are all recognizable figures/characters, and much like “Rocket Science,” a big part of their success is their familiarity to people we’ve known or encountered. Rogen and Evan Goldberg supposedly wrote the first draft of “Superbad” (which I’ve read) when they were 13, and it shows, in a good and bad way. This was clearly made by people who remember what it was like to be amongst these people, but it also succumbs to groin kicks, no less than two comical people-getting-hit-by-a-car sequences, and a considerably more crass sensibility than the two films Judd Apatow actually directed.

There’s no doubt that “Superbad” is going to be talked about as purely a hilarious movie by virtually anyone who mentions it, so it might come as somewhat as a surprise that its dramatic moments work really, really well-- even better than its comical ones to some extent. When Seth and Evan actually come to verbal blows about their impending “break-up,” it’s genuinely heartbreaking stuff, and might be painfully recognizable for certain members of the audience. Scenes late in the movie where the pair profess their platonic love for one another are going to be met with a mix of nervous and whole-hearted laughter—but they actually are strangely touching while being hilarious in their grandiosity (“Why can’t we say it every day?”).

What makes “Superbad” worth seeing is the two central performances by Cera and Hill. As much as I love them independently—Cera was brilliant as George Michael on “Arrested Development” and Hill is the bright spot of any movie he appears in—I would not be upset at all if these two announced that they would only make movies together from now on. They have a chemistry greater than any romantic-comedy pair, and they don’t even need a lame “asian dude and black guy” gimmick to make it work.

Cera’s specialty has always been his timidity, and nearly every line he delivers here is a masterpiece of awkwardness. His performance here should afford him plenty of future movie roles, and promises to turn him into a dorky sex symbol in his own right (on the way out of my screening I overheard two girls proclaim they were “horny for Michael Cera”).

But the real revelation here is Hill, delivering a profanely rapid-fire tour-de-force star-making comedic performance that people will no doubt respond to much the way they did to Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers.” The difference is, this is a much better performance. Like Vaughn, Hill has charisma/confidence to spare and knows his way around a one-liner, but while Vaughn starting to become annoying by a certain point in “Crashers,” Hill gets funnier and funnier.

"Superbad” is very funny, and actually a good movie—not just a joke machine—but it’s definitely not a perfect one. I’m certainly not an advocate of all comedies being 90 minutes, but for a movie with such a threadbare plot, just-under-2-hours is pushing it. Though I bemoaned "Knocked Up" for being too long, there weren't actual dead spots that clearly should have been cut. "Superbad," on the other hand, is almost painfully bloated. There's at least a thirty-minute chunk in its middle section that I barely cracked a smile at (the first party Seth and Adam attend, and McLovin's bonding with the cops) that it was difficult to get back into the groove in the film's very strong final 20-30 minutes.

Okay, I hate to be the only guy in the room on this one, but I didn’t go apeshit over McLovin. Everyone’s loving this performance and citing him as a highlight, but I think it’s more the idea of the character that people seem to be grooving on. After hearing the description of the character, and laughing at his delivery of “I am McLovin” every time in the trailer, I was ready to love the dude. But, while Mintz-Plasse does fine, he doesn’t seem to have much of a grasp on comedic timing, and does especially poorly when forced to share scenes with Hill and Cera. Like I said, he’s still convincing in the part, I just wish I found him as funny as others seem to. Except for his delivery of "I have a boner," I just sort of stared when he was on screen, acknowledging it was an accurate portrayal of an awkward, nerdy kid, but waiting to find him funny.

As for the cop characters; they’re less problematic since Rogen and Hader are naturally funny guys, but they seem like they wandered in from a different movie. They stick out as cartoonish comic creations that don’t really resemble human beings, unlike the rest of the film’s characters. Unlike “Knocked Up,” which established itself as a real world with fully defined characters who happened to all be especially skilled at witty, off-the-cuff remarks, this struck me a little inconsistent. And I understand Rogen clearly wanted a significant part in his own movie, but there's no real reason for them to be featured as prominently as they are, and by the halfway point, I was just sick of them. Except for some uproarious improvved lines Rogen spouts while raiding a house party, I kept waiting to get back to Hill and Cera.

I’m sorry if I’m giving off the impression that I didn’t enjoy “Superbad” overall; I did. It’s rare that a movie can have jokes that make me laugh as hard as this, and it’s one of the few movies that I’d openly embrace becoming a franchise, if only to see these characters again. Just when a movie is as hyped up as this one was for me, I’m maybe a tad bit more perceptive of its flaws. I’m actually thankful that I saw it as early as I did because it’s becoming even more of a buzz-monster since then.

Despite it being not nearly as good (or funny) as you may have heard, “Superbad” is a member of the elite bunch of movies this summer that I can assure you will be worth your eleven dollars (or however much those of you not in New York get to pay at the multiplex), and is better than we usually get in late August. I highly doubt it has the capability of reaching “Knocked Up’s” success—I’ll predict it does about 60-70% of “Knocked’s” business, which is still great—but the word-of-mouth on this thing is going to be huge. Geeks who see a lot of themselves in it, as well as frat boys laughing at the expense of the geeks onscreen (there were numerous dudes with backwards baseball caps calling each other 'faggot' in my theater), are going to love it, and I doubt there’ll be a dorm room without a DVD copy of “Superbad” by this time next year.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Actor Denis O'Hare ("Rocket Science")

For those not in the know, Denis O’Hare is an extraordinary gifted actor who’s seen tremendous success on Broadway in plays and musicals alike, and has received two Tony nominations, one of which he won (for Richard Greenberg’s play, “Take Me Out.”). He’s simultaneously been doing film work, in small parts—usually a handful of scenes—and infuses them with much more than what’s on the page. In the past he’s made memorable appearances in “Sweet and Lowdown,” “21 Grams,” “Garden State,” “Heights” and “Half Nelson,” to name a few.

Truth be told, I’ve long been a fan of O’Hare’s stage work, most notably his performance as Charles James Guiteau, the man who tried and failed to assassinate President Garfield, in Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant “Assassins.” But he’s also been brilliant in “Take Me Out,” “Cabaret” and “Sweet Charity” (where he co-starred with Christina Applegate). A month ago, he finished a run of “Inherit the Wind” with living legends Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy. I’ve always found O’Hare to be fascinating to watch and one of the most versatile actors I’ve seen on a stage.

O’Hare recently appeared in “A Mighty Heart,” stars in two memorable scenes in this week’s “Rocket Science” as our protagonist’s father, and this fall will be seen in “Michael Clayton” with George Clooney, as well as "Charlie Wilson’s War” with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Incredibly gracious, Denis responded to an e-mail I sent him asking him to be interviewed here and agreed. It’s not a terribly lengthy one, but we got to talk a little bit about “Rocket Science,” his stage work, “Sweeney Todd,” the Clooney, his thoughts on “Chuck & Larry,” and a few other things. Enjoy:

Rob Scheer (Me): Given that it's the only one of your recent crop of films that was independently made, how did you get involved with “Rocket Science”?

Denis O’Hare: I auditioned for Jeff Blitz back in 2005, I think. I auditioned for one part and then Jeff had me go back out and look at the part of the dad.

RS: What was the general feeling on the set, and for that matter, how long did you work on it?

DO: I was only on the movie for 2 days but the set was fantastic. I became friends with Vince Piazza—one of my sons in the movie—and we actually are both in the movie "Stephanie Daley". Jeff is funny and great and I was happy to just be able to hang out with him for a little while. Reece [Daniel Thompson] is also terrific.

RS: Your final scene with Reece is arguably the most moving in the film, and a catharsis of sorts. Did you approach it as any other, or did the two of you prepare/rehearse more extensively than usual?

DO: We shot that scene at about 5 in the morning. I had a performance that night, and I traveled down the Jersey Shore and showed up while we waited for the sun to rise. The scene sort of takes care of itself.

RS: When you're playing a character so pivotal to the central character and the film itself, but who has such minimal screen time, do you approach it any differently than you might otherwise?

DO: In movies, you're at the mercy of the director and the editor. You just have to focus on doing the best, most truthful job you can and then you hope for the best.

RS: Opening against yet another “Rush Hour” movie, and amidst dozens of bloated, over-budgeted blockbusters and sequels, what sort of alternative do you think “Rocket Science” offers?

DO: I think this late in the summer, folks are ready for something a little more thoughtful.

RS: As someone who is obviously so frequently busy with performing, how often do you actually get to go out and see theatre and/or films? What have you seen lately that you particularly liked/disliked?

DO: I have to admit that I haven't really gotten to see much theatre of late as I've been traveling around a lot. I've been reading mostly, although I did catch "Harry Potter" (B-) and “The Simpsons" (B+). I'm looking forward to seeing the “Bourne” movie because I’ve liked the other two.

RS: You’ve said in the past that you're only interested in being in musicals when they’re dark and twisted, to some extent. Do you still feel that way, and do you have your eye on anything?

DO: Don't have my eyes on any thing at the moment. I'm sort of focusing my efforts on film and T.V. I do still feel that I only want to do a musical if I can find an interesting take or angle on it. I tend to like the twisted ones for that reason.

RS: Can you talk a little bit about your role in “Michael Clayton” and what the experience of making that film was like?

DO: Once again, a funny audition story. I went in for one part—a fairly large part—but I didn't feel like I was right for it, and I asked the director at the audition if he thought I could pull it off. He looked at me like I was out of my mind. I didn't get that part but I was called back for another part—only one scene, but a pretty good one. I play a rich, arrogant asshole who calls upon George Clooney's character to get him out of a jam. It was pretty odd to show up on the set and yell at George Clooney—especially as he arrived to the shoot fresh from his Oscar win in 2005.

RS: I admit, I’m someone who worships at the altar of Clooney. Can you tell me anything to burst my bubble?

DO: Alas, I cannot. He is a lovely guy. We sat and chatted over "lunch" at 3:00 a.m.

RS: Having appeared in a revival of a Sondheim work [“Assassins”] and being a self-professed fan of the source material, do you have any reservations/excitement for Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”?

DO: I’m looking forward to it. My friend, John Logan, wrote the screenplay so I'd been hearing about it for a while. I think Johnny Depp is not the first person you'd think of in the role but he's a total actor and always throws himself into everything, and the results I'm sure will be interesting.

RS: Though most critics, and the audiences who actually went, seemed to really appreciate it, why do you think “A Mighty Heart” wasn't more successful at the box office?

DO: I think the timing was bad. I hope that it gets re-released as we get closer to Oscar season. Angelina gives a remarkable performance and I think [she] will get nominated.

RS: Do you tend to read your reviews?

DO: I never read theatre reviews. I’ve been reading movie reviews because it's not quite as personal.

RS: I know it's reaching back a couple years, but can you muster any memories of what the whole experience of doing “Assassins” was like?

DO: "Assassins" was a perfect show. The cast loved each other, we had fun doing it, we all did good work and it was profoundly received. The only downside was that it closed too early.

RS: “The Ballad of Guiteau” may be my favorite musical number ever, particularly for the way it ends and the way audiences react to it (i.e.: their discomfort). It's such a powerhouse and a tremendously performed number that they have to applaud, but due to the timing/staging, they usually applaud as Guiteau's dead hanging body drops down. How did you find the experience of performing that number 8 times a week?

DO: While it was fun to do the part, it was emotionally draining and physically bruising. The ending was very odd for me. I never felt like I "ended" the number as I’m offstage when it happens and the fact that the audience was so stunned at the final image, I never could really tell if they liked it. That being said, it's a great spiritual exercise to work for the purity of performance and not to pander for applause.

RS: I usually don't succumb to “what was it like working with __________” questions, but I think this can be my one-ever exception: what was it like working with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy on “Inherit the Wind” this year?

DO: Great. Both great guys. Dennehy is a real mensch and Plummer is wickedly funny.

RS: Having won a Tony for “Take Me Out,” which dealt with the stigma of a public figure coming out of the closet, do you find being openly gay has affected the way you work at all, or being cast in certain projects?

DO: Not at all. Being gay doesn't really figure into my choices of work. And I suppose it's a measure of progress that I never feel like my work will be affected or that I'll lose a job because I'm gay.

RS: And as one of the few openly gay actors starring in both stage and screen, do you have any particular take on “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry”?

DO: I auditioned for it and I think it's harmless, [though] I find it odd that they decide that the easy way to get health coverage is to pose as a gay couple. I've been trying to get Hugo on my insurance for 3 years now and I'm still trying to fulfill all of their requirements. I do think that it's a measure of how far we've come that all the valuable moral lessons in the movie are drawn from the gay people and they are all positive.

RS: What sort of weight does being a Tony winner really bring each time you start a new show?

DO: Oh, not too much. I suppose everyone has a different take on this. I tend to take these things as they come. There is a little pressure on you to be "good," whatever that means, but I don't let it go to my head. When you're in a show, you are just one member of the cast- just one part of the ensemble.

RS: When doing a strenuous schedule of eight performances a week of challenging live performances, do small parts in Hollywood films seem like cakewalks?

DO: Nooooooo. Whenever you show up on a film set, you feel like you are at the first day of school... will they like me? Will I be good? Will they fire me? It's very stressful. Doing one or two days on a film is a very hard thing.

RS: Are there any directors (film and stage) you¹d particularly like to work with? Or any screenwriters/playwrights whose works you particularly admire?

DO: One of my dreams already came true: working with Michael Winterbottom (“A Mighty Heart”) and Mike Nichols (“Charlie Wilson's War”). I’d love to work with Charlie Kaufman. I love working with Doug Hughes, Joe Mantello and Dan Sullivan and would like to work for them again.

RS: What’re you working on at the moment or in the near future?

DO: I filmed "Baby Mama" with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey last month, and I'm shooting a movie called "Pretty Bird" with Paul Giamatti and Billy Crudup. I'm also doing a recurring role on "Brothers & Sisters", playing Rob Lowe's campaign manager. I'm going to be doing a small role in an upcoming DeNiro/Pacino film called "Righteous Kill".

There you go. “Rocket Science” is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles, and expands throughout the country later in the month. “Michael Clayton” opens nationally October 12th and “Charlie Wilson’s War” opens on December 25th.

"Rush Hour 3" -- * 1/2

“It was aight, it wasn’t all ‘at.”

Thus were the words spoken by an incredibly stereotype-embodying African-American young gentleman exiting Thursday night’s screening of “Rush Hour 3,” and the fact that even this target demo deemed it only “aight” should signal to you the piss-poor returns director Brett Ratner has delivered.

Asians talk funny!

Blacks are sassy!

I don’t really have much to say about “Rush Hour 3” other than that it is the lamest, laziest, flavorless, pandering, condescending sequel/threequel of 2007. But to be fair, it’s really just as bad as the first two films in the series, not significantly worse. It never provoked out-and-out hate—I was rarely offended, occasionally bored, but mostly just mildly irritated.

If you liked “Rush Hours” 1 and 2, I see no reason why you would (a) be disappointed with number 3, or (b) care enough about my opinions to read this blog. This is the same generic, hackneyed, trite bullshit Ratner forcefed us in the first two films, and they’re all such retreads of each other, I’m not even able to distinguish which events took place in which of the films anymore.

Seriously, watch the trailers for all three movies and see if you can tell the difference. Jackie Chan says something, Chris Tucker responds “Damn, I don’t understand a word you just said.” Audience howls with laughter. Women are degraded and scantily clad, Chris Tucker shouts “Damn! You fine!” Audience rolls on the floor reveling in the stereotypes. Tucker and Chan have some big action set-piece at a national monument of whatever country they’re in, slide down it, shoot the bad guy. Audience woots and hollers in glee. Despite lack of coherence or relation to whatever took place, film ends with Tucker and Chan singing “War (What Is It Good For?).” Audience applauds, and walks away satisfied. Black guy exiting theater sings “War” imitating Jackie Chan in a mock Asian accent.

There, I saved you 85 minutes of your life.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Rocket Science" -- * * * *

“There’s a cello in your house now…”

For Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson), life is continually a struggle, and simply asking for pizza in the lunch line is an insurmountable obstacle. Saddled with a crippling stutter, Hal has to repeatedly practice ordering the pizza that he wants, only to settle for a sloppy joe when the pivotal moment comes because he can’t spit out ‘slice of pizza’ fast enough. “Rocket Science” is about such familiar and painfully funny disappointments that come packaged with adolescence.

Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz makes a startling transition from documentary (the wonderful “Spellbound”) to fiction with this poignantly personal comedy with its own unique sensibility that manages to avoid cliché at every turn. Though the easiest marketing hook for it has been its “Napoleon Dynamite” and Wes Anderson-esque quirk, “Science” is significantly more grounded in reality than the latter, and unlike the former, it clearly has affection for its characters, not disdain. Personally, the movie’s tone reminded me more of “Election” and “Igby Goes Down” than any of Anderson’s films.

The movie’s opening sequence gives us a look at “spreading,” the art of rapid-fire debating where words whiz by so fast you can barely make them out. Our narrator (who actually serves an eventual dramatic purpose, not just adds novelistic pretense) tells us the whos and whats of the scene before bringing us into the Hefner household, with Hal not uttering a word. His parents (Lisbeth Bartlett and Denis O’Hare, both exceptional in small roles) are splitting up, and Hal finds it increasingly difficult to express how he feels.

Almost immediately after, the hottest smart girl in school, Ginny (an excellent Anna Kendrick) recruits Hal to join their school’s fiercely competitive debate team. When Hal questions his viability as a candidate for such a position, Ginny tersely states that “Deformed people are the best,” citing their repressed anger. With Ginny as his debate partner (their topic is abstinence) and the two of them engaging in makeout sessions in the janitor’s closet, things appear to be looking up for Hal, but neither lasts very long. I won’t spoil what happens from there, but it’s at the one-third mark where the movie (and Hal) really begins to hit its stride. The movie isn’t so much about Hal’s rise as a master debater, but how joining the team becomes a catalyst for him and his ascension into dealing with life.

I’ve seen “Rocket Science” twice now—the first time at the Philidelphia Film Festival and the second time at the Maryland Film Festival—so I can state definitively that its charms, quirks and simultaneous cynicism and big-heartedness hold up, and may even improve, on repeat viewings. It’s easy to dismiss it (as some have) as yet another quirky coming-of-age movie, but it’s a testament to the direction, acting and especially the writing that “Rocket Science” is worlds better than any offerings in the genre in the last few years.

For starters, it feels more honest. What’s most refreshing about this high school comedy is that it’s made by someone who clearly remembers what high school was actually like. Blitz perfectly captures the melancholy, anger, and insanity of adolescence, while keeping the proceedings very funny throughout. Rather than offering up “isn’t that quirky!” situations and characters simply for their own sake (tater tots being stored in pants pockets comes to mind), even “Rocket’s” strangest characters seem at least vaguely familiar and recognizable, never relying on movie-established clichés of jocks and cheerleaders and nerds. These aren’t typical teen movie characters; they’re incredibly smart, but not terribly good at expressing themselves or how they’re feeling.

Don’t get me wrong: not every element of “Rocket Science” is likely to correspond with real life. There’s certainly some movielike, off-kilter (and hilarious) quirks going on here—I think the married couple playing Violent Femmes as “music therapy” is the movie’s preciousness apex—but the themes are very much real.

But I certainly don’t want to neglect how fucking funny this movie is. Hal’s drunken retaliation against Ginny is easily one of my favorite moments from a movie this year, and his persistence in ways to mask his stutter while public speaking (including speaking in an accent, whispering and singing his speech) are mortifying and hysterical at the same time, particularly for those of us who have our own fear of public speaking. The movie also boasts what may be the most triumphant depiction of simply giving someone the finger I’ve seen in years.

As would be expected for a film about a character who isn’t always able to speak easily, Blitz surrounds Hal with quirky characters (including a cameo from Jonah Hill), ranging from a Kama Sutra-obsessed 11-year-old to a smart-mouthed lunchlady (“Sloppy joes are all that’s left, but they’re not that terrible if you’ve never had really good ones before”). If the screenplay can be faulted for anything, it’s that none of these supporting characters are really developed beyond what we see them do onscreen; but that’s forgivable, this is Hal’s story through and through.

I don’t know if this is a fluke performance that he’ll never match, or a sign of great things to come, but Reece Daniel Thompson is tremendous here as Hal. It’s a performance that works on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. On a purely technical plane, he infuses Hal with a particularly unique type of stutter that never sounds false and is incredibly difficult to pull off, let alone for a young actor (Thompson was 16 or 17—sorry, I misplaced my press notes—when “Science” was shot). Beyond that, he makes Hal one of the more likable and believable protagonists in ages, making him sympathetic without ever being pathetic. For a character with a speech impediment, there’s so much going on in Hal’s eyes, particularly at moments of embarrassment or mockery, showing us that he’s just used to it by this point but it still makes a stinging impression. At the very least, Thompson is assured some sort of Independent Spirit Award nomination.

Blitz showed with “Spellbound” how skilled he was as a director, but with “Rocket Science” he may have written the best original screenplay of 2007 so far (or at least the best live-action one). Not only infusing his main character with so much depth and honesty, Blitz jams a never-ending stream of very funny lines into “Rocket Science,” many of which will resonate with some more than others; Hal asking a girl in a private school’s principal’s office “Does it count as second base if it’s groping through the shirt?” and her responding “Maybe in public school,” got huge knowing laughter from a certain pocket of my audience. I never completely knew what direction “Rocket Science” was heading in, but every story beat seemed just right, leading up to its completely perfect ending.

The best thing that can be said for “Rocket Science” is that it manages to be an uplifiting crowd-pleaser of sorts while avoiding pretty much every predictable outcome. There’s no doubt that a major studio’s version would’ve included Hal overcoming his stutter, winning the debate competition and earning back Ginny’s affections, but “Rocket Science’s” aspirations are higher. Blitz has no interest in a neat and tidy Hollywood resolution mandated by committee, he cares about what’s best and realistic and attainable for Hal. This isn’t a movie about garnering the girl and the trophy, but about sorting out and accepting the complexities of living.

I must discuss the ludicrous R-rating that the MPAA has handed to “Rocket Science” for “some language and sexual material.” I was shocked when I saw the ‘R’ tag at the end of the credits, because I could’ve sworn it was a PG-13 film. It seemed like it would be most readily embraced by discriminating younger audiences and featured little-to-no offensive content. When I ran into Blitz at the MD Film Festival, he seemed frustrated by the rating as well. I asked if it was for the movie’s lone use of ‘fuck’ and he said it was more attributed to teenagers using the word ‘blowjob’ and the “sexually explicit” shots of illustrations from the Kama Sutra.

He resigned that it will probably go down as the mildest R-rating in the history of movies, and despite numerous re-submissions, the MPAA wouldn’t budge. But Blitz remained hopeful that word-of-mouth would carry the film and the rating would turn out to not be much of an obstacle. I hope he’s right, since the movie certainly deserves to find a sizable audience. Whether it does will be seen soon enough (it opens in NYC and LA this weekend and will expand around the country throughout August and September), but I can virtually assure whatever audiences it does garner will be glad they took a brief venture away from the non-stop barrage of summer sequels and blockbusters.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Becoming Jane" -- * 1/2

From its bland title to its bland leading lady, “Becoming Jane” registers as one of the most uninspired, unimaginative films to be released so far this year, with the lack of effort practically dripping off the screen. It’s just another in the seemingly-yearly tradition of movies depicting the “inspiration” for a beloved British writer, complete with an American actress in the leading role. From its first shot, it feels like it’s just waiting idly for the studio (Miramax) to work an Oscar campaign around it. The thought process seems to be combining all the themes and ideas that worked about “Pride & Prejudice” and “Shakespeare in Love,” but the stuffy, costume-driven “Jane” lacks the charm or cohesiveness of either.

As you may know, “Becoming Jane” stars Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen (who the closing crawl brags wrote “six of the greatest books of all time”—according to whom?) in her pre-fame days. I assumed it would show how Austen fell into writing, or the events in her life either inspiring or mirroring her later works. Instead, it focuses on Austen as a lovey-dovey girl who eventually ends up with broken heart, and devotes all of five minutes of its running time to mentions of her writing or even being an author. What’s that? You think that sounds like the least interesting movie about Jane Austen imaginable? There’s a nice idea in here—that Austen’s disappointing love life was inspiration for her book’s happy endings—but it’s barely given any credence until the very end, at which point any possible impact has been dulled.

In an attempt to mirror “Shakespeare,” the script seems to go for madcap farce—muskets are accidentally fired in small rooms, a girl sings off-key to the shudders of the man right next to her (hiLARious!). However, all the trappings—the score, the direction—seem to want it to be a classic period love story; in the end, neither approach works. I should have known what I was in for when the movie opened with a scene of implied cunnilingus between James Cromwell and Julie Walters—an image I hoped to never have put in my head. Speaking of which, with a scene like that, and a shot of James McAvoy’s ass, how in the hell did this movie get a PG rating?

I’ve always found Hathaway more uninteresting and mediocre than actually ‘bad’ and she did nothing to change my mind here. Her accent isn’t overtly or cartoonishly awful, but it never quite sounds right or believable and always a bit too mannered. Her Jane is always perpetually uninteresting, and despite the best efforts made, I never felt any warmth or inclination to like her in the movie; she comes off as borderline-annoying, selfish and just, well, bland. And if I may add, Ms. Hathaway looks remarkably pale, even by 17th century standards.

McAvoy, however, is just as dashing and skillful at playing a fluffy romantic lead as he was gripping a compelling antihero in last year’s “The Last King of Scotland.” I think he’s supposed to be the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy, but it doesn’t help matters that him and Hathaway don’t have any real chemistry together. However, the blame for that doesn’t seem to fall on him, since he’s almost exhaustingly charming here. All signs seem to indicate that he’ll capably anchor this fall’s big Oscar-hopeful “Atonement.”

The supporting cast is unfortunately wasted and given startlingly little to do. It’s sad that an actress as gifted as Julie Walters (so recently nominated for an Oscar) is reduced to playing the doting “get married!” mother. Brenda Blethyn played a similar role in “Pride & Prejudice” with wit and warmth, but the writing here makes no such allowance.

Cromwell barely makes an impression as Jane’s father, so soon after “The Queen,” and Maggie Smith shows up for a few signature moments of looking dour and delivering lines dripping with acid, basically playing Judi Dench’s “Pride” role. She also gets what is, hands down, the funniest moment in the movie:

Julie Walters: “Would you like some tea?”

Maggie Smith: “Green Tea?”

Julie Walters: “Brown.”

Maggie Smith: “Then, no.”

I shit you not. That’s the funniest scene in the movie.

The direction by Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”) is consistently flat, though it’s evident that he has some element of wit—James Cromwell’s name in the opening credits being shown after a shot of suckling pigs couldn’t have been an accident. He also haphazardly stages certain scenes so we’re not 100% sure what’s going on. For a few moments, I could’ve sworn it was implied that a young gentleman was Dame Maggie Smith’s fucktoy, but we’re soon informed it’s her nephew, and later in the proceedings, it seems the movie is implying McAvoy is gay, but it’s forgotten almost immediately.

However, the most ham-handed element of the movie is how we’re shown what a “free thinker” Jane is. She *gasp* plays the piano early in the morning and wakes everybody up, and also insists on playing cricket with the boys. That’s right, the same “unique breed” quirks we’ve seen in every movie with a female character determined to stand out.

“Becoming Jane” is the kind of movie that features a stuffy old man in a dusty wig asking incredulously [and I’m paraphrasing here] “Wha, wha, wha?!? A woman writing?!,” and later stating [I’m NOT paraphrasing] “This is an outrage!” I had sat through dozens of well-worn clichés and overused elements throughout the movie, but by the time this guy took center stage, it began to tread dangerously towards self-parody.

At the 95-minute mark of the film, a man two seats over from me began loudly snoring. Rather than wake him up, all of us surrounding him just tittered to ourselves and allowed him to continue snoring for the next few minutes, delighted that at least SOMETHING interesting was taking place in the screening room. This should tell you all you need to know about “Becoming Jane.”

"Hot Rod" -- * * *

Despite doubts about why the “Lazy Sunday” guy (Andy Samberg) deserves his own movie, “Hot Rod” is often hilarious, and deserves to be mentioned alongside “Knocked Up,” “The Simpsons Movie” and “Superbad” when ‘funniest movies of the summer’ are discussed, if not exactly their equal. Contrary to an ad campaign centered around Samberg crashing into things, the movie’s absurd, profoundly strange sense of humor and non-sequiters reminded me of “Anchorman” more than anything else.

Paramount seems to have a certain amount of faith in “Hot Rod” and knows it plays with audiences, considering they’ve been screening the fuck out of it (I saw it over two months ago and they seem to be passing out screening invites to it every time I walk by a movie theater), but it’s questionable why they’re choosing to release it this coming weekend. I have a feeling “Bourne” is going to be a monster that devours everything in its path, and I think “Hot Rod’s” only real hope of making some opening-weekend bank is being the second choice of teenagers who get sold out of “Bourne.”

But then again, no matter how little the movie's take this weekend, this is a film that’s practically tailor made to thrive on DVD. Absurdist comedies with warped (and fairly stupid) sensibilities always seem to do modest business theatrically, followed by a steady life on the DVD shelf of college students everywhere, and “Hot Rod” should be no different.

Like any film related to “Saturday Night Live,” the plot isn’t really the strong point here. Our hero is Rod Kimble (Samberg), a wannabe stuntman (his father was killed in a horrific stunt-gone-wrong) who wants to impress his stepdad Frank (Al Swearengen himself, Ian McShane) by earning $50,000 to pay for his lifesaving heart transplant. Rod and Frank hate each other, but if Frank dies before Rod can build up his skills enough to beat him in a fight, Frank will think Rod a pussy forever. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

As with anything strange, “Hot Rod’s” sense of humor is going to be polarizing to audiences. Many simians drawn in by promises of generic slapstick probably won’t know what to make of the acid-trip sequence or the fistfight between a grilled cheese sandwich and a taco. By the time we get to the brief yet soon-to-be-infamous “Cool Beans” sequence, you’ll either want to walk out or completely revel in its madness. There won’t be many in-betweeners.

“Hot Rod” makes no bones about how stupid it is, but it was stupid in a way that worked just fine for me. When Rod falls down a steep hill, it’s not funny because he falls, but because he falls for what seems like minutes on end and the more repetitive it got, the funnier it got (for me). Sure the movie may close with a shit joke, but it’s a moderately funny one and closes on it in a gloriously cheesy freeze-frame.

And speaking of cheesiness, that’s “Hot Rod’s” coup de grace. Samberg and the rest of his Lonely Island team are clearly a fan of inspirational cheese from the 1980’s, as “Hot Rod” consistently feels like a film that might have come out 25 years ago, from the look of the film to the soundtrack, which features no less than five tunes from power-ballad-specialists Europe.

Sadly, a place where the movie falls short is knowing how to use its cast. Inexplicably, Sissy Spacek is in this thing, and isn’t really given anything to do. Not only is she barely in it, she isn’t even given a chance to be funny. And when Will Arnett, one of the funniest men working right now, shows up as Isla Fisher’s jerk boyfriend, he offers some laughs, but he isn’t given nearly enough screentime. One gets the feeling either his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, or he just stopped by the set for a day or two to have some fun.

Samberg is a hilariously clueless/pathetic/likable leading man and has something vaguely resembling charm, if not actually the genuine article. McShane’s raunchy assholishness consistently made me laugh, though I can’t say that wasn’t because of the contrast with his television persona.
It’s worth noting, though, that for all the inspired lunacy, the movie’s funniest moment may belong to Chris Parnell when he shows up late in the game as an announcer preaching the wonderment that is AM radio. Again, it’s just another moment you’ll completely roll with, or completely despise.

“Hot Rod” isn’t the greatest comedy of all time, but if you have an off-kilter sense of humor, you should find plenty to laugh at. Those expecting nothing but the ad-promised slapstick will get their appetites filled, but this is a far odder beast than what you might be expecting, and I for one, look forward to watching it many more times on DVD.