July 5, 2009
Role Models (2008) ***1/2
Directed by David Wain
From the director of Wet Hot American Summer comes this off-color comedy with a whole lot of heart. Since I'm not a huge Judd Apatow fan, and since all of his recent films could be described as off-color comedies with a whole lot of heart, then perhaps I ought to emphasize that Role Models is a lot of fun, and I laughed quite a bit while watching! The plot itself is quite far-fetched when you consider that it's about two men who are appointed by a court to do community service with an organization that works with troubled kids. Paul Rudd's Danny is assigned wizard loving geek Augie, played by McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Augie's a lonely, sensitive, spirited young man who is constantly pressured to be normal by his status hungry parents. Seann William Scott, who is surprisingly good in the role, plays Wheeler, an unsophisticated hornball paired with a foul mouthed, attention seeking ten year old named Ronnie, played by Bobbie J. Thompson. Of course, everyone dislikes each other at first, but as the older men become more involved in the youngsters' lives, they each come to realize that they truly can help, which leads to a battle sequence during the film's final act that's simply brilliant. Rudd comes off a bit ornery, overplaying the cynicism his character brings to the picture. Nothing bothers me more than obnoxious children hamming it up for the camera, and though he's able to elicit a number of laughs, Bobbie J. Thompson got on my nerves. Also, I was a little uncomfortable hearing some of the film's unabashed profanity coming from his high-pitched prepubescent voice. The real breakout star for me, though, was Mintz-Plasse, whom I did not like in Superbad. He gives his character just the right amount of social vulnerabilities without turning Augie into a complete loser who deserves to be alone. Role Models lacks Apatow's overblown ambition which tends to stifle every movie he's involved in, and as such, David Wain refreshingly finds the same sentimental balance reached so well in last year's wonderful Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Labels: 2008, Comedy, Three and a Half Stars
Seven Pounds (2008) **1/2
Directed by Gabrielle Muccino
Have you ever gotten the feeling while watching an actor on screen that he's trying desperately to win an Oscar? That's the way I felt with Will Smith's ultra-earnest performance as the mysterious Ben Thomas, a man who is going above and beyond to do good deeds for specific strangers. Smith is one of the most likable personalities ever to grace the screen, and though I think he tries a bit too hard, he's still able to carry the significant emotional weight of this tearjerker on his shoulders. That being said, the story itself proves to be a huge miscalculation, making me laugh during moments where the film wanted me to cry. There's an interesting, tender romance between Smith and Rosario Dawson's Emily Posa which is beautiful to watch. Then, sadly, Seven Pounds rides full speed right off the rails when Ben's motivation is revealed and his final plan is set in motion. I won't give anything more away except to say that a jellyfish plays a role in a way that will have you rolling your eyes and laughing inappropriately. Also, don't look directly into Woody Harrelson's eyes during the final sequence for fear of the heebie-jeebies and nightmares! There are many good things about Seven Pounds which eventually become figurative casualties once the film becomes a total train wreck! No Oscar for you this time Fresh Prince!
Labels: 2008, Drama, Romance, Two and a Half Stars