By Chauncey Telese
We’ve finally hit August and that means a few things. 1. NFL training camps have begun (my buddy Wes and I intend on visiting the Dallas Cowboys camp in Oxnard because he is a Cowboys freak and I want to know how it feels to be around a successful football team). 2. Favre is waffling on his future again (don’t be shocked if his retirement is a bigger lie then A-Roid’s 600th home run). 2. The new season of “Mad Men” is underway (which means the captivating downward spiral that is Don Draper continues). 3. Bill and Sookie are at yet another relationship crossroads and 4. The end of the summer season is approaching.
This means we still have one more major action movie left (“The Expendables”), one more big comedy (“The Other Guys”), one more big female oriented movie (“Eat, Pray, Love”), and an off the wall movie that could be a big hit or a failure (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). This summer season has been for the most part a major disappointment as the crop of blockbusters has been lackluster. This is especially true with the comedies because last summer we had at least two comedies that invaded pop culture, “The Hangover” and “The Proposal,” and in 2008 we had “Pineapple Express,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Step Brothers” (and in 2007 there was “Knocked Up” and “Superbad”).
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This year there isn’t a comedy that was released in theaters that really managed to be a mega hit with the exception of “Grown Ups”. In fact, the best comedy to come this summer (non “Jersey Shore”-related), has been on TV with FX’s “Louie” and Comedy Central’s (by way of Fox) “Futurama”. However, while I have been disappointed with big budget comedies I did find a diamond in the rough at Comic-Con. Let’s get to the bad news first.
“Dinner with Schmucks:” Like Eating Fast Food but with Your Friends
Have you ever had a great time eating out with your friends be it at JACK N THE BOX, Del Taco, or in times of desperation, Denny’s, and while you acknowledge that you wouldn’t write home about your meal, you had an awesome time because you and your friends made each other laugh so hard and you had so much fun you felt like you were eating at somewhere with better food such as Telly’s, La Cocina, or Chuy’s?
That is what “Dinner with Schmucks” is like. You are never captivated by the story or really care about the characters (except Steve Carell’s, but more on him later), but yet still left saying that you had a great time. The story is never really there, the characters are not developed, and despite having a great comedy director in Jay Roach (the “Austin Powers” trilogy, “Meet the Parents”, and “Recount”), and a great cast, the writing really holds back what could’ve been summer’s tent pole film, but sadly it’s not.
The film is a remake of a French comedy entitled “Le Diner de Cons” which from what I understand is a much more malicious and darker comedy then its American counterpart. Anyway, the film is about Tim (played by the brilliant Paul Rudd), a rising executive whose career at his firm is essentially at stake when his boss (played by Bruce Greenwood of “Star Trek” and “Thirteen Days”) invites him to a secret dinner that he hosts once a week where the executives invite the most eccentric idiot they can find and they are made fun of (without their knowledge, of course). Tim thinks this is horrible and really doesn’t want to go but also really wants to get ahead. His artist girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostack) is upset with him for considering it and while Tim promises Julie he won’t, we know he will.
The next day he literally runs into Barry (Steve Carell) with his Porsche and after talking with him briefly about the accident, Tim discovers that he’s found his idiot. Barry is not only slow-witted but has an eccentric hobby. He is into taxidermy, more specifically creating “mousterpieces” which are recreations of famous paintings and other aspects of Barry’s life using mice in dioramas. Barry accepts Tim’s invitation to dinner and the rest of the movie is a mishmash of misunderstandings and Barry embarrassing Tim.
The reason why I can’t hate this movie for being lazily written can be summed up in two words: Steve Carell. He has proven yet again that he can take what is essentially bad writing and turn it into something that the audience cares about. Carell’s comic timing and just outright presence turns Barry into a person that I personally felt sorry for, not because he’s a dimwit but because Carell makes him come across as a sweet guy that you root for.
He’s demonstrated this ability before, he did it earlier this year with “Date Night,” in fact he does it on a weekly basis on “The Office” by making Michael Scott a jerk unaware of his jerkiness that we love anyway because we know he means well (sadly next season is his last, but hopefully that means he ends up with Holly).
That is not to say that he is the only good thing in the movie because besides Rudd and Carell (who are in their third movie together and their chemistry demonstrates as much) this movie has an incredibly deep bench. It also features gut-busting performances from Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) who plays an eccentric artist who Tim is jealous of. There is also Zack Galifinakis who plays Carell’s rival at the IRS and an expert in brain control and Lucy Punch (“The Class”) who plays Tim’s crazy in love stalker. All of the above save what could’ve been a terrible movie and I recommend seeing it just to see the brilliance that Carell, Rudd, and the rest of the cast bring.
If you’re not sold on this that’s okay because there are other options, such as Zac Efron’s “Charlie St. Cloud” and “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” in 3D. As always you can catch these and other fine films at your local Edwards. Now onto the good news.
“The Virginity Hit”: Leaving Big Studio Comedies Up in Smoke
As I alluded to in my Comic-Con article, during “The Other Guys” panel, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay showed us a trailer for this movie they produced entitled “The Virginity Hit” which looked like a mildly amusing teen comedy and I expected as much when Wes, Katie, and I attended the screening later that night.
Before the movie started Will Ferrell and Adam McKay came out to introduce the movie jokingly saying that they really were here to listen to a time share presentation. Will Ferrell jokingly had us get out of our seats seven times, and jokingly threatened to fight some guy in the theater (the same thing happened during the panel by the way). Then they got down to business by saying they love to produce movies because it gives them a chance to do things that they themselves can’t do i.e. HBO’s “Eastbound and Down”, and had the cast stand up (they were in the audience, then they left (not without Will Ferrell shouting out “Boats n “Ho’s”).
Since this movie was essentially low budget (and I mean low budget) they filmed the audience watching the film because they plan on centering their advertising campaign on audience reaction. If the San Diego crowd is any indication of how their campaign will go there will be plenty of laughs to show this fall when they begin plugging the movie.
“The Virginity Hit” is about four friends Zack (Zack Pearlman), Jacob (Jacob Davich), Krysta (Krysta Rodriguez), and Matt (Matt Bennett). They buy a bong and take a hit only when one of them loses it (hence the title). Matt is the last one and he wants his night with his girlfriend of two years Nicole (Nicole Weaver) to be perfect and he plans it out for them to go out for a fancy dinner and then to a hotel for the night. Matt learns from Zack that Nicole got drunk at a frat party and sort of cheated on him.
In response to this news which is hilariously confirmed Matt decides to get payback using Zack’s camera but it backfires and he is humiliated on YouTube. Zack and his friends try to help Matt but they end up making it worse. Matt is subjected to a slew of online pity, his deadbeat dad, a dubious single mom who wants to help him out, and Zack trying to get him hooked up with a famous porn star when all Matt wants is Nicole back.
This may sound like a typical teen comedy and essentially it is but what I loved about it is that it makes tremendous use of its miniscule budget and no name cast. The entire movie is filmed by Zack as he documents everything (“Borat” style) and the level of character development is quite evolved. The relationship between Matt and Nicole is actually quite realistic and the footage Zack gets of the two of them goes along way towards letting the audience in on how deep this relationship stuff and puts big budget comedies to shame in that department (see above). In fact, the cast as a whole really do feel like friends and we believe that they all care about Matt which makes us care about him. The movie takes place in New Orleans and makes great use of its swamps and the French Quarter.
Above all else the movie is actually downright hilarious and clearly does have some “Borat” influence, as well as tapping into the sex comedy well of crude situations and dirty humor while balancing out heart. It really feels like it’s borrowed a little from movies like “Borat,” “Sex Drive,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” and “American Pie” without full-on plagiarizing them. I really liked this movie and I was privileged to have gotten a chance to be on the ground floor for something that I hope becomes successful. If this does end up coming to Santa Clarita I highly encourage you all to seek it out. In the mean time you can access the trailer by Googling the title of the movie or going on www.funnyordie.com
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as next week I fight crime with “The Other Guys”.