Daddy’s Home 2: A Ho Ho Horrible Holiday ‘Comedy’

Daddys Home 2 follows the occasionally used formula of turning a comedy sequel into a holiday escapade. An almost always disastrous decision (just look at A Bad Moms Christmas), it will surprise no one to hear that Daddy’s Home 2 is a comedic flop. With the first Daddy’s Home being a mediocre and forgettable comedy, this installment had no intentions whatsoever in surpassing it.

Will Ferrell plays his usual man-child schtick, and Mark Wahlberg plays a tough guy. Together they co-parent a set of forgettable child actors, who are disappointed they always must do two Christmases. That’s when Ferrell and Wahlberg get the bright idea to do a joint Christmas, as well as invite both of their dads in on the excitement. Their dads unfortunately consist of Mel Gibson (a stereotypical racist) and John Lithgow (a mirror image of Will Ferrell). From here, wacky and predictable hijinks ensue.

The only clever bit in the film involved a below the belt jab at Liam Neeson and his typical style of movies. Apparently in this universe, Neeson starred in a terribly bloated action film called Missile Tow (Get it!). From my guess, this is some kind of holiday version of Taken or Non-Stop. Pretty humorous nonetheless.

Daddy’s Home 2 suffers from the same ailment as every other bad comedy. That being, it’s not funny. It’s constantly caught between trying way too hard to be comedic and not trying at all. Sometimes there are moments of slapstick humor that are painfully long, and at other times there are scenes where I’m waiting for a punchline that never comes.

And by the end of Daddy’s Home 2, few of the characters went through any sort of change or revelation. They’re all still horrible people, yet the film accepts this and just decides to end on a poor note. Nothing is gained from watching it. In fact, all Daddy’s Home 2 really did was shine a spotlight on the limitations of these actors and actresses.

There was one particular scene in the film that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I think it really captures the mentality of Daddy’s Home 2. It’s when the entire cast gathers at a movie theater towards the conclusion of the movie. Will Ferrell’s character stands up in front of a crowd and makes a comment on how everyone came to the theater with someone they love. Except, of course, one man in the back, who came to the movie alone on Christmas. Will Ferrell then makes a passing remark on how this man is sad, and somewhat pathetic.

Well, movie, Christmas for some isn’t so joyful, and is quite lonely and depressing. So, when you make a shoddy, low-quality, unfunny, sloppy joke such as that, you come off as a huge dick.

Bottom line, this movie sucks.

The Verdict: F

-Zachary Flint

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

It was obvious from the get-go that The LEGO Ninjago Movie would be the least inspired installment of the continuing LEGO Movie franchise. Based loosely off a children’s cartoon series (which in turn was based off a preexisting toyline), The LEGO Ninjago Movie tells the story of Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), who lives in a metropolitan city constantly threatened by the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Lloyd happens to be the most despised individual in the entire city, mostly because of his relation to Lord Garmadon.

Luckily, Garmadon never comes close to ruling over anything, because the LEGO city is protected by a secretive ninja force led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan). And, unbeknownst to just about everyone, Lloyd happens to be one of those very ninjas. He, along with the rest of his ninja friends, is about to embark on a dangerous quest to stop Lord Garmadon for good.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie features many bizarre creative choices that I found to be quite delightful. The tone and the genre of the film, for example, are ever-changing and seem to be a blend of many ideas.

This film should’ve come with a hyperactivity warning, as there are very few breathers for the audience. Not only are the scene transitions quick, but entire plot points fly by at a rapid pace. What felt like five minutes of watching LEGO Ninjago turned out to be an hours’ worth of the film.

Sadly, most of the characters didn’t have any depth or personality to them. Other than the lead antagonist Garmadon and Master Wu, none really stood out as being interesting. I noticed multiple talented voice actors behind the little brick figures, but I guess the script didn’t call for utilizing their full potential.

Probably the best aspect of the film was the clever humor poking fun at popular action/adventure genre tropes. In one scene, they mock the overuse of the popular sound effect dubbed the Wilhelm Scream (heard in Star Wars as well as Indiana Jones). In another hilarious scene, they comment on how the wise character in action/adventure movies always withhold incredibly important knowledge until they’re in the process of dying. Very funny.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie had plenty of comedic, fun-filled moments, yet unfortunately lacked the charm of its LEGO predecessors. There are a plethora of scenes attempting to teach kids very simple and valuable messages. But where these scenes came off as cute in LEGO Batman and The LEGO Movie, here they’re just sappy. Those looking for a fast-paced children’s comedy won’t need to search any further. However, if you were expecting anything more than that, you may find yourself disappointed.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

The House (2017) Review

If you’ve ever wondered how a film could perfectly squander the acting talents of two A-list movie stars, then look no further than The House.

The House stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as Scott and Kate, two parents trying to send their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to college. With very little money to do so, Scott and Kate reluctantly decide to open up an illegal casino in the basement of their good friend Frank’s (Jason Mantzoukas) house. As they quickly become absorbed into the Vegas-esque lifestyle, Scott and Kate soon realize the bit off way more than they can chew, with angry councilmen, dim-witted cops, and even gangsters hot on their trail.

The most unfortunate aspect of The House isn’t its poorly paced plot or the abundance of shoddy scenes that go nowhere. No, the worst part of this entire picture happened to be the shockingly lousy performances of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, who were given too much free rein in their acting. It was as if they were both put in front of a camera and told to “be funny”. This decision to use improvisation resulted in horrible comedic timing, with many awkward pauses that constantly broke up the dialogue.

The one saving grace of The House that rescues it from being a complete failure in comedy, is the arrival of Jeremy Renner’s character. Renner played a mob boss whose behavior matched the nonsensical tone of the film much better than anyone else. The few scenes Renner was involved with are downright over-the-top and ridiculous, which actually got some laughs from the audience. Even though his presence in the film was short-lived, his character was infinitely more entertaining than Ferrell or Poehler.

The House could’ve been a much more successful comedy, had it only embraced the absurd nature of the premise (and stuck to a more focused plot). The moments where Will Ferrell is chopping off fingers and Jeremy Renner is getting set on fire are hilarious, but make up only a small sliver of the film. Most of the time the audience is subjected to embarrassingly stale humor from actors that deserve a better vessel to showcase their talents.

With overwhelmingly bad direction, crummy plot pacing, and lots of wasted potential, The House is a film that audiences will be quick to forget.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Review

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” That is the opening line to one of the most bizarre films I have ever seen. From the moment I first watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was instantly in love with its dark humor and outlandish visuals.

Upon release, critics didn’t quite like Fear and Loathing, and it wasn’t that successful at the box office either. More recently however, the film has attained cult status, with a steadily growing fan base.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on the book by the same name, and stars Johnny Depp as the revered Hunter S. Thompson (who goes under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke). Raoul, along with his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), are on a trip to Las Vegas to journalistically cover the Mint 400 race. Armed with a suitcase full of higher powered drugs, the entire trip instead becomes one big hallucinogenic drug filled experience.

As far as staying true to the novel, I think Fear and Loathing is among the best adaptations I’ve seen. In fact, a lot of the dialogue in the film is actually taken straight from the book. It’s obvious that a lot of work was put in to give the viewer the same iconic imagery and peculiar sense of humor as the book. One of my favorite scenes in the film (and book) is when Duke first arrives to the hotel, and starts hallucinating that all the guests are actually giant lizards. This scene is full of lifelike puppets and vibrant colors reflecting off Duke’s face, giving the viewer the feeling they too are on a bad drug trip. Overall a brilliant use of freaky images and great lighting technique.

Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson is beyond hilarious and entertaining. I would go so far as to say it is one of his greatest roles to date. All the mannerisms and quirks of Hunter S. Thompson are fantastically mimicked by Depp, giving viewers a very memorable performance. The way he walks around bow legged and mumbles with a cigarette in his mouth cracks me up every time I see it.

The consensus I’ve heard critics is that Fear and Loathing had very little, if anything at all, to say. I would have to strongly disagree with this sentiment. I think Fear and Loathing had a lot of insightful commentary, particularly about the counterculture movement of the 60’s and the growing levels of American consumerism. There is one scene in particular where Duke monologues about the 1960’s, perfectly summing up the counterculture movement better than I’ve ever heard before. He sites how his peace-loving generation seemed like it was winning the cultural fight without ever hurting another person. Yet, somehow everything changed. The hippies lost all the momentum. This “Wave Speech”, as it is most commonly known, is worth watching the film for all on its own.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas remains one of my favorite films of all time, and for very good reason. The dark sense of humor, commentary on 1960’s counterculture, and peculiar imagery all work to make this a one of a kind film. Plus, the film gave us some of the best Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro performances to date.  I really think Fear and Loathing is a masterpiece of cinema, plain and simple. Hopefully it will continue to get the admiration and recognition it rightfully deserves.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

 

Good Burger Review

Over time, Good Burger seems to have grown a strange cult following of fans who grew up with the flick. This goofball film is often treated like the Citizen Kane of the fast-food industry. Hell, when Netflix attempted to remove Good Burger from their streaming service, they were met with severe backlash. Am I missing something? I mean, is it really anything more than a cheap Nickelodeon movie?

The almighty Good Burger stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell, who previously appeared in their own Nickelodeon show together called Kenan & Kel. Kenan plays Dexter Reed, a high school student who hits his teacher’s car at the beginning of summer break, forcing him to get a job in fast-food. He takes a job working at Good Burger, a restaurant slowly going out of business due to its new competitor Mondo Burger. Here, Dexter meets a dimwitted cashier named Ed (played by Kel), who seems to live, breathe, and sleep fast-food. What follows is a very random series of events that I feel appropriate to only label as ‘hi-jinks’.

The writing of Good Burger is just so shockingly bizarre that I’m not really sure what to make of it. I’m mostly speaking about the films sense of humor, since every other word uttered by Kel Mitchell in the film is a ridiculously lazy pun. At times, I laughed at Good Burger’s weird jokes, however on most occasions I was trying to understand why anyone else would laugh at Good Burger. Some puns in this flick are clever, and others are just written so peculiarly that they got confused chuckles out of me.

Unfortunately, most of Kel’s puns come from him taking every statement someone makes literal, which gets very annoying very fast. In one scene of Good Burger, a customer orders a burger with nothing on it. Kel then gives the customer just given two buns with no meat. That was the joke. He got just two buns, get it! It’s just so downright stupid I’m not sure why I’m even wasting my time discussing why it’s not funny.

One thing Good Burger does surprisingly get right, is that it acts as a perfect snapshot of the time period it came out of. It reminds me of all the original Nickelodeon and Disney films that were released in the nineties. Good Burger also just has this inherent nineties feel to all of its cheesiness. These features both date the film, and give it a sense of timelessness.

The plot and characters of Good Burger are entertaining enough that kids will easily have a fun time watching it. The protagonists actually have some okay development throughout the story, and the plot does have exciting moments. This is probably the reason most people love Good Burger, because they saw it much more objectively as a child. When parents see the talking hamburgers with eyes, a strange ex-Black Panther played by Sinbad (seriously movie?), and a surprising amount of race and sexual humor for a kid movie, they will probably just be confused.

When all is said and done, I guess I can’t really hate Good Burger. I can respect why so many people love it, as Good Burger gives fans a nostalgic and sentimental feeling they  value greatly. However, the writing is unfortunately absurd and atrocious, and the humor is beyond cringeworthy. Yet, I somehow found a subtle hint of charm to the madness onscreen.

If you’ve never seen Good Burger before, then maybe that’s for the best. If you do plan on viewing it at some point, going in with low comedic expectations is highly recommended.

The Verdict: C-

-Zachary Flint

Airplane!: Reel Quick Reviews

“I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley”, one of the many great lines in the hilarious cult comedy Airplane!. Even after almost forty years since its release, few parodies have lived up to it.

Airplane! is basically a spoof disaster movie on a plane. When the diverse passengers of a 747 take ill due to some bad fish, it is up to a no nonsense doctor and a former air force pilot to land the plane safely.

The cast of Airplane! (including such people as Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, and Julie Hagerty) are delightfully talented and funny. They all somehow manage to play such straight faced characters among the many humorous puns and visual gags.

Airplane! is surprisingly energetic when it comes to firing off jokes rapidly. Ever few seconds or so there is another one-off joke involving word play that almost always gets a laugh. There is also some of the best racial and perverse humor I’ve seen executed in a film. One of my favorite scenes in Airplane! involves two black men who speak in jive, very funny.

Airplane! brings us back to an era when parody movies were not frowned upon as a lesser form of entertainment. Unfortunately the days of Airplane! and Mel Brooks style parody are long gone. Airplane! is one of the best parodies of the eighties, and I’m sure it will continue to be adored by fans for years to come.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut Review

South Park has stood the test of time and remains an edgy, hilarious adult cartoon. It has also been one of my favorite shows for some time now. The film counterpart to the show, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, just feels like an extended length episode. Which for previous South Park fans, is great!

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut stars everyone’s favorite foul mouthed children on a journey to save their favorite Canadian television stars Terrence and Philip. After the parents of South Park blame Terrence and Philip for corrupting the American youth, the U.S. government kidnaps and plans to execute them. It is now up to the children of South Park to save Terrence and Philip and to prevent World war 3.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut plays out entirely like a musical, with many original songs sung throughout. I find this choice to be strange, but then again, the show is beyond strange so it makes sense. After only one viewing I’ve had many of the songs (like “Blame Canada” and “It’s Easy M’kay”) stuck in my head as I go about my day. All the songs were catchy, and they felt very well written for what they were. I get the feeling the songs were written around the script instead of the script around the songs, which is definitely a good choice on the filmmakers part. The soundtrack is definitely one of the best and most enjoyable aspects of South Park : Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, worth the viewing all on its own.

Something South Park always seems well prepared for is to deliver a simple and important message in a ridiculously overblown way. The message here involves how American parents are always ready to blame or censor somebody else for their child’s problems, when they should really be blaming themselves (and or the child). I think this is a good theme for a film that you don’t see very often. It works well with the style of South Park and their anti-censorship convictions.

I guess the one problem with the South Park movie is its humor, which some might deem as insulting and distasteful. This is a legitimate concern, as its viewership is severely decreased by having offensive humor so frequently scattered throughout your film. However since South Park knows its target audience and plays to it, you can’t really blame or discredit them. Therefore I consider this problem only a slight nitpick.

So while its overly offensive and gross style of humor is plenty to turn away many heads, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut has enough charm and laughs to satisfy its audience. All the original songs are clever and catchy, and the film hones in on an ever important message not often told. So if you can look past the naughty jokes, I think you will be able to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint