This may put me in the doghouse but I found the recent reboot of the Griswold Vacation films to be funnier than the entire original Chevy Chase series combined. The National Lampoon series is a big, clunky, unwieldy beast full of hit or miss humour, really bizarre instances and comedy that has dimmed and dated a lot since then, they’re not my favourite films and I remember fondly only for sheer nostalgia because they’d always show up on TBS Superstation back when I was a kid. This thing goes and totally does it’s own thing though and ends up being fucking hilarious from start to finish, if you have the right sense of humour that is and are open to a severely offensive set of jokes and very R rated mayhem, which is the best way to get me interested in a comedy.
Terminally nerdy Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, the grown up kid of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who also turn up for third act cameos here. Rusty wants to recreate his childhood vacation to Walley World by dragging his wife (Christina Applegate) and two dysfunctional sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) on a chaotic road trip there, with everything naturally going completely wrong every step of the way. When I say it goes wrong though I mean that in every gross out, humiliating, cringey, scatological, immature sense of the word. The tone here is radically different from the old Vacation films and honestly I appreciated it, jived with it more. The screenwriters just want to make a balls out (literally), hard R, deranged comedy that happens to take place in the Griswold universe and I guess some fans couldn’t handle it.
So what’s funny about it? Well take your pick: Chris Hemsworth as a hysterically sexist cattle rancher with a ten inch cock clearly visible in his briefs, a hot-springs that turns out to be raw sewage dump filled with used needles, relentless sibling bullying, a shady truck driver (Norman Reedus in the film’s best WTF cameo) with a teddy bear hood ornament to lure kids in, a suicidal river rafting guide (Charlie Day), cows getting turned into road kill and much more. If none of that sounds like your picks the you were probably expecting something else and this isn’t gonna be your bag. This ain’t the whimsical, eccentric Vacation aesthetic from the Lampoon films, but that’s alright. My favourite joke involves the Albanian rental car Rusty procures for their trip, an impossibly inconvenient machine with a button that literally blows out all the windows and a NavGuide system that screams at them in Korean, which had me laughing so hard it hurt. Watch for fun cameos from Keegan Michael Key, Ron Livingston, Michael Pena, Regina Hall, Tim Heidecker, Colin Hanks and Leslie Mann as a grown up Audrey Griswold, married to Hemsworth and his magnum dong. This one was a huge winner for me, and while I can appreciate the hate thrown at it when compared to the original films, that didn’t bother me. If you just roll with this vision
I’ve always liked The Sweetest Thing, a deranged sex comedy from the female perspective that has the winningly bonkers personalities of Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair to make it something memorable, if not that original. This got royally shit upon by critics and while I’ll concede that it’s slight, airy stuff without much to say overall, there’s no denying it’s hysterical energy, lovable chemistry between the three leads and overall enjoyable lunacy.
Diaz, Applegate and Blair are three early thirties party girls in San Francisco, all looking for that special guy or at least one to have fun with for the night until he comes along. Diaz is the ruthless player of the bunch, and as the film opens we see a montage showing all the guys she’s dumped, one and done-d and left in the dust, until one night at a club she meets her match in Peter (Thomas Jane), a seemingly perfect guy who vanishes later that night, leaving her with a bunch of what-ifs in her head and the desire to track him down. With Applegate’s help she embarks on a mini road trip to find him, while Blair has some raunchy misadventures with her boyfriend (Johnny Messner) and his massive dong. Others show up along the way including Parker Posey, Frank Grillo, Lillian Adams, James Mangold, Johnathon Schaech and Jason Bateman as Jane’s goofball brother.
I think this wasn’t received well because most super crude sex comedies are done from the male perspective, and there’s this reluctance or uncomfortableness when it’s perceived the other way round, which is sort of unfortunate and not at all a fair or honest angle. These three chicks know how to have fun, love to party and are a blast to watch onscreen, especially seeing the insanity apparent in their group dynamic, which if seems excessively zany for a group of girlfriends, trust me.. it’s not. There’s some really raunchy stuff like a semen stained dress getting licked by an elderly dry cleaning owner and a dick piercing getting snagged down a girl’s throat during a blowjob, and don’t get me started on The Penis Song. It’s all in good fun though, and the guys get to have a blast too, as we see Jane and Bateman at a driving range whacking balls at the hapless groundskeeper who wears a confederate flag hat. Not a great film, but definitely a hilarious one and worth it to see Cameron, Christina and Selma clearly having about as much fun as you can in front of a camera.
I usually avoid B movies where the writer/director also stars in the lead role, as it’s almost always pitiable self indulgence a lá The Room. In the case of Scott Leet’s Out In Fifty though, there’s an exception to the rule. A violent, mean revenge story with no light at the end of the troubled tunnel, it’s a bizarre, sketchy little flick that benefits greatly from Mickey Rourke as one beast of a cop on the hunt for the convict (Leet) who accidentally killed his wife in the heat of a passionate affair. Remorseful and tormented, he just wants to quietly exist after he’s eventually paroled, but Rourke, still hard bitten over the incident, has other plans. That’s pretty much it, but the actors sell the dour tone nicely, especially Rourke, who is at his nastiest and most scarily volatile, with a seething, bleeding broken heart behind the coiled viper, hate filled exterior. Peter Greene is terrific as his former partner who does his best to reign the guy in, and there’s work from Christina Applegate, Johnny Whitworth, Ed Lauter and Balthazar Getty as a weirdo pimp/motel owner. Leet isn’t bad, especially in the writing department, and holds the thing together with reasonable triple threat talents, although he has scarcely been heard of since this one. Not bad, made better by Rourke and Greene’s presence, and worth it for any fan of the two heavyweights.
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks is a spectacular howling good time, a 50’s inspired gumball machine packed with schlock, satire and more star studded send ups than you can shake a stick at. It’s so silly and overstuffed that one just has to give in to it’s fisher price brand of mayhem and just watch the wanton hilarity unfold. Martians are indeed attacking, and they’re evil little rapscallions with giant brains, buggy eyes and lethal ray guns. Humanity’s best are left to fight them, and let’s just say that’s not saying much with this bunch of morons. Jack Nicholson does a double shift as both the hysterically poised, rhetoric spewing US President and a sleazeball casino tycoon. Annette Bening is his hippy dippy wife, while Rod Steiger huffs and puffs as a war mongering potato head of a general. Over in Vegas, prizefighter Jim Brown and his estranged wife (Pam Grier) fight against hordes with little help from obnoxious gambler Danny Devito. Pierce Brosnan is a bumbling tv expert who sucks on a pipe that he apparently forgot to fill or light, a subtle yet precious running joke. The only people with sense are trailer dwelling youngster Lukas Haas and Natalie Portman as the President’s daughter, and the method they finally find to destroy these nasties has to be seen to be believed. The cast seems padded simply so we can watch famous people getting dispatched by slimy aliens, and also contains Tom Jones as himself, Lisa Marie, Jack Black, Paul Winfield, Michael J. Fox, Christina Applegate, Glenn Close, Joe Don Baker, Barber Schroeder, Sylvia Sydney, Martin Short and Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on the body of a chihuahua (don’t ask). There’s little story other than Martians attack and kill shitloads of obnoxious people, but therein lies the big joke, and it’s hilarious. Aaack !