Hit & Run was a huge blast, and the key ingredient that makes it work so well is the real life couple dynamic of Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, who keep the relationship banter fresh, realistic and adorable. This is a passion project for Shepherd, he writes, directs and stars in the kind of scrappy, bawdy highway car chase crime caper that feels cut from the same cloth as stuff like Vanishing Point, Smokey & The Bandit, Cannonball Run and old McQueen/Reynolds muscle car fluff. They also pulled it off on a budget of two million and most of that went to securing music rights, so what we have onscreen is a barebones, character driven, practical effects based screwball action comedy that just hits the spot. Shepherd is Charles Bronson, (picked for the famous British delinquent inmate, not the tough guy movie star) his chosen name in the witness protection program after testifying against his former bank robbing crew whom he was getaway driver for. When his wife gets a hotshot job in LA he’s forced to rear his head, her asshole ex boyfriend (Lex Luthor from Smallville) stalks them along the highway, they’re also pursued by his clumsy dipshit federal marshal case worker (Tom Arnold) and soon his old partner (Bradley Cooper) catches wind and it’s all one ridiculously cluttered, madcap extended chase sequence that’s is somehow totally nuts yet follows a cohesive plot in the same breath. Dax and Kristen anchor it, you can tell they are together in real life because sparks literally fly in any dialogue scene scripted or improvised, and there’s a ton of the latter speckled throughout the film. Tom Arnold does his wacky klutz routine, sometimes to effect and sometimes seeming just like a prop that trips over other props. Bradley Cooper steals the fucking show with greasy dreadlocks, a volatile bitch of a girlfriend (Joy Bryant) and enough homicidal attitude to spare, whether violently berating a guy twice his size for buying cheap dog food or lamenting the fact that he got ‘butt fucked’ in jail, after which Dax and Kristen have a guessing marathon as to the ethnicity of his rapist in the films funniest sequence. There’s colourful supporting work from Kristen Chenowith, David Koechner, Ryan Hansen, Beau Bridges and a couple juicy last minute cameos from big names I won’t spoil. This is easy breezy R rated comedy fun at its best with a fast, loose and organic feel, it barrels by briskly, brings tons of laughs and even gets a few quick sweet moments in too. Good stuff.
I’d love to have been in the studio executives office to hear the pitch for Bubble Boy: “Okay so basically Jake Gyllenhaal is this kid who lives in a plastic bubble, he’s on a road trip and there’s also a travelling freak show owned by Mini Me from Austin Powers, a singing cult led by Fabio, Asian mud wrestling, twin incontinent geriatric pilots named Pippy and Pappy, a motorcycle gang headed up by Danny Trejo, an Indian who drives a food truck serving ‘Ice cream… and curry’” …if I were the exec in charge I’d have no choice but to green light the thing just for the balls they had to bring it to me. Like how do you say no to all that? Real talk though, this film was actually pretty special, and I mean that sincerely. Yes, it’s this kind of surreal, John Waters-esque parade of uproarious and seemingly arbitrary commotion anchored only by Gyllenhaal’s naive, oddball hero but there’s a message sewn into all that madness too that’s actually really sweet and astute. Born without a self generated immune system, Bubble Boy is kept at home in a pristine plastic environment by his overbearing, Jesus freak mom (Swoosie Kurtz), until he falls in love with the girl next door (Marley Shelton). When she runs off with plans to marry a preening douchebag (Dave Sheridan), he constructs that amazing bubble suit and and it’s off on a bizarre cross country race to find her and fix the misunderstandings of their relationship before she gets married. Things get a little… random along the way and his mom takes hot pursuit with his dad (John Carroll Lynch, excellent) in tow. It may all seem like noise and confusion but there’s a real theme of escaping one’s own personal prison going on beneath the surface. Gyllenhaal has left his eternal quarantine and headed out into the great unknown but in a sense each character he meets is in their own bubble of sorts, stunted by belief, circumstance, past trauma or just lunacy. Trejo is terrific as the rambunctious biker who pines for his lost love and will do anything for Bubble Boy, who he considers his ‘Vato.’ The circus show and all its members (which include the varied likes of Matthew McGrory and Lester ‘Beetlejuice’ Green) are a self ostracized bunch who don’t value their own worth until put to the test. Hell, even a cross country bus ticket vendor played by Zach Galifinakis sits resolute and awkward inside his booth, perplexed at sights he observes around him and unable to engage with the world. When mom catches up to Bubble Boy just when he’s about to reach Niagara Falls and wants to yank him home, Carroll Lynch as his dad gets the subtly subversive, beautiful line of dialogue: “What if Neil Armstrong travelled all that way just to *not* walk on the moon.” This is a balls out comedy peppered with delightfully weird shit but it’s also a film about questioning one’s reality, breaking boundaries imposed by whatever system governs you and finding a place in this world, which I promise you is far more strange than anything any screenwriter could ever dream up. Absolutely great film.
My expectations weren’t super high for Joe Dirt and they were not only met but surpassed. This is one charming, hilarious, comfortingly juvenile exercise in spoofing the Mountain Dew monster truck crowd and I loved it to bits. Usually when I see David Spade onscreen I ball up my fists and get ready to swing but here he makes sly work of a good natured simpleton with the world’s most epic mullet. Joe was left at the Grand Canyon when he was eight years old by his dummy parents, and has been wondering the States ever since, looking for them. He explains all this in flashbacks and regales an incredibly cynical radio DJ (Dennis Miller) with his adventures with all the strange people he meets, and let me tell you that strange is a fucking understatement. He befriends a mega hottie (Brittany Daniels) who is head over heels for him while he’s too oblivious to notice. He joins forces with a Native American entrepreneur (Adam Beach) who sells fireworks but not the kind that anyone wants to buy. He shacks up with a bubblegum blonde babe (Jaime Pressley) who may or may not be his long lost sister, which is an extra turn-on for him. Christopher Walken steals the goddamn show (as he always does) as Clem, a janitorial kingpin with serious dance moves and the absolute funniest line in the film, you’ll know the one I’m talking about. Other memorable and very hyperactive work is put forth by Erik Per Sullivan, Caroline Aaron, Fred Ward, Tyler Mane, Richard Rhiele, Eddie Money, Carson Daly, Kevin Nealon, Joe Don Baker, Rosanna Arquette and, uh, Kid Rock just for the hell of it. This is about as silly as comedies get and I laughed like a loon almost the whole way through. Spade makes a great underdog hero in a story that puts him through a ringer of alienation, loneliness and embarrassment but ultimately gives him the happy ending he deserves and the overall narrative is quite sweet. Great film.
There’s two questions I get asked a lot when discussing films and they’re a) what is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen (to which I usually answer Blair Witch Project) and b) what is the funniest movie you’ve ever seen. It’s interesting how subjective these two specific genres are, and how impossible it is to please an entire demographic with just one film. Anyways that second question is a tough cookie but after some thought I’d most likely go with Austin Powers In Goldmember which really is solid gold and probably the most fucking funny thing in existence. It’s my favourite of the trilogy and arguably the best, right down to the little moments that seal the deal. It opens with a stunning Bruckheimer’s Bond type action sequence where we get the hilariously meta sight of Tom Cruise as Austin, Gwenyth Paltrow as (snigger) ‘Dixie Normous’, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil and best of all Danny Devito as Mini Me. It’s that kind of inspiration that one ups the other two films and goes the extra mile in making this the literal gold standard. Also… how effing hot is Beyoncé in this? Foxy Cleopatra is by far the best Powers babe and even puts a bunch of 007 vixens to shame. Honestly though the funniest part for me is Dr. Evil, a sublimely funny character whose speech patterns, ADHD shenanigans, bizarre recounting of his childhood and relentless abuse of his awkward son (Seth Green) just steals the show, man. Not to mention Fat Bastard, also played by Mike Meyers doing quadruple duty this time around. His in-depth analysis of an enormous fart has to be the pinnacle: “Even stink would say that stinks.” Off the top of my head I can think of countless elements that play part in making this my favourite comedy: Mini Me’s massive schlong (“It’s like a baby’s arm holding an apple”), the disturbingly raunchy shadow puppets, Dr. Evil’s MTV motivated prison break, Steven Spielberg doing cartwheels, Meyer’s uproarious ‘Dutch’ accent, Michael Caine’s super horny mega spy Nigel Powers and everyone laughing hysterically at Austin when he fails to show up to his knighting ceremony, the running montage of dick jokes that now pivots into boob jokes narrated by a host of silly celebrity cameos too abundant to check off here, Austin’s groovy hit single ‘Daddy Wasn’t There’, Britney Spears as a FemBot, a sneaky John Travolta, man the list just goes fucking on and on. The film has a loose way about it and is pretty off the wall regarding any sensible plot and as such I’ve kind of just made this a stream of consciousness thing about how dope this movie is rather than an actual review, plus I’m tired and lazy as shit today and don’t feel like writing any kind of structured review. So there you go, the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. The next big question I always get is ‘Will they ever make an Austin Powers 4?’ Well I’m not involved in Hollywood whatsoever and as such have no fucking clue. But never say never, I mean in this age of nostalgia we’ve gotten sequels to Dumb & Dumber, Bill & Ted, Bad Boys, Men In Black and more decades after the fact, so we’ll see. I will say that if Meyers & Co. do decide to go for it, they’ve set the bar intimidatingly high with Goldmember and better all bring their fucking Eh Game.
Video games, weed, Kung fu monkeys, lions, immature man children, sweet old ladies, topless chicks, toilet humour, Grandma’s Boy has it all and has to be one of the funniest films ever made, provided all that and more is your thing. Produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison label and starring many of his seemingly inexhaustible entourage, this is one comedy that knows how to cut loose, party the fuck up and kick back for ninety minutes of stoned, drunken, nerdy blissful mayhem. Allen Covert (he was the homeless bum turned caddy in Happy Gilmore) is 35 year old video game tester Alex, who hits rock bottom after being evicted by his asshole landlord (Rob Schneider in Eastern European mode). With nowhere to go he moves in with his lovable grandma (Doris Roberts) and her two friends, potty mouthed tart Shirley Jones and drugged out kook Shirley Knight. The plot here is pretty loose and that kind of leaves breathing room for various set pieces, comedic bits and one massive house party where grandma gets royally stoned. The cast is stacked with recognizable talent including the always lovely Linda Cardellini as a foxy new colleague Alex crushes on, Nick Swardson, Jonah Hill, Kevin Nealon, Peter Dante, Joel David Moore as a terminally awkward video game coder and David Spade as the world’s sassiest vegan restaurant waiter. I mean some would call this lowbrow trash and I won’t argue but if your brain is in the right spot it’s a relentlessly funny film that hardly lets you breathe between laughing. Doris Roberts has so much fun in the role and knows how to send up her own image, Cardellini is just so damn adorable in anything, Nealon has a blast as their hippy dippy CEO and the whole thing is packed with inspiration, from chimpanzee karate fights to dance dance revolution showdowns to a thirteen hour titty sucking marathon that serves as Jonah Hill’s initiation into the industry of sorts. Don’t bring your brain to this one, just come ready to chill with these childish video game stoner idiots for a while and you’ll be hugely rewarded.
In most movies The Devil is a dude, but what if ol’ scratch appeared as a super attractive girl, namely Elizabeth Hurley? The power of persuasion would be given a significant boost as it does for Brendan Fraser’s Elliott, a hapless schmuck with no friends and no girlfriend. Harold Ramis’s Bedazzled is a lighthearted, irrelevant piece of leisure that doesn’t take itself too seriously or think too hard about its central premise, and nor should the viewer. Fraser is a whirlwind of physical comedy, beginning Elliot’s arc as one of those horrifically animated dweebs who everyone in the workplace avoids. When Hurley’s smokin’ hot Satan tags him as the perfect sap, he’s given seven wishes in exchange for his soul and the opportunity to win over a colleague (Frances O’Connor) who he has always loved. Cue a series of increasingly hysterical vignettes in which he tries his best to distill just what it is that girls find attractive while Hurley keeps cleverly sabotaging his efforts and making things go wrong, sardonically commenting on his plight from a female perspective. This is a very entertaining experience because Fraser, ever a cartoonish comic dynamo, gets to play like seven different characters including a ‘sensitive’ ginger, a flamboyant intellectual, Colombian drug lord and, my favourite, a seven foot tall NBA player complete with white dude black guy hair. There’s also a sweet, happy last minute ending that some say is tacked on but honestly Elliott, despite being a bit of a doorknob, is an ultimately very sweet guy who learns along the way exactly what the would might be and that it ain’t worth trading for nothing, he kind of deserves a a kickback after all that. I’m aware this is a remake and haven’t seen the 60’s version but will get to it, but found this quite the fun film!
The Farrelly Brothers have always intentionally made comedies that walk an ever so fine line between being mean and good natured, whether it’s delightfully offensive (Me Myself & Irene) or benignly reined in (Stuck On You). They just understand and have this certain symbiosis with off colour humour and the fact that most of the films would be boycotted out of the theatres in this age of hysterical hyper sensitivity is a fair reminder that jokes are just jokes, everything is fair game or nothing is fair game and hey, fat jokes are just plain hilarious in the right dosage. Shallow Hal was a pleasant surprise for me, it’s their most compassionate and mature film while still retaining that edge where you’re not sure if they’re laughing at the disabled, blind, fat, deaf or what have you or with them. They’re laughing with them.
Jack Black is Hal, a man whose dying father (Bruce McGill) imparted words of wisdom to him on his deathbed at the age of nine, telling him to never ‘settle for average poon tang’ and always go for ‘hot young tail.’ Well you can imagine how that could fuck with someone’s head at that age and as such he grows up into a superficial snob who looks at women with skin deep lenses and has no use for anything but physical attraction. After he’s stuck in an elevator with self help guru Tony Robbins (self help guru Tony Robbins) and given a little hypnotic boost he can now only see inner beauty in anyone he looks at, and vice versa. When he meets three hundred pound Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) he perceives a slim supermodel type while everyone around him can behold the real thing. It’s a tricky concept that you shouldn’t put too much thought into lest you think too hard and logic sets in but it’s a breezy film that is more interested in the implications of its concept rather than semantics.
Black is good enough in his first big time starring role and the Farrelly’s populate the film with an ever eclectic bunch of people like Joe Viterelli, Susan Ward, Kyle Gass and Jason Alexander as Hal’s asshole buddy who..ah… well I won’t spoil it but it’s a classic Farrelly sight gag. It’s actually Paltrow that grounds this thing though, the film has great compassion for her character despite ruthlessly making fun of her the whole time and like I said it’s a very fine line but it somehow works. She’s very aware of her weight, her situation and even cracks self deprecating jokes. She’s smart, funny, caring, compassionate and the film asks you to see those qualities set apart from her physical appearance. The best scene in the film sees Hal visit a children’s burn ward for the second time. Of course the first time he went he couldn’t see their obvious scars and as such treated them as he would any other adorable kid. When the spell Robbins put on him is lifted and he can see everything again a small girl who he played with last time approaches him and wonders why he hasn’t visited since. Of course he can see her scars now and doesn’t immediately recognize her, but when she reminds him of her name and he does… well it’s the sweetest, most honest moment of the film and hits the main point home hard. (Also the only time in any Farrelly film I’ve teared up by the way, but shhh). So the film has this irreverence that’s always there in their work, this cheerful aim to make fun of things you’re ‘not supposed to laugh’ at. Anything out there is to laugh at though and that’s just the way the world works. The film understands this as well as compassion, perspective, understanding, character while still being an off the wall, bonkers comedy and I loved it for that.