Uncle Drew Review

Over the years, there have been many humorous sports movies. I’ve laughed at everything from Dodgeball to Caddyshack to Major League. I even love Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Whether it is focusing on the players or the fans, there is something about the intensity of sports that can provide great fodder for laughs. Unfortunately for Uncle Drew, the writing fails to live up to this tradition of funny sports movies and it failed to make me laugh more than a passing chuckle. The film is based on a series of Pepsi ads and that’s where it should have stayed.

Uncle Drew stars Lil Rel Howery as Dax, a man who grew up in an orphanage with nothing to inspire him but the NBA. Unfortunately, as a teen, he has an embarrassing defeat on the basketball court at the hands of rival Mookie, played by Nick Kroll. As revenge, Dax becomes a coach and decides to enter a team in the streetball  tournament called The Rucker Classic.

After a long introduction, Dax ends up without a team and he begrudgingly recruits a local legend, Uncle Drew, to join his roster. Drew, played by Kyrie Irving (just like in the Pepsi ads), then gathers his senior citizen friends including Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie to join the team. The first hour of the film is Dax being introduced to the characters who have a variety of old people problems – one is blind, one is in a wheelchair, one has a grudge against Drew, etc. None of this was interesting and it certainly wasn’t funny. There is even an especially egregious scene where Preacher (Chris Webber) is baptizing an infant and it is swapped out for a doll and then close-ups of the baby in the most awkward ways. I was cringing during the entire scene.

Eventually we get to the big game and it plays out fairly predictably. As I was leaving the theater, a woman was saying, “it was a love letter to basketball,” so clearly the sentiment paid off for her but, as only a marginal basketball fan, I wasn’t moved by the story.

However, the biggest strength to Uncle Drew is the makeup. They do a very good job making Kyrie Irving and company look old. It doesn’t look like prosthetics and feels convincing.

Other than that. Uncle Drew is not for me. The biggest problem is none of the jokes landed. I laughed one time at a joke about the Chris Webber character. That’s it. I realize humor is subjective but my theater had nothing but a few courtesy chuckles. So I wasn’t the only one not laughing.

Also a few characters meant to be funny came across as very irritating. I realize, for example, Nick Kroll is meant to be an antagonist but he was extremely grating as Dax’s rival. More annoying was that ‘humor,’ often in supposed comedies, when characters complaining about each other is supposed to be funny. All that does is make your characters shrill and unlikable. You see this a lot with the nagging female trope; it’s not funny and usually comes across as more than a little sexist. Tiffany Haddish is billed as a lead character but she’s really not in the film much and was an overbearing harpy the entire time. It certainly didn’t make me laugh. 

In fairness, the basketball stars all do a serviceable job with what is given to them. There is a particularly nice moment of reconciliation between Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal that is well done and sweet.

Despite some positives, Uncle Drew just wasn’t funny. It was always an uphill climb to transform a 30 second Super Bowl ad into a feature film but with a good script this could have worked. Sadly, it was a bit of a chore to sit through and one of the worst studio films I’ve seen this year. As they say, “funny solves all” and this was depressingly lacking in funny.

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I Feel Pretty Review

Last night I had the chance to see the latest Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty. I walked into the theater having only heard negative reviews but trying to have an open mind as usual. I also had no bias against Amy Schumer as this is the first movie or TV show I’ve seen her in. What was my response? Well, I am happy to say I really enjoyed I Feel Pretty. It is a sweet and consistently funny romantic comedy film that I think critics are being way to harsh on.

The conceit of I Feel Pretty reminded me of a Penny Marshall film from the 90s. In fact, they even show a clip of Marshall’s film BIG, which inspires some of the magic that takes place.

Amy Schumer plays a 30-something woman named Renee who is happy enough with a boring but decent job and a nice group of friends; however, she has settled on not trying for the great life she wants because of massive insecurities she feels about her appearance.

Some have criticized I Feel Pretty and claimed it is ‘fat shaming’ given Amy Schumer is only overweight by Hollywood standards. However, I disagree. The film is not saying that Schumer is fat. They are saying that Renee feels insecure about her entire body. She feels insecure about her skin, hair, clothes, weight everything. In contrast, I Feel Pretty also shows women who are bigger than Schumer who do not struggle as much with body imaging and women slimmer that have their own insecurities, so I found it to be quite accurate to the struggles most women have.

I loved Aidy Bryant (who was also great in The Big Sick) and Busy Phillips as her best friends. They were not as insecure as Renee but still had their own struggles. I also like that they told her the truth when she is too much of a diva on them. They in many ways were the most confident characters of the movie.

There have been many body-switching comedies over the years (a favorite genre of mine) but one thing I liked that I Feel Pretty does differently than most is they never actually body swap. We never see the beautiful woman that Renee is seeing in the mirror. This is an improvement upon films like Shallow Hal where we see Gwyneth Paltrow in the fat suit and then her beautiful self. Seeing Renee feeling confident, empowered and beautiful as just Renee helped convey the message that she was the best version of herself all along.

There are a couple of scenes where Renee is shown as too fat to ride a bike at a gym that are a little over-the-top, but I didn’t care as they worked into the plot quite nicely.

I really liked Rory Scovel as Ethan, the new boyfriend Renee gets because of her confidence. She assumes she is way above him and that’s impresses him. He’s the one who is shy and insecure and a confident Renee teaches him to loosen up. I thought they had pretty good chemistry and were sweet together.

Michelle Williams is practically unrecognizable as a cosmetic heiress who is insecure about her voice and who envies Renee’s speaking abilities and innovative ideas. I’m so used to seeing her as an indie darling that it was fun to see her flex her comedic chops again.

My only criticisms are minor. I kind of wish they hadn’t set the movie in the fashion world because it created a strange dynamic. Renee is confident because she believes she is beautiful but at the same time the very industry she is working for is partly responsible for her lack of confidence in the first place. At the end there is a rousing speech but it would have been more inspiring if it wasn’t also a product pitch for makeup. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

But overall, I thought I Feel Pretty was charming. It made me laugh a lot and the message was very sweet.If I had a teenage daughter I would take her to see this film, and I think we would have a lot of laughs. We would also talk about the importance of confidence and how no matter what we look like we have value to God and this world. It worked for me! I guess you could say I feel pretty 🙂

There is some nudity and sensuality and a little language. PG-13 film.

Overall Grade- B+

Pitch Perfect 3 Review (Some Spoilers)

Let me start by saying to most people Pitch Perfect 3 is just a lame comedy but to me it hurt my heart quite a bit. I don’t have many live action comedies I like these days. Most are so vulgar and obscene that I don’t even bother seeing them let alone loving them. However, the original Pitch Perfect was an exception to this rule. It was funny, empowering and had some great music, and I loved it so much.

I went to a college where acapella music was kind of a big deal, so that music will always be nostalgic for me, but even beyond that nostalgia these girls were good singers, and the arrangements were creative. I also loved the characters particularly Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy who wasn’t just a fat joke but owned who she was and was hilariously self-confident. Anyway, I loved the first movie and it will always be special to me.

And then there was the second movie, which I probably gave more of a pass to than I should have. It had just enough funny parts but it was a decent step down in quality. Of course, it made a ton of money so we all knew there would be a Pitch Perfect 3 . Honestly, the resulting film is not a pretty scene you guys.

Pitch Perfect 3 kind of sucks and it makes me really sad.

The cast of the Bellas are all back and they are all trying. There is chemistry there and some of the singing is good (but a little boring this time). The problem is the plot is super weak and it’s not funny at all. I don’t know what they were thinking with this story. I felt embarrassed for these actors especially John Lithgow who should be banned from Australia with the accent he tries to pull off.

Basically the Bellas reunite and go on a USO tour which is also a competition for some rapper. Most of that is very boring with terrible jokes sprinkled in usually about how fat Amy is. Fat Amy has gone from empowering to a complete joke. Then in a completely baffling second act the girls get abducted and Fat Amy becomes an action hero taking out bad guys with karate chops. I just sat there thinking ‘what have you done with my sweet little comedy?”

All of the relationships from the previous films are abandoned except for the Bellas and Becca (Anna Kendrick) immediately abandons her dreams of producing music because pop stars are difficult to work with- what the heck? There was never any sense of her wanting to be a solo singer or that being a dream of hers in the previous films. Literally she doesn’t even want to join the bellas because it will detract from her producing work.

But all of that wouldn’t matter if it was funny but the humor was insultingly bad. They don’t even get any laughs from Gail and John commentating. It just sucks. My advice is to buy the album and listen to a few songs and watch the first movie again. Pitch Perfect 3 deserves to be pitched in the trash. To use a pun from the movie- it is acaterrible.

Blind Spot 21: Manhattan

I went into this month’s Blind spot pick, Manhattan, with kind of low expectations. Despite it being a well regarded film amongst critics and film snobs nobody I know seems to like it much. So perhaps it was these low expectations that left me feeling surprised at how much I liked it. Manhattan is a funny look at how we ruin things by idolizing them. Whether it be relationships, sex, art, literature or even New York City itself, when we place things on a pedestal we take the joy out of what we are admiring.

I can see why many don’t like Manhattan. It has Woody Allen’s classic mannerisms which can be annoying to some. It also has him in a relationship with a 17 year old which can be awkward especially with Woody Allen’s own background.

My favorite part of Manhattan is the script. It shows how ridiculous we are when we love something (or are infatuated). This scene I particularly loved when the group of pedantics are criticizing everything they think is ‘overrated’.

There were a lot of scenes like that which made me laugh and could have been easily criticizing modern internet culture today  just as much as New Yorkers in 1979. These people are trying so hard to appear smart that  it is funny.

Manhattan is also a beautiful movie with amazing black and white photography. I think it is even more stunning than Annie Hall. I don’t know if I can think of a Woody Allen film that looks as good. Maybe Midnight in Paris but this might be even better.

We also see this idolization with Meryl Streep’s character who was Woody Allen’s ex but left him to be with a woman. She looks stunning in this film but she is writing a whole memoir on her relationship with Allen. This is definitely Allen puffing his own ego up but it is also about how we place past relationships on a pedestal and puff them up to protect us from new pain.

My only big problem with Manhattan is I never felt invested in the romance with Mariel Hemingway. She is so sincere and he is more than a little creepy. I think that is intentional but it also wasn’t as funny as scenes with Diane Keaton and others.

In the end Manhattan is about looking at things in our lives the way they really are and taking off the rose colored glasses. But not only that- it shows how silly we all are with those glasses on.

If you would like to purchase Manhattan click here

Overall Grade- A-

PS I didn’t even think of the fact I watched Manhattan on 9/11. How perfect 

The Big Sick Review

It’s late but I wanted to quickly let you guys know about a delightful movie I just saw called The Big Sick. I’d heard good things about it but it honestly exceeded my expectations and is without a doubt one of my favorites of the year and one of the best comedies (not just romcoms) I’ve seen in a long time. It’s one of the few movies of recent memory that I have no negatives on.

Part of what makes The Big Sick work so well is it is based on a true story of lead actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife Emily Gordon. This gives a warmth and heart to the movie that makes it feel very special. Zoe Kazan steps in to play Emily and the chemistry is effortless and easy to believe.

The script is a real star. There is a bit of profanity but it feels natural to the characters and how they would talk. Kumail is trying to be a stand up comic and at the same time deal with his strict Pakistani parents who are constantly trying to match him with a bride. The dialogue between all involved feels natural and hilarious while never being crass or vulgar.

I loved all the supporting performances but I honestly think Ray Ramano and Holly Hunter are nomination worthy as Emily’s parents. I wouldn’t mind seeing a whole movie just about their characters. There are so many ways they could have been cliches but they felt like actual unique human beings.

I also loved how it handled Kumail’s family and didn’t patronize them or turn them into caricatures as would have been easy to do. Coming from a strict religious family I related quite strongly to them and the situation Kumail was going through. It was handled just right! His stand up friends were also great. It was simply awesome!

There obviously is an illness involved but I will let you find that all out on your own. This movie made me laugh. It made me cry and it was a very late showing I was engrossed the entire time. I LOVED it!!

Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Overall Grade – A+

GO SEE IT!!

Blind Spot 17: Duck Soup

Ah how great it is to see terrific comedy! It’s the best to sit back, relax and heartily laugh at a good movie. Unfortunately it’s an experience that doesn’t happen too often these days. Now most comedies are so raunchy that I either chose to not watch them or they aren’t my style of humor. So, you can imagine my enjoyment when I put on this month’s blind spot pick, Duck Soup, and laughed good and hard! Duck Soup is a classic comedy and with good cause. Especially if you like physical comedy it doesn’t get better than this.

Duck Soup stars the Marx Brothers- Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo and evidently this is their crowning achievement. I read dictator Benito Mussolini took the movie as a personal insult and banned it from Italy! You know you are doing something right if a dictator bans your movie!

The plot for Duck Soup is pretty basic. Groucho plays a man who is put in charge of a small country named Freedonia. They are a nation of great pomp and circumstance and much is made about their need for decorum. Meanwhile Chico and Harpo are sent as spies to look into the situation and see what Freedonia is up to. Zeppo plays Groucho’s secretary and kind of the straight man role in the story. Quickly all kinds of mayhem erupts involving war, love and politics.

You don’t see a movie like Duck Soup for the plot. It’s about the hilarious gags. What’s impressive here is they manage to be funny with both physical comedy and political commentary. I love how expressive each of the brothers are and how you can read so much through their eyes and facial expressions.

This scene with a lemonade vendor is hilarious:

I particularly like Harpo and how innocent and sweet he is. Don’t you just want to hug him? What he is able to do with a simple hat to get laughs is remarkable.

But Duck Soup can also be very funny in the political commentary especially if you think about its release date in the 1933 when trouble was brewing in Europe. The insanity of such political negotiations and the egos involved is skewered so well in scenes like this one-

It’s so funny when he goes in seconds from welcoming the idea of diplomacy to ‘who does he think he is? That he come here and make a sap out of me in front of my people’. I have a feeling it might not be that far off of actual diplomacy (I try to not think about that too hard these days! Politicians and the egos involved is a scary thought).

Duck Soup is only an 69 minutes so it’s not much of an investment of time but boy is it rewarding. I laughed from start to finish and it wasn’t the kind of mean spirited raunchy comedy you get today. It can be a little bawdy but all in good fun. I have seen one other Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business and I think Duck Soup is much funnier than that.

I know some children might be intimidated by black and white but comedies can often be good ways to introduce them. Duck Soup would be great for that. I think they will love it especially Chico and Harpo as the 2 spies. Hilarious.

I just loved this movie!  The only flaw I suppose is maybe 2 of the musical numbers go on a little long. Other than that one of the great comedies without question.

Overall Grade- A+


Table 19 Review

table-19You know that wedding you attend when you don’t know anyone but the couple and so you sit there in awkward boredom with nobody to talk too? Well, that is basically the experience of the new comedy Table 19. It tries to be a mash-up of Breakfast Club and My Best Friends Wedding but without the good writing or likable performances of those films. Certain story elements are super cliched and most of the jokes are ‘look how quirky we are’ and not funny. Mostly I was just super bored.

table-19-2The movie is about a woman named Eloise played by Anna Kendrick who is attending a wedding of a friend who’s brother she recently broke up with. As the recently broken up, she ends up at the table with 5 other outcasts that were invited more out of politeness than actually expecting them to come.

table-19-4We then get 87 minutes of their quirky adventures that aren’t funny or insightful and that feel much longer. The only characters I liked were a couple played by Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson. I wish the movie had been about them. Everyone else felt completely cliched and lame like right out of a bad sitcom.

table-19-3The script is also very lazy. Like Thomas Cocurquel is introduced as a love interest named Huck but then he kind of disappears. We also learn something about June Squibb’s character that is kind of forgotten about quickly after. Like I said, only Robinson and Kudrow have interesting characters or fleshed out stories.

This makes the resolution for all the characters feel trite and bland despite the best efforts of the actors.

There was honestly only one joke that made me laugh. It involves Lisa Kudrow’s jacket. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a comedy when the jacket joke is the only laugh.

This is a definite skip.

Overall Grade- D+ not worse just for Kudrow and Robinson.

As far as content there is a brief shot of a butt twice and some profanity and drug use but it’s pretty tame

Blind Spot 5: The Jerk

jerk3There are few films that leave me speechless- The Jerk is one of them.  I honestly don’t know what to say. I can’t decide whether it is brilliant or horrible. It certainly succeeds in being a comedy like no other.

jerkI guess you’d call The Jerk an absurdist comedy but it’s kind of making fun of the ‘down on his luck’ biographical narrative we often see in dramatic films.  For example, some of the best laughs come at the beginning when Steve Martin’s Navin finds out he is adopted in his black sharecropping family. These scenes are very non-PC and the film goes for it and it made me laugh. Lines like this I thought were funny:

Taj: “You wanna, wanna come in and sing some blues?” Navin: “No thanks Taj. There’s something about those songs. They depress me.”

Navin ends up hearing ‘crazy rhythm’ on the radio and goes to St Louis to find where the song was broadcast from. He gets a job working for Jackie Mason’s Harry Hartounian and is thrilled when his name is in the phone book.

the-jerk-snipe3Unfortunately a crazy sniper picks his name randomly out of that book to shoot but Navin evades. All of this is bizarre and mostly made me laugh.

He then ends up meeting a tough carnie woman named Patty who teaches him about his “special purpose” and then meets Bernadette Peters’ Marie who is a sweet yet shallow woman. A lot of this humor involving the women was more awkward than funny but maybe that is just my more traditional values when it comes to humor.

jerk5A lot of this movie in fact was more awkward than funny. It kind of reminded me of the first Meet the Parents where I was laughing but also cringing the entire time. I can’t decide whether I like that kind of comedy or hate it.

jerk4In a way The Jerk had the feel of a silent movie but raunchier. He starts out wide eyed and gullible and ends up a world- weary hobo. Some of the jokes really work but a lot fell flat for me. I don’t know. It’s a hard one to judge. It’s one I can see myself liking the more I see it.

Anyway, I can’t really recommend The Jerk because it is so uneven but if it sounds like something you’d like than you’ll probably like it. If it doesn’t than you might hate it. It’s just a strange little movie.

Overall Grade- C

Zoolander 2 Review

zoolander2 posterSince I will not be seeing the big release this weekend it left to me to see the other comedy, Zoolander 2.

I actually hadn’t seen the original Zoolander until last week and I wasn’t that impressed.  In my opinion it is a one joke movie.  Most of the gags involve subverting gender norms and men doing stuff that is typically done by women.  Even the famous blue steel from Zoolander is basically a joke on the pouty face done by female models.

That said, there are some laughs in Zoolander, and I thought there were some laughs in Zoolander 2. I know I am in the minority if you look at rotten tomatoes but comedy is subjective and I can’t deny when I laugh.

Here is my youtube review

If you don’t know Zoolander is about a male supermodel named Derek Zoolander played by Ben Stiller.  He comes up in the first one against a designer named Mugatu played by Will Ferrell and a fellow model Hansel played by Owen Wilson.

zoolander4

So this time around Zoolander and Hansel have become exiled and get drawn back into the fashion world to find Derek’s son.  They end up meeting up with Valentina played by Penelope Cruz who is investigating the death of pop star like Justin Bieber.

zoolander3

To say Zoolander 2 is stupid kind of goes without saying.  Of course it is stupid.  But the chemistry between Hansel and Zoolander made me laugh and I thought some of the gags worked.  Particularly the cameos which were bountiful I thought were often funny.  There was a cameo with Kiefer Sutherland that especially made me laugh.

In some ways I liked it a little bit better than the first one because the jokes were more all over the place and not just one-note like the first.  Neither are comic masterpieces but I can’t deny when something made me laugh.

Zoolander 2 made me laugh, so there you go.

Overall Grade- C