My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Review)

greek wedding2Guys I feel genuinely sad. While everyone else is bummed out over an underwhelming Batman v Superman this weekend, I’m sad about My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  It kind of broke my heart. 🙁

I love the original Greek Wedding from 2002.  It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time.  Why does it work?  Because it is focused on one character Toula and her becoming an independent woman and getting married.  Along for the ride are her parents and crazy family.   The writing is funny and most people with loud obnoxious families can relate to what Toula goes through.  I certainly could.

So now all these years later we get a sequel and like  most comedy sequels it is a disaster.  Whether it be Dumb and Dumber 2, Zoolander 2, Caddyshack 2, most comedy sequels suck.

greek wedding3What did Greek Wedding 2 get wrong?  Well…

To begin with it decides to not focus on one person’s story but it splits up the focus on a variety of subplots.  We get Toula and her stale marriage, her daughter Paris going to prom, Paris deciding what college to go to, her parents finding out they aren’t actually married, her cousin revealing he is gay, her father wanting to be related to Alexander the Great, her trying to plan her parents wedding etc.  The list goes on.

None of these plots are given ample time by the screenplay to grow and be more than a sitcom.  It’s like I could practically hear the laugh track in the background behind every situation.

They also take jokes we liked from the first film and run them into the ground.  For example, Toula’s Aunt Voula has a great joke in original about a growth on her neck.  Here we get 3 jokes about her body including one about having one working ovary. Another example is Toula’s father and his making all words Greek.  In the original you get it twice.  Here it is repeated over and over again.  Same thing with the windex and the awkward sex talk/ sex situations we get at least 3 times.  All of these jokes land with a thud.

greek wedding7They even bring back Toula getting taunted by the girls at school over her strange lunch from the first one.  I wanted to say ‘let it go!’  Toula had moved on from such nonsense and become a strong woman and it felt petty and kind of judgemental on her part.

As I was watching I got angrier and more irritated.  So much so, I almost considered walking out of the theater. It was such a disappointment to these characters I loved in the original.

The other problem is they forget that the crazy family antics were relatively spaced out in the original.  A ton of time is spent on Toula, her and Ian’s relationship, their courtship and nice quiet moments between Toula and her brother, mother/family etc.  The craziness made you laugh because it felt believable within the context of a wedding or big family event. Weddings are nuts for big families.  That’s believable.

greek wedding6Here it is so overdone.  For example, Paris has a college career fair at school and the entire family- cousins, aunts, uncles, all come.  This becomes annoying instead of funny because it no longer feels like a heightened version of reality.  I mean there are a lot of grandkids in that family and if everyone comes to every college fair/minor activity than they must not get much done.  It is believable for a wedding or big event, not every day life.

greek wedding5The other disappointment in the film is Nia Vardalos’ acting  She’s wooden for much of her line delivery and her and John Corbett seem to have lost the chemistry that made them so great in the original. Her responses are either bland or way over the top. It’s one extreme or the other.  There is a scene for instance when she out of nowhere unleashes at her neighbors who are watching the commotion next door.  It frankly felt bizarre.

Other elements don’t work like the wedding being stopped because Toula’s father is tipsy at the alter.  You just feel sad for Lainie Kazan’s Mother character and I think the movie wants us to laugh.  Either way we haven’t spent enough time with her character to be emotionally invested in the situation.  It just ends up feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

greek wedding4Another example is they are setting up for a wedding and out of nowhere a man tells the Joey Fatone character something like ‘well, at least he isn’t hiding any more’ and it turns out they are partners. There’s nothing wrong with that storyline in the film but it is literally shoehorned into a cleaning scene and then quickly dispensed of- leaving no laughter or emotion for the audience.

It’s like they thought they had to give everyone in the family (even the Grandma gets a storyline) a subplot so they all leave us under-served and frustrated.

But most importantly they didn’t make me laugh. Family hijinx aren’t in and of themselves funny.  It has to be balanced amid people we care about or it is just annoying and that is the case here.

Lainie Kazan does her darndest to squeeze some emotion out of her desire to be proposed to by her husband but again the movie doesn’t focus on her enough leaving me unmoved in the end.

Some people on my facebook liked the film and that’s cool but it really bummed me out.  I know technically speaking Norm of the North and The Choice are more poorly made movies but as far as disappointing me My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is the worst movie I’ve seen in 2016.

At the very least it begs the question- YOU HAD 1 JOB AND THIS WAS THE BEST YOU COULD DO AFTER 15 YEARS!!!!  Darn it all…

Overall Grade- F

The Intern Review

The Intern should have been a movie I loved.  As most of you know I love romantic comedies.  There aren’t very many made these days and I miss them.  The Intern isn’t really a romantic comedy but more of a friendship comedy but it has the lightness of the genre.  It is also a movie about work which is another favorite topic of mine in the movies.  (I think the movie may be getting more praise than it deserves because so few movies like this are made more than how great it actually is…)

Unfortunately, I ended up with really mixed feelings on this one. I explain why in my video review where I give a spoiler warning to give you time to stop watching if you want too.

There are things I liked in The Intern. Robert Deniro and Anne Hathaway are really charming in their roles.

Anne Hathaway’s Jules (a very romcomy name) felt to me like what Devil Wears Prada Andy might be doing at that phase of her life.  She has a daughter and her husband is a stay-at-home Dad.  She runs an internet startup company that is new and hip and overwhelming her life.

They decide to hire senior interns and Robert Deniro is bored with his life much like the guys in Walk in the Woods. So, he decides to apply and gets the job.  Showing up in a suit and tie and carrying a handkerchief for all girl crying moments (seriously) he charms his way into the hearts of the entire office.

internHe really charms the audience too.  He’s so likable and fun and it makes you wish you could hire a senior intern to help you and give you counsel whenever you need it…

However, that is also a weakness of the film.  He really becomes kind of a senior citizen superhero.  I’m all for having characters in movies that are good people but why not have one piece of advice he gives actually not apply to the new workplace?  Wouldn’t that have been an interesting dynamic for both characters to absorb and learn from?

intern19I really liked the scenes with him and the other young men in the office but I also thought they could be a bit patronizing.  Are young men really so stupid they need to be told to not show up for a new job in your pajamas?

intern8But they do work and I was charmed by them and I did laugh.  Where the movie really had problems for me was in the conflict and resolution in Jules’ personal life and with her marriage.  It is very spoilery but I go into it in a spoiler section in the video if you want to know.  Basically I didn’t buy the way it was all resolved.  I didn’t think it made sense for either character (both professionally and personally) and it was kind of a deal break for me on the film.

So I like things about it but I think it could have been much better.

Overall Grade- C

Rewrite Movie Review

The-Rewrite-movie-posterApril is just my month for liking movies that other people don’t like or that at least aren’t championed by many. That said movies like Jupiter Ascending and Longest Ride I enjoyed for what they were but didn’t love them. Now let me get behind a movie I really love that nobody saw called The Rewrite.  It is exactly the kind of movie I LOVE.

Nora Ephron is my literary muse.  I love her writing.  The little moments of commentary about books, movies, Starbucks, New York, whatever it is.  I love how funny her scripts are and yet her characters feel real and have moments of depth and compassion rarely captured in a light comedy.  I mention Ephron because The Rewrite was as close to a Nora Ephron movie I have seen since her passing in 2012.

Since 2012 very few romantic comedies have even been made let alone good one’s and for a huge fan of the genre it has been very sad. I miss going to the movies to feel good and be with people that I liked and who made me laugh.  I sincerely miss it, so that is part of the reason The Rewrite made me so excited.

rewrite 8It is perhaps appropriate a return to the romcom would star the key of the genre, Hugh Grant.  In The Rewrite he plays Keith Michaels an Oscar winning screenwriter who has fallen on hard times after the luster of his youthful career has faded (and his wife leaves him for the director of his big hit…).  He doesn’t have a relationship with his son, has no creative energy,  can’t get a script sold and is even considering a sequel to his Oscar winning film- something he said he would never do.

His agent played by Caroline Aaron convinces him to go and teach in a small town called Binghampton and having little else to do he agrees. Naturally he starts out feeling that teaching is beneath him and he dismisses class rationalizing that ‘talent can’t be taught so why waste everyone’s time’.

The cast is uniformly excellent with Marisa Tomei, JK Simmons, Allison  Janney, Chris Elliott, Bella Heathcote and more.

DSC_5395.NEFI particularly loved Janney who is an English professor who loves Jane Austen and has some very funny dialogue with Grant on that topic and many others.  It is especially funny because Hugh Grant was in a Jane Austen movie (Sense and Sensibility) so there are more than one winks to the audience in the script.

rewrite 4Simmons and Elliott are a lot of fun as fellow teachers.  Simmons is in love with his family.  He cries every time he mentions them.  Elliott is Grant’s neighbor and he has a lot of funny observations of those around him.

I loved the students and even though they are tropes they are well written tropes.  There’s the feminist girl, nerd, slut etc but they are funny and the scripts they are writing have a lot of good jokes that made me laugh (like the Bar Mitzvah gone wrong crossed with Dirty Dancing…).

rewrite 2Tomei is lovely as an older student in Grant’s class who is writing a script based on her life as a single Mom. They have terrific chemistry which is essential in this type of movie.

I have mostly male readers of this blog for some reason so I am sure most of you will probably discount this as a ‘chick flick’ and if you do that’s a shame.  It has so many funny lines about work, entertainment, pop culture, movies, writing, education etc.  It really reminded me of a Nora Ephron script and maybe even a lighter Woody Allen like Midnight in Paris.

All I know is this is exactly the kind of movie I love.  You might say it is the Rachel hat trick- funny, romantic, with a nice heart to it. If you are a writer or love movies I think you will particularly enjoy it.  Have an open mind and give it a shot.  If any of you do see it let me know what you think.

As far as content there is a little language and talk of an affair with a student although nothing is shown.

Overall Grade- A+  Content Grade- A

Movie 50: Tangled

Tangled_rapunzel_poster_20

“I am excited that with Tangled a whole new generation will have a Disney princess experience. I hope Disney keeps up the good work and doesn’t rely only on the brilliance of Pixar.”

That was my thoughts back in 2010 when I saw Tangled.  I loved it then, and I love it now.  Even though it won’t be my #1 movie, I have to admit if I made a movie, Tangled is the type of film I would like to make.

As Disney’s first attempt to make a romantic comedy (which I love. see my defense here),  I love everything about it.  It gets the opposites attract, romantic banter, witty dialogue, action, and terrific characters of a Princess Bride but then it adds beautiful music, tons of humor, gorgeous animation, and one of the great Disney villains.  I watched it again tonight but I really didn’t need to because I pull it out every couple of months and give it a watch.  It’s the best!

The Production-

There are a lot of reasons Tangled works so well and a lot of that has to go down to choices they made in production.  Remember how I said every choice they made in Brother Bear drove me crazy?  This is the exact opposite.

For starters, they went traditional fairytale, updated it a little but not as much as Princess and the Frog.  Most of the updates they chose had to do with making the film appeal more to boys instead of traditional Princess movies, and each of these choices makes it a stronger romantic comedy.

For example, Flynn narrates the film which means we get to see a lot of his character, making the romantic comedy tension all the more palpable and satisfying.  I can totally see Flynn being played by romantic comedy greats like a Cary Grant,  Matthew Mcconaughey, Harrison Ford or even Chris Pratt in Guardians- all suave and debonair but really good at heart. Classic and tough to pull off (Mcconaughey failed many times!)Flynn_Rider

We also get ruffians and thugs which appeal to both girls and boys and they are fabulous.

ruffians and thugs

They were so smart in the script also because Rapunzel is so likable.  She does her best to be optimistic and hopeful while basically being a terrified prisoner.  That is very likable person.  In some ways she is like Cinderella in that way.  She is also the ultimate homeschooler- self educated in every way 😉

rapunzel happy

And the villain, Mother Gothel, is one of Disney’s best.  Here Disney had the guts to make a mother evil, and not only that but she uses the very ‘maternal’ nature of mothering to manipulate her daughter.  If you really think about it it’s kind of twisted- brilliantly twisted!!

gothel and rapenuzelI don’t have any proof this but I wonder if they used Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods as inspiration particularly for Mother Gothel.

Into-The-WoodsIn the play Gothel (or the Witch) is even more manipulative and sings a song called Stay with Me to make sure Rapunzel knows how devastated she will be if she is left alone.  Another song is called The Witches Lament and I think you will see similarities between it and Mother Knows Best:

In the Sondheim version she is even kind of bitter with Rapunzel for not appreciating all she did for her.  A true sociopath. You get pieces of that in Mother Gothel with wicked humor I love!

The other thing about Mother Knows Best which makes it amazing is it is just 2 characters on a black background for most of the song and yet I am totally engrossed. That’s impressive!

The music was written by the great Alan Menken so no reason to assume he couldn’t have used Sondheim as an inspiration.  Lyrics are by Glenn Slater who also has a broadway background.

The rest of the songs feel more like The Lion King or Tarzan with a pop vibe but I really love them.

The fact Tangled wasn’t even nominated for Best Animated Film shows what a joke the Oscars really are.  I get why Toy Story 3 would win, and I love How to Train Your Dragon but they only nominated 3 films that year and they didn’t have room for Tangled?  The previous year they nominated 5!

The voice cast is all great with Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, and Jeffrey Tambor.

The Story-

I thought I would try something different for this review.  I found this video- the story of Tangled in 60 seconds and it basically does just that!

Let’s go over a few of the songs.

After our introduction to the story by Flynn, we meet Rapunzel with When Will My Life Begin and it does what Menken and Ashman used to do- like the song Belle in Beauty and the Beast it introduces a ton of narrative within the song, while creating an incredibly appealing lead character.  As an audience we feel connected to Rapunzel quickly.

Next is Mother’s Knows Best which I talked about before.  Flynn arrives and needs to make a deal with Rapunzel to get his satchel of a stolen crown back (classic romantic comedy plot device a bargain, deal, bet, swap gimmick to get story going and force leads to be together).

We also get introduced to Maximus, the rigid Kings guard horse, who is hilarious in his dogged behaviors and determination.

Maximus

Romantic comedies always have engaging side characters and for a story about a thief and a girl in a tower I think they came up with a lot of them and unlike Princess and the Frog they don’t make the movie feel cluttered but are included just enough.

Some of those side characters are the roughians and thugs which brings us our next great song I Had a Dream.  Perfection!

Eventually they break free and end up almost drowning, Flynn finds out about her hair and they finally make it to the lights.

lanterns

This scene with the lanterns is one of the best in all of Disney and in 3D it was breathtaking (I saw it twice in 3D and I have a lazy eye so I usually hate 3D!)

We then get a terrific final act with Mother Gothel continuing to manipulate Rapunzel. This Mother Knows Best Reprise is so chilling and well sung by Donna Murphy.

The ending is so well done and just like a good romantic comedy should we want things to work out so badly for Flynn and Rapunzel but it seems hopeless until the bitter end.  Flynn and Rapunzel understand each other better than any other Disney couple and I have more confidence in their marriage being a success.  It’s one of the great Disney couples.

ending rapunzel
The perfect way to end a romantic comedy with a couple laughing and kissing!

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I really have little criticism for this film.  As I’ve made abundantly clear in this review I love all the choices they made.  I love the romantic comedy storytelling.  I love Flynn and Rapunzel. I love the side characters and I LOVE the villain.

The music is great, animation stunning especially the lanterns, the humor all works.  I guess if I was going to nitpick I’d say the eyes could have been a little smaller.  That’s it.

For me it is a quick top 10 favorite and probably the Disney I could and do rewatch the most frequently.  I love it!

Overall Grade- A+

Oh and Disney is coming out with Into the Woods at Christmas I believe . Yippee!!