Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baby Mama (2008)

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There are very few comedies that be carried by two female leads into the realm of movie-lore. If there are two ladies up to the task, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, not even they are funny enough or consistent enough to take a film that starts behind the count from the title screen (Baby Mama? Awful) to such great heights. Written and directed by former Austin Powers and SNL writer Michael McCullers, Baby Mama is the story of Fey's character Kate, who cannot mother her own child and seeks Poehler's Angie to be the surrogate mother. The catch is the clash between Vice President, career woman Kate and trailer-dwelling, high school drop-out Angie in their effort to bring a healthy baby into the world. Literally everything that follows is exactly what everyone would expect. Every character, plot twist, scene, song, and situation is almost blatantly generic. Baby Mama is destined for USA/TNT re-runs and may have been more successful as a TV-movie. Despite the overwhelming flaws, Baby Mama contains a considerable number of laughs. Fey and Poehler are great on-screen together, and it's disappointing to see such talented actresses follow a huge laugh with a joke that has been recycled in twenty prior films. At times they look in prime form, but minutes later look like they know as well as the audience that the joke wasn't funny and appear to have a face that screams "I hope this doesn't make the final cut." It seems that if paired with a better writer or director, Fey and Poehler could make some good movies. The supporting cast is filled with big names which provide mostly average but some surprisingly funny performances. Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, and Sigourney Weaver are stale, but Steve Martin and Romany Malco (40 Year Old Virgin) do their best to give the film a bit of flavor. Not even a star-studded cast can save a bad story, particularly one loaded with horribly worn-out, stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, rednecks, and hippies plus odd references toward surrogacy, vegetarians, and other sectors of society. In the end, there are memorable laughs but only some women and huge Fey/Poehler fans will find it worth trudging through ninety minutes of blah to find them.

Good for: chick-flick fans, Tina Fey fans

Bad for: fans of Judd Apatow movies, 98% of the male population

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

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How is it possible that Judd Apatow slaps his name on multiple comedies per year and the well of hysterical, not-repetitive humor never runs dry? Yet again an Apatow produced film exceeds expectations; Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the funniest film of 2008 so far, that is until another Apatow film tops it. Although the producer extraordinare deserves his share of acclaim, the true stars of this film are the actors, including the star and writer of the film Jason Segel. Segel stars as Peter Bretter, the boyfriend of TV star Sarah Marshall. When Sarah dumps him and brings his life to a crashing halt, Peter goes to a personal hell and back (through Hawaii) to resurrect his life. The casting of the supporting characters by first time director Nicholas Stoller is brilliant. Apatow veterans Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Bill Hader are spot-on, as would be expected, and newcomers Mila Kunis (That Seventies Show), Jack McBrayer, and particularly Russell Brand effortlessly join the team, acting as if they have been delivering obscenely raunchy lines for years. Brand plays the rock star Sarah leaves Peter for, and his brain-dead, sex-crazed British lead singer is the most memorable and quotable character in the movie. The script, written by Segel and pitched to Apatow courtside at a Laker's game, is loaded with line after line of in your face vulgarity and subtle quips that may not hit you at first. Scenes with unabashed full-frontal nudity are paired with unthinkably original ideas such as a Dracula-based rock opera, and ingenious quick, cut-in scenes depicting a characters thoughts or words. Whereas Knocked Up combined raunch and unexpected pregnancy, and Superbad mixed the profane with adolescence, the newest film in the Apatow collection fuses a large dose of adult humor with the heartbreak and coping involved with an ending relationship. Each joke about genitals is backed up with a meaningful scene that most of the audience will be able to relate to. Like all romantic comedies there is some cliche, and the film runs a bit long at nearly two hours, but there are so many well-written characters, large and small, that the laughs keep coming, so much so that some jokes will be missed due to excessive cackling. The Apatow brand has added yet another classic to its dynasty, which now includes nearly ten films and countless big-time comedic actors. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn't easy to forget, and provides enough laughs to make the next Apatow feature the most anticipated movie of the year.

Good for: any adults that laugh, a date

Bad for: uptight people, people offended by nudity and/or profanity

The Gallery
The Film Maker: * * *
The Writer * * * *