29 Days of Romance, Review #29: Leap Year (2010)

29 Days of Romance, Review #29: Leap Year (2010)

Leap Year posterDirected by: Anand Tucker. Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: January 8, 2010.

Anna (Amy Adams) has been dating Jeremy (Adam Scott) for your years and still no proposal. Her father (John Lithgow) shows up for two minutes to tell her an Irish tradition that if a woman proposes to a man on Leap Day, he must accept the proposal.

Anna follows Jeremy on his business trip and eventually ends up on a small island called Dingle, far from Dublin. There, she meets Declan (Matthew Goode), who drives her to Dublin for a price. I wish she would have gone to any other island because thus begins one of cinema’s most unbearable road trips.

The road trip is a series of annoying scenarios that prevent them from reaching their destination, and I know that’s how road trip films usually goes, but this one is just annoying. Have a working car? Not anymore, Anna accidentally pushes it down a hill. There’s a train going to Dublin in two hours? You’ll miss it because Declan wants to visit a nearby castle. Nothing annoys me more than convoluted miscommunication or writing in romantic comedies and Leap Year is chock-full of them. It’s why this film is my personalized version of Hell.

Matthew Goode is usually good but he looks completely bored. His character is also unlikable. When Anna gets to his inn, she plugs in her Blackberry charger and predictably cuts to the power to the whole village. “Women!” says Declan frustratingly and he goes upstairs to call her an idiot.

In some films, it works when the characters hate each other in the beginning and grow to love each other (When Harry Met Sally…). This is not one of those films. No matter how many love songs they play or cooking montages with a happy score over it, I didn’t believe for a moment they were falling in love.

Their dynamic is obnoxious as they assume stuff about each other, and a lot of the humour comes from Anna being shallow and wealthy, because she’s a city girl traveling the Irish countryside. As the car goes down the hill, she calls, “My purse is in there!” She’s not that likable, but Declan is one of the biggest movie jerks I’ve seen in some time and we are supposed to like him. Some of what he says to Anna borders on vitriol and they simply move past it.

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Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in Leap Year. (IMDb)

Amy Adams is passable in a film where it’s impossible to have chemistry. I love her but she only got one smile from me in 100 minutes. It manages to make her boring, and do you know how hard that is when she’s so effortlessly charming? She seems to give effort to a screenplay that is truly terrible. It’s more effort than writers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont deserve, and Goode is a realist knowing it is utter shit and wades his way through it.

The screenplay misunderstands romance and comedy. The film is unfunny and boring, and to get to any schmaltz you have to go under layers of smut. The romance doesn’t work because the screenplay forces them into romantic situations. They’re forced to pretend to be married since they’re staying under a conservative couple’s roof at a bed and breakfast. They must sleep in the same bed, and there’s a scene that plays out like a cringe kiss cam compilation where they’re pressured into kissing. The comedy is unfunny scenario after unfunny scenario. Director Anand Tucker is also at fault here because he just let this happen.

It’s some of the most convoluted writing I’ve encountered, too. There’s a point where the owner of the bed and breakfast, Frank (Tony Rohr), could have gotten Anna to Dublin easily. It’s a Sunday and he knows she wants to go to Dublin, but there are no trains on Sundays. He doesn’t tell her that his wife Eileen (Maggie McCarthy) is going to Dublin that morning, so when she asks for a ride, Eileen’s already left. It’s baffling he doesn’t think, “Gee, maybe this nice girl would want a ride to Dublin since there are no trains.” The reason he doesn’t offer this is for story reasons because the pair aren’t in love yet. Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic to assume the characters have a brain or common courtesy, because there is no evidence of it throughout. I know it’s possible I’m being unfair, and maybe it’s the 30 romantic movies in a month talking, but I truly think this is awful.

If this is not my personal Hell, it’s at the very least a sick joke created by Jigsaw of Saw to torture me. I was expecting him to pop up and ask if I’d like to play a game. Yes, please. I would like to control the characters. Anna goes to the edge of a cliffside at the end of the film and Declan follows. I thought maybe she’d jump – take a leap at love. They do not jump. Let me at them, Jigsaw. I’ll push ‘em.

Score: 12/100

29 Days of Romance, Review #15: Footloose (1984)

29 Days of Romance, Review #15: Footloose (1984)

 

Footloose poster
IMDb

Directed by: Herbert Ross. Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow. Runtime: 1h 47 min. Released: February 17, 1984.

I’ll discuss some spoilers in this review, but I feel like I’m the only person who hadn’t seen this.

Released 36 years ago today, I don’t think Footloose has aged well. In the no-fun-town of Bomont, Utah, rock music and dancing has been banned by the town council and Reverend Shaw (John Lithgow) to protect the town’s teens.

Their logic is that they’ll only lead to drugs, alcohol and fornication. A city teenager, Ren (Kevin Bacon), moves to town and shakes things up with his rebellion, while also falling for the local reverend’s daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer).

Ariel was the biggest problem for me. Her recklessness and rebellion against her reverend father got old fast. She puts her life in danger on two occasions, getting nearly flattened by a semi-truck and then nearly run over by a train. Writing this review, I’m realizing it’s so she can feel how her brother felt when he died (in a car accident) but the scenes are weak without that context.

Rock music and dancing aren’t the problem with this town when teens are reckless like Ariel. Singer plays her fine, and Ariel started to win me over by the end when she stopped needing to get her father’s approval, and I liked the loss of her brother developing Ariel and her father. I found her dull for the most part and didn’t feel any chemistry between her and Kevin Bacon.

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Dianne Wiest and John Lithgow in Footloose. (IMDb)

Before I get to Bacon, Shaw and his wife Vivian (Dianne Wiest) are the best characters here. Lithgow plays his role well and his arc is good, as he feels like he has to carry the weight of the town on his shoulders. Wiest is the highlight as Vivian for me. The scene where she speaks up to Shaw because he doesn’t see the bigger picture is the strongest scene. “You can lift a congregation up so high they have to look down to see heaven,” is a great line. Their scenes are engaging drama.

I had little interest in Ren and Ariel. Kevin Bacon’s fine as Ren, but the teens’ side of things is often uneventful. Until it gets to the point where they plan a secret dance, there was a lot of time killing like Ariel’s abusive boyfriend Chuck Cranston (Jim Youngs) challenging Ren to the ultimate display of masculinity: A classic game of chicken using huge tractors. I think this is what makes it feel like an ‘80s movie because it’s so ridiculous as it plays to “Holding Out For a Hero” by Bonnie Taylor. This is the point that I understood the appeal of Footloose and conceded that it’s simply not for me.

At least after dancing gets unbanned, the displays of masculinity can be dance battles. The screenplay by Dean Pritchford handles Chuck weakly as Ariel starts spending time with Ren and they forget all about Chuck. When they remember he’s a character, they bring him back to beat up Ariel and then bring him back for a fight at the end.

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Lori Singer and Kevin Bacon in Footloose. (IMDb)

The screenplay generally makes a habit of bringing characters into the film and forgetting about them, even with Ariel’s friend Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) who disappears for like 40 minutes. The fact that Ren is given a hard time for being the new kid seems realistic. He deals with the oppression, and the town’s rules, in a healthy way with a workout dance to Moving Pictures’ “Never.”

I’m giving this film a hard time, but I had some fun during this. I liked the scene where Ren, Ariel, Ren’s friend Willard (Chris Penn) and Rusty went to a different town to dance. It was lively when they play the titular song (“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins) and Rusty wanted to dance. This was also the first scene where the teens felt authentic. My main question of this scene is why Ren thinks it’s unbelievable that Willard can’t dance when dancing has been illegal in the town for six years. Speaking of Willard dancing, the montage of him learning to dance is charming.

Some of the dance scenes are fun, but I found most of the drama boring. I felt like a kid at the beginning of the film sleeping in Church. I don’t like the film, but the soundtrack is an absolute classic. Every song on the soundtrack bops and my feet were tapping a lot during this. It’s just a shame that the story never reaches that same greatness.

Score: 50/100

 

 

 

 

Rugrats in Paris: The Movie – Rugrats II (2000)

Released: November 17, 2000. Directed by: Stig Bergqvist, Paul Demeyer. Starring: Christine Cavanaugh, Susan Sarandon, John Lithgow. Runtime: 78 min.

The Rugrats travel to Paris, France, where Chuckie hopes to find a new mother and keep his father from marrying an evil business woman.

I think this is a smart film because it’s effectively simplistic, but there’s still enough silliness for the kids. And lots of fun for adults. It’s not the best kids film in the world, but it’s a lot better than the first Rugrats movie. It has references to the Godfather and homages to monster movies with a monster mash in the middle of Paris, which is pretty awesome.

It’s poignant in the way Chuckie wants a mother, and he’s the main protagonist this time around. The antagonists are mainly good because of their voicework. The despicable Madame LaBouche is voiced by Susan Sarandon; and her assistant, Jean-Claude, is voiced by John Lithgow.

The movie gets big laughs, and the musical numbers are very memorable, unlike the music of the first. This is definitely my favourite Rugrats film.

Score75/100

This Is 40 (2012)

This is 40This is 40

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Judd Apatow

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox

Runtime: 134 min

Tagline: The sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked Up’

What a great step up from 2009’s Funny People.

It may not be the best feature for a family movie day this holiday season, but it’s a great choice of comedy to see with a few buddies. It’s certainly a better choice than The Guilt Trip. It’s good enough to see with your mother, that is if you’re mature enough to sit through a sex scene or some other inappropriate content.

This follows the relationship of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) five years after the events of Knocked Up (don’t worry folks, Katherine Heigl isn’t in this). As expected, their relationship is still facing a lot of issues. Their two daughters don’t enjoy each other’s company and Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) is always asking for money while they’re facing some financial troubles themselves. Pete’s band (Graham Parker) for the record label isn’t selling that well, and the sexy employee (Desi, portrayed by Megan Fox) is probably stealing from them. Will the pretty couple overcome their problems and stick together through thick and thin?

Probably. It’s a Judd Apatow flick, and it’s around the holiday season, so it has to be feel-good. It usually is, albeit numerous conflict. Though, it’s Apatow and he has the fine ability to write in a stellar amount of humour to their long list of issues. It is a comedy, right?

While it is hilarious through and through, the issues that offer voids in their relationship are sometimes loud and obnoxious. There’s hardly a second where either Pete and Debbie aren’t wanting to bite off each other’s heads or their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow), isn’t telling to the youngest daughter Charlotte (Iris Apatow) to take a hike. Preferably on Mt. Everest. The conflicts are vast – but the characters are great and they’re brought to life with each charming comedic presence. There has to be conflict, though, as this is an honest observation of what being a parent is all about.

The conflict between the two daughters is mainly irritating, but it doesn’t mean it gets in the way of enjoyment. At least, that much. It’s sadder than anything. Sadie is just going through those tough teenage years and she doesn’t have the time for a younger sister always bothering her. Charlotte just wants a little attention and she’s adorable, so she should just give it to her. Unfortunately, each sibling knows how hard that has the tendency to be.

It’s nice to watch Pete and Debbie try to overcome their differences because it’s a ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome, thanks to the real charm of the cast and the great incorporation of large and hearty laughs. This feature is around for the right time of season because Christmas is all about coming together as a family.

Pete and Debbie try their hardest as parents, but they’re not perfect. They also blame some of their troubles on their own parents for being such screw-ups. Pete’s pretty upset by his father for making him lend him $80, 000 over a few years – and Debbie’s upset with her own because he, Ollie (John Lithgow), is hardly there for her. This conflict is attacked during Pete’s big 40th birthday celebration. There, the great Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd fight over the sexy Megan Fox.

Those supporting characters are awesome, but the real scene-stealer is the great Melissa McCarthy, playing a potty-mouthed and angry mother who goes a little crazy after Pete and Debbie offend her and her son.

While this is driven by pure and fresh comedy, the not-so subtle conflicts make it feel a bit too over-dramatic in areas. Though, Apatow does have to get the point across somehow. The film is a perfect analysis of how a family should try to overcome their differences and stick together, in this modern society that has really high divorce rates. Oh, and get through it during a mid-life crisis, especially. The message does get across finely with many laughs and conflict, and an advertisement or two for iPhones, other apple products, and TV’s Lost. It’s entertaining through and through, and your face may just hurt a little in more than one scene. It’s no Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying little sort-of sequel. It finishes as the third best comedy of the year, just behind Ted and the best of the year, 21 Jump Street.

80/100

The Campaign (2012)

The CampaignThe Campaign

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: May the best loser win

After Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) accidentally dials the wrong number and leaves a sexual message on a stranger’s answering machine, his local likeability plummets. Two CEOs, Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Aykroyd) Motch, see this an opportunity to oust the long-term candidate and gain further influence on this North Carolina district. Brady, a man who usually runs unopposed, meets his biggest match yet: the extremely naive and all-too-kind Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis).

 
This is a decent political satire. It may be offensive to some – but it was usually very funny. However, the humour can get very obnoxious. The character of Cam Brady gets a little lame, as all he really cares about is sex and power. Granted, what else can you really expect from a Will Ferrell character? Usually, his characters are funny – but the writing just makes him come off as rude and, worst of all, usually unfunny. However, he does have his moments, and when those come, they’re pretty awesome – because we’re seeing Ferrell shine again. Brady’s campaign advisor, Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), is also rather unfunny. The only really funny characters are Marty Huggins, sometimes Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) and Mrs. Yao (Karen Maruyama), Raymond Huggins’ Asian maid who gets paid extra to talk in a 1960’s black maid voice.

 
While only half the characters are usually funny, the plot isn’t all that amazing. It’s decent, but the political battles are pretty boring. Also, Marty’s change of attitude starts to get irritating after a while – since his life and his family life gets enveloped by the campaign. He doesn’t have much time for his family any more, and he starts to act a bit like the obnoxious Brady. That’s isn’t good, as I have not subtly expressed my dislike of Brady. He is most likeable when he’s enjoying life with his family. Especially near the beginning, one of the funniest scenes is the Huggins’ dinner table confessions. After that, it resorts to a few lame jokes like punching a baby in the face. That scene may have been more effective if they hadn’t shown it in the trailer, because it would have added to the comedy shock factor. It got to a point of tastelessness because it was done in a slow-motion, boxing fashion. However, when a dog gets punched by Brady – that’s hilarious. Does that mean I’m a dog hater? No, that punch was simply done much better because it wasn’t as overdone.

 
The idea of two great comedians – Will Ferrell (who has brought us classic characters like Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy) and Zach Galifianakis (more commonly known as Alan from The Hangover because his last name is just so bothersome to spell) – working together on a rude comedy like this is so much better than the end product. And (partly) because of this, the film is not satisfying enough. The Campaign turns out to be a usually funny, but sometimes boring and lame, political satire. There are some scenes that make it worth the watch, but mostly, it’s nothing to recommend wholeheartedly. Regardless of all that, you all better vote Marty Huggins so Chinese factories can be kept out of North Carolina!

60/100