Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot do a refresher on “Captain America: Civil War” and then talk about the weekend’s big releases, the seedy charm of “The Nice Guys” with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, the kid’s cartoon “The Angry Birds Movie,” and the Seth Rogen sequel “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien talk about the weekend’s three big releases, the shady charm of “The Nice Guys” with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, the kid’s cartoon “The Angry Birds Movie,” and the Seth Rogen sequel “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” and the debauched “High-Rise” with Tom Hiddleston.
Way back when Rick Astley was one of the biggest stars in the world Shane Black wrote the classic L.A.P.D. buddy action comedy “Lethal Weapon.” A mix of chemistry and quips it set the template, for better and for worse, for a generation of cop buddy flicks. Black is back, breathing the same air, as co-writer and director of “The Nice Guys,” a hardboiled comedy that places Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling amid the mayhem.
Set in smoggy 1970s era Los Angeles, the story revolves around an odd couple brought together by circumstance. Jackson Healy (Crowe) is the muscle. He’s a brass-knuckled enforcer who makes his money through intimidation and violence. Holland Marsh (Gosling) is a drunken private investigator so desperate he specializes in doing missing persons cases for dementia patients who have forgotten their loved ones are dead, not missing. He’s so inept even his own thirteen-year-old daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), refers to him as the world’s worst detective.
They are thrown together when March is hired to find Amelia (Margaret Qualley) but she hires Healy to get rid of the creep she thinks is a stalker. An uneasy alliance leads them head on into a wacky web of sleaze, corruption and catalytic converters. There’s a load more plot, but the point here isn’t the story as much as it is the journey it takes its characters on.
By rights “The Nice Guys” should be called “The Nice Guys and a Girl” because the teenage Angourie Rice is a key player. She’s an adolescent sidekick who, unlike Black’s child hanger-on in “Iron Man 3,” doesn’t have a precocious bone in her body. She’s funny, lends some heart to the cynicism on display and nearly steals the movie from the leads.
Nearly, but not completely. Crowe and Gosling bring seedy charm to their roles. They’re part “Freebie and the Bean,” part Abbott and Costello. Each hand in loose performances in a film that is unafraid to spend time listening to its leads bantering back and forth. Gosling excels with physical bits—trying to maintain his modesty in a bathroom stall scene is pure slapstick—while Crowe is more menacing but with solid comic timing.
Black’s way with a visual gag is also used to ample effect. An elevator scene that made me laugh in the trailers is played out with precision, escalating the laughs as the violence increases.
“The Nice Guys” is funny and even thrilling by times, but its greatest trick is to make you fall on side with these two not-always-so-nice-guys. They are neither particularly heroic nor gifted. Instead they are everymen looking for redemption and a fast paycheque. The ending sets things up for a sequel and that’s OK. I’d like to spend more time with these nice guys and girl.
This weekend Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara play a by-the-book cop and the widow of a drug boss in the comedy Hot Pursuit. The unlikely duo hit the road, teaming up to outrun crooked cops and a murderous cartel. “Right now we can’t trust anyone but each other,” says Reese as they crack wise and dodge bullets.
It’s a movie that follows in the long tradition of Hollywood buddy comedies.
There’s an argument to be made that Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy originated buddy comedies long before Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis donned dresses and camped it up in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. For my money, however, the Billy Wilder film about two musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and flee the state disguised as women set the template for the modern buddy movie.
The basic formula is there — colliding personalities, gibes and comic conflict between the two actors — but more important than any of that is the chemistry between Lemmon and Curtis. Even though every buddy picture relies on tension between the leads, sparks also have to fly between them or the whole thing will fall flat.
Brett Ratner, director of Rush Hour 1, 2 and 3—which paired Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan to great effect—calls interesting chemistry between actors “an explosion in a bottle” and says it’s crucial to the success of any buddy pic.
Since Some Like It Hot, producers have paired up a laundry list of actors searching for the perfect mix. Lemmon and Walter Matthau were the journeymen of the genre, co-starring in six buddy pictures ranging from the sublime—The Odd Couple, which features the classic buddy picture one-liner, “I’m a neurotic nut, but you’re crazy.”— to the ridiculous — Grumpier Old Men.
The female buddy comedy is a more elusive beast. Recently Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock teamed as a tough-talking street cop and uptight, lone wolf FBI agent to bring down a murderous drug dealer in The Heat and in the 1980s Bette Midler was the Queen of the form, pairing off with Shelley Long for Outrageous Fortune and with Lily Tomlin for Big Business in which both stars played dual roles, making it a buddy comedy times two. “Two’s company. Four’s a riot,” read the movie tagline.
There are others, dating back to 1937’s Stage Door, but there is no debating that Hollywood has been slow to feature female bonding as a subject of buddy movies. It’s wild there are two man-and-his-dog buddy movies—Turner and Hootch and K9—but so few featuring women. Despite the box office success of several female buddy comedies sequels have been as rare as hen’s teeth. For instance, Vulture.com points out that of the duelling buddy comedies released on April 25, 2008—Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Baby Mama and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay—Fey and company grossed $60 million, while Harold and friends made $38 million and yet the guys laughed all the way to another sequel while Baby Mama remains a one off.
Hollywood is finally warming to the idea of female driven comedies, so perhaps this weekend Witherspoon and the highest paid woman on television can generate enough box office dough to warrant another team-up. In the movie biz money usually speaks louder than anything, including gender.