Fans of Adam Sandler’s patented man-child character will be pleased to note he revives it for his newest film “The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected).” But those not enraptured with his childlike alter ego shouldn’t write this movie off. For the most part Sandler’s new one leaves the lowest-common denominator jokes behind in favour of highbrow (ish) humour. In other words, this is more “Punch Drink Love,” less “Billy Madison.”
Dustin Hoffman is Harold Meyerowitz, embittered sculptor, former art professor and walking, talking embodiment of New York neurosis. He’s also father to Danny (Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel). Harold is a crusty old man, self-centered and very aware of his lack of legacy. Newly divorced Danny has moved into the Greenwich Village home Harold shares with his fourth wife, Maureen (Emma Thompson).
The film studies the strained relationships between Harold and his kids but spends much of the movie detailing the half brothers Danny and Matthew. Danny stayed home to raise his daughter, has never had a job and now feels like a failure compared to the younger Matt, a Los Angeles hot shot with his own financial management company.
When Harold takes ill his children have to reassess their feelings for their difficult dad and each other.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” doesn’t have the guffaws that Sandler at his best can deliver. Instead it is dusted laughs derived from the situations and characters. At its heart it’s a story of family dysfunction populated by people who never dip into self-pity. Marvel makes the best of her few moments but it is Sandler and Stiller who deliver the goods. Both hit career highs playing toned down versions of their carefully crafted comedic characters. Adding real humanity to Danny and Matthew elevates them from caricature. By not going for the broad strokes they are able to create tender and stinging moments that are some of the best in both their careers.
Hoffman is a hoot, perfectly complimented by Thompson who has some of the film’s best lines. Of the supporting cast Grace Van Patten, Danny’s loving daughter, is a standout.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” could have been maudlin but when filtered through director Noah Baumbach’s sensibility is a smart and heartwarming.
At once both an investigation in obsession and white male privilege, “Brad’s Status” stars Ben Stiller as a man who cannot help but compare himself to his more successful friends. “I have a creeping fear that not only have I not lived up to my expectations,” he says, “but have disappointed others as well.”
Brad Sloan is a husband, father and the owner of a non-profit organization that helps people in need. It’s a comfortable Sacramento life, comfortable but, according to Brad, unremarkable. Lately his head has been filled with thoughts of his college years when, “I was in love with the world and it was in love with me.” The difference between then and now? “The world hates me and the feeling is mutual.”
He must confront his feelings of inadequacy when he and his musical prodigy son Troy (Austin Abrams) tour colleges in Boston. Harvard seems sure to accept the teenager until a mix up in the dates delays Troy’s admissions interview. Determined to reschedule the meeting Brad has to swallow his pride and call his wealthy friends for help.
Contacting Billy Wearslter (Jemaine Clement), a rich guy who lives with two girlfriends in Hawaii, best-selling author and DC powerhouse Craig Fisher (Michael Sheen) and billionaire playboy Jason Hatfield (Luke Wilson) gets the job done but forces Brad further down the rabbit hole of inadequacy.
“Brad’s Status” is a character study of a man who complains about being ignored at dinner parties because he isn’t rich. Stiller is very good—he’s always at his best when in movies that don’t feature statues that come to life—at bringing Brad’s neurosis to vivid life, but what years ago would have been thought of as a mid-life crisis movie is now a story of male privilege, ripe with first world problems. In other words, it’s hard to feel particularly sorry for a character whose self-pity overrides the good things in his life. Stiller keeps him relatable, from his petty frustration at a useless silver airlines status card to his deep seeded jealousy of everyone from his successful friends to his talented son, but early on you sense the story is only headed in one direction.
I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll put a [SPOILER ALERT] here, but it turns out that Brad doesn’t have it so bad after all. There is poignancy to the story by times but the lesson—never judge a person by the private jet—is too slight, too obvious to make any lasting impression.
As a laundry list of Brad’s existential questions “Brad’s Status” doesn’t delve deep enough to provide any real answers, no matter how good the performances.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliott have a look at the weekend’s big releases, “Deadpool” with Ryan Reynolds as The Merc with the Mouth, “Zoolander 2,” Ben Stiller’s fifteen years in the making sequel to his 2001 comedy cult hit and “How to Be Single,” Dakota Johnson’s sex and the city.
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien dissect the weekend’s big releases, “Deadpool” with Ryan Reynolds as The Merc with the Mouth, “Zoolander 2,” Ben Stiller’s fifteen years in the making sequel to his 2001 comedy cult hit and “How to Be Single,” Dakota Johnson’s sex and the city.
“Zoolander 2,” the fifteen years in the making follow-up to the 2001 comedy hit, finds former “Blue Steel” supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) “out of fashion,” literally and figuratively. Following a tragic event involving his wife and his Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, Derek stepped away from fashion and the world. He now lives the life of a “hermit crab,” complete with a long beard that obscures his “really, really, really, really, really ridiculously good looking face.”
When some of the most beautiful people in the world turn up dead, their Instagram images frozen in time in perma-duckface, Derek’s most famous facial expression, Zoolander and his past partner Hansel (Owen Wilson) are tricked into travelling to Rome to uncover who is behind this evil plot to rid the world of good looking celebrities.
In the Eternal City the dim-witted models will search for Derek’s long-lost son—whose blood may contain the secret to eternal fashionability—battle fashion criminal Mugato (Will Ferrell) and meet new high-powered fashionista All (Benedict Cumberbatch). Aiding the boys is Valentina (Penélope Cruz), a former swimsuit model troubled by her inability to “transition to print and runway work,” now working as an agent for Interpol’s Global Fashion Division.
“Zoolander 2’s” main joke isn’t the Blue Steel, the pouty-lipped move that made Zoolander a superstar, or the dim-witted antics of Derek and Hansel. No, the movie’s best joke is its commentary on how quickly the best-by date comes for modern day celebrities. The speed of popular culture has revved considerably since 2001 and what seems hip today may be passé tomorrow. Fashion is fleeting, as cameos from Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs demonstrate, but the big question is has “Zoolander 2” reached its expiration date?
I usually avoid the scatological in my reviews but suffice to say any movie whose best joke involves the morphing of the word “faces” into feces over and over, that features a hotel made of “reclaimed human waste” and subtitles itself with “No. 2” is really asking for it.
To put it more delicately, villain Mugato marvels at how “super white hot blazingly stupid” Derek is, and you’ll do the same thing about the film. Stupid can be OK if it’s funny but “Zoolander 2” leaves the laughs on the runway. Stiller’s mugging gets tired quickly and the simple, juvenile jokes were much funnier fifteen years ago when we heard them the first time. To use the movie’s own dialogue against itself, “You guys are so old-school,” says Don Atari (Kyle Mooney), “so lame.”
Stiller, who directs and co-wrote the script, jam packs every frame with with cameos in a desperate grab for relevancy. Everyone from Justin Bieber (who appearance may please non- Beliebers) to Joe Jonas and Katy Perry to Ariana Grande decorate the screen, while Susan Sarandon does a “Rocky Horror” call back and Billy Zane demonstrates that he is no longer an actor, but a pop-culture punchline. I doubt even Neil deGrasse Tyson could scientifically explain why he chose to appear in this dreck.
Fred Armisen as an eleven-year-old manager of social media tries his best to make his brief role strange-funny while Will Ferrell’s Mugatu is essentially an audition to play an alternate universe Bond villain.
The best thing about “Zoolander 2” that it is such a fashion faux pas and so desperately unfunny it’s hard to imagine Stiller and Company making a third one fifteen years from now.
The generation gap that lies at the heart of “While We’re Young,” the latest film from “Squid and the Whale” director Noah Baumbach, can be summed up in one short but clever scene.
Twenty-something hipster Jamie (Adam Driver) offers up a pair of headphones to Josh (Ben Stiller), a forty-five-year-old documentary filmmaker. As “Eye of the Tiger” blares on the soundtrack Josh says, “I remember when this song was just supposed to be bad.”
Josh and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless married couple living in Manhattan. They’re comfortably easing into middle age when they meet Jamie and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), an impossibly hip married couple who live in a Harlem loft stuffed with vinyl records, manual typewriters and good vibes.
The young’uns lead an intoxicating life, connected to every neo-New York trend. They eat at artisanal restaurants, raid thrift shops for clothes and partake in ayahuasca ceremonies (which leads to one of my favourite lines: “Maybe don’t flirt with the shaman.”). While Josh and Cornelia bash away on the latest smart phones, Jamie and Darby have embraced the retro chic of VHS. They’re so cool they don’t even use Google. When Josh pulls out his phone to search for a word they’ve all blanked on, Jamie and Darby demur. “Let’s just not know,” Jamie says.
The relationship between the two couples is one of mutual mentorship. Josh and Cornelia go to hip hop classes and bourbon tastings, feeling young again alongside their new found friends while Jamie and Darby look to the older couple for help with a film Jamie is trying to make.
The dramatic conflict comes late in the movie when it becomes clear that Jamie isn’t as easy going as everyone first thought.
It’s a bit too easy to compare writer/director Baumbach to Woody Allen, but it’s apt. Both are New York filmmakers to the core and both, at their best, comment on life in the microcosm of that city’s life. Their stories are both specific and universal, micro and macro, and hone in on the behaviour that makes us human, for better and for worse.
In “While We’re Young” Baumbach inhabits Allen’s turf, making a comedy for adults that by turns skewers and embraces the very people he’s making the movie for. It’s a grown up look at growing up. Intelligent and funny, it highlights the insecurities attached to middle age, while celebrating the wisdom and sense of purpose that can only come with experience.
Bambauch is generous with his characters–Jamie and Darby aren’t caricatures of trendoid NYC dolts but nicely etched portraits of Generation Y kids struggling to find a place in the world—and is aided by terrific performances. Nobody does pent up anxiety like Stiller and for Driver this is the next step up the ladder to huge mainstream success. Watts and Seyfried aren’t given as much to do, although they have some of the film’s best lines. “If I stay here any longer I’ll Girl, Interrupt,” says Darby with mock seriousness. Charles Grodin has a small but important part as a legendary documentarian—think vérité hero D. A. Pennebaker—whose caustic charm and way with a line—”You just showed me a six-and-a-half hour long film that felt seven hours too long.”—is worth the price of admission alone.
“While We’re Young” is a terrific film with razor sharp insights to the differences and similarities between Gen X and Y.