Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
From the comedy minds who gave us “The Hangover” comes another trio. This time it’s less a Wolf Pack than it is a Coffee Klatch of moms fed up with the burden of having to be perfect. It has its raunchy moments—thanks to Kathryn Hahn’s spirited performance—but by and large “Bad Moms” might better be titled “Tired Moms.
Amy (Mila Kunis) is a thirty-two-year-old frazzled mom struggling to keep up with her family life and work. She has two kids, the overachieving Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) and a husband (David Walton) “who sometimes feels like a third child.”
“I’m doing the best I can,” she sighs. “That makes it sadder,” replies Jane.
When an epiphany turns her from stressed mother to bad mom, she sleeps in, lets her kids make their own breakfast and drinks loads of wine with two other exhausted mothers, Carla (Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell). Having tossed the shackles of the daily grind of motherhood aside, Amy is reborn, but not everyone is pleased. Her newfound freedom puts her in the crosshairs of the fascistic PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate).
The mothers in “Bad Moms” aren’t bad moms, they’re simply fed up with trying to live up to the expectations. The movie has laughs, mostly courtesy of Hahn’s laser sharp delivery of lines like, “I feel like everything that comes out of your mouth is a cry for help,” but mostly this is a manifesto for taking a breath and giving both yourself and your kids a chance to enjoy their childhoods. As Amy becomes the Norma Rae of mothers, she discovers taking a step away from what she thought she should do as a mom is the best way to discover the joy of parenthood.
It’s a story of the power of friendship and despite the promise of raunch “Bad Moms” is filled with gooey warmth. The set up is formulaic—you know the bond between children or parents will only grow and get stronger by the time the end credits roll—but despite the obvious story, and some obvious plot holes, the movie succeeds because underneath it all it’s not just about them talking about their kids, their exhaustion or how to best to dress for a night out. It’s about taking control of their lives, standing up to injustice and, yes, getting a date with the handsome widowed dad (Jay Hernandez) who drops his kid off at the playground everyday.
Rusty Griswold may have grown up but the humor of the movies that made him famous hasn’t. “Vacation” is a reboot of the “National Lampoon Vacation” series that featured Chevy Chase as the hapless patriarch, Beverley D’ Angelo as his wife, daughter Audrey (played in different movies by Dana Barron, Dana Hill, Juliette Lewis and Marisol Nichols) and Rusty (played variously by Anthony Michael Hall, Jason Lively, Johnny Galecki and Ethan Embry in different movies).
In the new film Ed Helms plays Rusty as a sweet-natured adult, father to James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) and husband to Debbie (Christina Applegate). The family is falling apart and on the eve of their usual summer holiday, a boring trip to a camp that everybody hates, Rusty decides to try something different to bring his family together, a recreation of a childhood road trip with his parents to Walley World.
Anyone who remembers the original 1983 film knows the 2500-mile trip turned into a vacation from hell. It seems Rusty learned nothing from his father’s ill-fated journey. “From the moment we left nothing has gone right,” says Debbie. “Can’t you just admit this was a mistake?” From an angry GPS and a menacing trucker to an inappropriately well-endowed brother-in-law and an open sewer, the trip is fraught with problems.
If not for certain brand of anatomical humour “Vacation” would be about 12 minutes long. Remove the swearing and jokes about sexual acts—Wait! Don’t forget the bodily functions!—there wouldn’t be much going on here. Not that I’m a prude. Far from it. Some of it is genuinely funny. It hits many of the same notes as the original—the father’s verbal break down the extremely unseemly relatives (Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth)—but doesn’t have the same good-natured feel. It tries hard to inject some heart into the story in the last half hour but up until then is rough around the edges. Need convincing? Check out the fate of the pretty motorist in the sports car.
Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have a tendency to give away the jokes too soon, but Helms and cast sell the jokes, no matter how raunchy. Particularly good are Gisondo as the sensitive son James and Hemsworth who displays an until now unseen sense of comic timing.
Ultimately “Vacation” is about bringing the Griswold family back together, but it’s not a family movie.
It’s been ten years since we first met Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), a San Diego newscaster who claims he was put on earth to do two things, “have salon quality hair and read the news.” With his extreme news team—field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and bizarro weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)—he ruled the local airwaves.
This time around the stakes are much bigger. Relocated to New York City, Burgundy and company are set to change the face of news in a film that almost plays like a comedic version of “Network.” Almost… but not quite.
At the dawn of the 1980s Ron Burgundy’s best days seem to be behind him. His marriage implodes when his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) becomes the first female national news host. He hits the bottle, stops combing his perfect hair and it looks like his career is over until he’s recruited to join the anchor team at the newly formed Global News Network, the first 24-hour news channel.
He takes the job, but first insists on reuniting his old team, Blues Brothers style. With Champ, Brick and Brian on board they prepare to take New York by storm, but first they have to out do and out perform hot shot anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden).
Cobbling together a newscast made up of car chases, cat videos and Fox News style patriotism they inadvertently give birth to a new style of news.
As their ratings rise, so do questions of journalistic ethics. And that’s the first hour. Beyond that the movie is so demented I don’t want to give away any more plot points.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” brings with it a fair amount of goodwill. People love the original and the audience I saw the new one with laughed at almost everything that came out of Ferrell’s mouth.
For the first hour. Then the movie’s faults begin to show.
The opening sixty minutes feel like a worthy, although not quite as quotable, revisiting of the first movie. There’s nothing as memorable as, “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…” but you’ll laugh, especially if you’re a fan of the original.
You’ll also laugh in the second hour, but it feels less like a film than a series of connected sketches. The plot veers around wildly, again delivering giggles, but in a rambling way that doesn’t feel like the first half. It tries hard to make a statement about early 1980s race relations and for a short while Ferrell channels his inner Howard Beale to comment on the erosion of the quality of news reporting.
Sounds more nuanced than it actually is. Despite the social commentary, this is still the kind of movie where Burgundy goes temporarily blind, hand feeds a baby shark and engages in hand-to-hand combat with rival news teams.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is funny in an outrageous way. It’s a bit too long, (and don’t bother sitting through to the post credit scene unless you find the sight of Steve Carell eating cookies hilarious) but the buffoonery level is high in a season where serious drama seems to be the ticket.
“Hall Pass” can’t rightly be called a romantic comedy because there is very little actual romance contained in its story of two couples who are experiencing the martial blahs. Instead let’s call it a mid life comedy.
In this Farrelly Brothers film Owen Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate are Rick, Maggie, Fred and Grace, two long time couples in stale, sexless marriages. After an embarrassing incident at a friend’s home the fed up wives decide to give their husbands a “hall pass”—a week long holiday from marriage in an effort to prove to them that the grass is not greener on the other side of the nuptial fence.
The kind of gross out humor you would expect from the purveyors of films like “There’s Something about Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber” is firmly in place here. Unfortunately “Hall Pass” isn’t anywhere near as funny as either “Mary” or “Dumber”—even though the Farrely’s obsession with overly tanned people is firmly in place—but as puerile as it may be the charming cast wrings whatever humor there is to be found out of the script. Because of them the movie has a fairly constant ripple of giggles punctuated occasionally by big laughs.
It’s a thin premise, stretched almost to breaking, with a moral—surprise, surprise, single life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—that seems very predictable, especially coming from the Farrelys. Luckily good casting and the odd well timed joke elevates “Hall Pass” from the level of a Katherine Heigl couples comedy, but just barely.