A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the law and disorder comedy “Super Troopers 2,” the new Amy Schumer movie “I Feel Pretty,” the mother-and-son-and-a-trailer movie “Mobile Homes.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Merella Fernandez to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the cop comedy “Super Troopers 2,” the new Amy Schumer movie “I Feel Pretty,” the mother-and-son-and-a-trailer movie “Mobile Homes” and the drone romance “Eye on Juliet.”
From Fred Flintstone to Gilligan to Tarzan, many television and movie characters have had their personalities changed by a bonk to the head. It’s a comedy trope as old as time, resurrected for the new lumpy headed Amy Schumer film “I Feel Pretty.”
Schumer is Renee, a young woman consumed with feelings of insecurity. ”I’ve always wondered,” she says, “ what it would feel like to be undeniably pretty.” She works in IT for a cosmetics company far across town from their glamorous fifth Avenue headquarters, office to Renée’s idol, her boss Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams). Stung by a salesperson’s coded suggestion that she is too large to be shopping in store—“You could probably find your size on line.”—she spins away the blues at a SoulCycle class. “No matter how often we hear, ‘It’s what’s on the inside that matters,’” she says, “women know that it is what’s on the outside the whole world judges.” While her spin instructor chants, “Change your mind, change your body,” Renee takes a tumble, smashing her head against a stationary bike and is transformed. “Oh my God! I look beautiful.” The bump on the head fills her with the kind of self-esteem she has been missing, setting her free to live the life she has always dreamed of. “I get it,” she says, “modelling is an option for me, but it is just not me.”
Change-your-life movies like “Big” work because there is not only transitional hocus pocus but heart and soul as well. “I Feel Pretty” has plenty of sentiment and tries like hell to wring a tear or two out of weary eyes in its uplifting finale but ultimately it’s a sitcom stretched to feature length. It’s a movie about a woman who briefly gets what she wants only to discover (THE MILDEST OF SPOILERS) she always had it.
Despite hot button messages about anti-bullying, body positivity and “What if we never lost our little girl confidence” sentiments, the film is one joke driven into the ground, topped by the inevitable platitude, “Renée, I’ve always seen you.” Despite the good intentions the movie’s central gag, that Renée can’t be happy with herself until she sees a thin version of herself staring back at her in the mirror, feels tone deaf. The movie touches on issues of body image and Renée does eventually come around to the idea that loving one’s self isn’t about how you look but the idea of a movie star, with all the frills of Western beauty standards, complaining about the way she looks is a tough premise to pull off.
“I Feel Pretty” may have worked better if it was funnier or if Renée didn’t have to suffer a head wound to feel good about herself or if post bonk Renée wasn’t completely clueless and oblivious. Schumer has made a name for herself essaying this kind of material in her stand-up but on stage her underlying self-confidence comes through as strength, not arrogance. In the film it comes off as crass.
On the upside Michele Williams, who almost never does comedy, shines as the kitten voiced CEO.
“I Feel Pretty” is well intentioned. The “embrace yourself” message is ultimately a good one. Too bad the film has such a strange way of expressing it.
Zac Efron became a teen heartthrob with the success of the High School Musical movies and then did everything possible to decimate and alienate the core audience that made him a star.
He rightly realized that the shelf life of a young Disney star was limited and turned his attention to making serious but little seen films like Parkland, At Any Price and The Paperboy, an art house film better known for a scene utilizing an age-old cure for a jellyfish sting you don’t normally see administered by an Oscar winner like Nicole Kidman.
His latest movie, We Are Your Friends, the first major-studio film set in the world of electronic dance music, is a mix of music and romance that sees Efron play an aspiring DJ who falls in love with his mentor’s girlfriend.
It’s a role that should appeal to his original fanbase, the kids who have aged out of High School Musical and now listen to EDM, where his other screen choices seem to have left them behind. Occasionally he’s thrown them a bone, with popcorn movies like New Year’s Eve, or Neighbors, where he plays the prerequisite 20-something good-looking Hollywood hunk.
Take That Awkward Moment for instance. He played an avowed hook-up artist, a young guy who would rather hang out with his best friends Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) than have a meaningful relationship with a girl. In time-honoured rom-com fashion, it’s a movie that takes advantage of its leading man’s blue eyes and sculpted abs. Efron’s hair is practically a character in the film.
Perhaps while making The Lucky One, a Nicolas Sparks romance co-starring Taylor Schilling, it occurred to him that simply watching good-looking people fall in love does not a movie make.
I couldn’t help but think that Efron, when he says to Schilling’s character Beth, “I know you deserve better than this,” was actually speaking to the audience.
Luckily his other films are less about his looks and more about his ability. The Paperboy is an odd film. It’s an art house thriller — meaning that there aren’t many thrills — in which each of its stars do some fairly intense envelope pushing in a story about a reporter returning to his native Florida to investigate a murder.
Paired with risk-taking actors like Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey, Efron works hard to shake off the early teen idol gloss that made him famous. He mostly succeeds, although director Lee Daniels’s camera still caresses the actor, taking full advantage of his effortless appeal.
In Me and Orson Welles, Efron is overshadowed by an actor playing a man who died many years before the core audience of this movie was even born. Christian McKay plays Orson Welles with such panache that Efron becomes a supporting player in his own movie but still makes a strong impression as a teenager with dreams of being on stage in this handsomely mounted period piece.
Other films like At Any Price, a 2012 powerful tale of fathers and sons and the pressure to succeed, have shown not only his depth but his willingness to stretch as an actor.
So why does Efron, who could have a movie franchise career in a heartbeat, look past the obvious career path?
Efron told the Hollywood Reporter that his often eclectic acting choices are always artistic in nature and never about money.
“I’m constantly searching for characters that are about betterment of self and betterment of others,” he says. “And I’m searching for those parts because those are the ones that make me happy. They’re the ones that fulfil me personally.”
“We Are Your Friends,” the first studio movie set in the world of electronic dance music, can be looked at two ways.
In its most basic form it’s a romance about a young, ambitious DJ trying to make a name for himself but a closer look reveals more.
Cole, played by Zac Efron, learns the hard way that real art, something that comes from the heart and really means something, doesn’t come in shiny happy packages but is the result of life experience.
Like Cole, it’s not hard to imagine that the former teen heartthrob has learned a thing or two in his twenty-eight years. In a search for more interesting roles he’s tried his best to alienate the audience who first fell in love with his High School Musical good looks and charm. I’m not saying that “We Are Your Friends” is great art, but Efron’s involvement suggests that this coming of age story might be his first truly adult role.
The film begins in the San Fernando Valley, a metaphor for the disconnect its characters—Cole, Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer)—feel to the glamorous life of Hollywood. Bright lights, fame and fortune are literally just around the corner but may as well be a thousand miles away. The quartet has a plan, however. They promote a Thursday club show and have dreams of stardom.
Cole gets a leg up from superstar DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley), a troubled guy who teaches the younger man about finding his true path and making music that reflects his life. Complications arise when Cole jumps into bed with James’s girlfriend / assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).
“We Are Your Friends” is a simple story about aspirational behaviour that effectively speaks to millennial angst with one repeated chorus: “Are we ever going to be better than this?” The message is wrapped in a slickly made movie with an interesting dynamic between Cole and James—Bentley absolutely nails James’s world-weary narcissism—and an energetic relationship between the four friends.
On the downside, the romance, which is the catalyst for much of the action, is the least interesting thing about the film. Ratajkowski is a slinky presence, a whirlwind on the dance floor, but aside from pillowy lips doesn’t bring much excitement to the role. Like many of the plot devices used here Cole and Sophie’s fling is a given. The movie telegraphs many of its twists and you know form the moment they meet that something will happen between the two.
What is less expected is the powerful climax. This is a no spoiler zone, but I will say “We Are Your Friends” concludes with a sequence that not only speaks to Cole’s ambitions but makes a larger statement about his generation. “Are we ever going to be better than this?” It’s a potent question and by asking it Efron speaks to a legion of cut adrift twentysomethings whose lives will be much different than the lives of their parents.
In many ways “We Are Your Friends” is a teen movie but Cole’s coming-of-age and Efron’s performance feels very grown up.