Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about to talk about the big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” the Melissa McCarthy dramedy “The Starling” and the Mark Wahlberg family drama “Joe Bell.”
There is a scene in “The Starling,” Melissa McCarthy’s maudlin new study of grief and ornithology, where a psychiatrist-turned-vet (that’s the kind of movie this is) tells Lilly (McCarthy), whose husband has spent almost a year in a psychiatric care home, that starlings “are different from other birds. They build a nest together. They’re just not meant to exist in the world alone, on their own.”
“That’s real subtle stuff,” she replies sarcastically but in truth, his remark is subtle compared to the rest of this well-meaning but ham-fisted movie.
Small town supermarket employee Lilly and her school teacher husband Jack (Chris O’Dowd) lives were changed when their baby daughter Kate passed away unexpectedly. Grief strikes each differently. Lilly looks forward, while Jack breaks down and checks into a mental health facility. Left alone, Lilly turns to tending her garden where a rogue starling attacks her every time she ventures outside.
Seeking guidance, she talks to Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline) the psychiatrist-turned-vet reluctantly who councils her on grief and bird problems. As her relationship with the starling changes, so does Jack’s situation with his psychiatrist Dr. Manmohan (Ravi Kapoor) and the couple take steps toward reconciliation.
“The Starling” isn’t the first movie in recent memory to use a bird as a metaphor. “Penguin Bloom” covered similar territory last year and movies like “The Thin Red Line,” “Ladyhawke” and “Black Narcissus” have used birds as an emblem of freedom. It’s too bad that the CGI bird in “The Starling” doesn’t inspire the same kind of sense of wonder as it does in those other movies. As it is, the bird’s flitting and flirting only adds to the muddled feel of the story.
A strange mix of heartfelt drama and slapstick comedy, “The Starling” relies on very likable actors to try and bring a sense of balance to the material but not even McCarthy, Kline and O’Dowd can bend this mishmash of tones into a cohesive whole.
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.