Quick Hit – Charlie Day is Charlie Day, and Ice Cube is Ice Cube. I don’t think there is much else of note.
I completely understand the need for mindless comedies. For every Manchester By the Sea, there is probably a Happy Gilmore or a Liar Liar out there (maybe two times the amount of dramas). That’s because laughter is an intricate part of the human experience, and life gets tough. Sometimes you just need to turn your brain off a bit and laugh. However, I do think that sometimes we get a bit lazy and just throw jokes at a screen and expect it to be funny.
Fist Fight (or what should have been named #TeacherFight) features Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny) as Andy Campbell, a sad sack English teacher who is essentially every character Charlie Day has played. When he is complicit in the firing of history teacher Strickland (Ice Cube), there is a fight to be had after school. Surrounding this are a myriad of “comedic” things, some driven by the pranking students on the last day of school, others driven by Campbell’s attempts to avoid the fight after school. Along the way, our hero learns something about standing up for himself.
Honestly, the movie doesn’t sound that bad when you type it out. The problem is that the execution is way, way off. There are moments where you might get a modest chuckle in (one prank in particular involving a mariachi band is worthwhile), and the final fight is enjoyable, because everything becomes a weapon, and essentially the two characters become caricatures of themselves. But everything in between seems much longer than the 90 minutes. We have all the comedic tropes of the current crazes – side characters that spout crude sexual humor or drug jokes. That’s pretty much it.
There is a much better movie hiding inside this one. That movie is filled with political and racial commentary, as well as providing a vehicle for a returning Tracy Morgan to the screen. It could also be a social commentary on the state of the American education system. For instance, Strickland really is a good teacher, yet in this movie he is made out to be the bad guy. Essentially, he’s the only person outside of a few scenes with Day that seems capable of actually running a classroom. There are also a lot of jokes that are almost funny, featuring a security guard and the principal of the school. With a little script editing, we could have gotten a film that accomplished its goals instead of flailing for 90 minutes.
As I stated, the movie is a loss overall. But if you need to turn off your brain for a bit, I guess you can check it out. I’m giving it a “D”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit – Fun, with a terrific set of antogonists, you slowly start to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.
From the start of this film, you know that you are back in the world we left in the last one. It doesn’t take long for new characters to be introduced, and it’s extremely easy to hate them. First, there is Lord Beckitt (played by Tom Hollander), who it’s clear is as evil as it gets. He’s had run-ins with Jack Sparrow before (though this isn’t fully explained). There’s also Davy Jones (played terrifically by Bill Nighy), a creature straight from the depths of the sea, who has now taken to searching for Jack in order to fulfill a bargain they once had.
All of this is delivered in the typical manic style of the Pirates series. There are so many Rube Goldbergian type activities in the fight scenes (specifically on the scene on the island) that you’re head starts to spin. However, Verbinski once again shows the ability to pivot between these scenes and some of the quieter ones. I wouldn’t say that the skill is as pronounced as the last film, and at times, we may get caught up in the score and the slap-stick action and just allow the wheel to roll.
Still focusing on the story of Will and Elizabeth, we start to see some cracks form. That’s because Will is now after rescueing his father, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård). There’s nothing wrong with the storyline, and Skarsgård turns in a fantastically creepy yet moving performance. It’s just that everything makes things feel overstuffed. There are so many storylines, and only some of them are interesting. I for one find the story of Jones most interesting – I want to know more about his backstory instantly, and Nighy sells the scare factor. The effects are amazing, with Jones using the tentacles as other appendages in a completely natural way.
The main selling point for the film continues to be Depp, with Sparrow always being a welcome breath of fresh air every time he is on screen. His humor and delivery is incredibly on point, and never once do you seem bored by him. The originality continues throughout the film, even to the point of his final demise with the Kraken.
That being said, I didn’t really like the total feel of this one. I found out while doing research that POC2 and POC3 were shot back to back, and that makes complete sense. It feels like this film is trying to do all the work of setting up a Pirates cinematic universe – it’s tying itself back to the first film, but it’s also trying to get the base for a third film. It makes things confusing, and means character storylines that could be much better (Lord Beckitt and Norrington) feel a bit extraneous.
Overall, Dead Man’s Chest was a nice addition to the franchise, in that it introduced characters like Davy Jones who are worth remembering. But, it suffers from being the bridging film in a trilogy, and that’s why it is only going to get a “B-“ from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Comedy at a full-blown tilt.
I’ll be the first to come out and say that this is a movie that goes at a slapstick pace, constantly has humor hidden in different scenes and intonations, and has jokes hiding in the corners and crevices of the screen. For this very reason, I can’t recommend it to everyone, for the same reason that movies like Under the Skin or Manchester By the Sea aren’t for everyone – our tastes are very, very subjective in movies.
However, if you’re looking for a comedy (or a musical for that matter) that will find you laughing at least once within its running time (and probably more if you are someone like me that appreciates spoof humor), Young Frankenstein is one of the best out there. Allow me to shed some light onto why I think so.
First, spoof/parody humor hasn’t been around forever. I mean in some ways it has always been around – Charlie Chaplin was making films like The Tramp that capitalized on that type of humor in at least one way – but never to the degree that Mel Brooks started, where it is a complete and total spoof of a genre. This paved the way for the Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Epic Movie, Haunted House, Date Movie, etc. etc. movies (albeit, with some limited results there – talk about a formulaic movie trend!). In 1974, Mel Brooks released two movies in this vein, Blazing Saddles (which parodied the Westerns of the 50s) and Young Frankenstein (which parodied the horror movies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, particularly the Universal Frankenstein series).
Let’s talk about one of the reasons I love this movie – the attention to detail is astounding. That’s because the actual set was developed using the original props from the Frankenstein series. Mel Brooks found the set designer, who just had the stuff lying in his basement. That’s amazing, and it shows. The reality of the spoof is entirely on Brooks, Wilder, and Feldman. Wilder and Feldman are so strong delivering lines with sincerity and humor that would easily cause fits to anyone on set (and audience members as well). I can’t picture anyone else in these roles, so it makes it a little harder when I see the musical on stage. I think arguably Ygor is one of my favorite movie characters, and that's just because Feldman really sells the role. So much of his humor was ad libbed it's ridiculous.
The only thing that could be conceived wrong with this film is the pacing at times. Most moments are fully realized, but there are some that go flat, and some that drag on. As you continue through the film, there are some moments that last much longer than they need to… but are almost always redeemed with humor. Take “Putting on the Ritz” for example – it starts slower than necessary, but builds to a fun exciting climax.
Overall, I think this movie is classic comedy gold, and should be known as such. I’m giving it an “A-“.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"