Wednesday, 30 April 2014

April Fools: Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

At the time of writing, this is the last movie in The Naked Gun franchise. Ed Helms is being lined up to take over the main role, apparently, but it's hard to think of anyone being able to make the role their own after such fine work from the late, great Leslie Nielsen.

In this absurd adventre, Frank Drebin (Nielsen) has retired from the police force. He's happily married to Jane (Priscilla Presley) but misses being able to legally shoot people in the street. The fact that Jane wants to start a family also causes him some stress, something that he escapes when Ed (George Kennedy) and Nordberg (O. J. Simpson) call on him for help. They want Frank to go undercover, to get close to a criminal named Rocco (Fred Ward), and to find out about whatever bad, explosive plans he has in store.

All of the main players are as good as they have been in the previous movies, and Fred Ward is a lot of fun as Rocco. Kathleen Freeman is also very good as Rocco's mother, Muriel, but the good work by everyone else is almost undone by Anna Nicole Smith, playing Rocco's gal, Tanya. She's not quite as bad as some people would have you believe, but . . . . . . . . . . she's . . . . . . not good, and is easily the worst performer onscreen.

With Peter Segal taking over the directorial duties this time around, there's definitely something lacking from this third trip to the well. Perhaps it's just the law of diminishing returns, or familiarity breeding contempt, because there are still a number of great gags packed into the script (written by David Zucker, Pat Proft and Robert LoCash). The opening sequence, in particular, is a doozy. In fact, maybe the rest of the film simply suffers in comparison to that great comic riff on The Untouchables. The finale, taking place at the Academy Awards ceremony, may feel a bit tired and desperate, but it's hard to judge the movie too harshly when it comes as the capper to so many laughs and fun moments.

I can't imagine any fans of this type of humour hating this film, but a sense of disappointment may well outweigh a lot of the good feeling. I still like this, I just like it less than the first two movies. But those first two movies, to be fair, were SO good.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

April Fools: The Parole Officer (2001)

While it wasn't his first movie role, The Parole Officer was certainly the first movie with Steve Coogan in it that tried to sell him as the main draw. It tends to be forgotten now, thanks to the large body of work that Coogan has built up, both on the big screen and back in TV land, but I think it remains a fantastic British comedy, very much an updated "little man against the odds" romp that brings to mind some of the Ealing Studios classics.

Coogan is the main character, a probation officer named Simon Garden who ends up witnessing a man murdered at the hands of the corrupt Inspector Burton (Stephen Dillane). The only proof that could take the heat off Simon, who is being set up with some incriminating evidence, and show that the Inspector actually did it, is a videotape. Unfortunately, that tape has been locked away in a secure bank vault. Simon rounds up a few people that he has helped in the past and tries to convince them that if they help him commit this robbery then they are, in fact, doing a very good deed.

It may never hit the comedy heights that some might want to see from Coogan, but The Parole Officer is a solid provider of chuckles from start to finish. The script, written by Coogan and Henry Normal, is based more around the characters than one-liners, but that's perfectly fine when the characters are so much fun.

Coogan's character isn't just another Alan Partridge, but there is a shade of him in there, as Simon Garden also lacks self-awareness, at times, and can be similarly awkward. The character does provide laughs, but he's often more of a straight man to the motley crew he assembles to help him in his crime, four people played by Om Puri, Steven Waddington, Ben Miller and Emma Williams - all on fine form as the rehabilitated criminals with the skills to help Simon in his task. Dillane is a very good baddie, and the lovely Lena Headey is as lovely as ever, playing a police officer and potential love interest. There are also a couple of nice cameos from Jenny Agutter and Omar Sharif to add to the fun.

Director John Duigan keeps things moving along nicely, moving between moments of banter between the would-be robbers, some tension, and then some more of the grand robbery scheme, with plenty of comedy puncturing everything. It's all done in a very genteel style, at times, but there are still one or two moments of crudity (and, they may be crude but they ARE funny), with the end result being a very satisfying mix of verbal wit, sight gags and, well, a bit of vomit.

It might not become a firm favourite, and you might never revisit it, but I think The Parole Officer is a very good film, so I'll keep championing it after everyone else seems to have forgotten all about it.


Monday, 28 April 2014

April Fools: Run For Your Wife (2012)

Oh god. Oh my god. My eyes. My brain. My eyes. I expected Run For Your Wife to be bad (you'll struggle to find a kind word said about it anywhere and the limited cinema screening was a financial embarrassment) but I didn't expect it to be THIS bad. It's ONLY saved from the lowest score possible by the many fleeting cameo appearances from numerous older stars of stage and screen, which allowed me to distract myself from the pain by spotting people and trying to remember what they were best known for. Rolf Harris, Barry Cryer, Cliff Richard, Vicki Michelle, Robin Askwith, Judi Dench (how could you?) and many others turn up for a few seconds to join in with the fun, although I use the word in its loosest sense.

The plot concerns cheeky, lovable taxi driver (John Smith, played by Danny Dyer) getting hit on the head as he helps an old woman keep her handbag away from some thieves, and ending up in hospital. This makes his wife (Denise Van Outen) very worried when she realises that he didn't make it home from his shift. It also makes his other wife (Sarah Harding) very worried when she realises that he hasn't made it home from his shift. Yes, John has two wives. And now he has to do whatever it takes to stop them from finding out about each other. He ropes in his mate (Neil Morrissey) to help him, as the police want some questions answered and the local press want to do an interview with such a have-a-go hero.

This is truly awful stuff. I'm pretty sure that Danny Dyer sold his last ounce of shame about five years ago, probably in exchange for a packet of baking soda that someone convinced him was top-grade cocaine, but the other members of the cast might want to buy up every last copy of this DVD so that nobody else ever sees it. Van Outen is, surely, capable of much better than the shrill performance that she gives here, accompanied by plenty of horrible mugging. Morrissey has done plenty of comedy in his past, and has been very good at it, so he should have known better. Sarah Harding gets a pass, I guess, as the newcomer to the acting world, but her awful performance makes me hope that she doesn't try her hand at comedy again, ever. And Ben Cartwright, as the policeman trying to unravel the messy situation, struggles to get out of the whole thing with his dignity intact. He fails, but he at least tries harder than anyone else. Kellie Shirley really needs to start over, as I think she has the potential to be much better, and the least said about the stereotypes portrayed by Christopher Biggins and Lionel Blair the better.

Written and co-directed by Ray Cooney (John Luton is the other credited director), based on his stage play, this is a relic of a bygone age that hasn't been updated or improved for modern audiences, as far as I can tell. It's cringe-inducing, at best, and downright insulting on many occasions. None of the women are capable of more than panicking at the most minor mishap, or being duped by their beloved husband, and I already mentioned the characters portrayed by Biggins and Blair.

Awful, awful, awful. I don't condone violence but advise that if you ever see anyone about to buy this then you slap them in the face, just to bring them back to their senses. It's the worst British film that I've seen in decades, and the worst Danny Dyer film by far. And THAT is saying something.


See the pain I endure for this blog? And I do it all for free. But every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself).

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

April Fools: Sons Of The Desert (1933)

I have to begin this review by confessing that, somehow, up until now I had never seen a Laurel & Hardy movie. Not a one. Oh, I'd seen some clips and may have seen one or two of their shorts in my youth, though I can't recall, but this was going to be a first for me.

Laurel & Hardy have enough fans. They're titans in the field of comedy, and don't need me defending or criticising them, so please bear that in mind when I proffer up my unworthy opinion after the following brief plot summary.

It's quite a simple tale. Stan and Ollie have taken a solemn oath to join their brothers from the Sons Of The Desert lodge at a convention in Chicago. Unfortunately, they didn't run it past their wives first of all. Stan is very upset, whereas Ollie thinks it will be easy. They are the men of their respective households, after all, so it shouldn't be a problem. Funnily enough, it's a problem, which leaves both men having to work together to come up with some excuse that will allow them to attend the convention without their wives ever finding out. Knowing Stan and Ollie, that can only end badly.

Recommended to me, along with a number of other titles, by fans of the duo, perhaps Sons Of The Desert wasn't the best movie for me to start with. It's good, don't think that I didn't enjoy it for the entire runtime, but I was somehow expecting something more. The slapstick felt, to me, forced and overdone. How many times can Stan forget how to open a door, for example, or how much water can he spill by constantly moving a tub full of the stuff into the wrong position? Having said that, there were plenty of solid laughs coming from both the dialogue and the entire situation as it unfolded throughout the film. The premise is, of course, a classic one that would be used, or so it seemed, by every sitcom throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies.

William Seiter is the director, and keeps things nice and simple for most of the movie. Just lock the camera down and watch Stan and Ollie work with one another. Simple. The story by Frank Craven has about half a dozen uncredited helping hands listed on IMDb, but I guess that many developments and set-pieces were shaped by the stars, allowing them to play to their strengths.

Laurel & Hardy are almost beyond criticism, and it seems redundant to heap more praise on them at this point, so I'll just say that Charley Chase was also fun in a small role, while Mae Busch and Dorothy Christy were both simply fantastic as the wives of the hapless leads. Christy is as sweet to Stan as he deserves. Busch, on the other hand, doesn't hold back when dealing out any punishment to Ollie.

A film worth seeing, and most Laurel & Hardy fans will have already seen it, but if you're new to the duo, as I am, then it may be one to push back, just until you've eased into their filmography with one or two other adventures.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

April Fools: Trail Of The Screaming Forehead (2007)

Apparently, writer-director Larry Blamire has been churning out a number of enjoyable comedies lovingly spoofing b-movies from the '50s and '60s for a few years now. On the recommendation of a friend, Trail Of The Screaming Forehead was the first one that I finally decided to check out. I'm glad I did. While it's not a great film, because a number of the jokes are overused and many moments are just a bit TOO ridiculous, it is an amusing one, and it manages to skirt close enough to the feel and style of the movies that it's paying tribute to.

Here's the basic, silly, premise. A small, American town is invaded by alien foreheads. Yes, crawling foreheads that plant themselves over human foreheads and end up controlling their human hosts. This happens, coincidentally, at the same time as Dr. Sheila Bexter (Fay Masterson) is conducting her ground-breaking research on foreheads, in an attempt to show that it's the forehead, and not the brain, that houses our intelligence.

Ridiculous? Oh, indeed. But also very funny, if watched in the right frame of mind. The movie revels in a mix of lame gags, all-too-familiar moments that seemed to be present in every film of this type, and daffy special effects created on a low budget.

Blamire may not get everything perfect, but he does a great job of ticking plenty of boxes. Theme song using the title of the movie? Check. Newcomers in town stumbling on to the bad situation? Check. Scientists taking their work too far? Check. Dick Miller? Check. Disbelieving local police? Check. A potential solution to the problem that seems very silly, but also seems to make sense? You may have guessed by now, but . . . . . . check.

The cast are all being deliberately awkward and (slightly) wooden, but they all do a great job with the material. Hmmm, I MEAN that as a compliment, honestly, even if it doesn't seem like it. Daniel Roebuck may be the most familiar to viewers (not counting Dick Miller, James Karen and a fine actor who makes a cameo appearance at the very end of the film), but Brian Howe, Dan Conroy and Alison Martin are the main trio trying to keep the foreheads at bay. Masterson is great as the scientist, Andrew Parks raises numerous laughs as the fellow scientist who agrees to be her guinea pig, H. M. Wynant is great in every scene he gets, and Jennifer Blaire is suitably hard-nosed with a touch of sexy in the role of Droxy Chappelle.

If the title is enough to put you off then don't watch it, it's as simple as that. Give it a chance, however, and you may find that there are a lot of plus points throughout the never-ending silliness.


Friday, 25 April 2014

April Fools: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda is a great comedy. A modern classic, in my opinion, thanks to the mix of dialogue, cast, characters and situations. Unfortunately, it also seemed to start the advertising trend that plagues British hits to this day. Every comedy that came along after it would find someone able to say that it was "the best British comedy since A Fish Called Wanda". Until Richard Curtis came along, at least, and then Four Weddings & A Funeral took over, soon superceded by The Full Monty and, well, every other big British success at the box office since then. But let's get back to Wanda.

It's the story of a daring robbery, and a little double-cross by some members of the team. The lovely Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the woman with the grand plan, and she will use all of her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Her partner is Otto (Kevin Kline), a man pretending to be her brother. Otto is a great man with a weapon, but he's not as smart as he thinks he is. Just don't call him stupid. Wanda and Otto are working together to find out where the diamonds from their big robbery have been hidden. George (Tom Georgeson), the man who planned and led the robbery, has been arrested and, funnily enough, doesn't trust anyone. He has moved the loot, and only Ken (Michael Palin) has the key to use whenever the location is revealed. Meanwhile, Archie Leach (John Cleese) is the man defending George in court. He's the one George may tell about the whereabouts of the diamonds if he needs to make a deal, so he's the one that Wanda needs to get close to. Very close.

Directed by Charles Crichton, with a script written by Cleese, this is a film that stands up alongside his earlier classics such as The Lavender Hill Mob. In fact, it's hard to think of a more fitting final film for the man, so perfectly does it mix the old with the new by juxtaposing the repressed Brits alongside the more outlandish Americans. There aren't too many flourishes, but the material doesn't need it.

The cast are all clearly having a lot of fun (with Kline even snagging a surprising Oscar for his supporting role - the Academy often overlooks/dismisses such comedic material, in my experience) and the clash between Curtis and Kline whenever they're onscreen alongside Palin or Cleese is always as entertaining as it is exaggerated. Georgeson has less to do, but is just fine, while Maria Aitken is excellent in a rather thankless role, playing the rich, self-absorbed, wife of Leach. She's a reminder of what happens to people who allow their dreams and energies to die for the sake of a good place in society and a nice house.

Full of so many great lines and moments, from the many stupid sentences spoken by Otto, to the attempts made by stuttering Ken to kill a key witness (Patricia Hayes), to the famous sight of John Cleese stripping off while speaking in a foreign language, to the even more famous sight of Palin with chips up his nose, this is a film that still proves as rewatchable and laugh-inducing today as it did when first released.


Thursday, 24 April 2014

April Fools: The Starving Games (2013)

It's a spoof movie. It's written and directed by Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg. If you've already hit a button to leave this review then I don't blame you. Nothing good can come of this.

There's no point in explaining the plot here. It's The Hunger Games. If you know the source of the spoofery, and you should if you're brave enough to seek this out, then you should know the plot already. Maiara Walsh stars as Kantmiss Evershot, the comedic spin on the character played by Jennifer Lawrence, and she is set to compete in The Starving Games alongside Peter Malarkey (played by Cody Christian). Along the way there are moments featuring Avatar (because, ummm, that's so recent and relevant), The Expendables and a few others, but, in a surprising move, Seltzer and Friedberg actually manage to stick pretty closely to one template this time around. Even more surprising, it results in a film that really isn't half as bad as it should be.

The script is dumb, as you'd expect, but it's dumb in a way that proves frequently, albeit mildly, amusing on this occasion. Perhaps it's simply a bit of good luck, stemming from the fact that the shudder-inducing duo of Seltzer and Friedberg have this time set their sights on a property that works better as a spoof target, or it may be down to the cast.

Walsh is a lot of fun in the lead role, actually capturing the essence of the character being spoofed while also handling the comedy well. Malarkey is fine, if nowhere near as good, but he's matched by the bland Brant Daugherty. Thankfully, there are a number of supporting players who make up for the weaker performances. Diedrich Bader is very funny as President Snowballs, Dean West pops up to raise a smile with his changing facial hair, Ian Casselberry is able to go over the top in a parody of the original over the top performance from Stanley Tucci, and Theodus Crane steals the movie as the stone-faced commentator, Cleaver Williams.

I'm not going to say that this is a sign of better things to come from Seltzer and Friedberg, but I will say that this is almost a good film in comparison to their past transgressions. That might be like saying that losing your little finger in some machinery is better than the time a ninja rolled past your doorway and lopped off your feet, but it's true.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April Fools: Top Secret! (1984)

Another slice of comedic brilliance from the ZAZ team (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker), Top Secret! remains, arguably, their most undervalued outing. It's easily as good as The Naked Gun, and it even comes close to the brilliance of Airplane!

Val Kilmer stars, in his first feature role, as smooth American rock and roll star, Nick Rivers. Nick is due to play a major gig in East Germany, unaware that his presence is viewed as nothing more than a distraction by East Germany, while some dastardly types plan the overthrow of the Western world. It's not long, however, until Nick is dragged into some danger and excitement by the lovely Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), and then it's just a hop, skip and a straightened rug to an active role in the resistance movement.

Think of the zaniness that you love about other ZAZ movies, add some wonderful musical moments and a layer of exuberant surrealism, and you may start to understand why fans of Top Secret! tend to leap to its defence whenever it is overlooked or dismissed in any conversation about great comedy films. The jokes range from the sublime to the ridiculous, as you'd expect from the people involved, but the sublime gags are even more sublime than usual. Having said that, never underestimate the value of lines such as the following: "I know a little German. He's sitting over there."
And if you're not amused by a character named Deja Vu having his first line of dialogue questioning whether or not he has met someone before then I doubt you have a funny bone.

Kilmer is great in the lead role, every inch the cocky American teen idol, while Gutteridge is a lot of fun as the woman who drags him into the middle of the resistance movement. Warren Clarke makes a good villain, Christopher Villiers is amusing as the leader of the resistance, Michael Gough isn't in the movie for long enough, but gets one or two great lines, and Jim Carter steals a couple of scenes as the aforementioned Deja Vu.

If you like movies of this ilk, and have yet to enjoy the laughs that Top Secret! can offer, then I urge you to get to it as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Calvary (2014)

Writer-director John Michael McDonagh made a pretty good impression, to say the least, with his first feature film, The Guard. A film mixing character study with Irish charm with police thriller elements, it was rightfully held up by many as one of the best from its year of release. Well, come the end of 2014, I expect Calvary to be in any such list.

Teaming up once again with Brendan Gleeson, McDonagh this time mixes entertainment with a scathing condemnation of the Catholic Church and a commentary on the state of Ireland as it is today, and the people who took it to that position. Yet, for all of the anger and cynicism in the script, everything is also offset, and beautifully so, by a message of positivity and forgiveness.

Let me actually get to the plot. Gleeson plays Father James Lavelle, a priest who hears a man in confession say that he’s going to kill him. But he’ll give the priest about a week to get his affairs in order. Killing a bad priest wouldn’t make much of an impact, but killing a good priest, that’s something. Such is the reasoning of the killer. Does this prompt Father Lavelle to rush to the police or flee? No. Instead, he goes about his duties in much the same way as before, all the while trying to help members of his parish (including the person that he knows is due to kill him). Father Lavelle is a good man. That much is made clear from the very beginning of the movie. He’s also a deeply flawed man, having battled with the demon drink through the years, but events in his past have made him what he is today, and that becomes obvious when he receives a visit from his daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly).

While I'd like to praise the entire cast here in a way that shows just how great everyone is onscreen, this is Gleeson's movie. As with The Guard, he takes a main character and makes him riveting to watch, even when there seems to be nothing happening. The fact that he's once again given such great support - this time by the likes of Reilly, Chris O'Dowd, David Wilmot, Killian Scott, Aidan Gillen, Orla O'Rourke, M. Emmet Walsh, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankole and Domhnall Gleeson (and one or two I have missed out, apologies) - is just a testament to the ability of McDonagh, or whoever he employs, to put together the perfect cast for his work.

While McDonagh also does a very good job with the direction, his strength lies in his writing. If Calvary was JUST an angry rant, using such great actors and providing such great entertainment, then I would still be praising the movie and writing a positive review. But it's so much more than that, and the realisation of the journey that the film has just taken you on will perhaps leave you stunned and moved as the end credits rolled. I can't stop getting a lump in my throat when I think about the film now, and I'm writing this review a day after seeing it. I can't recall the last time a movie affected me so profoundly.

It's not actually a masterpiece, and it may prove to be a very divisive film (when the central message seems to angry and skewed), but for me it's so close to perfect that it's getting the highest rating possible. I am keen to rewatch it soon, I am keen to own it, and I am keen for other people to give it a chance. And for anyone who does go along to view Calvary and finds it somewhat underwhelming, all I ask is that you don't give up on it until the whole tale has unfolded. Then decide how you feel about it.

April Fools: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor have no luck when they end up starring in a movie together. In fact, they usually end up accused of a crime that they didn't commit, and this film is no exception.

Wilder plays Dave Lyons, who is deaf, and Pryor is a blind man named Wallace "Wally" Karue. Neither man likes to bring attention to their disability, so when Wally applies for a job being advertised by Dave it isn't long until the two seem like good friends. That friendship is strained, however, when a man is murdered in their workplace, and the police think that Wally and Dave did it. They're innocent, of course, but the fact that one heard a gunshot, while not seeing anything, and the other saw some lovely legs leaving the scene, while not hearing anything, proves incredibly frustrating for the main police officer (Alan North) who wants to solve the case. Which leaves Wally and Dave having to escape custody, track down the killers, and clear their names. All while trying to ensure that nobody notices their disabilities.

While it's not quite as good as Stir Crazy, this is a most enjoyable reunion for two comic actors who always seemed to bring out the best in one another (but let's not mention Another You). Wilder and Pryor are on great form, doing a decent job of portraying their disabilities (well, I'm being kind) while never forgetting to keep everything funny. Joan Severance makes an unforgettable impression as a killer, and the owner of the aforementioned lovely legs, but poor Kevin Spacey, as her partner, is stuck alongside her with a lot less to do, giving no impression of just how many great performances he would deliver in later years. Alan North is enjoyable as the cop who spends the movie growing more and more frustrated, Kirsten Childs does well as Wally's exasperated sister, and Anthony Zerbe pops up for a small, but fantastic, role in the third act.

The script, written by five different people (including Wilder), does well, overall, in keeping the focus of the gags on the situations and characters. There are one or two moments that allow viewers to laugh at the leads, but many of the jokes stem from the the way in which people underestimate Wally and Dave, as opposed to stemming just from the disabilities. Director Arthur Hiller keeps everything moving along nicely, with the entertainment factor superceding the mistakes made and the moments that feature all-too-obvious stunt doubles.

Stir Crazy should always be the first port of call for fans of these two actors working together onscreen, but this is a surprisingly close second. It might be far from perfect in many ways, but it has some great one-liners, a couple of hilarious set-pieces and constantly enjoyable banter between the leads.


Remember, every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself).

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Monday, 21 April 2014

April Fools: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

I first watched Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story a year or two ago, and I was underwhelmed. But I didn't write up a review, because although I hadn't seemed to like it while it was on I kept thinking of individual lines and moments long after the end credits had rolled. That was a good sign, surely, and another good sign was the fact that it had so many fans trying to convince people that it was a great comedy. So I decided to buy it and give it another chance. I'm glad I did, because I now agree with those who were telling me how good it was. It's one of the best comedies that Judd Apatow has had his name attached to in the past few years, thanks to a mix of great gags and spot on parodies.

Predominantly riffing on the life of Johnny Cash, as depicted in Walk The Line, John C. Reilly is the talented, but afflicted, Dewey Cox. Haunted by a tragic accident that led to the death of his brother, Dewey spends some years trying to prove to his parents (Raymond J. Barry and Margo Martindale) that he can make it as a talented musician. Unable to win over his father, he heads off with his teenage love (Kristen Wiig) and starts his musical career in earnest. In between singing his way to success, fathering numerous children, and discovering the joys of a variety of drugs, Dewey meets and falls in love with Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer). But Darlene won't stray beyond the close friendship zone until married.

While it's incredibly silly throughout, Walk Hard is also incredibly smart. The songs, for one, are good enough to be the genuine article, especially the title track. And the script, written by Apatow and director Jake Kasdan, manages to fit in every cliche and homage without, somehow, feeling overstuffed. And then it throws in hilarious lines such as: "Did you hear that? I'm Dewey's 12 year-old girlfriend!"
Okay, that might not seem so hilarious now, but when you watch the whole scene, and hear Kristen Wiig triumphantly delivering that line, you may well find it as funny as I did.

Reilly, Wiig, Fischer, Barry and Martindale all do a great job, with the leading man proving to be quite the asset to the movie, but this is a film taken up a notch by a supporting cast full of talented and funny people clearly enjoying what they have to work with. Tim Meadows almost steals the film, as the band member who introduces Dewey to a variety of drugs, but Chris Parnell, Matt Besser and David Krumholtz are all worth mentioning, as are Jack White (with a hilarious Elvis impression), Harold Ramis, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins and many more. And then there's the added bonus of hearing the strange accents affected by Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman as they attempt to mimic the Beatles in a scene that I find fairly amusing, but others may find annoying and a bit too self-indulgent.

Jake Kasdan has been proving himself quite a capable director for years now, and this is another title that nestles comfortably alongside the other successes in a feature filmography that, for the most part, aims for quality over quantity.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

April Fools: The Party (1968)

The Party may not be for everyone, there are a few too many groovy moments that date it quite badly and Peter Sellers playing an Indian actor may offend some people, but I stand by it, and heartily recommend it as an absolutely delightful comedy.

Sellers is Hrundi V. Bakshi, an incompetent actor who has his name written down by a man who can ensure that he never works in films again. Fortunately, the same piece of paper that has his name on it also has the names of everyone being invited to a swish Hollywood party, resulting in Mr. Bakshi mingling in a crowd that he knows very little about. Small disaster follows small disaster, thanks to both Bakshi and a waiter (Steve Franken) who is busy helping himself to alcohol whenever possible.

Despite some fine support, from Franken, Claudine Longet (okay, she's not great, but she's suitably beautiful and lovely) and Denny Miller (as 'Wyoming Bill' Kelso), this is very much a showcase for Sellers to do what he does best. His portrayal of Hrundi V. Bakshi is a fine comic creation, mixing great physical comedy with some real heart, to show someone who creates laughs but isn't to be ridiculed. It's a thin line indeed, but Bakshi is so sweet and earnest that viewers will want him to get through the evening unscathed, despite how unlikely that seems.

The script, by director Blake Edwards, Frank Waldman and Tom Waldman, was, apparently, just a rough guideline that allowed for a lot of improvisation and development. The movie was shot in sequence to allow things to develop from the comedy developed in earlier moments, and this results in a final product full of great moments that somehow manages to avoid the loose, rambling feeling that some improvised works can't quite shake off.

If you're a fan of Sellers then you've probably already seen this one, but if you've somehow missed it so far then I recommend getting to it soon. It is, in my opinion, up there with his best work. Also check it out if you're just a fan of great comedy, in general, as it's a masterclass in how to take the smallest moments and wring every laugh from them, piecing them all together to make something that's almost an absolute classic.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

April Fools: Cecil B. DeMented (2000)

John Waters is a fun guy. His career spans decades and he remains defiantly subversive and independent. In fact, Waters himself might agree that the fact that he HAS such a lengthy career defies the odds. He doesn't make movies for the mainstream, but instead aims squarely for the awkward, the odd, the unbalanced, the outsiders, and the fiercely individual. AKA the cool people. Bizarrely, the mainstream sometimes picks up what he lays down. I'm thinking mainly of the stage show and movie remake that stemmed from Hairspray. There was also no small amount of love shown for Serial Mom when it came out, but maybe I was just finding more friends who appreciated Waters at that point.

Anyway, I should really start talking about Cecil B. DeMented. It's a film that, in some ways, seems perfectly designed to appeal to the mainstream, hence my opening ramble, but in every other way it's quintessentially Waters (who has Hollywood squarely in his sights).

Stephen Dorff is Cecil, a young artist frustrated with the entertainment world around him. Blockbusters rub shoulders with lame remakes and lame sequels, and that needs to change. Which is why he kidnaps the famous Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith). Forcing her to act in his movie, Cecil explains his aim and Honey eventually starts to come around to his way of thinking. But will anyone else, aside from his small group of loyal followers?

With a lot of great, albeit easy, gags and a cast that mixes a couple of well-known names with some relative "unknowns" such as Jack Noseworthy, Adrian Grenier, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon, Cecil B. DeMented is unlikely to be anyone's favourite John Waters movie, but it's one that I can happily revisit and never tire of. The slim runtime helps - it barely edges over the 80 minute mark - and the rest of the cast, including Alicia Witt and Lawrence Gilliard Jr, also do their bit, with plenty of enthusiasm making up for any failings in actual acting expertise. Dorff is great in the lead role, but Griffith also deserves some credit for putting herself in the midst of such madness.

Despite the thin layer of polish on everything, this is still a biting, anarchic, and interesting work from a writer-director who rarely, if ever, lets me down. The fact that he's only given us one more movie since this one in the last fifteen years is a great shame, and I hope that he's not finished warping our minds just yet.


Friday, 18 April 2014

April Fools: BASEketball (1998)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone star as Joe Cooper and Doug Remer, respectively, in this sports comedy that's really just an excuse to cram as many gags as possible into every scene and to highlight the comedy value of a really good insult.

"Coop" and Remer are a pair of losers, but they're a pair of losers who create a sport that becomes very, very popular in America. It's a cross between basketball and baseball. One player tries to throw a ball that will land in the basket, with the points scored determined by his position, while the opposing team try to psyche them out with various insults. Thanks to a general lack of ambition, and a wish to keep their sport pure, the guys manage to keep baseketball as something more about the actual players and gameplay than money and sponsorship deals. But scheming Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn) really wants to change that.

Despite feeling very much like a Trey Parker and Matt Stone movie, BASEketball only makes use of the duo in an acting capacity, although it certainly feels like one or two moments came straight from their warped little minds (including a fantastic sneak preview of "Cartman"). The script was actually co-written by director David Zucker, along with Robert LoCash, Lewis Friedman and Jeff Wright. But Parker and Stone made sure they could rewrite enough to keep everything nicely in line with their own sensibilities.

The leading men may not be the most versatile performers, but they're perfect for these roles, playing two dudes who just have a lot of fun, realise that others enjoy what they do, and then have to walk a tightrope between doing well in life and selling out. It's not an unfamiliar scenario for them to deal with. The other main team member, Squeak Scolari (played by Dian Bachar), is very funny, and very often the butt of the jokes.
Elsewhere in the cast, Yasmine Bleeth has fun as the woman that "Coop" falls for, Jenny McCarthy and Ernest Borgnine provide some laughs, and Vaughn is amusingly conniving and unflappable, even while dealing with idiots around him.

Zucker has, of course, been involved with many great comedies in his career, many of them better known than this one, but BASEketball is so good that I still rank it up there with his best stuff. If you've not seen it yet then get to it whenever you can. It's guaranteed to make you laugh.*


*Comedy is subjective, everyone has a different sense of humour, any guarantees offered here by the author do not count as actual guarantees.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

April Fools: Rushmore (1998)

Directed by Wes Anderson, who also co-wrote the script with Owen Wilson, Rushmore is a film perfectly poised as something that fans of the director will love, while also being one of his more accessible works for those unused to his preferred aesthetics.

Jason Schwartzman plays Max Fischer, a confident teenager who thinks that he's an excellent student at school, despite the fact that he's failing in a number of subjects. He is, however, involved in numerous extra-curricular activities. If there's a club for it then he'll often be a member. In fact, he'll often be the one who started up the club in the first place. But drama is his main love, as shown by the plays that he likes to put on for the school. Well, drama is his main love until he sees Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Then she becomes his main love. Unfortunately, she is a teacher and he is just a fifteen-year-old boy, despite his attempts to show himself in a more mature light. Herman Blume (Bill Murray) likes Max, and the two become friends. Herman wishes that his own children were more like this determined, sensible young man. But that changes when he also meets Rosemary.

Rushmore is a hard film to write about, in some ways, because it's quite simply a near-perfect script that's being delivered by actors all perfect in their roles, and directed perfectly by Anderson. Job done. But it's in all the details that the movie excels, be it the nuance of a performance or the many pieces of set decoration showing the fastidious nature of Max when he puts his mind to something. The soundtrack is also, yep, almost perfect, with a finale that blends the onscreen visuals with some particularly good audio choices to make for a quietly effective, and surprisingly powerful, curtain call.

It's hard to believe that this was the first onscreen acting role for Schwartzman, so good is he in the role of Max. He's arrogant, sweet, annoying, precocious, pitiable, enviable, and stubborn, but he's also just young, and the movie allows viewers to see him grow, even if it's only by a small degree. Williams is wonderful as Rosemary, because she's easy to fall in love with. And then there's good ol' Bill Murray, putting in the kind of performance that would have stolen every scene he was in, had he not been in such an altogether strong film. Smaller roles for Brian Cox, Seymour Cassel and Luke Wilson all prove rewarding in their own way, and Sara Tanaka and Mason Gamble both make a great impression as youngsters beguiled by Max in slightly different ways.

Fans of Wes Anderson should love this, but this is also a film that can be enjoyed by those who don't think that they like the man's style. His stamp remains on almost every scene, but this is a slightly more subdued affair compared to the films that he would go on to give audiences over the next two decades.

Love or hate Anderson, I encourage you to check out Rushmore. It remains a high point in the filmographies of everyone involved.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

April Fools: Dumb & Dumber (1994)

It's a relief to watch Dumb & Dumber today and realise that it holds up pretty well, because the success of the film was a bit of a mixed blessing. It helped Jim Carrey to get to the A-list, and it helped the Farrelly brothers go on to make great films like Kingpin, There's Something About Mary and Stuck On You. Unfortunately, it also plunged Jeff Daniels into a bit of a comedy purgatory for a number of years, and it also led to movies like Say It Isn't So and *shudder* Movie 43.

The slim plot sees Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels) embarking on a trip across the country to return a briefcase to Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly). Unfortunately, the briefcase contains money that was supposed to be delivered to two criminals (played by Mike Starr and Karen Duffy). Mary left it behind deliberately, and is now unaware that Lloyd, who has fallen in love with her, and Harry are determined to travel to Aspen to give it back to her. The criminals ARE aware of the situation, but they need to figure out just what kind of people they're dealing with. Well, as is obvious from the start of the movie, they're idiots.

Lloyd and Harry aren't the most likable movie characters ever to appear onscreen, but viewers will keep rooting for them because they are more like spiteful children than sneaky adults. In fact, thanks to the performances from Carrey and Daniels, that's exactly how they come across. Whether they're chasing an impossible dream, being mean to one another, or being greatly entertained by the simplest of pleasures, these two characters are consistently child-like. Holly somehow manages to stay graceful under pressure whenever she has to share the screen with either of the two leads, Starr and Duffy are fun villains, and Victoria Rowell has a couple of great scenes in the lead up to the finale that manages to be fairly predictable, despite one little surprise thrown in to mix things up a bit. Special mentions should go to Cam Neely, for his portrayal of a mean trucker named Sea Bass, and Harland Williams, playing a traffic cop who appears for one small, but memorable, scene.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly both wrote, with the help of Bennett Yellin, and directed this slice of clever idiocy, and it's really when you see more and more misguided attempts to recapture its essence that you realise just how good it is. The bad taste, the toilet humour, the slapstick moments, everything is put together in just the right way to make for a great final product that entertains everyone but the all-too-easily-offended. The whole thing moves along at a good pace, the soundtrack is full of lively and enjoyable tunes, and it's all centred by that great pairing of Carrey and Daniels, two stooges who argue and fight together as people can do only when they really care for one another.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

April Fools: Knights Of Badassdom (2013)

When I first saw the trailer for Knights Of Badassdom I knew that I was going to love it. Well, I felt very strongly that I was going to love it. It had a great cast and a premise that I thought couldn't fail. Unfortunately, the film was held back for a long, long time before finally being released, after a great deal of studio interference, apparently. It would be nice to see the original movie that director Joe Lynch intended people to see, but it's hard to think of any improvements that would turn this into something truly great. As it stands, it's massively disappointing, mainly because of how it fails to fully exploit the brilliant central idea.

Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage play a couple of guys who enjoy a bit of LARP (Live Action Role Playing) now and again. They drag their buddy (Ryan Kwanten) along to a big event, in order to cheer him up after he was unceremoniously ditched by his girlfriend, and start to play. Unfortunately, one of the props being used for the game is a bit too real, and one of the main character unwittingly summons a demon that quickly starts preying on the helpless LARPers all around.

What do you think? Sounds fantastic, right? It really does, and it was that central concept that had me salivating for a long time, eager for the film to get any kind of release that would allow me to at least see the damn thing. Well, maybe Joe Lynch has some super-duper extended cut that rejigs everything and magically turns the movie into what many people hoped it would be, but I'm not holding my breath.

The main problem seems to lie with the screenplay by Matt Wall and Kevin Dreyfuss. It just doesn't pack in enough mirth, doesn't throw enough gore in to compensate, and spends far too little time with the best characters, played by Zahn and Dinklage (both on fine form). Kwanten is someone I like, but he's not treated well here. I spent many of his scenes just wishing that his character had been wiped from the movie, he was simply unnecessary and uninteresting. Summer Glau brightens things up slightly by being Summer Glau, and Jimmi Simpson is pretty hilarious for almost every moment that he's onscreen, but there's still not enough to raise this to the level of something even average.

The direction from Lynch seems to add to the mishandling of the material, but maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe all of my problems with the movie DO reflect on the studio interference more than the potential that the movie had to be something great, but we can always only ultimately critique whatever we have available to us, and this IS Knights Of Badassdom. For the time being, at least. And, in this incarnation of the movie, Lynch seems happy to go along with the undercooked helpings served up by Wall and Dreyfuss, before using the finale to turn off anyone who has watched all the way through and tried to convince themselves that it was worth the wait.

Not badass. Just bad.


Monday, 14 April 2014

April Fools: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)

Leslie Nielsen returns as Frank Drebin in this comedy sequel that almost holds up as well as the first movie, thanks to the gags having the same level of both quantity and quality.

Some time has passed since the events of the first movie, of course, and Drebin and Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) are no longer together. Which makes things extra awkward when Drebin suspects Quentin Hapsburg (Robert Goulet) of being involved in a scheme to kidnap a scientist (Richard Griffiths) who is about to advise the President Of The United States, and other important folk, on the advantages of solar energy.

With the main cast members all returning from the first movie, and game performances from Goulet and Griffiths, this is a film that will easily please fans of Drebin and co. There's also some fun to be had with lookalikes of George Bush Sr. and his wife, Barbara, to make up for the lack of any involvement by Queen Elizabeth II this time around.

David Zucker also returns to direct, and he co-wrote the script with Pat Proft. The two men show, once again, that they are always reliable when it comes to setting up numerous zingers, be they one-liners, visual gags, or the many wonderful blink-and-miss-them details that often loiter on the edges, or in the background.

Although there are many gags recycled from the first movie (and, of course, the TV show that started it all off), this isn't a case of familiarity breeding contempt. No. This is warm, comforting stuff. You can watch the movie and know that you're in safe hands, whether they belong to Zucker and Proft, or Nielsen and his talented co-stars. Everyone is aiming to provide you with the laughs, and they do just that. Of course, it helps that in between the many familiar gags there are a number of original moments that are absolute crackers.

Basically, if you loved the first movie then you should love this one. And if you didn't love the first movie then you and I have nothing more to say to one another. Yes, sometimes I AM that judgmental.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

April Fools: A Haunted House (2013)

A parody full of juvenile humour that focuses on sex and/or flatulence, it must be something created by one of the Wayans brothers. Lo and behold, yes it is. Marlon Wayans co-wrote this one with Rick Alvarez, and he also gets the leading role, funnily enough.

Wayans is Malcolm, a young man about to take a big step in his relationship with Kisha (Essence Atkins). Yes, they're moving in together. Unfortunately, that's the cue for a lot of supernatural shenanigans, which leads to Malcolm fitting the house with lots of cameras, in an attempt to see just what is going on in their home.

Mainly referencing the Paranormal Activity series for most of the gags, this film also lifts moments from The Last Exorcism and The Devil Inside. That's not surprising, especially for anyone who saw the trailers. What IS surprising is how many gags manage to avoid being completely awful. I can't say that I thought A Haunted House was good, it's not one I would ever want to watch again, but it was certainly better than I thought it was going to be. There were even one or two moments that made me smirk.

Wayans is slightly less annoying than usual here, but he's still annoying. Has he ever done anything in which he wasn't annoying? Probably, but I really can't think of anything just now. Essence Atkins is a little bit more enjoyable, and the supporting turns from David Koechner, Cedric The Entertainer and Nick Swardson provide some chuckles. I just wish the same could be said of everyone given screentime (Affion Crockett isn't great, but he's also given some of the worst material to work with).

The script is as lowbrow as expected, and the direction from Michael Tiddes works with the material to hammer home each joke and ensure that things are kept tasteless. Why hint at something when it can be shown? Subtlety is not a keyword here.

There's an audience for this kind of movie (the sequel was greenlit a while ago, god help us) but I'll never be a fan. My generous rating reflects the few gags that worked, and worked well. The dialogue between Koechner and Wayans is particularly enjoyable, and perhaps it's worth noting that their best moment doesn't directly parody any other movie.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

April Fools: InAPPropriate Comedy (2013)

Movie 43 was a bad movie, as almost everyone knows by now. Yes, some people liked it, but some people also like eating grapefruit. People are weird, but I digress. The main point I wanted to make was that Movie 43 was bad. So it's difficult to imagine a movie that would want to, seemingly, emulate Movie 43*. Unfortunately, that is the case with InAPPropriate Comedy. It doesn't have too much star power, but it does have Lindsay Lohan, Adrien Brody, Michelle Rodriguez and Rob Schneider in small roles.

The devil is playing around with his tablet and clicks on various apps. Those apps bring up a number of sketches, all with one common factor. They're painfully unfunny. There's also only about seven main apps that are used, which means that viewers get the dubious pleasure of watching for a second or third time something that they didn't find all that great the first time round. Here are the various sketch templates.
Brody is Flirty Harry, a cop who shoots criminals while uttering nothing but double entendres.
Rodriguez and Schneider are a couple of movie critics who review porno flicks.
A bunch of black men horse around and play sorta-Jackass stunts in . . . . . . Blackass.
Ari Shaffir is The Amazing Racist (and the only actual good element of the entire movie - the sequence with him insulting learner drivers is hilarious, even if it's too obviously set up with actors).
A psychiatrist (Schneider again) works with a sex-obsessed young woman (Noelle Kenney) and gets himself quite worked up, despite the young woman wanting to change her ways for the better.
And there's something you'll never see - a young, beautiful woman dating a poor, old man.
That's it, barring the framing device that has the devil waiting to see up Lindsay Lohan's skirt as she walks over an air vent a la Marilyn from The Seven Year Itch.

Just reading over what I've written makes me wonder how I ever got through to the end credits. Director Vince Offer, who co-wrote the movie with Shaffir, Ken Pringle, and input from some others, just throws things together with little thought for quality or consistency. The end result is a painful mess.

If you're VERY easily amused then you may find more chuckles here than I did. But I advise giving it a miss. Check out the many sketches involving The Amazing Racist that are readily available online instead.

*Of course, I was a bit unfair earlier when saying that this movie wanted to emulate Movie 43. There's every chance that Movie 43 was just emulating Offer's own 1999 outing, The Underground Comedy Movie. That was also a number of short sketches stitched together to make a movie. Whether or not it is any good is another matter, but, based on what I saw here, I'm certainly not going to rush to see it.


Friday, 11 April 2014

April Fools: Cottage Country (2013)

Tyler Labine spends some time in a cottage in the middle of some woods, and death starts to have a field day. Yes, it should be clear to anyone who has seen the cover art for this movie that one or two people wanted to profit from the goodwill heaped upon the excellent Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil.

Labine stars as Todd, a young man who is planning to propose to his loved one (Cammie, played by Malin Akerman) during a romantic weekend at his family's cottage. Unfortunately, his brother (Dan Petronijevic) turns up, accompanied by his crazy girlfriend (Lucy Punch). Tensions quickly rise, leading to bloodshed and a situation that quickly spirals from bad to worse.

Although there's a fun cast here, all trying their hardest, there's just something about Cottage Country that stops it from every becoming a good film. Perhaps it's because we've all seen this kind of material done a number of times before, and done better. Perhaps it's because of that horrible feeling that people are just trying to wring more money from fans of Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. Or . . . . . . perhaps it's just not good enough, with the tension never really feeling that tense and the comedy never being that funny.

Labine is as likable as ever, and Akerman is someone I tend to enjoy onscreen (she's gorgeous, and game for a laugh), but nobody else really makes a great impression. Petronijevic and Punch are saddled with portraying two extremely annoying characters, which makes their scenes hard to enjoy, and Benjamin Ayres, Kenneth Welsh, Nancy Beatty and Sabrina Grdevich just don't get enough to do.

Writer Jeremy Boxen fails to mix in any surprises, or good enough jokes, while director Peter Wellington does nothing to help strengthen the desperately-in-need-of-strengthening material. Everything is put together competently enough, but the film just never takes off.

If you like the leads, as I do, then you'll be able to get some amusement from this, but it's a below average effort that I can't imagine anyone listing as a favourite.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

April Fools: Caddyshack (1980)

There was a time when Caddyshack was the very best golf comedy that you could name. Okay, okay, we're still not exactly inundated with golf comedies, but at least nowadays we also have the wonderful Tin Cup, and Adam Sandler fans can always point to Happy Gilmore as proof that the guy used to be very funny. I might actually prefer those two movies to Caddyshack, but only ever so slightly.

What's the story? Well, Rodney Dangerfield is the brash bundle of cheek upsetting some of the old brigade when he joins a golf club. He likes to have fun, which is something that many of the other members seem to frown upon. The cast of characters includes the uptight and grouchy Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight), young Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe), a young caddy who wants to make something of his life, and a groundskeeper (Bill Murray) who always seems to be one or two steps behind a disruptive gopher. And let's not forget Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), a great golfer who's also quite the zen master.

There are two reasons for me not loving Caddyshack quite as much as some people do. The first one is that it has some moments that make it feel very dated (whenever someone gets their groove on it feels more like a 1960s movie than one that came out in 1980). Second, I'm not that big a fan of Rodney Dangerfield. I've enjoyed some of his stuff, but I can't think of any movie vehicle he starred in that couldn't have been improved by someone else taking over his role.

Caddyshack, however, is not focused on Dangerfield. Well, it is, but it doesn't focus on him to the detriment of the rest of the film. Everyone gets their turn when it comes to providing the laughter, with Chase and Murray being the standouts.

Director Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the script with Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney, blends everything together perfectly, allowing everyone to play to their strengths. O'Keefe may be a bit bland compared to the great cast members surrounding him, but he's good enough to root for, and Ramis knows this, making his story a central strand while filling up each scene with enough laughs and lunacy to keep viewers entertained.

It may not be a glorious hole in one, but this comedy is easily way below par, if we're going to use the golf-specific scoring system. But that is me saying that it's actually way above par. Confused? Yes, me too.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

April Fools: Puddle Cruiser (1996)

The first feature movie for the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, Puddle Cruiser has some laughs here and there, but it falls far short of the greatness that they would be delivering just around the corner (starting with the hilarious Super Troopers, and continuing with some other vehicles I have grown to love).

It's the university life for the Broken Lizard boys. Steve Lemme is the charming student named Felix Bean, a young man who finds himself in a casual relationship with a young woman (Suzanne, played by Kayren Butler). Things are complicated by the fact that Suzanne is seeing someone else. They're further complicated by the fact that she's legally representing two friends of Felix, Grogan (Kevin Heffernan) and Matt (Paul Soter), as they try to clear their names of a crime that Felix also had a hand in. Meanwhile, Zach (Jay Chandrasekhar) has been given a telephone number by a girl, but it's missing a digit, which leaves him trying out a variety of combinations. And then there's Freaky Reaky (Erik Stolhanske), who just keeps himself amused by being mellow and freaky.

There ARE funny moments in Puddle Cruiser, but they're relatively few and far between. The lunacy of the campus trial, when Heffernan and Soter get to cut loose, is fantastic fun, but a lot of the material looking at the relationship between Lemme and Butler is a bit flat. Fans of the inspired lunacy that Broken Lizard would bring to their next few movies will most probably end up disappointed when giving this one a go.

The cast all do their best, however, and try to compensate for the material with energy and enthusiasm. Heffernan, Soter and Stolhanske have all the best moments, but Lemme and Chandrasekhar have at least a couple of opportunities to provide some amusement, with the former doing a perfectly fine job as the nominal leading man.

Written by the whole gang, it's Chandrasekhar who directs the action, cutting his teeth here before developing his filmography in a fine selection of future projects, both with Broken Lizard and without. He keeps things simple here, understandably, but does a competent enough job.

I was going to say that this was one for completists only, but I guess there are people who will find it much more enjoyable than I did. So I'll just say . . . . . . . . . approach with caution.


Book ad time.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

April Fools: Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000)

The character of Kevin the stroppy teenager was very funny when he first appeared. One of many creations from famous UK TV comedian Harry Enfield, he was an amusing exaggeration of the worst aspects of those turbulent teenage years. Unfortunately, he wasn't as funny by the turn of the century, and this attempt to take the thin gag and stretch it further, into a full movie, stands up now as nothing more than a bit of an embarrassment.

Enfield is Kevin, of course, and Kathy Burke plays his mate, Perry. The two obsess over girls and getting a sex life, and they look to have the best chance ever to impress some lovely young ladies when they're allowed to go on holiday to Ibiza. Unfortunately, Kevin's parents (James Fleet and Louisa Rix) are also along for the holiday. Will Kevin and Perry get to make their dreams come true? Will they get to make out with some young ladies (mainly the two played by Tabitha Wady and Laura Fraser)? And will they somehow manage to convince people that they have the potential to be superstar DJs, just like Eyeball Paul (Rhys Ifans)?

Kevin & Perry Go Large has a pretty good soundtrack, so there's that. But there's really nothing else, with the exception of a brilliant turn from Ifans as the uncaring DJ who strings the lads along while promising to play their song at his club. Director Ed Bye has a career full of TV work (including Red Dwarf, which may hold up as the best thing that he's worked on) but he proves able to take this small-screen work and bulk it up enough for the cinema screen. It's just a shame that he can't do anything to detract from the sheer awfulness of the script.

Remember in Caddyshack when someone dropped a chocolate bar in the swimming pool and everyone thought that it was a floating piece of human waste? Well, this movie has a similiar scene, except there's no chocolate bar involved. It's just a piece of shit (which is a fitting summation of the entire film). Yes, that's the level of the script, written by Enfield and Dave Cummings.

Enfield is almost consistently annoying, Burke is a bit more fun, and I already mentioned how good Ifans is, but there just isn't anyone onscreen that viewers will enjoy spending time with. Fleet and Rix are the most pleasant, but maybe teenagers will disagree with me on that point. Paul Whitehouse has a fun cameo, and Steven O'Donnell gets a couple of good moments as Big Baz, but that's really all of the minor pleasures of the movie covered.

I'm sure there are people who still enjoy this. I am not one of them, however, and recommend avoiding it completely.


Monday, 7 April 2014

April Fools: Superhero Movie (2008)

Written and directed by Craig Mazin, it's worth noting right away that Superhero Movie is one of the few spoofs with "Movie" in the title that is actually relatively painless and enjoyable. It's nowhere near the daffy greatness of Not Another Teen Movie, but it's miles better than the likes of Date Movie.

Drake Bell stars as Rick Riker, a young man who develops superpowers after he's bitten by a radioactive dragonfly. From start to finish, this is a riff on Spider-Man, with plenty of nods to other superhero hits of the past few years. And that's about all you need to know. Christopher McDonald is great as Lou Landers, the villain of the piece, Sara Paxton is very sweet as Jill Johnson, and Leslie Nielsen and Marion Ross are Uncle Albert and Aunt Lucille, respectively.

Okay, this is still an easy movie to hate if you automatically hate these kinds of movies. It's not often aiming for the cleverest comedy, but it is always aiming for laughs (unlike the horrible approach of just copying scenes with little to no changes, an unfunny approach used by some people, who shall remain nameless).

The great cast help to make up for the weaker, groan-inducing, gags. Bell and Paxton are a sweet central pair, McDonald is a great baddie (as anyone who has seen him in Happy Gilmore or Dirty Work can attest), Nielsen and Ross are good fun, and the rest of the cast includes Brent Spiner, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Robert Joy (equally amusing and tasteless as Stephen Hawking), Regina Hall, Robert Hays, Nicole Sullivan, Jeffrey Tambor, Craig Bierko and Simon Rex, among others. A bunch of big names does not a good movie make, but this lot certainly help to keep everything lively and entertaining enough.

There are still a few too many toilet humour gags, but there are a lot of jokes that target specific superheroes or superhero movie moments, and they work surprisingly well. They may be easy gags, but they work. And if enough laughs are created, then that means that a comedy movie has done its job. Even if it's far from the best out there.


So I put together a book, yes I did.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

April Fools: The Naked Gun (1988)

Anyone who watched Police Squad! was already aware of how great both it, and the main character (a cop named Frank Drebin, played by Leslie Nielsen), was. Unfortunately, not many people watched Police Squad! At least, not on the first time around anyway. It was poorly rated and cancelled after one season of six episodes. Thankfully, that scenario eventually led to a trilogy of movies developed from the premise, which just goes to show you that sometimes bad decisions lead to great consequences.

Nielsen is still Frank Drebin, and Drebin is still as insensitive and incompetent as ever. But he may be the best man for the job when he realises that there's a plot to assassinate the Queen while she's in his fair city. He's convinced that it's something to do with the smooth Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) but he can't get any proof, meaning that nobody else will believe him. At least he manages to find solace in the arms of the beautiful Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), but will their relationship survive the situation. And will the Queen survive her visit?

ZAZ (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) give comedy fans another modern classic here. They helped to craft the script, with help from Pat Proft, and it's almost as good as the mighty Airplane! Almost. The character of Drebin is hilariously oblivious throughout the movie, an American take on Inspector Clouseau, with an even richer seam of stupidity to be mined, and this helps to make every gag funnier. One-liners mix with hilarious visual jokes and set-pieces to provide non-stop laughter for fans of this particular type of comedy, and David Zucker also does a good job in the role of director. He doesn't need to do anything too special, but he makes room for each and every gag, even if it's something that viewers don't notice until a second or third viewing.

Nielsen is great in a role that he seemed born to play (even if he turned to comedy relatively late in his career), but he's given great support from George Kennedy, the lovely Miss Presley, Montalban, Nancy Marchand and O.J. Simpson back when he was best known for being an ex-sportsman. Everyone plays it admirably straight, no matter how ridiculous things get, and that's always been the brilliance of the best ZAZ comedies.

Hilarious and eminently rewatchable, no comedy collection should be without The Naked Gun.