Uncle Drew (Full Review)

Many of my favorite comedies are some of the dumbest movies in creation. To be a good comedy, you just have to strike the right chord for the right audience. I remember the firsts time I saw the Pepsi Uncle Drew commercials with NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving dressed as an old man. They were hilarious. For a film version to work, they just needed to keep that same energy.

Uncle_Drew_posterFoot Locker employee, Dax (Lil Rel Howery), is down on his luck and putting everything he has into managing a streetball team that can win a tournament at New York’s famed Rucker Park with a $100,000 cash prize. But when his rival (Nick Kroll) steals his star player (Aaron Gordon) and his girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish), Dax is forced to find a new team. Luckily for him, he stumbles upon 70 year old, streetball legend Uncle Drew (Irving). Drew agrees to play in the tournament, but only with his old teammates, which include a preacher (Chris Webber), a blind shooter (Reggie Miller), a man who doesn’t walk or talk (Nate Robinson), and a 7-foot karate instructor who has beef with Drew (Shaquille O’Neal).

The story is as formulaic as they come, but Uncle Drew succeeds in doing what comedies are supposed to do. The laughs are plentiful and organic from the start. The most prominent comedy with NBA players that I can remember is Space Jam. And while it is a cult classic, none of the players in it did a very good job on the acting front. That isn’t the case here. Retired NBA vets, Miller, Robinson, Shaq, and Webber are all absolutely hilarious. WNBA legend Lisa Leslie also adds comedic flare as Preacher’s tough as nails first lady. The simple fact that they are all clad in makeup and acting like old people while showcasing their ridiculous basketball ability, only adds to the fun.

Uncle Drew doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. It has a central character that audiences can root for, and a supporting cast that each have their own unique quirks. If Shaq playing a karate instructor, Chris Webber doing a baptism by putting a baby through his legs, Kyrie Irving singing and dancing to music from an 8-track player, and Reggie Miller yelling swish while blindly bricking shots at an arcade, are not funny to you… then you should save your money. But if you found the Uncle Drew commercials goofy and fun, then this film has enough to make your sides split in laughter even if you aren’t a basketball fan.

FINAL GRADE: B

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The House (Full Review)

It’s almost surprising that Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have never been leads in a movie together. Both know funny. Both were hilarious in their Saturday Night Live days and although that comedic flare doesn’t always translate into their films, you always know both are capable of owning any scene.

The_House_(2017_film)In The House, Ferrell and Poehler team up as parents whose daughter (Ryan Simpkins) is headed off to college. When the sleazy head of the town’s city council (Nick Kroll) revokes their daughter’s scholarship, the couple is lured into a scheme by their divorced neighbor (Jason Mantzoukas) to raise money for tuition by starting up their own casino in his home. With all of their quirky neighbors onboard, their scheme takes off and leads them down a crazy life as underground casino runners.

As with more and more comedies these days, this film carries a wacky tone that makes it not even remotely believable. This is a world where a town has only one cop (Rob Huebel), all of the adults act like irresponsible children, and a successful casino can be started up in a matter of days by someone who can’t even afford their own home. In other words, have your sense of reality clock out at the box office window.

The utter ridiculousness of the plot makes The House go off the rails at almost every turn. Luckily, this is a comedy, and flaws can be more forgiving if you just make the audience laugh. Ferrell and Poehler, when they aren’t trying too hard to oversell a joke or two, bring out the necessary dose of laughter to make The House moderately entertaining. And if you have never been into their antics then you really shouldn’t be watching this film in the first place. They aren’t alone though. Mantzoukas also manages to master the art of being funny simply with effective facial expressions and delivery.

There were two or three scenes that were so funny they had me in tears. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get through long stretches of buffoonery and annoying characters (*Nick Kroll) to get to them. If you can just turn your brain off and ignore the half baked nature of everything going on, you might just have a decent time with this one.

FINAL GRADE: C

 

 

Sing (Full Review)

It’s been quite the year for animated movies. Disney set the bar high with three fantastic films in Zootopia, Finding Dory, and Moana. But Illumination (the folks behind the Despicable Me franchise) showed that they could create a fun film without minions with this summer’s Secret Life of Pets. Now they close out the year with Sing, an exciting concept aided by a stellar voice cast.

sing_2016_film_posterSing is the simple story of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a down on his luck koala bear whose rundown theater is about to be taken due to bankruptcy. His last ditch effort is to have a singing competition with a collection of vocally talented locals. There’s Johnny (Taron Egerton), the gorilla son of an unsupportive gangster father, Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) a stressed pig housewife with 25 kids, Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a teenage porcupine who is chosen for the competition over her jealous guitar playing boyfriend, Mike (Seth McFarlane) a rude crooning street rat, Meena (Tori Kelly), an elephant with a massive case of stage fright, and a confidently flamboyant German pig named Gunter (Nick Kroll). With a talented group, Buster is poised to prove his sheep best friend (John C. Reilly) wrong, if only his elderly iguana secretary (Garth Jennings) hadn’t accidentally put a $100,000 reward on the audition flyers.

The movie breaks no new narrative ground, but that isn’t the purpose of Sing. Instead, it’s a thoroughly wonderful experience because of the different characters and their arcs. They are all interesting, funny, and loveable. And the music is sensational. If you aren’t familiar with the vocal splendor of Tori Kelly, then you’ll be in for a marvelous surprise. Her voice is angelic and her shy, wholesome character is the heart and soul of a film filled with soulful characters.

The holidays should be about family and fun, and for that reason Sing manages to be a triumph without any fresh twists or turns. It delivers what it promises and gives some hefty laughs and heartwarming moments along the way. So while it might not be Academy award worthy, anyone who comes out of Sing without a smile on their face went in for the wrong reasons.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Sausage Party (Full Review)

Remember when South Park first premiered in the 90’s? Remember how it was one of the most outrageous, disturbing, offensive shows ever to hit television? By the time I was old enough to actually watch an episode without procuring the wrath of my parents, I couldn’t stop laughing. And as I got older, I came to realize that within the outlandish brand of humor Trey Parker and Matt Stone had actually infused their controversial cartoon with healthy doses of brilliant societal commentary. Well… If you thought South Park was as wild as it could get, prepare yourself for Sausage Party.

Sausage_PartyCo-creator Seth Rogen stars as Frank, a sausage living with his fellow package mates (Michael Cera, Jonah Hill) in a grocery store where all of the products live with the dream of being chosen by the Gods (humans) and being carried away to “the great beyond”. But after a bottle of returned honey mustard (Danny McBride) threatens the status quo with creepy tales of what really happens when humans take home food, Frank and his hot dog bun girlfriend, Brenda (Kristen Wiig) find themselves out of their packages and lost in their massive world. While Frank searches for the truth to their existence with the help of some druggie non-perishables (Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, Scott Underwood), Brenda teams with a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), a muslim lavash (David Krumholtz), and a lesbian taco shell (Salma Hayek) on a quest to find their way back into their aisles in hopes of being chosen. All while an angry douche… yes, an actual douche (Nick Kroll)… seeks revenge for being denied his opportunity to be chosen.

Like South Park, the humor in Sausage Party is meant for a very specific audience. Only the most immature of baby boomers won’t find this movie appalling. From the harsh language that uses almost every means of profanity fathomable to more sexual innuendo than a hardcore porno, Sausage Party tips the scales of anything I’ve ever seen in a movie, let alone an animated one. But me, 28 year old fan of cartoons aimed at adults, I couldn’t stop laughing. Sausage Party doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s aimed at audiences who enjoy crude humor, so don’t expect it to.

The funny thing is, like the aforementioned controversial TV show, it actually has a relatively insightful backbone to it. Crammed within the food puns, foul language, and sexual innuendo is a pretty endearing message about how society can get bogged down by beliefs and petty differences. Sure, it takes shots at religion, but the overall concept that we as a species are all in this together, is a correct one. And Rogen and the rest of his writing team deserve a ton of credit for even having a message. Sausage Party would be hilarious if it were just a gross out, adult comedy, but it’s undertones give it an extra ounce of heart that makes it memorable.

At certain points the puns fall flat. And sometimes the movie gets eye poppingly outrageous. The end sequence is a doozy no matter how mentally prepared you think you are. But after several days of recovery from the sheer absurdity of it all, I found myself laughing again. And a movie that can make you laugh hysterically, that also has a point, is something that anyone can appreciate even if it’s too much for some to handle.

FINAL GRADE: B+