Sean K. Cureton

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

If You Can Stand all the Gratuitous Sex Jokes, there’s a Political Satire Somewhere

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on August 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Theatrical Poster

The Campaign
Directed by Jay Roach
1 out of 4 stars

Jay Roach’s new comedy The Campaign had a lot going for it that could have resulted in a fun and funny comedy. Bringing Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis together was a good idea, as each of them draw a large audience on their own and have more or less become two of the most successful and popular comedians in movies over the past few years. Additionally, Jay Roach has proved himself to be a veteran of producing Hollywood blockbuster comedies, from the Austin Powers series to the Meet the Parents movies. Unfortunately, The Campaign is a top-heavy, vulgar, self-indulgent political comedy that never quiet becomes the kind of satire that it disguises itself as at times.

As has been the case increasingly throughout the past few years for any movie or TV show with any involvement from Will Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay, this film seems to be hurt by Ferrell’s involvement. Frequently throughout the film, sketches and scenes involving Ferrell’s character, political candidate Cam Brady, devolve into improvised one-liners and comedic bits which are more often than not crass, misogynistic sex romps, which only serve to prove the point that Ferrell is really not great at improv, despite the surprising fact that he has built most of his career upon this type of performance. Although Ferrell’s writing partner and frequent collaborator Adam McKay contributed to this film only as one of six producers, his vapid and needlessly offending comedic touch is unmistakably present in the film’s more trying sequences.

In addition to Ferrell’s hard-to-watch and hard-to-love brand of comedy, the film is also bogged down by a cast that is unbelievably unfunny and bland, despite the fact that the cast is also a sampling of some of the best comedic performers alive. It’s painful to watch Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow in their roles as the Motch brothers, two millionaire types who fund political candidates in order to promote the outsourcing of American jobs to China, turning in two of the worst performances of their careers without delivering even one genuine laugh. It’s equally strange watching Jason Sudeikis, a recent SNL alum and strong comedic show runner, underutilized as a straight laced campaign manager whose function seems to be anything but delivering any laughs for the film, which is unbelievable when considering how great Sudeikis can be as a side character in comedies, providing great little jokes that add but never detract from a film’s main focus.

The only thing that makes this film even the least bit entertaining and bearable is Zach Galifianakis’s performance as political candidate Marty Huggins, an odd-ball character to say the least who is also the most entertaining and funny character within the entire film. Watching Galifianakis perform next to Ferrell is like comparing a well-renowned pianist to an eight year old boy just learning to play the guitar. While Ferrell constantly struggles to find things to do and say to make a given sketch work, Galifiankais is contrastingly calm and comfortable, lending his character more warmth and humor when compared to Ferrell’s brass, loud, obnoxious, and over-bearing character. It’s not so much that Galifianakis is so good that he is able to save this film, but more that his natural abilities as a comedic performer lend anything he does at least some drawing power, even if it is within an otherwise lack-luster production as this one.

Jay Roach’s new comedy The Campaign is disappointingly bad. It is rarely funny, and when it is, the humor is often only capable of arousing a tepid guffaw or a light chuckle. Galifianakis is entertaining, but it’s just too bad, albeit predictable, that Ferrell couldn’t match his co-star’s abilities and sensibilities, which makes Roach’s film so odd and uncomfortable to watch or laugh at.


The Bourne Legacy: Movie Review

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on August 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Theatrical Poster

The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
2 out of 4 stars

Tony Gilroy’s new film The Bourne Legacy is the fourth in the Bourne film franchise based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, a series that began in 2002 with The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon as the titular character and protagonist Jason Bourne. With the release of this new film in the series, Jason Bourne has been left behind, with actor Jeremy Renner taking over for Damon as the new protagonist Aaron Cross, a single man among thousands of other people in the film’s narrative who have been initiated into the program that started with Jason Bourne in the 2002 film. While replacing Damon with Renner was certainly an interesting idea, and one that could have worked wonders for the franchise given Renner’s fantastic abilities as a leading man, The Bourne Legacy falls flat with lengthy sequences of dialogue that do little to explain what is going on with the plot and elaborate action sequences that seem orchestrated specifically to distract one’s attention from the otherwise lackluster attempt at story telling.

The Bourne Legacy interestingly enough does not begin with the hero. It begins with actors Edward Norton and Stacy Keach, providing two of the most superfluous and vacant performances of each of their respective careers, as two higher ups in the Bourne program speaking clandestinely about issues regarding Jason, Aaron, and the entire program which gives ordinary citizens advanced fighting capabilities that border on the super-natural. It’s too bad that these types of scenes are nearly incomprehensible, tediously boring, and comprise nearly the whole first half of the film. After about an hour into the film one almost feels like leaving the theatre, if it were not for the brief sequences of Renner in the wilderness meeting another initiate of the Bourne program, and subsequently getting into a one on one fighting match with an especially feral wolf, summoning up images that one might find in a Jack London novel.

As the film progresses, Aaron Cross gets into one dizzying action sequence after another, all in an attempt to procure some drugs that the Bourne program has had him on for an undisclosed amount of time prior to the beginning of the film. While the action sequences within the film are shot beautifully, with each frame seamlessly taking the viewer through each blow, shot, and hit that Aaron takes without confusing or losing the viewer, the fact that these sequences are linked to characters that the viewer doesn’t really care about only serves to highlight the poor writing job that Gilroy provided for this film’s script. Aaron Cross could have been an interesting and emotionally intriguing new protagonist for the series, and casting Jeremy Renner seemed like a no brainer. Unfortunately though, Cross comes across as bland and emotionally uninvolved with either himself, his equally and surprisingly unappealing co-star Rachel Wiesz, or, more importantly, the audience. The fact that the viewer doesn’t really care or understand where Cross is coming from as an individual mars this film’s ability to be an adequate sequel or spin-off for the first three films.

Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy is fun in a you-have-a-few-hours-to-kill-and-it’s-the-only-thing-on-TV kind of way, but once you actually sit down to watch the film you come away from the experience more confused and dazed then thrilled and satisfied. The original film in the Bourne film franchise was entertaining and set up its protagonist so that you wanted to know what happened to him and anticipated future films about his story. With The Bourne Legacy, however, you can’t get over the feeling that you’ve seen the same movie before and it was better the first time. I’d be interested to see where Gilroy wants to take the franchise next, but I can’t say I will be as interested in seeing the next film in the series as I was in seeing this one.