Playing Catch-Up With The Lesser Films of 2015: Get Hard, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, The Wedding Ringer


SPOILER ALERT!

One or more of the films reviewed below will appear on my list of the 16 Worst Films of 2015!  Can you guess which one(s)?

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Get Hard (dir by Etan Cohen)

Will Ferrell is funny and Kevin Hart is funny and you would think that putting them together in one movie would be especially funny but … nope.  Get Hard, which I watched on HBO a few weeks ago, is incredibly not funny.  Ferrell plays a hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud and embezzlement and it’s a sign of how haphazard this film is that I was never really sure whether he was supposed to be guilty or not.  Anyway, Ferrell is terrified of going to prison but fortunately, he runs into Kevin Hart.  Hart is playing the owner of a car wash here, a mild-mannered family man who simply wants to be able to afford to send his daughter to a good school.  However, Ferrell assumes that, since Hart is black, Hart must be an ex-con.

So, Ferrell hires Hart to teach him how to survive in prison and Hart agrees.  And, to be honest, this is not a terrible idea for an edgy satire but the film pulls it punches and never really exposes or challenges the racism that led to Ferrell hiring Hart in the first place.  Instead, it’s more interested in making homophobic jokes about prison rape (there’s a particularly long and unpleasant scene where Ferrell attempts to learn how to give a blow job that feels like it was lifted from a deservedly forgotten 90s film) and eventually, it devolves into a painfully predictable action film.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (dir by Andy Fickman)

I know what someone out there is saying.

“YOU’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THE FIRST PAUL BLART: MALL COP!!!  WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO REVIEW THE SEQUEL!?”

Well, listen — it’s true.  I’ve never seen the first film and the only reason I watched the second one (on HBO at a friend’s house, which means that it literally cost me nothing) was because I had heard how terrible it was and I figured that I should see it before making out my list of the worst films of the year.  But, even with that in mind, I think I can still give this film a fair review.

(At the very least, I’ll try.  Dammit, I’ll try.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is one of those films that is so forgettable that you forget about it while you’re watching.  Kevin James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard who goes to Las Vegas for a security guard convention and ends up getting involved in thwarting a big heist.  It’s a comedy, though I can’t think of a single time I laughed.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was not quite the abomination that I had been led to expect.  It was, in no way, comparable to Birdemic, April Rain, or Man of Steel.  Instead, it was just an incredibly empty and soulless film.  It was a zombie movie that existed only to eat money.

One thing that is frustrating about a film like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is that Kevin James seems like he could actually survive appearing in a good film, if he could just get a chance to make one.  He’s likable and he’s got an everyman quality about him.  But, for now, he seems to be trapped in films where he either plays Paul Blart or he’s surrounded by talking animals.

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Pixels (dir by Chris Columbus)

Speaking of Kevin James, he’s also in Pixels!  He plays William Cooper.  When he was a kid, he was obsessed with playing video games.  Now that he’s an adult, he’s the President of the United States!  And he still keeps in contact with his best friend from childhood, Sam.  Sam, needless to say, will never be President.  When Sam was a kid, he was traumatized when he lost a national video game championship.  Now that he’s an adult, he installs home-theater systems and he’s played by Adam Sandler…

When Earth is invaded, it turns out that the aliens are under the impression that video games are real!  So, they recreate a bunch of classic video game characters and send them off to do havoc.  Who better to stop them than the President and Sam?  And who better to help than a nerdy conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad) and Eddie Planet (Peter Dinklage), the same guy who cheated in order to defeat Sam at the video game championship….

If you’re thinking that sounds like way too much plot for a silly comedy about video games coming to life, you’re right.  Pixels has some cute moments (though, based on the comments and occasional laughter of the middle-aged people in the theater around me, I get the feeling that a lot of the film’s video game-themed humor was a bit too “before my time” for me to fully appreciate) but oh my God, it was such an unnecessarily busy movie.  The idea behind Pixels had some potential but the film refused to take advantage of it.

I’ve said this before and I always get some strange looks but I honestly do think that — if he would actually break out of his comfort zone and stop doing movies that mostly seem to be about finding an excuse to hang out with his friends — Adam Sandler could be an acceptable dramatic actor.  Check out his work in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, and even the first half of The Cobbler.  (Tarantino even wrote the role of Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds with Sandler in mind.)  The fact that Sandler could be doing good work makes his continual bad work all the more frustrating and annoying.

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The Wedding Ringer (dir by Jeremy Garelick)

And speaking of Josh Gad…he’s also in The Wedding Ringer!  For that matter, so is Kevin Hart.  Hart plays a guy who, for a sizable fee, will pretend to the lifelong best friend (and best man) for grooms who do not have enough real friends to fill out a wedding party.  Hart refuses to get emotionally involved with his clients but that all changes when, despite himself, he becomes friends with Josh Gad, who is on the verge of getting married to Kaley Cuoco.

The Wedding Ringer got terrible reviews but it also was very popular with audiences and I imagine a lot of that had to do with the relationship between Hart and Gad.  Both of them give very sincere performances that elevate some otherwise unpromising material.  The Wedding Ringer wasn’t good (it’s predictable, it’s portrayal of Kaley Cuoco’s character verges on misogynistic) but, at the same time, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  In the end, it was pretty much a typical January film.

I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so ... wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

Which of these four films will make my list of the worst 16 films of 2015?  The answer shall be revealed soon!

 

 

Embracing the Melodrama #36: Fatal Attraction (dir by Adrian Lyne)


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(This review has spoilers because I felt like it and I’ll do whatever the Hell I want.)

Today, we continue embracing the melodrama by taking a look at the 1987 best picture nominee, Fatal Attraction.

Fatal Attraction opens on a scene of domestic bliss, with lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) and his wife Beth (Anne Archer) in their luxurious Manhattan apartment, getting ready to go out for the night and waiting for the babysitter to arrive.  Dan would appear to have it all: a successful career, a fat best friend, and a beautiful wife.  However, when Beth and their daughter go out of town for the weekend, Dan ends up having an affair with Alex (Glenn Close).  Dan assumes that it was just a weekend thing but Alex is soon stalking Dan.  Trying to escape her, Dan moves his family out to the suburbs but Alex follows them.  Soon, pet rabbits are being killed, Alex is breaking into the house with a knife, and it’s up to Beth to step up and reclaim her man.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about Fatal Attraction.  On the one hand, it’s an undeniably well-made film.  It’s well-acted and director Adrian Lyne pushes all of the right emotional buttons and keeps the action moving quickly.  That the film is predictable doesn’t make it any the less effective.  As a lover of horror movies, I appreciated the skill with which Lyne crafted the film’s scare scenes.  Watching the movie, it was easy to see why Fatal Attraction was a huge box office success and why it continues to influence our culture to this very day.

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And yet, at the same time, Fatal Attraction really annoys me.

The film is so well-made and so manipulative that it’s easy to miss the fact that Dan Gallagher is not only never punished for betraying his wife but he’s actually not held responsible for his actions in any way.  Instead, the only person who is truly punished for their transgression is Alex.  The film, after all, makes clear that Alex is the one pursuing Dan.  In fact, it could be argued that when it comes to Dan and Alex, the traditional gender roles have been reversed.  Alex (who, as opposed to the idealized Beth, has a name that is both masculine and feminine) is the aggressive one while Dan is the passive one who gives into temptation and, afterwards, feels guilty.  After admitting his transgression, Dan is allowed to reclaim his manhood and continue on with his perfect life.  However, Alex has no place in conventional society and therefore, she must be destroyed.

And so much the better if she’s destroyed by Beth, a woman who has no problem with accepting a traditionally domestic role.

Far too often, in the past, I know that my girl friends and I always assumed that men were simply incapable of resisting temptation.  Therefore, if your boyfriend cheated on you, it really was not his fault.  He was just being a guy.  Instead, it was the other woman’s fault because she was the one who tempted him.  (And, though we acknowledged this a lot less, it was also his girlfriend’s fault for allowing him to get into a position where he could be tempted in the first place.)  But it was never truly guy’s fault and, as long as you made him suffer for a bit, it was always expected that you would forgive him and take him back.

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That’s the same mentality that runs through Fatal Attraction (not to mention countless daytime talk shows where girlfriends and wives always beat up mistresses while their boyfriend or husband stands over to the side and watches, untouched).  Yes, Dan did cheat on his perfect wife and yes, he feels terrible about it.  But the real threat comes from the woman who pursued him despite knowing that he was married and then, afterwards, had the nerve to demand not to be ignored.  (If anything, the film seems to be suggesting that everything would have been okay if Dan had just fucked someone who works in his office, as opposed to someone who he can’t control through money or the threat of societal shaming.)  When, at the end of the film, Beth shoots Alex, it’s a crowd-pleasing moment but it’s also Beth’s way of reclaiming her man.  Since Dan — being male — can’t be expected to exercise any sort of self-control, it’s the responsibility of Beth to step up and destroy the temptation.

For not respecting the vows of marriage, Alex is a monster who must be destroyed.  Dan, on the other hand, is merely inconvenienced and ultimately, he ends up with a far stronger marriage as a result of having strayed.

In Fatal Attraction, the only thing more dangerous than sex with Alex is examining subtext.

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