Category Archives: Genre: Comedy

The Nice Guys (2016)

In all honesty, I was not particularly amped up to see The Nice Guys despite how good it looked on paper: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in a film by the awesome Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and soon the Predator reboot) — the potential for awesomeness was absolutely there. But it was a buddy comedy set in the 70s, which reminded me of Starsky and Hutch (that’s not a good thing), and plus the film kinda bombed at the box office, so my expectations were dampened somewhat.

Seeing this film again confirms my idiocy, because it is freaking great! In terms of pure fun and laughs, I can’t think of a better comedy in 2016 than The Nice Guys. Crowe and Gosling are both great actors, but I never expected them to be great comedic actors with superb comedic timing, and certainly not for the two of them to have such wonderful chemistry.

Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a tough guy enforcer who basically gets paid to beat people up. Somehow, he ends up crossing paths with a pathetic private eye named Holland March (Gosling), and the duo team up to solve a mystery that involves a dead porn actress, high-ranking government officials and lots of goons with guns.

I loved the wacky vibe of the film from the get-go. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and has that old school charm with plenty of witty banter and crazy situations. The film makes great use of random happenings and coincidence, which reminded me of one of the greatest movies of all time, Pulp Fiction. I was also surprised by how much slapstick there was in the film and how effective it was, especially when blended in with wonderfully executed action sequences. It helped that too that there was actually a plot that was not too basic and kept up that air of mystery and intrigue, and yet it was also not too convoluted to make it hard to follow.

Crowe plays the straight man in this odd couple while Gosling plays against type the moronic, uncoordinated goofball. Audiences used to seeing the romantic (The Notebook), suave (Crazy Stupid Love) or cool (Drive) Gosling are in for a huge shock because he goes all out in making a fool of himself in this movie — and he’s fantastic at it. The against-type casting really works to the film’s advantage because it’s so unexpected. Gosling might have gotten the Oscar nomination for Best Actor for La La Land, but there’s an argument that he’s just as deserving for this role.

Special mention also goes to young Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter, Holly March, who provides the emotional center of the film and the catalyst for the character development of the two main leads. Despite being just 16 years old in real life, she holds her own against two of Hollywood’s heavyweights. And of course, she’s an Aussie. Can’t wait to see her next in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

All in all, The Nice Guys really exceeded my expectations and turned out to be one of the funniest movie experiences I’ve had in a while. It’s nice and refreshing to get a good comedy these days that’s not drenched in cheap laughs or laced with unnecessary sentimentality (like those damn Judd Apatow dramedies). It’s a shame that not a lot of people saw the movie notwithstanding the draw of the cast and the director and the positive reviews and word of mouth. Definitely worth checking out if you feel like a good laugh — it might be the best comedy of the year.

4.5 stars out of 5

Finding Dory (2016)

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never the biggest fan of Finding Nemo. Don’t get me wrong, I quite liked it — it was cute and amusing and all that — but I was just stunned by how much everyone else absolutely loved it. And so I was not particularly excited when they finally announced, after what felt like forever (13 years, in fact) that the sequel/spin-off, Finding Dory, was finally going to be released. I actually wasn’t even going to see the movie but my kids wanted to, so we all went.

As the title suggests, Finding Dory is all about tracking down the lost regal blue tang with short-term memory loss voiced by Ellen DeGeneres from Finding Nemo. It was of course not hard to get the ball rolling given Dory’s mental ailment, and this time it’s up to Nemo and his dad (again voiced by Albert Brooks) to track him down. Added to the all-star voice cast include Ed O’Neill as an octopus who has lost the tentacle, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents, Ty Burrell as a beluga whale, and Idris Elba and Dominic West as sea lions, plus Sigourney Weaver, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett and Stephen Root. Holy crap that is a great cast.

Like its predecessor, Finding Dory is an adventure comedy that teaches us to about friendship and to believe in yourself and who you are. And like its predecessor, it’s also absolutely fine as an animated film. It’s beautifully animated, with a smorgasbord of bright colours and wonderfully rendered textures. It has a good handful of good laughs, solid one-liners, quirky characters, and a good dash of poignancy. 

But also like it’s predecessor, Finding Dory didn’t really wow me — and for me there were no expectations to live up to. I didn’t remind it and you could even say I enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t put it on the same level as say the Toy Story franchise or Up. It just didn’t affect me the way those films did.

My kids actually said they enjoyed it, though my elder son was disappointed there were no sharks like the first one, while my younger son fell asleep just before the climax (granted, it was a matinee screening). And as a true barometer of their interest, neither kept talking about the movie or re-enacted scenes from it for days afterward like they have for other films. Like father, like sons, I suppose.

As I have said many times before, I’m usually not the biggest fan of animated films, so take this review with a grain of salt. But I have to call it as I see it and declare that Finding Dory for me was just an above-average film experience that won’t have me running to get the Blu-ray any time soon.

3 stars out of 5

Masterminds (2016)

Masterminds is one of those films that seems like a good comedy premise on paper. Based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery, the true story is about a bunch of dim-witted hillbillies who decide to steal US$20 million from a cash vault at a Loomis Fargo office one of them worked at. Throw in Napoleon Dynamite filmmaker Jared Hess and an SNL-heavy cast featuring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Jason Sudeikis (that’s essentially three-quarters of the new Ghostbusters), and the potential for laughs was obvious.

In practice, however, the film is forgettable, sporadic and not quite funny enough. Given the directors and the comedians involved, you should have a good sense of the type of humour the film goes for — it’s dominated mainly wacky character traits, awkward moments, and loads and loads of stupidity. The entire film revolves around the idea that these robbers are far too stupid to carry out this multi-million-dollar heist, and they were even more stupid in how they carried themselves afterward. They are portrayed as low-class, uneducated trailer-trash hicks, and sometimes the film treads a little close to the line of making fun of such people.

It’s farcical, outrageous stuff that’s only loosely based on fact and stretched to maximum idiocy for entertainment purposes, but if you are in the right mood or are a big fan of any of these actors, it’s possible you could find Masterminds fun and enjoyable. I admit that I laughed and giggled a few times, especially during the Kate McKinnon scenes, though on the whole, the comedy was simply too all over the place. It’s like throwing a bunch of skits at the audience and hoping something sticks. 

Unfortunately, far too many of the jokes fell flat for me, and at some stage the stupidity meter was so high that it made me begin to question just how much of the movie is actually true (Answer: Not that much). Stupid is funny. Too stupid can be lame. This is particularly so when these same characters sometimes show that they can actually be quite clever when the plot calls for it.

Zach Galifianakis is good in small doses, such as an episode of Between Two Ferns or a supporting role in The Hangover. As the lead of a feature-length film, however, he can be a little too much to stomach. As I noted earlier, the stand out for me was Kate McKinnon has his weirdo fiance. Kristen Wiig also had some good moments early on, and Jason Sudeikis plays to his strengths as a creepy contract killer. Owen Wilson and Leslie Jones, on the other hand, don’t get to demonstrate their comedic chops as much as I would’ve liked.

Ultimately, Masterminds is yet another one of those comedian-driven, ad lib-heavy comedies where the amount of fun the cast had making the movie did not translate properly to the finished product. Despite a few fleetingly funny moments, it just doesn’t have enough charm or deep belly laughs to do either the cast or the premise justice.

2.25 stars out of 5

La La Land (2016)

Of all the movie genres out there, I would say the musical is probably my least favourite, followed by romance. There’s just something about suddenly breaking into song and dance that takes me out of a film, and most romance flicks are done so poorly that they make me cringe with embarrassment. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part I try to avoid them. La La Land, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to director Damien Chapelle’s Whiplash, has received a lot of acclaim, and yet I still did not know what to expect because it is both a musical and a romance.

Well, I finally got around to watching it at the cinema today, and all I can say is, “Wow”. I don’t think I have ever watched a movie knowing it has received good reviews and then having it exceed my expectations this much. 

The premise is actually quite simple: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress, respectively, who come to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams.  That’s pretty much all you need to know, but it is a romance after all. so you know they are going to meet and fall in love. However, it is the way that this is portrayed that makes the film so engrossing. We already know that Gosling and Stone have excellent chemistry from Crazy, Stupid, Love, and here they elevated to a whole other level. There is just something really organic about their interactions, which never feel forced or contrived. It also helps that they are both well-developed and likable characters you want to root for. 

The first half of the film is sweet, dreamy and full of energy, just like the characters pursuing their dreams and falling in love. The second half is darker and more serious as it deals with the practical realities of their lives and careers. I don’t recall a movie in recent memory that got me genuinely smiling (not because of a joke, but because of how joyful it is) and then genuinely on the verge of tears. It’s one of nose rare bittersweet films that sucked me in right from the beginning, warmed my heart, then damn near broke it. I can’t imagine how people who are have really gone to LA to pursue their dreams feel when they watch this movie. As I said, I usually don’t like romance films because they’re so poorly made. La La Land, on the other hand, nails it perfectly.

The other thing I was afraid of, the singing and dancing, surprisingly did not bother me. Part of it is because the songs are so fantastic and catchy, and part of it because the lyrics fit the emotions of the narrative so well. And part of it is because the amazing choreography and the way it was shot is so flawless. I was sold from the opening  sequence that really set the tone for the rest of the film. I had always felt that musicals would be better confined to stage plays, but the incredible long takes and creative camera angles, as well as the way Chazelle blends them in with the stunning cinematography, makes La La Land an experience built for the big screen.

Full credit must go to Gosling and stone for their performances, both of which deserve Oscar nominations if not wins. They play off each other seamlessly, from the silly banter to the serious conversations to the cute duets and dance numbers. It was almost a little annoying to see such highly attractive and fit people be able to sing and dance this well. And who the heck knew that Gosling was such a good piano player?

Chazelle has also made himself a favorite for Best Director and Best Screenplay by proving that Whiplash was no fluke. La La Land is so different from Whiplash, and yet both films exude the same type of self-assured confidence and controlled pacing. I can’t wait to see what Chazelle comes up with next. 

I’ve heard some people call La La Land a love letter to Los Angeles, and I guess you could construe it that way. I just think it’s a brilliant, funny, sweet, heart-felt movie from start to finish. There were a couple of decisions I perceive as minor missteps, though on the whole, there’s really nothing to dampen how I feel about the movie. Perhaps it’s just the dreamer in me talking, but I just can’t believe how much I love it.

5 stars out of 5!

PS: I literally walked out of the cinema after watching La La land to discover that it had won a record seven awards at the Golden Globes with a clean sweep. I’m not usually one for hyperboles, but it’s well-deserved. I still have a few films left to watch that could potentially knock it off its perch, but as of now, La La Land is the best 2016 release I’ve seen.

Dope (2015)

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I’m certain I’m the first person in the world to come up with this original line: Dope is a dope movie.

Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Talk to Me, Brown Sugar) and starring up-and-comers Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Zoe Kravitz, Dope is a fresh, smart and energetic coming-of-age comedy about a clever high school senior named Malcolm (Moore) who lives in a run-down part of Los Angeles. While attending a party, Malcolm and his friends somehow get mixed up shootout involving drugs, kicking off a wild adventure full of laughs, wackiness and insights into modern black culture and racial and social politics.

I had a blast with Dope despite going into it thinking that it wasn’t going to be my kind of movie. Famuyiwa does a fantastic job of creating characters we can root for and infusing the narrative with a sense of originality mixed with a retro feel.  The beginning scenes of the film made me think that it was set in the 80s — Malcolm has a retro haircut and listens to retro music and wears retro clothing — but soon you realise that he’s just a geek who appreciates the good stuff.

There’s a sense of craziness  and mayhem to everything that happens in the film, though Famuyiwa never loses control of the material as the story shifts seamlessly between comedy to drama to crime to action to romance. There’s just never a dull moment in this entertaining movie. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and twists and turns in the plot so you never know what is coming next, though things can get a little complicated towards the end if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on.

The soundtrack and the performances are kick-ass. Moore delivers a star-turning performance as the likable protagonist, while Kiersey Clemons is also a standout as his tomboyish friend. She’s set to be in the Flatliners remake next year and DC’s The Flash the year after.

All in all, Dope is intelligent, fun and refreshing. While it’s not without problems, I applaud its ambition, confidence and cheerful, optimistic vibe. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it one of my favourite movies of the year, but it absolutely is one of my biggest pleasant surprises.

4 stars out of 5

PS: I didn’t know this before, but the film is produced by Forest Whitaker and executive produced by Pharrell and Diddy.

Mortdecai (2015)

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I was curious as to just how bad Mortdecai is — so, as any idiot would do, I watched it. Well, all I can say is that critics and audiences weren’t lying when they declared it one of the worst movies of 2015, and likely the nadir of Johnny Depp’s career. After this embarrassing performance, the former two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” is now officially just “Man Alive”.

Based on the British novels of the same name that few are familiar with, Mortdecai tells the silly adventures of the eponymous aristocrat (Depp), who runs into financial troubles and strikes a deal with a detective (Ewan McGregor), who is in love with his wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) to assist recover a stolen painting in return for 10% of the insurance money. And so begins a bunch of criminally unfunny stunts as Mortdecai and his tough man-servant, literally named Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), set about trying to locate the whereabouts of the painting while saving his marriage and fighting off goons.

The whole feel of Mortdecai is one of a bad sitcom. It’s supposed to be light and tongue-in-cheek, but there is simply no charm or wit to be found. Depp has done the eccentric character thing for so long now, but he’s generally been able to find the right balance between character and caricature. Without anything to cover him up except for a badly glued-on moustache (which is actually one of the running gags in the film because he thinks it looks good, much to the chagrin of his wife), Depp delivers a shockingly pathetic performance that makes his acting in The Tourist seem Oscar-worthy. At times I wondered whether he gave a shit at all about this film.

Throw in Gwyneth generally amplifying her unlikableness, Bettany embarrassing himself with his laughably lame character, and Ewan McGregor not really doing much of anything, Mortdecai struggles to eke out even one funny joke. There  wasn’t a single joke in the film I found funny, and I doubt this was just a mood thing — I don’t think I could have found it funny no matter how I was feeling, which was actually being ready to be pleasantly surprised by this movie. Instead, it was worse than I had feared. From the very beginning I was already like, Oh no, so this is the tone they’re going with? This is going to be the annoying, over-the-top character Depp is going to be playing for the entire movie?

I won’t lie — I lost interest pretty quickly and never got it back, even when Olivia Munn popped up for a little bit as the nympho daughter of a potential buyer of the painting. The film was just flat all the way through, and it was one repetitive gag after another, all with the same cheeky, spoofy tone, but without any punch to the jokes. With no character to root for, silly action sequences and a meandering plot, Mortdecai soon became unbearable.

I wanted to see the film and say it’s not really that bad. But it is. I almost felt bad for these supposedly good actors embarrass themselves by appearing in what is meant to be a comedy, but I felt much worse for myself having sat through this shithouse movie.

1 star out of 5

The Boss (2016)

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Melissa McCarthy was beginning to grow on me after the surprisingly funny Spy last year. Unfortunately, she’s unable the keep the momentum rolling with The Boss, a labour of love she co-wrote with her real-life husband and director of the film, Ben Falcone.

It has again McCarthy playing foul-mouthed, abrasive woman who we will discover, surprise surprise, actually has a heart of gold. This time, she embodies Michelle Darnell, an orphan-turned-millionaire-businesswoman who loses everything and must seek the help of a former employee, single mother Claire Rawlings (Kristen Bell). The “villain” is played by none other than Peter Dinklage, aka Tyrion Lannister.

There are problems galore with The Boss. First of all, McCarthy is playing the exact same character we’ve seen a zillion times already. She’s crass, she’s rude, and she doesn’t take any prisoners. In Spy, we got to see a different side of her as she stretched out perceptions of what she’s capable of. In The Boss, she takes a huge step back by resorting to her stale bag of tricks.

Secondly, the film doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to be. It’s all over the place. Part of it is the weak plot that basically pieces together a bunch of familiar tropes. At times the movie feels like it’s going for the gross and outrageous, other times it’s going for the cute and sweet. Occasionally it just resorts to cookie-cutter stuff like predictable slapstick or try-hard melodrama. It tries a bunch of different things but nothing sticks.

Thirdly, the central characters are either unlikable (McCarthy) or devoid of personality (Bell). The movie simply assumes we’ll like them because of the actresses who play them, but actually give us no reason to give a shit about their predicaments. And Peter Dinklage…I don’t even know what to say. He totally phoned this one in. I’ve seen him in other comedies like Pixels and Knights of Badassdom, where he’s actually not too bad. Here, he’s more like a Dingleberry than the Dinklage we know and love.

Above all, the movie simply isn’t funny. It was actually quite a surreal experience, because I knew exactly what each gag was aiming for and where it was going, sometimes even prior to it happening or before the punchline hit. But I got no laughs out of any of them. Not a laugh, not a cackle, not even a tee-hee. I wasn’t really frustrated or annoyed, just puzzled as to why I wasn’t laughing. The phrase that best encapsulates my sentiments about the whole movie can be found in that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer starts working for a place he’s not employed at, and when his boss is trying to fire him he references Kramer’s reports, saying, “I don’t know what this is supposed to be!”

I didn’t expect much from The Boss, and even then it still underperformed. It’s rare to see a film filled with so many jokes — and so many types of jokes — but zero laughs. Even the ad libbed jokes and outtakes at the end couldn’t deliver. I don’t know what else to say, because all McCarthy, Bell and Dinklage all have positive track records with comedy. I guess this was just a perfect storm of unfunniness.

1.25 stars out of 5

Zoolander 2 (2016)

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There’s no to sugarcoat this: Zoolander 2 is gaaaaaabage. Of all the sequels that should never have been made, this one’s right near the top of the list.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea when Ben Stiller had nothing to do one day and decided to bring back his iconic character, the dim-witted supermodel who made “Blue Steel” the look everyone was imitating back in 2001. But like when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returned for Dumb and Dumber To 20 years after the original, it’s just as funny after so much time has passed. And sadly, Dumb and Dumber To is the far superior sequel. Minus a bit of nostalgia and a couple of decent laughs on the rare occasion, everything else about Zoolander 2 just feels stale, contrived, lame, and worst of all, unfunny.

The story is also set about 15 years after the original, with Zoolander and his former sidekick Hansel (Owen Wilson) living very different lives after another stupid tragedy. A new character, an Interpol agent played by Penelope Cruz, gets the ball rolling when celebrities are being killed all around the world. And of course, Will Ferrell returns as villain Mugatu.

So yeah, there’s essentially no story, just a bunch of idiots doing idiotic things. That’s not to say idiocy can’t be funny, because obviously enough people thought it was hilarious in the first film. But it’s simply just not funny here. I’d say a good 95-99% of gags fell entirely flat. It’s not even the delivery — the jokes themselves just had no wit, creativity or element of surprise. After a while, it will make you start to wonder whether you may have been overrating the first Zoolander for all these years. Personally, I started zoning out a little.

It’s unfortunate because the film starts with so much promise. The Justin Bieber gag that kicks off the show is pretty satisfying, though of course it would have been much funnier had the punchline not been tossed entirely into the trailer. In fact, almost all the good jokes have been spoiled by the trailer, which is sad considering the trailer is only about 2 minutes long.

As for the other 100 minutes…well, at least there’s a lot of celebrity cameos for people into those sorts of things. The list is far too long to even bother trying to name them (apparently there’s 39), though those who have seen the trailers won’t be surprised to see the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch or Kiefer Sutherland. Most play caricatures of themselves, and it makes you wonder whether they were just doing Ben Stiller a  favour or if they genuinely thought it was a good idea.

Back in 2001, Zoolander was a sharp satire on the fashion industry. In 2016 — though I’m sure it was made with the best of intensions, — Zoolander 2 feels like nothing more than a stale, feeble cash-grab when the ideas well has run completely dry.

1,5 stars out of 5

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

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Hollywood is going through a “bad” phase, with bad Santas, bad neighbours, bad moms (this one’s not even released yet). Apart from from having “bad” in the title, the other common thread is that they are all pretty bad movies too.

So this brings us to Dirty Grandpa, a film that surely would have been called Bad Grandpa had Johnny Knoxville not already made a film with that title back in 2013. The underlying concept is the same: someone you don’t typically expect to be swearing and doing naughty things doing exactly those things. It’s outrageous, and these days, outrageous equates to funny.

Suffice it to say, I did not have high hopes for those movie. Sure, it has Robert De Niro, but this seemed like just another one of his many “keep gettin’ ’em checks” projects from recent years. And Zac Efron’s body might be ripped as usual, but his film choices have all been geared towards showing off said body rather than any genuine comedic chops.

So the premise goes like this: Robert De Niro’s character becomes a widower, and for some reason he needs to get somewhere. He can’t get there on his own and enlists the assistance of his lawyer grandson (Efron), thus setting up a wild road trip. How convenient. Of course, Efron’s about to get married to a self-absorbed and controlling girl (played by Julianne Hough), and on this road trip his dirty grandpa just wants to get laid, making things very difficult for him.

You don’t need me to tell you where this goes. The formulas are in full swing all the way through this one. From road trip cliches to identity crisis cliches to shock comedy and gross-out comedy cliches, this movie has them all down pat. Masturbation joke, check. Paedophelia joke, check. Penis jokes, check. Getting drunk and high and doing stupid stuff joke, check. Gay jokes, check. Black gang jokes, check. New love interest to remind us how shit the old love interest is, check.

The whole film really only contains variations of two central gags — 1. Robert De Niro doing and saying dirty things to show everyone what a cool and hip old man he is; and 2. Zac Efron’s uptight, straight character getting into a bunch of awkward and embarrassing situations so he can realise he’s not really happy in life. Oh, and if you can consider this a third, Efron is mostly naked for half the movie.

And yet, for all the crap I’ve dumped into this movie, I have to admit that there are funny moments. I did chuckle and laugh out loud a handful of times. But these hits, these brief moments of enjoyment, were all drowned out by the tsunami of hard misses. Dirty Grandpa tries to swing for the fences but ends up striking out most of the time. I would find myself thinking, “That’s not a bad joke,” but then almost immediately there would be something that completely oversteps the line — and unnecessarily so — to ruin whatever goodwill the movie had built up. I get that it wants to be a raunchy comedy, which is fine, though I don’t see any reason to go as far as it did. Adding copious amounts of shock value doesn’t improve a joke.

The performances are okay. Even a shit De Niro is better than most. But to see one of the greatest actors of all time defile his own legacy like that stings me as a fan. Efron does what he does and does it well — ie, take his shirt (and pants) off — though he doesn’t offer anything any other young pretty boy actor couldn’t have pulled.

The supporting cast is better. Audrey Plaza does her airhead skank thing and it’s funnier than I expected, while Julianne Hough has a hilarious sequence that delivered the biggest laughs of the entire movie. Lea Thompson’s daughter, Zoey Deutch, and Dermot Mulroney, however, are unfortunately under-utilised as Efron’s new love interest and father, respectively.

On the whole, Dirty Grandpa is a desperate attempt for laughs that falls flat on its face. Despite a few promising moments, the film goes overboard with the vulgarity — and in the end, with the unwarranted sentimentality. It may have achieved the goal of being offensive, but certainly not the goal of being funny.

2 stars out of 5

Krampus (2015)

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I don’t know why, but I was really looking forward to seeing Krampus, a Christmas horror movie reminiscent of the fun classics of of my childhood like GremlinsThe ‘Burbs, The Gate, Evil Dead, House, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, just to name a few.

According to Wikipedia, Krampus “is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as ‘half-goat, half-demon’ who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved”. I love this kind of folklore, and I’m a fan of horror films that don’t take themselves too serious and like to have a little fun. Plus I am a big fan of the four leads — Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tollman (from TV’s Fargo) and ubiquitous funnyman David Koechner. What’s there not to like?

Krampus kicks off by getting the atmosphere spot on.  It’s 3 days out from Christmas the a suburban family are gathering to celebrate. Adam Scott and Toni Collette play the homeowners, who have a teenage daughter (Stefania Lavie Owen) and young son (Emjay Anthony), as well as an elderly grandmother who lives with them (Krista Stadler) . Tollman plays Collette’s sister, while Koecher plays the former’s husband. They’ve got four children of their own, including a baby. Coming along uninvited is the family dog and an annoying single aunt (Conchata Ferrell).

When one of the kids inadvertently kills the Christmas spirit in that family, Krampus descends on their house with a bunch of his minions. And so begins a night of terror where no one is safe and things will get crazier and crazier until Krampus gets his way.

The thing I liked most about the film was the fun atmosphere. You could tell from the humour right from the outset that Krampus knew what it was aiming for and never wavers from that position. And it’s a very funny movie. All of the four leads are hilarious in their own ways, delivering sharp dialogue and witty lines all throughout, even as the tone grew darker and moments of horror are introduced. In many ways, Krampus is more black comedy than genuine horror.

On the other hand, this meant that the film wasn’t as scary as it needed to be. Perhaps this was intentional, but I wanted more genuine frights to keep me on edge a little bit. A lot of the scares come from the creepy designs of the monsters, but in terms of scare tactics the film was a little lacking. And some of the choices of creatures were too wacky — and the CGI special effects not good enough — to be truly frightening.

Nonetheless, if you’re after a bit of alternative Christmas fun, Krampus delivers. I like that writer and director Michael Dougherty (who is listed as a writer on the upcoming X-Men: Apocalpyse) had the balls to make audiences feel that no one is safe in this movie — even the baby. If you’re in the movie, you’re fair game. Demons don’t discriminate. On the downside I felt like there were too many characters to keep track of and that the ending was deflating (even though it redeems itself a little before the credits roll). It won’t be remembered as fondly as the classics it pays homage to, and I wish it could have had a little more bite in terms of the horror elements, but on the whole, I still had a good time with Krampus. 

3.25 stars out of 5