Tag Archives: Basketball

Daddy’s Home (2015)

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Will Ferrell’s comedy has always been an acquired taste. For me it’s a little hit and miss, even when it comes to his best stuff, like Anchorman. Which is why is surprises me to say that I laughed a lot when watching Daddy’s Home, his latest effort and second collaboration with Marky Mark Wahlberg (with the first being The Other Guys).

The premise is this: Ferrell plays Brad, a bit of a wuss who is stepdad to two kids after marrying the lovely Sarah (Linda Cardellini). As the title suggests, the biological father of the kids, cool dad Dusty, suddenly announced he is dropping by for a visit. Chaos ensues as the two grown men battle it out to one up each other in the daddy stakes.

One of the advantages I had when watching Daddy’s Home was that I didn’t see much of the trailers, which I assume spoiled some of the film’s best jokes. Having also been underwhelmed by The Other Guys, I went into this one with low expectations. And perhaps I was in the right mood for some stupidity, because I certainly laughed a lot throughout Daddy’s Home, easily obliterating the 6-laugh test for a good comedy.

If you’ve seen any Will Ferrell comedy you’ll know his style — moronic, awkward and with a touch of the random, plus some over-the-top slapstick. A lot of the gags in Daddy’s Home are indeed stupid and immature, but for the most part I think it does a good job of being crude without falling into gross-out, vulgar or gratuitous comedy.

The strength of the film still lies in the charismatic paring of Ferrell and Walhberg, who has proven many times that he has the comedic chips when called upon to display them. They already had great chemistry in The Other Guys, but that film felt like it tried too hard to create gags out of the police action premise. This time, being in a domestic setting, the ambitions are lower but as a result the jokes are also simpler and more effective. Part of it also stems from the design of their characters’ personalities, which suit the actors really well and allows them to play off each other with a lot of juvenile fun, but never in a vicious way. Maybe it’s because I’m a father too, because I can certainly appreciate the lengths grown men would go to impress their kids.

The supporting cast is also great, in particular Hannibal Buress, who is funny more because of his delivery than his actual lines, and Thomas Haden Church, who digs back into the archives of Ned and Stacey fora classic deadpan performance. I do wish Linda Cardellini could have been a little more than just the straight-face character though because she can definitely deliver laughs when given the chance.

There are of course a fair share of misses along the way, though in my opinion the jokes that don’t work are easily outweighed by the ones that do. I particularly liked the basketball set piece, which was hilarious just from the perspective of it being a playoff game between the cellar-dwelling Lakers and Pelicans and Kobe still being a dominant player!

In all, this is one of Will Ferrell’s more likable comedies in recent years. While it perhaps doesn’t take full advantage of the satirical possibilities the premise offers, it is a film that plays to Ferrell’s strengths as a comedian while minimising his annoying tendencies that tend to make watching his movies cumbersome after a while. He seems comfortable in this family setting and with the character he plays, and as a result the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. It might not be a classic or even a memorable film, but as a generic, formulaic stupid comedy, Daddy’s Home is plenty of fun.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Linsanity (2013)

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I too was caught up in all the Linsanity madness as much as anyone else when it started in February 2012 (actually, probably more so because I was writing about it every day for work). A Taiwanese-American underdog in the NBA, and a Harvard graduate, no less, who had been undrafted, sent to the D-League multiple times and was about to be cut for a third (and probably final) time before a miraculous string of record-breaking performances made him the biggest headline in New York, and later, the whole world. It was a story too good to be true, and everyone absolutely loved it.

And therefore it came as no surprise that someone decided to make a documentary about the phenomenon that has come to be known as Linsanity. The impressive thing about this film, however, is that director Evan Jackson Leong decided to make the film when Lin was still a student at Harvard, well before he became a household name.

The narrative follows Lin from his childhood days when he displayed incredible talenting playing AAU ball with his brothers, then onto his highly successful high school career before landing a spot at Harvard because no Div 1 school would offer him a scholarship. After leading Harvard to one of their best seasons ever, Lin had ambitions of being selected in the NBA draft, revealing that he believed his best chance was being picked by the Knicks in the second round (he “crushed” that workout, in his words). Of course, he missed out on getting selected completely, but was fortunate to be invited the Mavs’ summer league, where he went toe to toe with No. 1 pick John Wall. He then signed with the local Golden State Warriors, and the rest is pretty much general knowledge.

Anyway, I did enjoy it, but I must admit I liked the subject a lot more than the film itself. Linsanity, as it turns out, is a fairly run of the mill documentary where the drama and excitement is nearly entirely attributable to the true story itself as opposed to the filmmaking. I had expected to see a lot more exclusive footage and interviews, as well as a deeper look into Lin’s personality and especially his well-publicized religious beliefs. Instead, I was treated to a huge chunk of well-edited game footage, though a lot of it — mainly the college and NBA highlights — I had already seen before in the actual games or on YouTube.

To be fair, there is some interesting stuff in the film, such as the interview with Lin’s parents and brothers, and especially listening to his father explain how the family got into basketball in the first place. The portion of the film dedicated to Lin’s lowest point, when he was sent to the cutthroat D-League, is perhaps the most insightful part of the 88-minute running time. But to be honest, if you know Jeremy Lin’s story pretty well like I do, it’s likely you’re not going to get a whole lot out of this documentary. The subjects you know are going to be tackled — like the discrimination, the racism, the taunting, being repeatedly overlooked, etc — are all broached as expected, but there really wasn’t anything I hadn’t already seen or read elsewhere. That’s when more exclusive interviews, or even just a fresher approach, would have been welcome. I kept waiting for some revelatory comment from Lin, his family, friends, teammates or enemies, or even just a new angle on things, but it was all ended up being relatively tame and cliched.

The film also skimped on the awkward end of Linsanity, when Lin’s knee injury ruled him out of the team for the remainder of the season and the fact that he later copped flak for not playing because he was not 100%. The subsequent controversial contract negotiation with the Knicks, which turned ugly and essentially forced him to Houston as a free agent, was essentially overlooked. I know that is not the glamorous side of Lin’s story but it’s an important one that should have received more attention.

Nearly a year after Linsanity came and went, and with Lin now just a “regular” starter in Houston, Linsanity doesn’t quite have the effect and impact it would have back had it been released a year or so earlier. On the other hand, one could argue that the film comes too close after Lin’s success, and it would have been better to wait even longer, maybe another year or two, to be able to properly reflect on what an amazing time it was.

At the end of the day, Linsanity is an entertaining film because it is about one of the most extraordinary underdog stories in sports history. Even if you’ve seen it all before, you’d be crazy not to get pumped up all over again by rewatching some of Lin’s greatest moments during his incredible run. That said, I suspect it is a film that is most suited for audiences who have only a faint idea of Linsanity; for people who know the story well, there isn’t a lot of new things to see or learn, and the documentary filmmaking is just too typical and sanitized to give Lin’s story that extra edge it deserves.

3.25 stars out of 5