Tag Archives: romantic comedy

Man Up (2015)

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I caught up with my best pal a couple of weeks ago as we both happened to be in Hong Kong at the same time. He’s not exactly a movie buff, but he did recommend a film, Man Up, which he saw during the flight over.

I didn’t expect much when I checked it out the other day. Romantic comedies are probably my least favourite genre, and Man Up is a film that has seemingly received very little buzz. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell also seemed like a very odd couple.

Considering all this, Man Up turned out to be more than just serviceable — it was actually pretty good.

The premise is this: a mid-30s woman (Bell) who has more or less given up on finding love decides to roll the dice one last time when a 40-year-old divorcee (Pegg) mistakes her for his blind date. She goes along for the ride and thus begins a wild night of fun, romance and absurdly embarrassing encounters.

Generally speaking, this looks, sounds and smells like a fairly typical rom-com. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with outrageous gags that infuse the film with a silly tone and a sense of destiny. But of course, no matter what happens throughout, you know how it will end.

That said, Man Up does everything rather well within the confines of the genre. Despite an apparent mismatch, Pegg and Bell have surprising chemistry, playing off each other’s strengths with great comedic timing. I knew Pegg would be good, so the big surprise here is that Bell is also excellent, not just in pulling off a convincing British accent but in not being afraid to make a fool of herself to get the big laughs.

However, the guy who stole the show for me was veteran British actor Rory Kinnear, a familiar face in the recent generation of Bond films as Bill Tanner, though in my mind he will forever be the prime minister who porked a pig in Black Mirror. Kinnear goes all out in this one as a creepy former high school classmate obsessed with Bell’s character, and he goes over-the-top by just the right amount to elicit the deepest belly laughs of the entire film. Just the voice he puts on is hilarious.

Strong performances aside, the dialogue is sharp and and a little explicit, treading the line between edgy and crude without toppling into the latter. It’s a strange thing to say, but this is a rare rom-com that is actually romantic and sexy and funny.

Though the film never steers full clear of rom-com cliches, and Bell is perhaps too attractive and in too-good shape for her predicament to be realistic, Man Up is confident and lively enough for a jolly good time, even for those not that into the genre.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Never been a huge fan of ‘romantic dramedies’ (thanks, Mr Judd Apatow) but Crazy, Stupid, Love is somewhat of an exception.  While it’s far too long and suffers from some of the tonal unevenness often seen in such films, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this clever meshing of different stories about the beauty, excitement, angst and heartbreak of love and life.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is driven by several damaged but very likeable characters.  There’s Cal (Steve Carrell), a middle-aged man who discovers his wife (Julianne Moore) has been cheating on him with a colleague (Kevin Bacon).  There’s Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a wealthy playboy and expert in the art of seduction who takes Cal under his wing until he meets Hannah (Emma Stone), a young lawyer stuck with a loser boyfriend.  And there’s Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who is obsessively in love with his babysitter Jessica, (Analeigh Tipton — who apparently was a high ranking contestant on America’s Next Top Model?!), who has a secret crush of her own.

It’s a ridiculously amazing ensemble cast that also features the always-brilliant Marisa Tomei (who almost steals the show) and everybody’s favourite husband from Fargo, John Carroll Lynch.  The performances really elevate the overall quality of the film, and I was personally surprised by Carrell’s drama acting chops as well as Gosling’s comedic acting chops.  For me, the standouts were Tomei, Gosling, Bobo and Tipton, but there were no weak links.

What impressed me most about Crazy, Stupid, Love was that the comedy side of it was genuinely funny (perhaps not gut bustingly so but amusing enough) and the drama side of it was actually romantic and emotionally effective too.  There aren’t many romantic dramedies I can think of in recent times that tick both boxes.  It also did a fabulous job of linking all the characters and stories together in a way many ensemble cast stories do but in a cleverer way.  This was not one of those sugar-coated, lovey-dovey movies with a predictable ending, even though it’s at times (bitter)sweet and full of heart.

I still don’t like romantic dramedies but if they can all be like Crazy, Stupid, Love (except a little shorter than its 118-minute-but-felt- longer running time) then I might be more willing to give them a try.

4 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Just Go With It (2011)

It seems like it was so long ago that I was an Adam Sandler fan.  I loved his crazy, stupid movies.  No matter what anyone says about them, they were (for the most part) hilarious and unique in that Sandler-esque kind of way.

These days, frankly, Sandler’s movies suck.  They’ve become predictable, formulaic, and not very funny.  I feel like he is undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis, for some reason always trying to make his films have a proper storyline and some kind of message about life.  That’s not his forte.

And so it was with reservations that I went to see Just Go With It, a ‘romantic comedy’ about a plastic surgeon who pretends he is married to lure chicks, kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where George gave it a go.  And just like George in that episode, the scheme backfires when he meets the woman of his dreams (Andy Roddick’s SI model wife Brooklyn Decker), and must now continue to pretend he is temporarily ‘married’ by getting his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to act as his wife.

You don’t need me to tell you where this movie heads and how it ends up.

As I mentioned above, Sandler doesn’t make good movies anymore (his best efforts these days are, I would say, ‘average’ at best).  Jennifer Aniston almost never makes watchable movies.  Throw the two together and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Fortunately for them, there were a few good moments in Just Go With It, but none of them involved Sandler or Aniston.  The real stars of the film were Bailee Madison (who plays Aniston’s quirky daughter) and Nick Swardson (who is more hit and miss but has some good moments as Sandler’s cousin).  And Brooklyn Decker was surprisingly adequate as the fake love interest, demonstrating not only that she can act but also that she possesses decent comedic timing.  There’s also a supporting role with Nicole Kidman that I didn’t know about, but she wasn’t as funny as she could or should have been.

But ultimately, Just Go With It is probably exactly what you’d expect it to be — two big stars, an initially interesting premise, a predictable plot and a few good jokes, but far too many bad ones.  Potentially worthy as a DVD rental on a rainy night if you are in the right mood, but otherwise don’t waste your money.

2.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Something Borrowed (2011)

National Release Date: 5 May 2011

Something Borrowed has a specific target audience in mind, and that target audience doesn’t include me.  After all, it is based on the bestselling chick lit novel (by Emily Griffin) and stars Kate Hudson, who I simply don’t like for reasons I don’t really understand.

Something Borrowed is an apt title, I suppose, because it borrows freely from other chick lit and chick flicks.  Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin from She’s Just Not That Into You — is it just me or has she lost a lot of weight?) is a thirty-year old single woman who is a quiet sidekick to her wild best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), and is secretly in love with said friend’s fiance Dex (Colin Egglesfield), who was once her potential suitor and may have feelings for her too.

That’s all I’ll say but I imagine you can guess the rest.  Angst, heartache, heartbreak, loyalty, betrayal, friendship, love lost and love won — you get the gist.  It’s categorised as a rom-com but the humour is light and typical.  I wouldn’t call it completely predictable but there was definitely a sense of inevitability to the whole thing, which was all very formulaic.

There were good reasons for me to like the film.  Rachel is a lawyer (my old world) and her long-time confidant Ethan (John Krasinki) is a writer (my new world).  It’s a film about something I can appreciate — competing desires — what you want against what others think is right.  But I just couldn’t get into it, and I doubt the rest of the almost entirely male reviewer audience could either.

To be fair, I am a fan of Ginnifer Goodwin, who seems to be making a habit of being the lead actress without getting top billing (she was really the central character of He’s Just Not That Into You and dominates this film from start to finish).  She gives a stellar performance and is likable as the torn Rachel.  And as much as I hate to say it, Kate Hudson was pretty good too (but it doesn’t change the way I feel about her).  As for the male cast, John Krasinki was solid, bringing his comedic presence from The Office along with him, but Colin Egglesfield was horrible.  A fine looking man, but he failed to bring out a character that could have and should have been so much more.

Ultimately, the target audience may very well enjoy Something Borrowed.  Modern fairytalesque love triangle, (very) light humour, pretty stars and a cookie-cutter plot with an ending that’s too neatly wrapped for my liking (though for a film of this kind it’s not too bad).  I just wish it was more engrossing, had more laughs, and had more likable characters.  Was that too much to ask?

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: She’s Out of My League (2010)

I heard some good things about She’s Out of My League before I went to see it — so I had reasonable expectations.  It seemed like one of those Judd Apatow-esque films, with a quirky premise, everyday characters, and lots of funny (and sometimes outrageous or vulgar) dialogue and interactions.  Well, it pretty much was, and while it’s not bad, there’s nothing to really separate it from other similar films in recent years.

Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder), a very underrated actor in my opinion, plays Kirk, a regular guy who works in airport security.  British Actress Alice Eve plays Molly, a pretty girl Kirk meets by chance, and who seems too good to be true.  The name of the film says it all, so there’s no need to elaborate much further than that.  Of course, there are the wacky friends, the crazy family, the rival, and a bunch of embarrassing incidents — all things you could have probably guessed.

For what is essentially a vulgar-ish rom-com, She’s Out of My League actually offers some interesting and honest insights into human nature and relationships.  At times, the story can be sweet and display some heart, but it never really gets there in my opinion.

Is the film funny?  Yes, but nothing that had me rolling in the isles.  To be honest it was too “hit and miss” for my liking, and there was an over-reliance on swearing for comedic effect.  When used correctly, it’s awesome, but too often in this film it comes off as contrived and obnoxious.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some genuinely funny moments, whether it’s a casual conversation or a cringe-worthy incident.  But sadly, this was another one of those films where the trailer revealed all the best jokes.  When will I learn to stop watching them?

She’s Out of My League is a decent film capable of making you laugh, especially when in the right frame of mind, but ultimately it’s not a standout in this type of genre.

3 out of 5 stars

DVD Review: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

[I was supposed to put this into my second DVD Blitz, but the film was too good for me to not give it its own review]

For months I’ve been hearing and reading about the praises raining down on 500 Days of Summer, the romantic drama-comedy directed by first-time feature director Marc Webb and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber.  Naturally, this made me a sceptic.  How good could a seemingly light-hearted romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel be?

Well, I finally found out on DVD over the weekend.  And I fell in love with it.

500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom (Gordon-Levitt), a young man working for a greeting card company who meets Summer (Deschanel), the girl of his dreams.  There’s just one problem: Summer doesn’t believe in love.  Director Marc Webb describes it as more of a coming-of-age story than a romantic comedy, though I’d like to think of it as both.

It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes 500 Days of Summer so endearing.  Is it the non-linear progression?  No, that actually got me a little confused and annoyed at times.  Could it be the creative visual style and the innovative storytelling techniques?  I liked it, but I don’t think so.  Maybe it was the characters, the way the conventional male-female relationship stereotypes were flipped on their head.  But surely this isn’t the first time this has been done.  Could it be the main leads?  Well, Zooey Deschanel is very cute and I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives the performance of his career, but no, I don’t think so.  And while it is a funny film, it’s not constantly or outrageously hilarious.  The laughs come from very random and quirky comments and moments, which are brilliantly conceived, but I’ve seen funnier films in the last couple of years.

So what is it that made the film so enjoyable and delightful?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s all of the above.  Or none.  Love isn’t rational anyway.

The film just has this incredibly sweet sensation to it.  It captures that feeling of falling hopelessly in love, the passion, the despair, the heartbreak, and the bitter-sweet aftermath.  I can’t think of another film that has done it this well, this real, with so much creativity, and so much heart. And with a cracker of a soundtrack too.

5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Maybe I will have another opinion of it upon a second viewing.  I did, after all, watch this on the eve of my two-year wedding anniversary.]

DVD Review: I Love You Man (2009)

I usually only review new movies out at the cinemas, but I Love You, Man is recent enough so I’ll make an exception.

Paul Rudd has unexpectedly become one of my favourite comedic actors (who would have thought that after Clueless he’d still be around 15 years later, while Alicia Silverstone never did anything noteworthy since?) and Jason Segel really grew on me after Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Throw in these two funny dudes in a film written and directed by John Hamburg (who co-wrote Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and Zoolander and directed Along Came Polly), and the outcome is a wild and hilarious ride!

I Love You, Man is a highly unconventional movie.  It’s essentially a romantic comedy with two guys as the leads, but with no homosexual overtones whatsoever (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – a bro-mantic comedy, so to speak.  Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a regular guy, a recently-engaged real estate agent who has invested all his time and effort into his relationships with women that he has no real male friends.  Enter Jason Segel’s character Sydney Fife, a carefree dude with a take it or leave it attitude to life that turns Peter’s life upside down.

I know, that sounds like a pretty crappy, cheesy premise, but I Love You, Man really works, probably in ways you wouldn’t expect.  It’s not a gross-out or stupid comedy – it is surprisingly honest and realistic (for a comedy of this sort, anyway), but the laughs are by no means second rate.  Rudd’s brutally awkward performance and his chemistry with Segel provide most of the funny moments, but the supporting cast – which includes the lovely Rashida Jones, the always welcome JK Simmons, and The Lonely Island’s Adam Samberg – are also extremely solid.

I Love You, Man is not without flaws, and it is, after all, a romantic comedy, so expectations need to be kept in check.  That being said, it is a lot funnier than a movie of this kind should be.

3.75 out of 5 stars!

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth (2009)

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Expectation can be a funny thing.  When I first saw the poster for ‘The Ugly Truth’ directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde and 21), I had zero interest.  None whatsoever.  Sure, it had King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and the pretty girl who starred in and then trashed Knocked Up, the film that made her a star (Katherine Heigl), but I couldn’t even care to find out what it was about.

But then a friend told me his wife watched it and thought it was pretty good.  My brother-in-law then recommended it.  A third person (who I can’t recall) suggested I should watch it.  And so I found myself watching ‘The Ugly Truth’, all of a sudden expecting it to actually be a great film!

Well, I came out of the cinema perplexed.  The film wasn’t as terrible as I had expected when I saw the poster for the first time, but it was miles off the superior romantic comedy I had anticipated when I stepped into the theatre.

I don’t like giving away the plot of any film, so I’ll keep it brief.  ‘The Ugly Truth’ (about male-female relationships) is what Gerard Butler’s character spews out unashamedly on his TV show, and Katherine Heigl is a TV producer who tries to prove that his theories are untrue.  Think He’s Just Not That Into You but with only 2 characters (yes, I watched that too…).

The film’s biggest problem is predictability.  Anyone who has seen more than a couple of rom-coms will be able to guess exactly what happens in ‘The Ugly Truth’ several scenes in advance.  Think of the most cliched situations possible and chances are you will see them in this film.  There were definitely a few ‘this better not happen next’ moments, followed by ‘I can’t believe it really happened!’ moments.

It does, of course, attempt to separate itself from other rom-coms with the vulgarity and political-incorrectness of the conversations and jokes.  More sensitive viewers may be turned off, but the younger generation that grew up on American Pie, Superbad and The 40 Year Old Virgin may find the jokes more down their alley.  However, most of the jokes didn’t elicit more than a subdued chuckle from me.  It was no more or less funny than your typical rom-com starring Katherine Heigl (eg Knocked Up, 27 Dresses).

Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins
Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins

So in the end, a bit of a disappointment.  I do like the leads and I am a  fan of John Michael Higgins (everybody’s second favourite lawyer on Arrested Development, Wayne Jarvis).  Some of the ‘wisdoms’ espoused by Butler’s character also ring true to me, as I am sure they will to many other male viewers (and I believe this is probably where the film’s charm lies).  But at the end of the day, ‘The Ugly Truth’ is an average, somewhat forgettable film with just a passable laugh quotient.

2.5 stars out of 5

[PS: I kept waiting for the moment where Butler would scream ‘THIS – IS – THE UGLY TRUTH!!’ and then kick Heigl down an endless black pit.  Then flex his abs.  That alone would have been worthy of 2.5 stars.]