Review: Last Vegas (2013)

Last Vegas

Inspired by the universal success of The Hangover trilogy (Todd Phillips’ films have amassed a whopping $1.4M at the worldwide box office), Last Vegas assembles a quarter of Hollywood’s most revered actors for a sleek R-rated comedy. Unfortunately, and in spite of its best intentions and heavyweight credentials, the film never quite lives up to its potential, resulting in a film that’s flat and uninspired. Continue reading “Review: Last Vegas (2013)”

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Review: The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part 3

With every third part in a successful trilogy comes the different question: Do you stay with the same winning structure that has proved so lucrative with the previous instalments, or do you shake things up in a bid to present the audience with something fresh? Director Todd Phillips and screenwriter Craig Mazin have opted for the latter with The Hangover Part III, though it’s not executed in a particularly memorable or laudable fashion. Continue reading “Review: The Hangover Part III”

Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Synopsis: Annie‘s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian‘s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals. With one chance to get it perfect, she‘ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you‘ll go for someone you love.

Though billed as the female counterpart to Todd Phillips’ massively successful The Hangover, Bridesmaids towers over the male orientated crass comedy in every sense of the word. Paul Feig, with the help of the writers and the entire cast, manages to create a film that not only subverts the predictable female comedy genre, but also brings a level of sincerity and nuance to a formula that has become so predictable and stale in its recent years. It’s fresh, exciting and almost completely original.

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s well-crafted screenplay strives to keep away from the obvious clichés, instead presenting us with a female ensemble comedy that is incredibly mature, well paced, and strikingly played by all involved. It is, however, also one that knows when to have a laugh at itself: most notably in the wonderful dress-fitting and aeroplane scenes which, though a little contrived, are two of the funniest moments of cinema this year.

What’s most important, though, are the performances. Wiig, in her first lead role, thrives as Annie, proving her unquestionable comedy chops. She’s charming, sympathetic, wacky and completely believable as the naive yet quick-witted Annie. Rose Byrne plays Lillian’s new best friend Helen – Annie’s jealousy inducing opposite. She uses the role to prove her maneuverability as an actress by playing someone a little more unpredictable and improvised than she’s used to, and she absolutely nails it.

The rest of the cast, including Maya Rudolph as Lillian, Melissa McCarthy as Megan (who is, at times, utterly priceless), Wendi McLendon-Covey as Rita, Ellie Kemper as Becca, Jill Clayburgh as Annie’s mum, Chris O’Dowd as Nathan and Jon Hamm as Ted, are equally as entertaining in their respective roles. McCarthy and O’Dowd in particular, who are more used to TV roles, show their ability to mould into comically charged characters and hold their own against other more versatile and established actors. Bridesmaids is very much a team effort, and that’s what makes it work so well in comparison to other films of its nature.

If there are any criticisms to be made, it’s that at a hefty 125 minutes, Bridesmaids can feel, at times, a little too drawn out in places and could have benefited from a slight trim here and there. Similarly, with a cast as extensive as this, some actors are shamefully underplayed or, in the case of McLendon-Covey’s Rita and Kemper’s Becca, almost completely tossed aside halfway through. These, however, are minor issues and, in the bigger picture, seem relatively non-existant.

Bridesmaids is a truly hilarious ensemble comedy, with some of the best writing, performances and direction you’ll see all year. Find it, see it, love it.

Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

In 2008, an R-rated comedy about three groomsmen – Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – who lose their about-to-be-wed friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), during their drunken adventures became a surprise hit for director Todd Phillips and took the box office by storm.

Now, two years later, the inevitable sequel has arrived. The Hangover Part II finds Phil, Alan and Doug setting off to Thailand for Stu’s supposedly safe, subdued wedding. However, things don’t go as planned after they lose the 16-year-old brother (Mason Lee) of Stu’s fiancee (Jamie Chung) and somehow wake up in Bangkok.

Once again, Phil, Stu and Alan try to piece together the previous night and find their  missing friend. It’s not an easy task though, as they encounter a number of ludicrous complications – from a silent monk to an international arms deal.

Unlike last time, when the scenarios felt fresh, exciting and wholly comical, the spark of originality has dissipated, leaving a uneven narrative that relies all too heavily on both sight gags – Stu’s tattoo and Teddy’s missing finger – and shock value – Stu’s encounter with a transexual prostitute – to score some of its bigger laughs.

Similarly, the obstacles feel staid in comparison to the freewheeling nature and ridiculousness that made the first one so unexpectedly brilliant. The fact that nothing new is offered to shake up the formula feels like a massive mistake, and the film falls flat on its face from the off.

It’s a relief, then, to see that the chemistry between the leads is still fully intact. It’s an achievement in itself to get all the actors to agree to a sequel, all the more so when they gel together as successfully as Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms. The only problem is, due to the irregular structure of the narrative, their characters have been dialled up to an almost unbearable level. After half an hour, this stops being entertaining and begins to vex.

While Galifianakis’ Alan was the prized star of the first instalment, he appears to have since regressed, becoming borderline mentally challenged. Of course, his haphazardness raises a few smirks along the way, but he never hits the same highs he did in the first.

Helms, on the other hand, takes the film from under Galifianakis’ feet and runs with it. He strikes the perfect balance between madcap lunacy and straightforwardness that makes Stu so appeasing and ultimately relatable. Cooper’s Phil is basically the brains of the pack – an averagely realised counterpart to their absurdity.

The first films absentee, Doug, adds nothing but a sense of relief to the Bangkok craziness, while Ken Jeong, whose Mr Chow is back in a more predominant role, doesn’t have the intermittent flavour he achieved so well the first time around. His camp and mischievous personality is too eccentric, and ultimately jarring, to warrant his increased presence.

There were also two cameo performances – one that wonderfully re-energised the sagging middle segment and another that could result in eyes being clawed out.

Phillips directs with a slick, loose attitude that’s perfectly in sync with the vicarious complications the trio encounter, but without the workably unhinged script of the first film to back it up, it never feels as pleasing or imaginative as it thinks it does.

As enjoyable a viewing experience as it is, The Hangover Part II doesn’t have the substance or breezy nature that made the first film so accidentally brilliant, and ultimately feels like a inadequately executed rehash.

But hey, at least it’s better than Due Date…