“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
What’s there to say that critics and bloggers haven’t already said? The rhetoric has been exhausted, so I’ll paint in broad strokes and do this in five sentences. Here goes – George Lucas made the right decision to let go of the franchise and turn it over to Disney, and ultimately, prolific filmmaker and “Star Wars” fan J.J. Abrams. Bringing in Lawrence Kasdan to write the script with Abrams was a masterstroke in storytelling because of Kasden’s epic pedigree – “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” and bonus, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The casting broke new ground, considering both race and gender for all three lead roles with Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac swapping Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in spectacular and charming fashion. Chewbacca and the droids provide a fun factor, while Adam Driver gives us a Darth Vader with urban-angst. Yes, it relies too heavily on the original film at times, but all the family drama makes it worth another watch.
Last time we saw Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg together in a movie, they were unlikely partners in 2010’s quirky cop comedy, “The Other Guys.” This one doesn’t crackle with the same quirk. The storyline is pretty straightforward – a stepdad attempts to get his stepkids’ affections, but the biological dad keeps getting in the way. Director Sean Anders has made a couple of so-so comedies – “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Sex Drive.” Here, he makes another one. Ferrell and Wahlberg do their parts, doling out scenes with equal portions of pathetic Ferrell and macho Wahlberg, usually resulting in some sort of laugh. Small roles by Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church and Bobby Cannavale add some punch. It’s Linda Cardellini and the scenes with the kids that fall flat and feel like a Disney Channel sitcom gone terribly wrong. They do bring plenty of laughs home. It’s just not the total package, which makes this one barely worth a watch.
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In 2008’s “Baby Mama,” Amy Poehler played the bad girl role and Tina Fey was the responsible one. This time, they switch roles, and Fey looks like she’s having a load of fun being bad, so much fun it earned the movie an R-rating. Aside from James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, the rest of the cast is basically a who’s who in TV comedy and Saturday Night Live’s recent alums and present employees. The screenwriter Paula Pell is a longtime writer for SNL, and you can feel the reins coming off as the comedians run roughshod over the material. This isn’t for fans of the PG-13 comedy, and it’s refreshing to see Fey and Poehler let loose and get gritty. Director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) does let it run for too long (an epidemic with current comedies), and some editing might’ve serviced the pacing, but every minute sparkles with Fey and Poehler’s chemistry – worth a watch.