Mini Reviews (December 2005)
Cry_Wolf, The Comedians of Comedy, Fun with Dick and Jane
Cry_Wolf (December 10/05)
Given that the entire premise behind Cry_Wolf doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it's no small feat that the film turns out to be a thoroughly watchable (yet ultimately unsatisfactory) piece of work. The story revolves around a group of friends at an exclusive prep school who pass the time by playing a game in which participants must guess who's telling the truth and who's lying, and eventually decide to kick it up a notch by tricking the entire student body into believing that a mass murderer is on the loose. Of course, it's not long before a killer matching the description they made up arrives on the scene and begins stalking each of the collaborators. Cry_Wolf's been directed by Jeff Wadlow, who generally avoids the flashy style that often accompanies movies of this ilk - though the filmmaker can't quite resist the urge to throw in some needlessly quick edits towards the end (a tactic undoubtedly employed to disguise the sparse gore shots, thanks to an inexplicable PG-13 rating). And while the mystery element initially goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, the movie nevertheless runs out of steam about halfway through (a problem exacerbated by a final 20-minutes that's essentially one long chase sequence). Still, you could certainly do a whole lot worse in terms of a contemporary teen slasher flick; any movie that throws in both a Ferris Bueller's Day Off reference and a cameo appearance by Gary Cole (sporting a British accent, no less!) can't be all bad.
The Comedians of Comedy (December 16/05)
The Comedians of Comedy is ostensibly a documentary revolving around four comics - Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis - as they embark upon a tour of various clubs and bars, though director Michael Blieden emphasizes the tedium of their day-to-day routine over their actual performances (out of a 102-minute film, they're onstage for a combined total of about a half hour's worth of screen time). And while there's no denying each of these comedians can be quite funny - particularly Oswalt, who is clearly the main attraction here - Blieden's use of grainy, handheld cinematography lends The Comedians of Comedy a distinctly low-rent sort of vibe that becomes increasingly frustrating as the movie progresses. Having said that, there are several hilarious bits spread here and there - anything involving Oswalt, Posehn's Star Wars-inspired rant, Galifianakis' bizarre time-traveling set, etc - but the bottom line is that the movie would have been far, far better served with a more traditional presentation (Oswalt's one-hour Comedy Central special contains more laughs than this).
Fun with Dick and Jane (December 20/05)
Based on the mediocre 1977 comedy of the same name, Fun with Dick and Jane suffers from all the same problems that plagued its predecessor - although the movie is elevated (however slightly) by the enthusiastic performances and relatively effective third act. The story follows upwardly mobile couple Dick and Jane Harper (Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni) as they attempt to compensate for the loss of Dick's high-paying position by taking on a series of short-lived jobs (ie Dick's short-lived stint at a Costco-esque warehouse). It quickly dawns on them that they are not cut out for such menial tasks, and the two soon resort to thievery as a means of maintaining their semi-opulent lifestyle. Fun with Dick and Jane is peppered with a variety of supposed comedic sequences that instead come off as painfully unfunny and thoroughly desperate; Carrey, in particular, seems to be working overtime in an effort to elicit laughs from some decidedly underwhelming material. The distinct lack of plot is exacerbated by the screenplay's emphasis on jokes that just aren't funny, although there are a few mildly amusing bits here and there. And while the movie does improve towards the end with the introduction of a semi-compelling heist subplot, it's virtually impossible to even care by then. The Capra-esque conclusion is just silly, and has clearly been designed to appeal to a very specific segment of the audience (ie anyone who's ever been screwed by an Enron-like company).