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Three Comedies from New Line

Grilled (May 2/07)

Grilled is a thoroughly bizarre little movie that casts Kevin James and Ray Romano as desperate meat salesmen who find themselves, over the course of one very long (and very hot) summer day, face-to-face with a whole host of shady figures - including an arms dealer (Kim Coates), a sultry post-op transsexual (Sofia Vergara), and a gregarious mob boss (Burt Reynolds). Director Jason Ensler initially infuses the proceedings with a dark, almost relentlessly quirky sensibility that doesn't entirely jibe with the relatively light-hearted tone of William Tepper's screenplay, though there does come a point at which Tepper essentially catches up to Ensler's off-kilter modus operandi. Both James and Romano - actors best known for their work within the world of sitcoms - deftly shed their comic personas and step into their characters' relatively bleak shoes, while the supporting cast (which also includes, among others, Michael Rapaport, Jon Polito, and Mary Lynn Rajskub) adds a fair amount of color to the proceedings. It's ultimately not difficult to see why Grilled premiered on home video, as the film generally comes off as nothing more than an insignificant and flat-out silly piece of work.

out of

Laws of Attraction (March 6/07)

An affable (if entirely forgettable) romantic comedy, Laws of Attraction casts Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore as duelling lawyers who find themselves falling for one another while working the divorce of a rocker (Michael Sheen) and a fashion designer (Parker Posey). It's clear almost immediately that director Peter Howitt - working from Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling's screenplay - is attempting to capture the energy and spirit of an old-school romcom, complete with fast-talking banter and an emphasis on physical hijinks. To a certain extent, he succeeds; Brosnan and Moore transform their archetypal characters (he's a slob, she's uptight) into charismatic, thoroughly engaging figures, while the film's brisk pace ensures that doldrums never quite set in. The egregiously conventional third act (which features both a fake break-up and a race to the airport), however, ends things on a fairly sour note, though there's little doubt that the movie generally remains a cut above similar fare.

out of

The Man (March 12/07)

Though it's clearly been designed to replicate the experience of watching an '80s buddy comedy (as evidenced by, among other things, the Eurotrash villain and finale that transpires in an abandoned warehouse), The Man - saddled with an unfortunate PG-13 rating - ultimately comes off as a watered-down and egregiously silly example of the genre. The premise - which finds Samuel L. Jackson's grizzled cop forced to team up with a chatty dental salesman (Eugene Levy) - is certainly sound, but it becomes increasingly difficult to look past the inclusion of overwhelmingly puerile comedic elements by scripters Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman, and Steve Carpenter (such shenanigans might've been easier to swallow had the writers been aiming for the vibe of a flat-out parody). That both Levy and Jackson are trapped within the confines of extremely one-note characters doesn't help matters, although the two do admittedly work well off one another (the film's few laughs come courtesy of their expectedly off-the-wall arguments, including Levy's suggestion that Jackson say "for crying out loud" in place of a certain curse word). But the film's relentlessly toothless atmosphere ultimately renders its positive attributes moot, with the end result a mindlessly diverting yet wholly forgettable piece of work.

out of

© David Nusair