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Two Comedies from Universal

Baby Mama (May 1/08)

Baby Mama casts Tina Fey as Kate Holbrook, a straight-laced career woman whose decision to hire a surrogate leads to a whole host of wacky predicaments after she's paired with a white-trash slob named Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler). It's an exceedingly familiar premise that's used to almost extraordinarily innocuous effect, as writer/director Michael McCullers packs the proceedings with one entirely unmemorable comedic set-piece after another. There's consequently little doubt that the impressive supporting cast - which includes, among others, Greg Kinnear and Steve Martin - finds itself forced to contend with sitcom-level material, and it certainly goes without saying that Fey's own series (NBC's 30 Rock) is a far more intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny endeavor than this middle-of-the-road mess. And while the film is essentially watchable for a little while - the relentlessly bland vibe effectively lulls the viewer into a hypnotic reverie - there does reach a point at which the increased emphasis on melodramatic plot twists becomes awfully tough to take. The end result is a distinctly toothless and downright homogenized effort that's unlikely to appeal even to fans of Fey and Poehler, as the admittedly talented actresses find themselves consistently pandering to the lowest common denominator.

out of


Sydney White (April 19/08)

It's hard to envision a more objectionable contemporary comedy than Sydney White, as screenwriter Chad Gomez Creasey bogs the proceedings down with some of the genre's most repugnant clichés and conventions - including the plucky central character who learns a valuable lesson about popularity and the revelation that so-called "dorky" folks have just as much to offer as so-called "cool" people. Loosely inspired by the tale of Snow White, the movie casts Amanda Bynes as the title character - a down-to-earth farm girl who arrives at her big-city college determined to find a place for herself within her dead mother's former sorority. Sydney's dreams of sisterhood are quickly quashed after said sorority's villainous leader (Sara Paxton's Rachel) banishes her from the building, with the remainder of the film following Bynes' character as she befriends a group of put-upon nerds and plots her revenge against Rachel. Blandly directed by Joe Nussbaum, Sydney White's downright interminable pace is exacerbated by an unreasonably overlong running time of 108 minutes - which handily ensures that the film is unlikely to appeal even to its target demographic of bubble-headed teenagers. The egregiously broad performances by virtually every single actor within the cast effectively prevents even a hint of reality from entering the proceedings (ie there's not a single element here that anybody anywhere can relate to), with Bynes' woefully larger-than-life turn as the vapid central character clearly the most obvious example of this. The final straw comes with an incredibly preachy finale that's nothing short of offensive in its execution (ie after reveling in some seriously hoary stereotypes, the filmmakers gallingly attempt to impart Important Life Lessons onto the viewer), and there's ultimately little doubt that Sydney White's astounding lack of positive attributes cements its place as an utterly worthless endeavor.

no stars out of

© David Nusair