Comedy

War Dogs (2016)

wardogsposterWar Dogs plays itself in the trailer as a comedy. With Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as the lead characters, you would expect this to play out as a comedy. Except it doesn’t. It’s dark. It’s surreal. It’s exhilarating. Yes, it has its comic moments. Those moments are intertwined with dark humour and sinister backdrops that make war less appealing than it already is. From the director that brought us The Hangover trilogy, this film comes as a surprise, not only because it’s based on a true story but because it has a sense that it’s trying to ‘say something’.

Throughout the viewing of this film, I kept making comparisons to Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage, the war film sponsored by Amnesty International. The comparisons are clear. There are two characters (Miles Teller and Jonah Hill) who become ever-more entrenched in the world of arms dealing. Miles Teller has a partner who doesn’t know (initially) about his involvement in international arms trades. There is a deal that goes wrong. All of these scenes play out in the same way that they played out in Lord of War. The difference? This film forces you to make your own judgements.

Jonah Hill is superb playing as Efraim Diveroli, a twenty-something arms dealer who moves up in the world of international arms trading faster than seems reasonable or possible. His character trait, a short, high-pitched laugh, is a fantastic device for the film and made the audiences laugh each time he did it, even when the laugh was disguising something terrible. Miles Teller has always done well playing innocence and naivety and this is no different in his role as David Packouz, failing at life and discovering something that he’s good at, without quite realising the consequences or repercussions of his actions.

In fact, the casting is on point. Bradley Cooper playing the role of the elusive and mysterious Henry Gerrard is magnificent and Ana de Armas playing as Miles Teller’s partner, Iz, is attention to detail that the director didn’t need but included. This film would have worked as a comedy. The two principal leads have enough experience and skill in the genre to be able to make a dark story into a comically stupid set of circumstances. Instead, the director goes for something more bold and ambitious.

He makes an actual film. At times, it feels like The Wolf of Wall Street, at others it feels like Lord of War, sometimes it feels like a film of its own. That’s the beauty of this film. It takes the best moments of those films and blends them into a cinematic cocktail of its own making. War Dogs might not end up being my film of the year but it is definitely one of the top five films I have seen so far.

Bad Moms (2016)

2016 may very well become the year of the comedy. From Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates to Sausage Party, War Dogs to Bad Neighbours 2, the genre is returning to its roots. Bad Moms is no different, except that it has a stellar cast that makes use of its comedic talents to tap into a resource and potential that few other comedic films have managed: motherhood.

bad-moms-movie-posterIt’s difficult to write a review for a film designed primarily for women and mothers when you’re a young male audience member. The comedy is aimed at a generation of American mothers who can sympathise and relate to the day-to-day stresses of Amy (played by Mila Kunis) and her two friends, Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell). For me, the star of the show ends up being Kathryn Hahn. Her disregard and casual approach to life makes the film less of a commentary of motherhood and more of a comedy. She manages to make scenes explode with comic value, simply because of her presence. Her facial expressions and her skill at delivering powerful one-liners is akin to Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, people who could make a film great simply by being in it.

The plot of Bad Moms is simple. Amy is a mother of two children and part-time executive at a coffee company that has more in common with a nursery than it does a company. She feels responsible for the failures of her children and her husband (played by David Walton) isn’t much help either. Enter Gwendolyn (played by Christina Applegate) who appears to be the perfect mother, serving as the PTA president and making sure that those who get on the wrong side of her suffer some sort of school-related injustices.

A lot of the humour and comedy can be difficult to break down, especially for non-American audiences. References to PTA meetings, hiring committees, elections, etc., they’re all part of an American schooling system that other countries simply don’t have. For that alone, it makes it difficult to appreciate the comedy in context. As a stand alone comedy film about a host of women who end up doing some stupid things, it’s great.

Critics will say that this film doesn’t add any value, that it doesn’t offer any sort of commentary to the comic circle. Films don’t need to do that. Films need to be enjoyable. This is definitely enjoyable. Judging by the reactions from the many women in the audience that the showing I attended, it’s a hit with that section of the audience and I found myself laughing at plenty of moments throughout the film. Sure, it’s not high art but it is fun.

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)

I will preface this review with an important point. I have never found Ricky Gervais to be particularly funny or add any value to the comic circuit. I went into this viewing with low expectations. I didn’t expect to be as disappointed as I was, even by my own low standards.

I don’t know what Ricky Gervais was thinking when he pitched this idea to BBC Films. Perhaps he is cash strapped and needed to latch onto an audience nostalgic for the heyday of The Office. Whatever his intentions were, he fell short on his vision.

david-brent-life-on-the-road-2-600x889Comedy has come a long way since The Office. What was acceptable or funny back then isn’t funny now. A film about an aspiring musical talent that is half comedian and half attention whore isn’t new or inventive. Why they even bothered to promote the soundtrack to this film, I don’t know. I can’t think of any reasonable person that would listen to those songs and think ‘yes, I want to use valuable space on my iPod to this self indulgent lyrical nonsense’. If you want musical comedy, look for The Lonely Island, Flight of the Conchords, even the classics like Weird Al Yankovic or Adam Sandler. Their music is designed to be comedy material.

This film represents everything that is wrong with the film industry right now. It drags people in who have a fond memory of a programme and then butcher it with some money making, second rate B-movie that tries so desperately hard to be more than what it is.

Watching this film is like being in the audience for one of David Brent’s shows. It’s awkward, undercooked and you don’t know if it’s okay to leave halfway through because you’re worried he might notice. The only positive you can say about this film is that the rest of the cast is genuinely funny. The savagery and brutality of the band, the sound technician, even his colleagues at Lavichem – they highlight everything wrong with the film simply by playing their part.

Nobody feels comfortable in their role. It’s just like a car on its last legs, coughing and wheezing as you pray it gets you home before it decides to give up. I don’t quite know why people in the audience were laughing. It’s not laugh out loud funny. It’s mild and childish humour that is designed to be mindless and stupid.

That’s probably my best way of describing this film. It’s mindless. It’s stupid. It is trying to send a message but it isn’t doing a very good of telling you what the message is. It plays on stereotypes like they’re going out of fashion. I’m sure there’s a message in there about political correctness and how we need to learn to laugh at ourselves. Ricky Gervais needs to learn when to quit. It was about the same time that The Office ended.

Don’t waste your money on this. You might think that it will be a laugh, Ricky Gervais back to his old self. It isn’t. It’s a cash cow that the BBC has wasted millions on when it could have been put to better use. Whether it’s the cameos, the references, the tired look and feel of the film, it all feels like another excuse for us to look back at The Office and realise that it was probably best kept in the mast.