Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three new comedies at the multiplex

This is a week, Hollywood hopes to keep you laughing. I'd say the industry is batting a dismal one for three.


Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to get married when his buddies take him to Vegas for a bachelor party. Who are these buddies? Well, there's Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist who's pushed around by his overbearing fiance. Then there's Phil (Bradley Cooper), a teacher and the self-appointed "cool" guy in the group. Rounding out this trio of buddies is Alan, played by comic Zack Galifianakis. Alan, we learn, is a bearded weirdo who grates on everyone's nerves but happens to be the groom's prospective brother-in-law. If you've seen the trailer for "The Hangover," you already have an idea about the movie, which includes a cameo from Mike Tyson and a late-picture appearance by Ken Jeong who plays a gay, Asian gangster. You also probably know that the plot is little more than an excuse for the jokes, some of which are funny and most of which tilt crude. Here's how it unfolds: The men arrive in Vegas. On their first night, they get so drunk they can't remember a thing. When they wake up in their hotel suite, they realize that Doug is missing. They also realize that their suite has been trashed. To make matters worse, a tiger has found its way into the bathroom, and there's a baby in one of the closets. The buddies seem to have had one hell of a riotous night. Most of the gags can't be described here, but if you know that "The Hangover" was directed by Todd Phillips, who also directed "Old School," you'll have a decent idea about the brand of humor. I enjoyed "Old School" more, but there are laughs here, many of them derived from situations in which humor and pain go hand-in-hand. An example: "The Hangover" includes a scene in which our heroes are tazed by a sadistic cop. Something in our makeup seems to enjoy movies that put characters into such painful situations. "The Hangover" is banking that we'll indulge that impulse. Enjoy.

Dinosaurs, strange reptilian creatures called Sleestaks and an ape man who represents an early stage of evolution do little to bring laughter to a notably unfunny Will Ferrell comedy that attempts to reprise the '70s TV show on which it's based. A ton of money seems to have been spent on some not-so-special effects. The filmmakers should have hired a script doctor, preferably one who could infuse real mirth into this spoof-deprived effort. Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a failed genius who believes he can transport himself into a dimension where past, future and present exist simultaneously. Accompanying Ferrell on his time-warped journey are a scientist with a crush on him (Anna Friel) and a redneck sidekick (Danny McBride). Having arrived in an alternate reality, the trio quickly meets up with ape man Chaka (Jorma Taccone). Director Bard Siberling tries to spice things up with action sequences involving an angry T-Rex, but like an unearthed fossil, the movie is pretty much DOA. "Land of the Lost" can look impressively tacky, but Ferrell has had better moments, and the rest the cast can't do much to salvage what amounts to a depressingly meager slice of big-screen comedy. The Today Show's Matt Lauer isn't bad in a cameo, but he has the misfortune of appearing as himself. At least the rest of the actors got to hide behind characters.

Nia Vardalos tries to reprise her success with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with another comedy that traffics in stereotypes. The difference between the overrated "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "My Life In Ruins" is that "My Life" is considerably worse. Vardalos again looks for love -- only this time in Greece where her character works as a tour guide for a second-rate company. If you're looking to visit major tourist spots and can ignore the foreground of plot, character and lame comedy, you may get something out of this misbegotten travelogue. Vardalos portrays a self-confessed horny woman who's fed up with escorting reluctant tourists around cultural landmarks. Richard Dreyfuss portrays a widower who cracks bad jokes. As a member of a tour group led by Vardalos' Georgia, he winds up urging her to take a chance on love. With whom? Well with hunky bus driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis). Georgia also tries to outdo a rival tour guide (Alistair McGowan), who seems to understand that tourists couldn't care less about Greece' s cultural glories. They only want to buy souvenirs. That's just one of the many ways in which "My Life" turns its characters into caricatures. Attempts at bawdy humor fall flat, and the whole project winds up inducing more cringes than laughs.

No comments: