the mini REVIEWs: Transformers, Horrible Bosses, Bad Teacher and Mr Poppers Penguins.

Okay so I’ve been slack. Work commitments will do that to your social life – not that this blog constitutes for a social life, in fact it epitomises everything but. The Point I’m so incoherently (yet characteristically) trying to make is that I have been slack updating things because writing reviews however insanely self-indulgent (it’s all based on a higher opinion that I have on something I have seen whether you agree or not) and strangely therapeutic (criticising is fun, wish I utilised it when writing my film and adaptation dissertation back in Uni) it is its soooo time-consuming and the thought of putting time in to something consciously that for my self is usually an unattractive notion. Procrastination kicks in whenever I plan to do something in my own time for myself and yet I work hard doing the things I don’t want to do…I digress.

Horrible Bosses

“The R-rated Warner Bros. comedy crossbreeds black comedy with raunchiness as it wastes a fine cast.” *

 *Hollywood reporter*. It kind of rings true when you pit the film  against its array of predecessors that has  turned a sadistic slapstick genre created to generate mainly unintelligent easy laughs out of any audience between the ages of 14 – 44 but in the same long breath has exploited its own crass-ness and subsequently like the content of many of its films has taken a large poop in the middle of the street in front of a school bus of children. Say what? exactly, its meaningless it’s not even that funny or cringing anymore because its been done over and over, are we becoming more immune to the Judd Apatow/ Family Guy generated Will Frat Pack and alum comedies of the world? No. Theyre still funny. Though it’s getting harder to shock us (hence why seeing a cast of women ala BRIDESMAIDS was a nice spin on the hacked genre)

Horrible Bosses is a film with promisingly good premise but lazily executed script with three  heavyweight actors all in support roles (nice) but strangely all of whom you remember more when the film ends. Salesman Jason Bateman is stuck with an abusive, sadist-psycho boss played by Kevin Spacey (like his Swimming with Sharks character but less manipulative more crazy). Donald Sutherland plays Jason Sudeikis‘s  dream boss, but, having apparently read the script, croaks it and we are offered up an impressively humorous and perhaps worryingly future glimpse as to what Colin Farrell could indeed end up looking like if his bad boy rep continues. Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia  (and the surprisingly endearing film Going the Distance also with Sudeikis) sex crazed boss played brilliantly by Jennifer Aniston. Yeah right – because someone like Day would really turn down an Aniston. The three (slightly crazy and not in a funny way if your actually considering killing your boss) men hire a black guy,  Jamie Foxx  to be their murder consultant. The attempt to be funny with the unethical assumption behind approaching ‘the ghetto’ to hire a murderer is so underplayed its like the writers (or producers) were too afraid to make it and Foxx’s character as ridiculous as he should have been and ended up actually being slightly racist. I found this funny but not because I was intended to.

Everything after and during is chaos with a  scene that involves a cat springing across the screen (totally a rip from an episode Community or vice versa? still funny though…is that bad that it’s perhaps the funniest scene?)In the films defence though the three leads are perhaps some of the best comedy improvisers on the circuit, never expect less from Sudeikis and Bateman. Charlie Day is cute but unfortunately as one critic pointed out mistakes “getting louder” for “being funnier” and not in the Will Ferell way. It’s evident from the beginning that this is not a film Bateman and clan are taking seriously. As tiresome as the weak dialogue is and scenes are the end credits display that this was all one big sausage fest more about making themselves laugh than perhaps the viewers. Sudiekes and Day, perhaps the new Vaughan/Faverau Stiller/Wilson or Ferell/Rudd/Carrell do this well and you can see them collaborating in another flick soon. However for all its regurgitating it still manages to  lack the narrative satisfaction of a Todd Phillips or Apatow Frat Brat production. All three have done and will go on to better things.

Mr Poppers Penguins

 Penguins I like. Happy Feet in my DVD collection proves this. Jim Carrey? I haven’t enjoyed you since The Truman Show so no thank you. Don’t get me started on the trailer, but my brother wanted to watch it to lighten the mood after we’d scared ourselves watching Paranormal Activity for a second time. I love it when this happens. When a film is surprisingly better than you think it will be and by proxy is an enjoyable watch that leaves you content that you had indeed dedicated *insert time count* of your time to watching it. Jim Carrey is getting old and I THINK this is having a good effect on his ability to be annoying …like Robin Williams Confession: actually I love Robin Williams, he’s always made me smile. I’m a child of the late 80s and all of the 90s. He was cool.

In Mr Poppers Penguins Carrey plays Mr. Popper, a slick New York real estate businessman. He’s a robotic charmer who at one point, fails to charm a regal Angela Lansbury from selling her family restaurant building so he can build another high-rise of meaningless concrete – perhaps a metaphor to highlight his lack of sentimental or family values.

Divorced with two kids who have no desire to spend any time with him and born to a father who himself has been absent in Popper’s life over the years, its hard not to compare this to Carrey’s role as that of his Liar Liar one. The crux comes when Tom Popper receives six penguins courtesy of his recently deceased father. Operation get rid of the birds ensues but when he realises that the bond between himself and his children is consequently down to the penguins, Popper decides that it’s not all bad. It’s as clichéd and implausible as it sounds but bear with me.

He ends up converting his entire apartment into a winter retreat for the penguins and becomes  the dad every kid wants (I love mine, but even I know his limitations of owning penguins and a winter wonderland in our front room is a big cross next to his name). The lovely Carla Gugino (ageing slowly and wonderfully) seems smitten by the new and improved Popper.

Carrey for once allows these half real half CGI (brilliantly done) winged beasts to steal the show mostly watching them poop in inconvenient places and one of whom fart on cue. The real standout, though, is Ophelia Lovibond, playing Popper’s  letter P loving assistant, new Brit actress crush (bye Juno Temple/Carey Mulligan) with an envious Bond Girl Name.

Bad Teacher

Like Horrible Bosses Bad Teacher takes a delicious premise and leaves no aftertaste at all. Despite the promise of hilarity and r-rated comedy (okay the trailer failed to convey that who am I kidding) the film turns out to be tepid. Come on now, the idea of a oversexed, drug-abusing, potty mouthed teacher who is also a hot 30 something women in charge of a class of kids should work like its  inspired predecessor Bad Santa by being wholeheartedly inappropriate and offensive yet so brilliant but it doesn’t. Instead it comes off like a drawn out film based one of those random national lampoon-style saucy scenes in a 80s teen movie. 

Cameron Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey the Bad Teacher. Her ex fiancé figured out that she was gold-digger and canceled the wedding. So Elizabeth is out to find new meat, and the geeky, by family ties wealthy, substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake),  is her target – only he’s taken. 

In Bad Santa, Billy Bob Thornton was an unrepentant douche but the subsequent actions that lead to a sunnier conclusion that makes him, by the end of the film,  our likable douche. He’s never sorry for his actions but he’s clearly a loser and losers can be forgiven for being suicidal and crass. Diaz’s teacher is just lame. Shame really because she can do funny. The producers probably wanted more sexy and couldnt find a way to help her exercise a balance in favour of endless legs.  Instead of being a bad ass nympho with clearly unhinged issues, this teacher was far from being really bad.

Diaz is unconvincing as the slutty, profanity spouting, intoxicated Elizabeth, even as a parody  it doesn’t work for her like it did for Aniston as the nympho in Horrible Bosses. The supporting cast is mostly good, with Punch and Timberlake embracing the vapidity of their characters and Jason Segel bringing elements of warmth and humor to Russell. Despite its overall weakness, there are isolated scenes that work, such as a car wash and dodge ball scene (flying balls always funny when someone gets hit)  With so many films pushing the R-rating to its limits,  Bad Teacher‘s falls short. 


 Literally this guy was the best thing about the film. The fight scenes in the IMAX come a close second followed by performances by Frances McDormand and John Turturro. But hands down Labeouf made me laugh so hard.


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