Tag Archives: Comedy

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has all the hallmarks of a comedy sequel. It basically repeats the same plot as the original and tries to outdo previous gags. Mac (Seth Rogen; Pineapple Express) and Kelly (Rose Byrne; The Meddler) are selling their house and have finally found a buyer. The catch is that they are in escrow for 30 days, meaning that the buyers can check in at any time and withdraw their offer if they see something they don’t like. This isn’t an issue until the previously abandoned frat house next door is rented by a group of college girls led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz; Kick-Ass). The young women are fed up with official sororities and the debasement of frat parties and want to break out on their own. Teddy (Zac Efron; High School Musical), the frat leader from the first film, joins forces with Mac and Kelly to get girls kicked out of the house before they scare off potential buyers.

Despite the familiar setup, the film uses the gender swap to approach the story from a different angle. They do an incredible job of skewering the Greek system. Sororities are shown as superficial with cult-like rules and rituals and fraternities are portrayed as cesspools of objectification. At their first frat party, Shelby is horrified to learn that the party is just a way to get them drunk enough to have sex. The film is able to evaluate this with humor. There are signs that read “NO MEANS YES” and frat guys shouting “You wanna go upstairs?” to anyone that will listen that are hilarious but also resonate because they are based in reality. These are only slight exaggerations of things that happen at real fraternity parties and the film is able to balance its comedy with criticism.

The critique of sexism inherent in Greek organizations provides a unique source of humor.

Many of the jokes rely too heavily on improv. This has become somewhat of an epidemic in modern comedies, particularly those starring Seth Rogen. Instead of using written and rehearsed lines, the director allows actors to ad lib several takes and compiles the results in post-production. This method can sometimes lead to spontaneous gems, but relying on it misses the essence of good comedy: timing. There are several scenes where the cast is clearly making up their lines as they go along, hoping that overacting will lead to some laughs. However, this typically only leads to failed jokes and in some cases racially charged remarks that don’t have a place in the film. The movie is at its funniest during the elaborate, planned, set pieces. These sequences allow the likeable cast to show off their comedic talents and have the required timing necessary to succeed.

It would have been easy for this film to fall into The Hangover 2 category. A by-the-numbers sequel relying on the success of the original, rather than its own quality, for box office revenues. The humor does not live up to the first film but even as many jokes miss their mark, it’s difficult to dislike the movie. The cast is eminently charismatic and even their failed attempts don’t become irritating. Instead, the surprisingly well realized feminist theme adds depth unusual to the genre and is able to eclipse the uneven humor and elevate the film.

3/5 stars.

The Hollars (2016)

If film festivals can be epitomized, then The Hollars is Sundance in a nutshell. John Krasinski (The Office) directs and stars as John Hollar, a New York City office worker making a graphic novel in his spare time. He lives with his pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick; Pitch Perfect) until he finds out his mother Sally (Margo Martindale; Million Dollar Baby) has a brain tumor and needs surgery, requiring him to go back home for the first time in years. He returns to find that many things have changed and that his mother’s health isn’t the only problem his family faces.

Despite a talented cast, the performances are unrefined. Each actor is committed to their part and goes through the required motions, but the acting lacks precision. The cast needed more takes or a more demanding director to push them beyond their initial efforts. Particularly bad is the otherwise talented Sharlto Copley (District 9) as the divorced older brother who now lives with his parents. His acting is overly eccentric and his accent is distracting. Many foreign actors are able to imitate an American accent without notice, but Copley’s South African intonations are jarring when compared to his supposed family. The exception to this is the female cast. Martindale is captivating as the stern but caring matriarch. Her tough love is often hilarious and its clear why she is at the center of the family. Kendrick shines as well in her limited role. She manages to gently push John to move forward with his life without falling into the trap of becoming the whiny girlfriend character. Martindale’s and Kendrick’s acting is welcome, but it only puts their co-star’s shortcomings in further relief.

Martindale's sharp wit is incredibly endearing.
Martindale’s sharp wit is incredibly endearing.

The film checks off a list of tropes from festival darlings of the past 15 years. Almost every story beat or production choice can be guessed beforehand. The main character is stuck in a rut living in a big city, they feel like a stranger in their own hometown, and every character has been dusted in a healthy helping of quirk. Even the soundtrack follows the Sundance manual by only featuring tracks by indie folk singers. Movies like Garden State have already employed many of these features and Krasinski doesn’t attempt to grow beyond them.

There is an old saying that “you can’t go home again”, meaning that your memories of a place or time are static and will never match up to your new experiences if you try to revisit them. John’s trip home shows him how much his family’s situation has changed. The people he is close to have moved on with their lives, often to worse outcomes, while he was living in a vacuum, delaying change and avoiding risk. He hasn’t taken the next steps with his graphic novel or advanced his relationship with his longtime girlfriend because of his fear of failure. In many ways, this concept applies to the filmmakers themselves. Instead of attempting something original, they returned to a formula they knew. By strictly treading on common ground, The Hollars is an agreeable but forgettable comedic drama, barely distinguishable from its peers.

2/5 stars.

The Love Witch (2016)

Like an Apple product, sometimes a movie is so married to its form that it forgets its supposed function. The Love Witch is about woman, Elaine (Samantha Robinson; Sugar Daddies), that casts love spells on men, has sex with them, and then they die because they “love her so much”.  After moving to town, Elaine cycles through brief affairs searching for her true love.

The film strives to be knowing satire but falls completely flat. Director/writer/producer/production designer/costume designer/editor/composer Anna Biller (Viva) clearly loves films of the 1960s and shows that passion in her attention to detail in the sets of the film. Unfortunately, this precision did not extend into the performances or writing. Characters deliver exaggerated dialogue with self-satisfied theatrical overacting.  They might as well look directly into the camera and wink as they hint that you should be laughing after each line is spoken. The cast has stated that because the film was low budget, they were usually only able to do one take and it clearly shows. The performances are obviously rushed and unrefined. Biller either lacked the time or the strong hand needed to improve their acting and without it, the intended humor fails miserably.

Comedic problems aside, it’s difficult to not love the visuals. The film was shot on 35mm and, unlike most, was actually processed through photochemical coloring rather than the standard digital intermediate. The cinematographer also used lenses from the 70s and netting over the lenses that give the images a softer look. Even though the story clearly takes place in present day, due to the presence of smartphones and modern cars, the main cast and the set dressings use deliberately retro stylings. The result is a vibrant landscape of eye-popping colors that perfectly replicate early Technicolor films.

The film's beautiful visuals are its best asset.
The film’s beautiful visuals are its best (and perhaps only) asset.

Within the layers of artifice, there is a parable about gender. The film tackles relationships and the conflicting societal ideals of female sexuality. Elaine’s friend is more traditional and only engages her husband when she wants whereas Elaine’s philosophy is to open herself up to a man physically above all else. Her beliefs represent the female sexual empowerment movement of the 1970s taken to the logical extreme. Is she taking control of her own body or just giving into male fantasy? Are the people that reinforce her behavior helping her or just creating a new form of subservience?  Biller leaves these questions not only unanswered but underdeveloped. A definitive stance isn’t needed, but the ideas are neglected in favor of poor attempts at comedy. While her intent is laudable, the director never expands her thoughts enough to be intellectually engaging.

It’s a shame that such technical talent and painstaking effort are wasted. A film with these aesthetics and design is a refreshing break from the often hyperreal visuals provided by the 4k, 5k, and even 6k cameras used today. Biller’s extreme dedication to creating her vision is also praiseworthy, but the film never succeeds as a whole. There were some laughs in my theater, but the majority of the audience was silent and Biller’s thoughts on gender are only fleeting. Despite its noble goals and meticulous craft, The Love Witch is a dull pastiche stuffed with bad acting delivered with an increasingly irritating smugness.

1/5 stars.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Well folks, we finally have an answer to the age old question “is the New Zealand accent inherently funny?” Yes. Yes, it is.

A troubled youth, Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison; Paper Planes), guilty of petty crimes like graffiti, loitering, and spitting, is shuffled from foster home to foster home until he is taken to his last option before juvenile detention. Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata; Housebound) is the woman who gladly takes him in and immediately establishes herself as a kind, loving person. She gently supports him even as he tries to escape and awkwardly pokes fun at his weight in a misguided attempt to engage him. For the first time in his life, Ricky has a caring home, but an unfortunate twist of fate puts Aunt Bella out of the picture and leaves him alone with her grumpy, apathetic husband, Uncle Hec (Sam Neill; Jurassic Park). Still, Ricky is happy with his Uncle until child welfare decides that he needs to be taken back. Ricky’s response is to run away into the bush forcing Uncle Hec to follow him. The time they spend in the woods causes them to miss the child welfare pickup date and gets misconstrued as a kidnapping, making Uncle Hec a wanted man and the bulk of the film follows the pair as they hide in the woods trying to avoid the nationwide manhunt.

Ricky’s greatest asset is his cherubic, expressive face. He has a minor criminal record, but even as he gets into trouble and tries to “be gangster”, his chubby cheeks only beam with innocence. No matter what he claims, his age is exposed by his lack of experience. SWAT teams are confused with ninjas and police dogs are mistaken for direwolves. Everything he knows is based on pop culture references so his time in the wild with Uncle Hec allows him to grow and his reactions to realities of bush-life provide a sympathetic audience surrogate. Yet even as he toughens in the wild, his fumbling actions are always humorous and endearing, not aggressive.

Even a small look from Ricky can crack a smile.
Even a small look from Ricky can crack a smile.

The film demonstrates the skills of its director. Taika Waititi’s previous film, What We Do in the Shadows, was a horror comedy about a house of vampires and while the feature proved his talents as an actor and a writer, the Real World-esque structure masked his abilities behind the camera. Here he is able to show off his command of the screen. There are perfectly placed comedic snap zooms as well as a recurring shot involving a revolving camera pan with characters moving in and out of frame to show the passage of time. This concisely moves the plot forward while still producing laughs in a way that few directors are capable of. Waititi’s directorial flourishes add visual excitement to the strong comedic writing.

Underneath the manhunt setup is a deeper message. Each of the main characters is lost in some way. Aunt Bella, Uncle Hec, and Ricky are all orphans and finding acceptance becomes the major theme. Ricky has been rejected by all his previous families and Uncle Hec has never had anyone but Bella. Together they form their own oddball family unit. Ricky writes haikus for Uncle Hec (a method of expression advised by a previous social worker) and as their outlaw status escalates they only grow closer. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a rare comedy, consistently original and hilarious with a sincere, sentimental core.

4/5 stars.

Maggie’s Plan (2016)

Filled with professional intellectuals and set in New York City, Maggie’s Plan initially comes off as a misplaced Woody Allen comedy but soon reveals itself to be a much kinder film than most of Allen’s body of work. Maggie (Greta Gerwig; Frances Ha) is a university faculty member intent on having a child, regardless of her current relationship status, until she enters an unexpected relationship with anthropology professor John (Ethan Hawke; Before Midnight). Unfortunately, John is married to Georgette (Julianne Moore; Still Alice), a needy and career focused fellow professor at a different school. As a result of their affair, John divorces Georgette and marries Maggie which leads to the child Maggie had been hoping for. After a few years of marriage, it becomes clear that Maggie and John are no longer working out, but instead of leaving like a sane person would do she creates the titular plan. Maggie notices that he still spends hours talking to his ex-wife and realizes that Georgette was indeed right for him. Together the two women create a scenario for Georgette and John to meet and hopefully rekindle their feelings for one another.

In a film with otherwise solid acting, Moore delivers one of the most hamstrung performances of her career. She has proven herself consistently reliable in a wide range of roles from an adult film star in Boogie Nights to a professor in Still Alice, but here she crashes and burns underneath a repulsive accent. Where is she supposed to be from…England? France? Germany? Is it just a speech impediment? Depending on the specific scene it could be any of those choices. Director Rebecca Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) was likely aiming to make Georgette appear more sophisticated but the gimmick is entirely unnecessary. Moore’s acting alone would have been convincing enough, but saddled with an accent that would make Tommy Wiseau jealous, her delivery detracts from an otherwise well-written character.

I have absolutely no idea where Georgette is supposed to be from.
I have absolutely no idea what accent Georgette is supposed to have.

Conversely, the character of Maggie is always enchanting. Her attempts at almost Machiavellian manipulation are softened by Gerwig’s performance as she imbues Maggie with a well-intentioned naivete. Maggie is not scheming to absolve herself of latent guilt about entering a relationship with a married man, but rather she’s genuinely trying to create what she perceives as the best outcome for him. Even as things go awry, she never blames anyone, never holds grudges, and instead compensates by taking charge of other people’s responsibilities. As she sacrifices her own desires to help others, it becomes clear that Maggie’s problem isn’t that she is too controlling, it’s that she cares too much about others.

Her empathy, even at her own expense, carries the film. The other characters are each selfish in their own way, but Maggie never has any personal goals beyond a strong relationship with her daughter and every scene with her toddler further exemplifies her affection for those around her. Just as a mother restructures her life for the betterment her child, Maggie adapts herself to take care of her loved ones. She doesn’t always have the most logical methods, but her heart is in the right place as she suffuses the film with her blissfully unaware charm.

4/5 stars.

The Meddler (2016)

What are all moms best at? Everyone knows the answer to that question: forcibly inserting themselves into your life. The Meddler features Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise) as Marnie, a widow that was left with a large sum of money after her husband passed. So, she did the only natural thing and moved from Brooklyn to LA to be closer to her writer daughter Lori (Rose Byrne; Neighbors). Still reeling from a recent breakup, Lori is depressed and only wants to be alone. She goes to great lengths to avoid social events with her friends but unfortunately can’t avoid her mother who has a key to her house

Director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) accurately captures how ingratiating a mother’s unwanted help can be, despite good intentions. Everyday Marnie calls repeatedly and leaves meandering voicemails that aren’t actually about anything. She asks her 30 something daughter to text her each time she leaves the house and does things after beings specifically asked not to. As Lori tries to set boundaries, Marnie uses her free time to become a part of other peoples lives. She attaches herself to Lori’s friends and other strangers she meets, offering unsolicited advice at every turn. Marnie starts driving an Apple store employee to night school, planning (and funding) a wedding for Lori’s friend, and helps a bedridden woman at the local hospital. She fully occupies herself with financially and emotionally helping others.

Zipper introduces Marnie to the other women in his life...his chickens.
Zipper introduces Marnie to the other women in his life…his chickens.

Marnie creates relationships with others to fill the hole left by her late husband. After she starts seeing Lori’s therapist and gets approached by interested men, she exposes how fragile she is. Any mention of his passing and she’ll change the topic. It’s clear that both she and Lori are still grieving their loss, but the film does not fully explore its effects. It gestures towards these deeper feelings but barely skims the surface before reverting back to comedy.

The few glimpses into her true emotional state occur when she meets Zipper (J.K. Simmons; Whiplash), a retired cop who raises chickens. Simmons, for his part, is thoroughly charismatic as her Harley-loving suitor. His gentle approach and understanding of her behavior only serve to further endear him. As their romance grows, there are telling moments when Marnie deliberately pulls back. He invites her over, but she declines even though she is interested. She is still connected her late husband and isn’t ready to move on to someone else.

Despite her antics, Marnie never becomes unlikable. Even as she tries to steer Lori’s love life or uses salt bagels as a form of mental and emotional help, her deep affection for her daughter is always apparent. However, the film focuses too much on this behavior without thoroughly examining her and Lori’s grief. It sticks to the easy laughs and misses the opportunity to provide insights into the emotional aftermath of a losing a loved one. Without this added depth, The Meddler remains an agreeable comedy, but falls short of its potential and lacks the dramatic heft needed to give it staying power.

3/5 stars.

Love & Friendship (2016)

Whit Stillman’s fifth feature in 16 years and his first period piece proves to be one his strongest efforts. Adapted from a novella by Jane Austen, the film follows Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale; Underworld), a once wealthy widow, navigating the circles of high society in late 1800s England. Her high lifestyle is provided by the friends and family members she moves between as she uses her social skills to secure a better life for herself and her 16 year old daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

Calling them social skills is putting it lightly. Lady Susan has the gift of gab and is fully aware of her powers. She lies, feigns emotions, and uses every form of manipulation possible. With a few exceptions, she is able to cast a spell over her acquaintances to have them do her bidding. Her plan to maintain her posh life is to wed her daughter to the wealthy, kind, but clearly idiotic man, Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett; PhoneShop), and seduce her young, wealthy brother-in-law, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel; Twilight Saga: Eclipse) into marrying her. Unfortunately for Lady Susan, the rest of her in-laws are aware of her methods and do everything possible to prevent her engagement to Reginald.

Stillman has always been interested in high society. In his debut film, Metropolitan, he explored the lives of what he called UHBs (Urban Haute Bourgeoisie), young wealthy aristocrats, and his characters even spent time discussing various pieces of Austen’s oeuvre. It’s clear that he and Austen share a love of the inner circles of the upper class. He takes full advantage of the setup from Austen’s book in creating his own vision. Stillman hones in on the minutiae of his character’s lives. He mines the excessive formalities of the time for full comedic effect. Characters often are polite to the point of laughable awkwardness. Their desire to remain polite leads to overlapping pleasantries that always entertain.

Love-Friendship-Movie-Wallpaper-21-1280x720
Sir James’s winning smile more than makes up for his lack of intelligence.

The best example of this is with Sir James. Like the character Thor from Damsels in Distress (a college student who still doesn’t know his colors), Sir James repeatedly fails to understand even the most basic concepts. This combined with his jovial demeanor and desire to please cause several unnecessary – and hilarious – misunderstandings. He’s a moron, but he’s a sweet lovable moron that steals the show every time he’s onscreen.

Lady Susan on the other hand couldn’t be more different. Like Greta Gerwig’s character from Damsels in Distress, she is a crafty manipulator. “Facts are a terrible thing”, she tellingly says to her confidant played by Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho). She is so bought into her own lies that it becomes difficult to tell fact from fiction, but Beckinsale makes the character’s pathological dishonesty believable. Just as Lady Susan manipulates the people around her, she is also able to entrance the audience. We know what she’s doing, but she’s too damn good at it for us to care.

Whit Stillman and Jane Austen have shown themselves to be the perfect pairing for a comedy of manners. Her wheelhouse of high society England melds seamlessly with his signature humor. He takes the prim, proper idiosyncrasies of the time and his lead’s habitual chicanery and exaggerates them to the point of ridiculousness. Stillman uses Lady Susan’s verbose, elaborate lies to keep everyone spinning, but the tailspin – and the continuous laughs that come with it – are just too enjoyable to stop.

4/5 stars.

The Nice Guys (2016)

Director Shane Black has now made a name for himself as a creator of buddy action comedies, starting with writing Lethal Weapon and later directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and more recently Iron Man 3. Here we have Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), a bruiser for hire, teaming up with Ryan Gosling (Drive), a private detective, he hired to find a missing girl who is in danger. After being contracted to “send a message” to Gosling, Crowe decides to go back in order to hire him to help find one of his previous clients. The two make a deliberately odd couple with Crowe playing the efficient pragmatist and Gosling as the inept screw-up.

Above all else, Black’s goal here is comedy, but he is mostly unsuccessful. There were a few good laughs but the jokes miss more often than they hit. The humor can be divided into two broad categories: dialogue-based and physical. The dialogue-based humor, which is where the majority of jokes come from, mostly fails. Gosling’s delivery is often overconfident and dismissive, making his character slightly repulsive. Crowe’s jokes are based on his practicality, but instead of appearing curt, his rarely changing facial expressions just make him seem bored in the situation. Black’s strength is clearly with physical comedy. The best laughs involve Gosling falling and the gag only gets funnier with each tumble. It’s too bad that the director was not able to emphasize his slapstick skills as it would have created a much better film.

niceguys2
Crowe and Gosling’s first encounter is not amicable.

Part of the problem is that neither of the leads is likable. Crowe comes off as cold and, due to his profession, cruel. Gosling on the other hand is shown as somewhat incompetent and sleazy. He systematically extorts additional money from each job and takes advantage of confused elderly clients. We’re supposed to care about Gosling because he is a single dad, but the father-daughter connection is never established. The majority of the film has him sending his daughter (Angourie Rice; These Final Hours) to stay overnight at a friends house because he has to work. Her presence, or her mother’s absence, alone is not enough to create sympathy for an otherwise low-level, unscrupulous investigator.

Additionally, the attempts to create moral dilemmas are never fully fleshed out. The is a recurring motif where Gosling and Crow are asked if they are bad people. Gosling’s daughter easily answers yes for him, whereas Crowe isn’t sure what he is. During his violent encounters, he tries to stop before delivering a killing blow, especially when Rice is nearby. Yet, to the audience, the answer is obvious. He beats people up for money so there is no doubt that he is a bad person, which makes the central plot of the movie less believable. Why would Crow care about a former client enough to look out for her? He has never cared about his clients or victims before which makes this character turn unconvincing.

While plausibility or even sympathetic characters have never been requirements for a successful comedy, the humor needs to overcome these details. With The Nice Guys, Shane Black has been unable to beat these obstacles. There are just too many jokes that don’t produce any amusement. The physical humor does have its moments, but the frequency of laughs isn’t enough to sustain the runtime.

2/5 stars.

Sing Street (2016)

What would you do to impress someone? For Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the answer to that question is basically anything. After being transferred to a new school, he sees Raphina (Lucy Boynton) standing across the road and goes up to talk to her. He finds out that she’s a model so he creates a relationship the only way he knows how: he asks her to be in a music video for his band. This would have been a good idea except he doesn’t actually have a band. Conor and his friend recruit band members and start writing songs and making music videos. His initial hope is just to find an excuse to talk to Raphina but eventually his musical ambitions grow to match and entwine with his romantic goals.

The film is set in the ’80s and is heavily influenced by the music of the era. Conor’s older brother hands out records like a teacher assigns homework to guide the musical progression of the band. Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, The Cure and more artists are the sonic inspiration for the developing group as well as the soundtrack to the film. The band’s original music begins spectacularly as each song is energetic, catchy, and sincerely adolescent. Despite the high production values added by the real songwriter and music producer, they feel honest to the characters’ age. These early tracks are so memorable that when the later songs are played, while still strong, they feel lackluster in comparison. Instead of steadily building to a showstopping number, the film’s final performance is overshadowed which detracts from the emotional climax that it is supposed coincide with.

The band clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing and they don’t care.

Director John Carney (Once) displays a deep affection for his characters. The story is the semi-autobiographical account of his own childhood and each of the band members, while clearly misfits, are endearing in their own way. The main cast had no prior acting experience and Carney is able bring out natural performances from them. The key instrumental talent Eamon (Mark McKenna) spends most of his time doing “rabbit stuff” and the pint-sized redhead Darren (Ben Carolan) is oblivious to his own limits as he signs up as the band’s manager, music video producer, and cinematographer. They’re also hilariously unaware of their mistakes. Conor’s attempts at acting cool in front of Raphina are endearing failures and the band’s attempts at creating a signature look fail miserably as each band member is limited to what he can find in his closet, This leads to a band with members dressed in a ’80s suede disco suit, a heavy trenchcoat, and even a cowboy.

It is this disregard for realities and probabilities that gives Sing Street its infectious charm. The characters are underdogs that don’t realize it and they take every challenge head on. Form a band? Ok. Write a song? Let’s get started. They never take a moment to examine their own abilities which fills the film with a sweet, naive optimism. And this applies to more than making music. The film compares music to love. Conor’s brother says “Rock and a roll is a risk…” and its clear throughout that this is the same risk Conor takes in pursuing Raphina. In pursuing his passion, he risks ridicule and failure, but, as Raphina puts it, “for [your] art [you] can never do anything by half.” Sing Street is a vivacious and endearing story of growing up through music and romance with an exceptional soundtrack that will be on many playlists for years to come.

five stars

5/5 stars.

Get a Job (2016)

Ah, the millennials. They just can’t seem to make it work, can they? Get a Job, directed by Dylan Kidd (Roger Dodger), is a comedy about a group of young people trying to find their first jobs. The movie was apparently shot in 2012, but due to distribution issues was only released this weekend in very few theaters and on VOD rather than the wide release expected for a movie playing to this broad of an audience. Miles Teller plays Will, a recent grad who starts his first day doing video production at LA Weekly only to learn that his job as been eliminated. His girlfriend Jillian (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect) asks him to “step up” and find a job. unlike his pot-smoking roommates, while his old fashioned “work your way to the top” dad (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad)  unexpectedly finds himself in a similar situation. The movie also features various subplots about Will’s roommates attempting to find their own first jobs and this is one of the reason the film falls apart.

The film feels overstuffed, despite its 82 minute runtime. It’s clear that this movie has gone through several overhauls in the editing room to create  something releasable, but their attempts have failed. None of the plot threads are given enough time to allow the characters to grow, so the climaxes have little effect. There is also dialogue referring to scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut which leads to a film that feels entirely jumbled together. Even with the 4 year wait, Get a Job still plays like an early version.

Making a good movie is the hard part.

The “comedy” script fails to produce any laughs. The writers were obviously targeting a Superbad-like movie, especially with their casting of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, but fail at creating both the likable characters and the humorous situations. The cast here is extremely talented and has done great work in other projects, but the script and editing don’t give them anything to work with. Cranston and Kendrick are the highlights, but even they can only do so much given their material and they aren’t featured enough to make an impact. Instead the jokes oscillate between trite and obscene and the language is both juvenile and crass. Alison Brie plays a hiring manager whose only lines are sexual advances that are both unwanted and unfunny. To put this in context, the film’s idea of comedy is her character trying to watch Will urinate for his drug test. Get a Job‘s humor never rises above a repulsively vulgar attempt at a Judd Apatow comedy.

Furthermore, the tone is absolutely inappropriate for the target audience. Starting right from the opening shot, Get a Job never loses its “kids these days” perspective. The film’s introductory montage posits that all of the characters’ problems are caused by their everyone-gets-a-trophy upbringing and that they can’t make it in the “real world” until they “toughen up”. Then, at the last minute, it doubles back and tries to claim, in a well delivered but unsubstantiated speech by Kendrick, that the younger generation doesn’t need the structure or direction of their parents to be happy. With no true, original, or even consistent insights to offer, the film fails at both skewering millennials and at uplifting them.

Totaling all these troubles, it’s clear that distribution issues were the least of the film’s problems. The 4 year wait apparently did not provide enough time construct a developed story and also outdated it as the economy has improved since filming. In retrospect, placing it on hold was actually the right decision because the movie has nothing to offer to any demographic. Get a Job is positioned as a film of and for the millennials but feels like a movie written by their disapproving grandparents with jokes by an obscene Seth Rogen knockoff.

1/5 stars.