Tag Archives: Seth Rogen

The Little Hours (2017)

What could be funnier than nuns in a convent? That’s a phrase never spoken before. Jeff Baena (Life After Beth) directs a comedy about 14th century nuns. Sisters Alessandra (Alison Brie), Genevra (Kate Micucci) and Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) live a routine life of prayer and chores until Massetto (Dave Franco), a young, handsome man, becomes their new gardener. Massetto poses as a deaf-mute to avoid contact with the sisters, but his presence creates impure thoughts in all of them. Having never been in this situation before, the women each approach Massetto, and their newfound urges, in their own ill-conceived ways.

The cast is stacked with talented comedians. Every role, even minor ones, is filled by an actor from a Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow film. Most of them stick to their typical roles with Plaza leading as an unhinged maniac. She repeatedly threatens people with violence and doesn’t appear capable of feeling any kind of sympathy. Her character is a stark contrast to Brie who plays an innocent woman that wants to get married and leave the convent but, due to her family’s financial situation, can’t afford her dowry. Brie’s initial sweetness doesn’t last long under Plaza’s influence and her progression into delinquency is an absurd and entertaining descent.

Plaza is borderline maniacal with her violent outbursts

Anachronism is the name of the game when it comes to the film’s humor. First and foremost, who can picture Aubrey Plaza as a nun? Nobody who has seen her in anything and Baena knows that. He makes his intentions clear from the opening scene where Plaza and Micucci attack and berate the church gardener for smiling at them and wishing them a good morning. They swear like sailors using modern curses and not even the slightest hint of an era-appropriate accent with Franco still maintaining his surfer-bro drawl. The only attempts at recreating the period are restricted to the on-location shooting and the attire. Other than that, the film plays like a raunchy sex comedy.

The Little Hours eclipses its peers by its use of the setting. Vulgarity and toilet humor can very quickly become irritating and, initially, it seems like the film will follow that same path, but things change as we learn more about the characters. These aren’t the typical filthy minded cast. These are nuns in the medieval age which means they haven’t actually had any real-life experiences. They have been raised in the convent since they were young so all of their behavior comes from a place of extreme sheltering. This makes even the alarmingly aggressive behavior somehow charming. As the characters throw themselves at Franco, their complete naivete is endearing. They are inexperienced to the point of stupidity so their attempts to win Franco’s attention, while hiding their transgressions, are exercises in hilarious ineptitude. These actions are their baby steps toward understanding themselves as adult women with adult feelings. The competition between the nuns creates misunderstandings that compound into a completely ridiculous climax that reveals how little they know about the world and how comically hypocritical they are. Expressed through a lens of complete and foolish naivete, Baena imbues an anachronistic sex comedy with a charming innocence.

4/5 stars.

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.

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.