Jason Sudeikis

Hall Pass (2011)

Hall Pass is like the guys it depicts – ridiculous, overconfident, and dull, and unless you have a hankering to watch every Owen Wilson movie ever, there’s no need to see this one. Wilson plays Rick, a bored husband and father, who along with his best friend, Fred (Jason Sudeikis), gets a one-week hall pass from his wife. The hall pass has nothing to do with school and bathroom breaks and instead is a get-out-of-jail card. For one week, the guys are released from their marriage vows and are free to do whatever they please while their partners are out of town.

I’m not the type of person who would know or care if this is a real thing, nor are Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), that is until they decide they’ve had it with their husbands’ wandering eyes. They consult their psychologist friend (Joy Behar) who suggests the hall pass plan, reasoning that it’s a chance for the guys to get it out of their system. If Rick and Fred get to follow through on their fantasies, or at least try to, then they’ll stop resenting their wives for holding them back from all the beautiful, available women out in the world and they’ll actually commit to their marriage. Maggie and Grace think this sounds reasonable, and, throwing away all common sense, they agree to give it a try since honestly, they’re a little bored with married life too.

It’s a man’s dream come true, so Rick and Fred think. Their unbridled optimism and inflated sense of self soon fades when on the first day it becomes apparent that they’re not quite up to the task of meeting women and having loads of sex. Whether they’re stuffing themselves at Applebee’s or stoned off their rockers on the golf course, no one seems interested. But as the week wears on and just when it looks like their hall passes have been all for naught, things start to look up. Rick pursues his regular barista (Nicky Whelan) and Fred, with the help of perpetual bachelor Coakley (a blinged-out Richard Jenkins in either a genius casting choice or an epically horrible one), has his own pleasant, unexpected run-in.

It doesn’t need to be said that this movie is written, directed, and produced by a bunch of dudes. The Farrelly brothers (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal) are at the heart of this. They try to couch their characters’ juvenile and misogynistic behavior in a story about guys who come to appreciate what they have. Sure, Rick may pick Jenna Fischer over Alexandra Daddario, but he also tells an extended joke about floppy boobs and large mouthed vaginas. Meanwhile, Fred gets his comeuppance and is beat up at a bar but only after he verbally abuses women. This kind of humor doesn’t work both ways, and I’m not laughing.

Of course that could also be because the script simply isn’t that funny. It’s an amusing idea about a couple of men, and women, who aren’t all they imagine themselves to be. Even Maggie and Grace get a taste of the hall pass life when they get friendly with a local baseball team. Most of the jokes are tame and predictable though. It must be comedic law that a fortysomething who hasn’t had a pot brownie in awhile is bound to take a dump in public or that he who writes and studies bad pick-up lines will get slapped down. We don’t need to see that, or this movie, again.

Released: 2011
Prod: Charles B. Wessler, Bradley Thomas, Benjamin Waisbren, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, J.B. Rogers, Mark Charpentier
Dir: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writer: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones, Kevin Barnett
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Joy Behar, Nicky Whelan, Bruce Thomas, Alexandra Daddario, Alyssa Milano, Derek Waters, Kristin Carey, Tyler Hoechlin, Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove, Larry Joe Campbell, Richard Jenkins
Time: 109 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)

If Horrible Bosses didn’t offend you the first time around, fear not – there’s so much more in store. When we last left our sad sack employees Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day), they had just claimed victory over their decidedly horrible bosses, sadists and criminals all. Now helped by a sizable dose of misplaced confidence, the three are determined to be their own masters, hoping to make it big with an all-in-one showerhead they call the “Shower Buddy.”

Like many eager upstarts, they put too much faith in the first person willing to throw money at their venture, a person like Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz). A self-made man who admires their ingenuity and commitment to American manufacturing, he’s also a selfish, scheming swindler with a son to match. After he cheats the guys out of half a million dollars, they have no other recourse but to kidnap Bert’s son, Rex (Chris Pine), and recoup their losses with the ransom. Except of course they probably have plenty of other options that aren’t as harebrained or illegal. They seek advice from Nick’s former boss (Kevin Spacey), now showering abuse from behind bars, and freelance crime consultant Motherfuckah Jones (Jamie Foxx), who both encourage their nutty plan.

I wasn’t a great fan of the first movie, but I found a measure of satisfaction in watching the guys scheme against their miserable superiors, thus avenging wronged employees everywhere. That sense of the underdog gets lost in this film, buried beneath the pile of idiocy brought on by Kurt and Dale in particular. The two seem to have grown dimmer in the intervening years, and now without bad bosses to mask their bad behavior, their juvenile antics are laid bare for all to see. Their offenses range from simple stupidity (planning a break-in at Rex’s without actual planning) to criminal harassment (hiring workers based on sexual potential), and it’s easy to see why their former employers might go batty.

Bateman’s character, Nick, is the leavening force. The actor has an almost supernatural stoicism (see every other Bateman film), and Nick’s ability to tolerate and then clean up after his friends is both amusing and frustrating. You have to wonder about his calculus here. He’s essentially betting his future and fortune on an as-seen-on-TV product that he wants to mass produce with his knucklehead friends. At some point, he becomes complicit in this mess. Indeed, Nick has to rescue the other two when they get cornered while stealing a tank of nitrous oxide from Dale’s dentist ex-boss (a scene chewing Jennifer Aniston). He does so by posing as a new member of her sex addiction support group and ends the meeting early in order to, well, support her sex addiction.

Probably the freshest thing about this otherwise noisy, raunchy retread is Chris Pine’s appearance. He steals almost every scene that he’s in, even against Waltz in an underwritten role. Pine once again reveals himself to be more than a handsome frontman for flashy summer blockbusters. His willingness to be a total preening ass is something to behold. Rex is every bit the arrogant, entitled heir, but when he finds out his dad won’t pay the ransom, he acts both exactly as you’d expect and not at all. He puts up a good cry and then proceeds to out-crazy everyone with his own idea of criminal payback. I won’t say Pine’s performance redeems the movie, which is altogether too comfortable pushing the bar on the “it’s not racist/misogynistic because it’s funny” strain of humor, but it is oddly satisfying.

Released: 2014
Prod: Brett Ratner, Jay Stern, John Morris
Dir: Sean Anders
Writer: Sean Anders, John Morris
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jonathan Banks, Suzy Nakamura
Time: 108 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2017

The Angry Birds Movie (2016)

angry-birds-movie

The angry birds in question are flightless avians who just don’t see the point of flying since life is already pretty good on Bird Island. And like its subject, The Angry Birds Movie never takes flight, content to laze about and scoot by on the bare minimum of a plot. It’s forever positioned to prove itself worthy of its feature film status but ultimately fails to reach any new creative heights and escape its smartphone game origins.

There are things to enjoy, namely a cast that features some of today’s best comedic talent. They are the ones who give life to a lifeless story, reverse engineered from a game that to my limited understanding is really just about birds and pigs hurling themselves at each other. The movie tries to elevate this feathery beach ball match by filling in with backstory, starting with Red (Jason Sudekis), a party clown with anger management issues. His problems may stem from his youth as an orphaned bird bullied for his big eyebrows, but that’s something for him to work out during his court-mandated classes to deal with his temper. Those are led by new age guru Matilda (Maya Rudolph) and are a gathering place for an eclectic bunch that includes speedy yellow bird, Chuck (Josh Gad), explosive black bird, Bomb (Danny McBride), and an oversized grunter (Oscar winner Sean Penn, grunting).

It takes awhile to establish these characters, and the process comes off as a desperate attempt to shore up the story with engaging personalities. To their credit, Sudekis and Gad make the time pass more enjoyably and compensate for the lack of visual and artistic flair. There are many sarcastic jokes that will fly over the heads of children, but generally the actors add a welcome if caustic edge to their characters, who are angry birds after all.

This set-up eats into the main part of the story, however, and the actual conflict gets pushed to the second half of the movie. It isn’t until the green pigs, who look like trolls dregged out of a swamp, appear that things really get going. King Mudbeard (Bill Hader) introduces himself as an explorer, eager to establish friendly ties with the birds. Since they have never left the island, they accept his entreaty, fascinated by his stories and marveling at the new wonders he introduces. It’s a world reborn with slingshots and balloons. It’s also an unexpected allegory, albeit not a very exact or deep one, of colonialism. Of course this is all a rouse, and the pigs are really out to placate the birds so that they can steal their eggs. And once that happens, well, there’s only one thing for Red and his friends to do and that is to slingshot bomb themselves over to pigland.

The plot is a tortured explainer to the game, a build up to the point where angry birds start hurtling through the air. Once the battle is on, the movie goes into game mode with one character shooting pink fireballs out of her bum and another one setting off an explosion that takes out a whole tower block of pigs. The Mighty Eagle (a funny Peter Dinklage), available for 99 cents purchase, also swoops in to help save the day. For those who don’t have the app, it’s your chance to see what you’ve been missing out on, and for those who do have it, I wonder if it isn’t more enjoyable to just play the game.

Released: 2016
Prod: John Cohen, Catherine Winder
Dir: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Writer: Jon Vitti
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key
Time: 97 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016