Showing posts with label J.B. Smoove. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J.B. Smoove. Show all posts

Monday, 19 March 2012

We Bought a Zoo

I walked seven miles, there and back to watch this film on a quiet Monday afternoon. This should tell you three things; One) I have too much time on my hands, two) I really like Scarlett Johansson and three) I’ve hit rock bottom. I sat in an empty cinema auditorium in the hope that the seven miles would have been worth it. I sat through the Orange advert and the painfully annoying M&Ms/FTRC advert, wishing the film to be worth the trip. Well it wasn’t.

The plot, based on a true story which I was familiar with goes as thus. Recently widowed writer, Benjamin (Matt Damon) is struggling to keep his family on the straight and narrow. He is close to losing his job and has a fourteen year old son who keeps getting into trouble at school. After his son is expelled, Benjamin decides to up sticks and finds a lovely house in the country. The house has one drawback though, it’s a zoo. With the help of a dedicated team which includes Head Zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), Benjamin tries to bring the ailing zoo up to standard before a grand opening in the summer.

I think from the trailer and even my paragraph above, 95% of people could guess how this is going to turn out. There are no shocks or surprises and you can see all the jokes from a mile off. The film over uses the families loss to try to inject heart into the film and I think this is a mistake. It constantly pulls on the heart strings by showing Damon looking at picture after picture of his wife while terrible music plays underneath. We know how hard it must be but the film keeps pulling the audience back to it. The family also only appear to miss the mother at convenient moments which doesn’t feel very realistic. The whole film is also miss-sold by its trailer as a comedy. Pretty much all of the comedic moments are in the trailer and it is much more of a drama.

There are plenty of plot holes here too. Damon’s son Dylan (Colin Ford) is expelled for drawing an inappropriate mural in class which is put up in a corridor anyway along with murals depicting love and recycling etc. Also, Scarlett Johansson’s character complains that she doesn’t have time to see her friends or find a man but spends all of her free time in a small bar at the zoo with the three or four people she works with. The whole story is oversimplified which makes it feel unreal, even though it is based on actual events. Both Benjamin and his son spend half the film oblivious that they both have attractive women after them. I know they’ve just had a loss but come on!

It wasn't all bad...
Neither Matt Damon nor Scarlett Johansson are stretched by these roles and you have to feel that it was just a paycheque for them. Johansson is wasted and Damon’s only good moment comes when he is yelling at his son. He plays the likeable everyman well though. The supporting cast are mixed. Colin Ford is fine as a mopey teenager and Maggie Elizabeth Jones is cute but annoying as Damon’s young daughter. If I was annoyed by the first time she shouted “We bought a zoo”, by the third time I was ready to leave. Elle Fanning who was wonderful in Super 8 was ok but like the stars, not stretched. Her whole character was a bit odd. She plays a thirteen year old who doesn’t go to school but works at the zoo and everyone seems fine with this. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove plays an Estate Agent but I wish his part had been bigger so he could have injected some humour.

The film does pick up in the final few minutes for the sweet ending that we all expected. I’d expected more from an interesting true story and great actors but it is nothing more than mediocre.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hall Pass

Below are a picture of Nicky Whelan and a two minute clip of Stephen Merchant. Look at these and save yourself the 109 minutes it would take to watch Hall Pass.

The film stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as married best friends who are entering middle age. Though happily married, they both fondly remember their time as single men where they were free to do whatever they wanted to whoever they wanted. After a series of forgettable mishaps and arguments, both of their wives, played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, agree to give them a ‘Hall Pass’ or week off from marriage. The next ninety minutes of your life are spent watching what they get up to.

I decided to watch this film because I’d seen Stephen Merchant in the trailer and thought he seemed funny in the film. I’m a fan of both his solo work and his writing with Ricky Gervais so thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately, he is only on screen for about four minutes. While he is the funniest thing in these few fleeting moments, it is not nearly enough and the rest of the film is very thin on the ground with laughter. I found myself smile a couple of times and chuckle once.

The idea of a Hall Pass is interesting and occasionally the film skirts around the philosophy of relationships. I wish there had been more of this as these were often the best moments of the film. The rest of the film is spent watching a couple of forty-somethings eat food, lie on hotel beds and occasionally try to meet women. Their disastrous attempts are meant to be funny but just aren’t and when things do start to change for the better for Owen Wilson’s character, he is pursued by a beautiful college student (Alexandra Daddario) and gorgeous barista (Nicky Whelan) which just seemed a little unlikely given his failed attempts to attract a woman throughout the rest of the film. What Fischer and Applegate get up to is more interesting and I think the film would have benefitted from spending more time with them.   

One Film
No Laughs

Towards the end, the film comes to the incredible conclusion that actually both men and women like sex (who knew?) and that although relationships can be difficult at times, they need to be worked at and everyone lives happily ever after… Snore.

The acting is not terrible but there is nothing for the actors to do. Everyone seems to have one eye on their bank balance, plodding through until they can move on to something else.