Crazy, Stupid, Love * * * *
Cert 12A, 118 mins
What’s in a comma or two or three? The belated silver screen version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starring Gary Oldman has dispensed with the three commas from both the book and TV version.
Just when you might be least expecting them in the modern age of texting and minimalism in general, Steve Carell’s new movie Crazy, Stupid, Love has a pair of commas clumsily included for free.
Personally, I think Crazy Stupid Love would have made more sense.
It would have made it easier to look up on websites like the British Board of Film Classification which can stall if you are not precise.
And I might also have spent less time trying to analyse why the commas are there at all in the story of a couple falling apart after 25 years’ of marriage.
Clearly, the film must be about love.
But is Cal (Carrell) the crazy one and wife Emily (Julianne Moore) stupid?
Or vice versa. Or both?
Crazy Stupid Love without the commas would suggest that love itself is an indefinable thing, prone to making people behave in a crazy, stupid way. Now that is something all of us could understand.
And it would go a long way to explaining why the newly free Cal would then start to seek advice about style, grooming and behaviour from a young nightclub hound like the six-pack sporting Jacob (Ryan Gosling).
These scenes are clearly engineered more for the film’s benefit than the characters, but they do have a ring of truth for a middle-aged man in need of more than a shoe shine.
Jacob is effectively telling Cal that poor clothes and bad haircuts are simply a reflection of the highly visual, fraying threads of the relationship itself.
In other words, writer Dan Fogelman (Cars 1 & II and Tangled), is emphasising that it’s as important to be looking in the mirror and making an effort for your partner after 25 years’ of marriage as it is on day one. Otherwise we should all be llving in fear of the crazy, stupid consequences.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Fequa (who couldn’t steer Jim Carrey’s I Love You Phillip Morris in one direction either), Crazy... is a lot of mixed-up fun to watch at the time and includes a neat twist.
There are solid supporting performances from Kevin Bacon (David), Marisa Tomei (Kate) and Emma Stone (Hannah), too. Without remotely being as obscene as Jennifer Aniston’s Horrible Bosses, it’s also very mature in content.
Adults should look upon it as a 15-certificate movie for grown-ups – and not let children near it.
I Don’t Know How She Does It * *
Cert 12A, 89 mins
Much less entertaining is the new comedy with the increasingly horse-faced Sex And the City star Sarah Jessica Parker.
Although it’s good to see it taking a few steps back from the today’s universal brand of “gross-out” humour, this is a disappointment considering Infamous director Douglas McGrath (who once wrote Bullets over Broadway for Woody Allen) was working in tandem with The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna.
Based on Welsh journalist Allison Pearson’s novel, the story about whether woman can multi-task both at work and at home – and often simultaneously, too – feels heavily compromised and cliched.
Miss Parker’s bread-winning character Kate Reddy worries about missing her child’s first hair cut, but never questions why she’s not prepared to get rid of her own mane to make life easier. Now that would be a good debating point for women of 46 to share in.
And so one idea of “humour” here is to have Parker’s character Kate Reddy fumbling around in her packed, disorganised handbag trying to find something. Tell us something we don’t know!
Another scene, featuring Kate scratching her nit-laden head during a business meeting with Jack (Pierce Brosnan), left one woman behind me positively screeching with laughter in the public screening I attended.
Each to their own, but there’s no doubt this is a movie in search of an ignition key, a battery and a set of spark plugs. Gimmicks like freeze-framing, talking to camera, on screen graphics and narration (ye gods, where’s the black and white shots to make it a nap hand of distractions?) are all clear evidence of that.
As husband Richard, co-star Greg Kinnear has little to do even though he was so good in the Oscar-winning As Good As It Gets (1997).
Brosnan once offered us a crowd-pleasing mixture of comedy and style with Mrs Doubtfire, Thomas Crown and Mamma Mia! et al.
So where’s the fun watching this proud former 007 having to echo his personal life by revealing over dinner with Miss Parker how he copes with losing his wife?
Cert 15, 112 mins
If I Don’t Know... feels like a secondhand romcom script, this latest body swap movie is like a 10th generation carbon copy of the kind of material which made Big (1988) and the remake of Freaky Friday (2003) decent box office hits.
It is such an unoriginal work – ‘from writers of The Hangover (Jon Lucas / Scott Moore) and directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers)’ – that the only way it can be different is to be rude, coarse and morally repugnant.
Forget the predictable nappy gag.
Who thought it would be funny to watch a baby ready to put its hand inside a liquidiser.
B-list stars Ryan Reynolds (Mitch Planko) and Jason Bateman (Dave Lockwood) are two old friends who wish they’d taken the other’s path in life. And guess what. After urinating in a fountain they get the chance to find out.
Soon afterwards, said fountain and contents are taken away – clearly a euphemism for a more offensive term which would accurately describe the producers’ contempt for their audience’s intelligence.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil * * *
Cert 15, 88 mins
Back in 2002, a director called Eli Roth made a juicy woodland horror movie called Cabin Fever.
Nearly a decade later, this and other movies like Eden Lake are now being spoofed by a little low budget thriller which punches far above its own featherweight.
The co-writer and director is Eli Craig, a little known actor who was the younger Hawk character played by Tommy Lee Jones in Clint Eastwood’s year 2000 action thriller Space Cowboys. Me thinks Clint would find this quietly amusing if Eli has sent him a copy.
Clearly shooting like Eastwood with cost-minimising fuss, Tucker & Dale vs Evil feels as if it knows exactly what it wants to be – a throwaway Friday night horror film with enough laughs to balance the gore.
The story is about a couple of hapless hillbillies who go away fishing – there’s chipmunk-faced Tucker (Alan Tudyk / Wonder Boys) and bearded Dale (Tyler Labine from TV series Reaper).
When a bunch of college kids arrive (with the girls inevitably sporting tight tops), it would ordinarily seem as if we’ll be in for the usual round of butchery at the hands of two cruel and ugly psycopaths.
But Craig has already set for the tone of this movie that things are going to be different this time.
And so it turns out, with the director offering several neat twists on horror conventions.
Given that Labine could easily have been played by lookalike star Jack Black had this been a much bigger budget movie, we should be thankful that Craig clearly couldn’t afford such largesse.
As well as playing AMC Broadway Plaza and Showcase Erdington, Tucker & Dale... is simultaneously being released on DVD in a slowly-developing move that has to be the way forward to beat the pirates.
It should certainly have more positive benefits for the cinema industry than simply replying on bad 3D conversions.