For All of My Life, I See a Lot of Movies. ‘All My Life’ is One of Them.

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All My Life (CREDIT: Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Harry Shum Jr., Kyle Allen, Chrissie Fit, Jay Pharoah, Marielle Scott, Keala Settle, Ever Carradine, Mario Cantone, Jon Rudnitsky, Josh Brener

Director: Marc Meyers

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Typical Brief Language-Related Reasons

Release Date: December 4, 2020

My biggest emotional connection with All My Life came at the very end when we saw footage of the real Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau, the couple whose story inspired the film, as it made me go, “Oh yeah, it said, ‘Inspired by true events’ at the beginning.” In between, I had pretty much forgotten the real life aspect, as nothing particularly stranger-than-fiction appeared to be happening. Perhaps the real Jenn and Sol’s romance was just as pedestrian as what ended up on screen, although I’m sure it didn’t feel unremarkable to them. Seeing as their story caught the attention of big-time Hollywood executives, it surely must have been passionate somewhere along the way. So I kind of wish I could have watched their entire wedding video instead, because what I actually watched felt like it was written by an Algorithm instructed to create “Generic Heterosexual American Rom-Com 2020.”

Surely it didn’t have to be this way, as we have a couple of fine leads in the form of Jessica Rothe as Jenn and Glee alum Harry Shum Jr. as Sol. Rothe is of course preternaturally charming in the Happy Death Day movies, and while Shum hasn’t broken out on quite the same level as some of his New Directions colleagues, we know that he’s a bona fide song-and-dance man. Let these two kick loose, why don’t you, All My Life! What I haven’t mentioned up until this point, but what is pretty crucial to the premise, is that this story pivots on a malignant cancer diagnosis that interrupts wedding preparations. So tragedy is hanging over the whole affair, but clearly this movie nevertheless wants to be about living life – ALL OF YOUR LIFE! – while you still can.

We need to see these characters doing just that, and we also need to be able to enjoy it vicariously. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I was feeling, and it wasn’t vicarious enjoyment. Rather, it was a mix of confusion, digestion (or indigestion) of banality, and just a profound sense that I’m not connecting to these people. Jenn eats Ding Dongs for dinner at one point, I guess because it’s supposed to be goofy and quirky? At another point, Jenn and Sol dance in a water fountain, I guess because Friends is part of our collective cultural memory? Eventually Sol loses his sense of taste as a side effect of his cancer treatment, and that’s a big deal because he’s a chef, and that’s one of the few moments that I genuinely understand. This movie seems to have selected its name from the “Department of Generic Titles,” but I think a better idea would have been to go with the moniker “Loss of Taste” and then set everything in motion from that starting point.

All My Life is Recommended If You Like: Generic covers of Oasis songs

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Meet-Cutes

Movie Review: ‘What Men Want’ Mines Humor, But Not Much Else, From Its Gender-Flipped Premise

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tamala Jones, Phoebe Robinson, Max Greenfield, Jason Jones, Kellan Lutz, Brian Bosworth, Chris Witaske, Erykah Badu

Director: Adam Shankman

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: R for Aggressive Sex, Alpha Dog Profanity, and Bachelorette Party Drug Imbibing

Release Date: February 8, 2019

The ability to read minds is a rich comic premise. That holds true even when it is done in the service of outdated ideas about gender differences, or in service of a more enlightened view of gender differences, which perhaps demonstrates that any grand statement on this topic is quite possibly a folly. While saying “men are like this, but women are like THIS” can easily be a problematic minefield, as long as you show the distance between what characters say and what they leave unsaid, the formula for laughs is there. What Men Want does not screw that formula up, at least not completely. But does it offer anything more than raucous unintentional confessionals?

I have not seen What Women Want, but from what I know about it, it cannot be so easily pinned as too reliant on stereotypes or a deconstruction of said stereotypes. The same is true of What Men Went. Taraji P. Henson plays Ali Davis, a sports agent who can match her male colleagues in alpha dog aggressiveness, but she is struggling to make partner at her agency, and it is clear that that is because of assumptions of what women can or should do in a professional setting. Frankly, she does not need to read minds to know that, as she is already a decent judge of character anyway. Ultimately, her newfound ability is little more than a parlor trick. What she really needs to be able to get over the humps in her personal and professional lives is to fully listen to what the people who truly care about her are saying, which is not the same thing as hearing their thoughts.

That is a valuable lesson, but also fairly pedestrian considering the unusual circumstances. What Men Want is not fundamentally obvious, but it does feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity, because its premise is not really essential to its conclusion. Luckily, these types of movies are often reliable for memorable side characters, and we have got some delightfully kooky ones here. In particular, Tracy Morgan more or less plays himself as the father of a top NBA prospect, spouting claims like how Abraham Lincoln was “part Eskimo” and Richard Nixon “shot and ate a panda.” And then there is Erykah Badu as a self-made psychic/weed dealer, gloriously mystical and loopy as ever.

What Men Want is Recommended If You Like: Taraji P. Henson Upgrading Average Material, Tracy Morgan Running His Mouth, Erykah Badu at her zaniest

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Head Konks

This Is a Movie Review: The Front Runner

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CREDIT: Frank Masi/Sony Pictures

The Front Runner raises a lot of valid points about the propriety, or lack thereof, of prying into politicians’ personal lives, but it is liable to leave you more confused than ever, even if you have strong opinions about all the issues it raises. As the narrative goes, the coverage of Gary Hart’s supposed indiscretions during the 1988 Democratic primary completely derailed his campaign and led to the overall coarsening of the political media landscape that we have today. That may be an accurate narrative, but is it a bad thing that we know more about the personal lives of those who govern us? The fact that it all remained secret for so long is one reason why powerful people have gotten away with terrible behavior.

But as for how it affected Gary Hart specifically, did he deserve what happened to him? The way the movie presents it, it seems like he had been unfaithful in his marriage, but not necessarily in this case. And the Miami Herald, which originally reported on the story, did not appear to do their duest diligence to verify their implications. At least I can unequivocally say it is a good thing that Donna Rice, Hart’s alleged mistress, gets to have her side of the story presented. But otherwise, The Front Runner is a bit of a mess. Although, it could be a portrait of a mess.

I give The Front Runner 2.5 (Million) Accusations out of 5 (Possible) Indiscretions.