‘Like a Boss’ Goes Broad When It Could Have Gone Weird

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Coolidge, Billy Porter, Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell, Jessica St. Clair, Karan Soni, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen

Director: Miguel Arteta

Running Time: 83 Minutes

Rating: R for Totally Open Sexual Discussions Between Close Friends

Release Date: January 10, 2020

In the spirit of being experimental with my movie reviews in 2020, I have decided to review Like a Boss as if someone going to see it thought it were somehow based on the SNL Digital Short of the same name. Now, this might be a little hard to conceive of, because even though there are indeed movies based on SNL sketches, there hasn’t been one in a while, and a two-minute one-off would be an odd candidate for expanding out to feature film length. But after overcoming this initial disappointment (or non-disappointing plain-old realization), this theoretical moviegoer can be comforted by the fact that this movie stars people like Tiffany Haddish and Salma Hayek, who have hosted SNL, and people like Rose Byrne and Billy Porter, who would surely be great SNL hosts if given the chance. On top of that, the movie starts off with a demented sketch comedy-esque sensibility, with bits involving accidentally getting high around an infant and a baby shower cake that features a head crowning out of a vagina and chocolate sprinkles as pubic hair.

Alas, after a rollicking opening ten minutes, Like a Boss settles into a standard issue broad studio comedy groove about Haddish and Byrne as a couple of lifelong friends and business partners struggling with massive debt. There are a few elements that suggest it could have been something a little more offbeat, in particular Hayek’s huge pearly white chompers. There is a bleached-to-perfection, but also slightly degenerate quality to her cosmetics mogul character that someone like John Waters would surely be proud of. It sounds like a solid fit for director Miguel Arteta (who previously directed Hayek to a fantastic performance in the simmeringly toxic Beatriz at Dinner), but the hijinks of the story pull him away from his knack for weirdos puncturing the niceties of the world around them. So in conclusion, if you’re in the mood for the Lonely Island Like a Boss, you’ll probably be even more likely to decry the fact that Business Lady Like a Boss doesn’t allow its comedic imagination to run completely wild.

Like a Boss is Recommended If You Like: Gags about spicy food, Drone-based physical comedy, Makeup tutorials

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Controlling Stakes

This Is a Movie Review: Instant Family

Leave a comment

CREDIT Paramount Pictures

One of the great qualities of movies is their ability to open your eyes to possibilities in your own life that you had never considered or thought possible. I have always known that I want kids someday, and now that I am 30 years old, I am within my ideal age range for starting to raise a family, and I am often conscious of making sure I do not let that opportunity pass me by. Adoption and fostering potentially make that window open for longer than it would be otherwise. Those options have crossed my mind, but I’ve never really dug into them. But after watching Instant Family, I am now almost certain that I want to take that parenting avenue.

There is an early scene in which Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg browse the kids’ profiles on a fostering agency website, and they instantly fall in love with all of them, and I felt pretty much exactly the same. So much of this film is filled with moments like that. It has the look of a broad studio comedy that has loud, dangerous set pieces (director Sean Anders definitely has experience with that genre), but in moments when it could go over-the-top, it inevitably opts for the more grounded, and more rewarding, approach, dealing seriously with both the emotional and practical consequences of the situation. If you’re planning on becoming a foster parent, or think you might, or you just love supportive families, then you need to watch this movie.

I give Instant Family 4 Million Hugs out of 5 Million Heartaches.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Peter Rabbit’ is Fun Enough for the Kiddos, But It’s Also Kind of Insane

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Sony Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2018.

Starring: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Matt Lucas, Sia, Sam Neill

Director: Will Gluck

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: PG for Cartoonish, But Quite Dangerous, Violence

Release Date: February 9, 2018

For the most part, Peter Rabbit is just another trifling kids movie with CG-animated animals. It is not the worst of the menagerie, though it is far from the best. But like many movies of this ilk, it also raises some weird metaphysical conundrums that I do not think it ever planned on grappling with but that it cannot avoid entirely. When you have anthropomorphic animals interacting with humans, especially when those humans are played by live-action actors, you have to decide how much the humans can recognize the critters’ extraordinary abilities. When the beasts talk to each other, does it just sound like animal noises to people? Or can they hear it perfectly, thus forcing the animals to be discreet? Or maybe there is only Dr. Dolittle-type, going mad over the loneliness of his interspecies communication powers.

In this case, Peter (James Corden), his triplet sisters Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and their cousin Benjamin Bunny (Matt Lucas) are quite sneaky, and as their schemes become more and more elaborate, there is no reason to pretend that they are not fully intelligent creatures. The confirmation that they can in fact talk to humans is a rather sloppy reveal, as it begs the question: how have they hidden this secret for so long? Regardless of what mysterious machinations they have pulled off, the narrative requires that they spill the truth, considering that Peter is responsible for extensive property damage, and furthermore, he wants to apologize to Bea (Rose Byrne), the human that he loves, and make peace with Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), the human that he has been torturing. This all makes for a resolution that is sweet but with disturbing subtext.

But beyond that, this is a fairly typical entry for this genre, as typified by its soundtrack of the pop hits of the past twenty years. Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” Basement Jaxx’s “Do Your Thing,” and Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” will keep the kids bouncing in their chairs without challenging their soundscapes. Lady Bird can take note that Peter’s use of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” is not similarly profound. Elsewhere, the film’s raison d’être is excessively painful physical gags, including a truly worrying number of electrocutions (this is nowhere near as gentle as Beatrix Potter’s source material). There is a rake gag that I must admit I chuckled at, though I am concerned that the target audience will not realize how heavily indebted it is to The Simpsons. And that is indicative of the whole: a satisfying diversion, but with some worrisome implications.

Peter Rabbit is Recommended If You Like: MouseHunt, Dr. Dolittle, the Pop Dance Hits of Today!

Grade: 3 out of 5 Winking Rabbits

‘I Love You, Daddy’ Was Already Creepy Before the Louis C.K. Allegations Broke. Now It’s Totally Inexplicable

Leave a comment

CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

This essay was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

After multiple women came forward with stories of sexual misconduct perpetrated against them by Louis C.K., The Orchard pulled his film I Love You, Daddy (written, directed by, and starring C.K.) from its release schedule, just a week before it was set to come out. Considering the nature of the accusations, C.K. confessing to their truth, and the subject matter of the film, there was really no other choice for The Orchard to make, despite having paid $5 million for the distribution rights. Whenever entertainers get caught up in scandal, the viability of their projects is called into question, both financially and ethically. In this case, that is especially true, as I Love You, Daddy is astoundingly reflective of C.K.’s own experiences.

I Love You, Daddy will likely never see the light of a full theatrical release, but it was screening for press up until just a few days before it was pulled from the schedule. It offers plenty that is worth discussing, but I cannot imagine it is something that any potential viewer could ever unabashedly enjoy, even if C.K. had never masturbated in front of women without their consent. The premise reads like the worst possible idea that can be conceived in light of this story coming out. C.K. plays Glen Topher, a TV writer/producer (he’s pretty much basically playing himself) who tries to prevent his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloë Grace-Moretz) from dating 68-year-old filmmaker Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who is infamous for his predilection for younger women and has been dogged for years by rumors of sexual abuse.

Did C.K. mean for I Love You, Daddy to be some sort of elaborate confession/apology? (At one point, Glen literally says, “I’m sorry, women.”) Or is he just baiting us, as The Huffington Post’s Matthew Jacobs suggests, into thinking it is something more substantial than it actually is? I can only speculate at his motivation. Perhaps he will speak to that publicly at some point. I often make a point when discussing controversial films to emphasize that portrayal does not equal endorsement, but in this case, that maxim falls short. I can describe for you the specific events that happen in I Love You, Daddy (like one character aggressively miming masturbation in front of others), but I am struggling to figure out what message, if any, it is portraying or endorsing. But considering the subject matter and the real-life context, that ambiguity cannot be defended.

Even if C.K. were not guilty of sexual misconduct, I Love You, Daddy would still be a dicey proposition. Leslie is clearly a stand-in for Woody Allen, who started his relationship with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, when she was still a teenager and he was in his fifties and who has been accused of sexual abuse by his own children. The film is also a clear homage to Allen’s Manhattan, in which he plays a 42-year-old dating a 17-year-old. Let’s suppose a hypothetical in which Allen and C.K. are both free of controversy, rendering Glen and Leslie both wholly fictional creations. Even in that case, I Love You, Daddy is still creepy and misguided. In its best possible version, it could have seriously grappled with whether or not human beings’ most socially unacceptable urges can ever be morally defended. But that would require a delicate touch that this film simply does not have.