Tag Archives: Maya Rudolph

The Way, Way Back (2013, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)

At a certain point during The Way, Way Back, it became clear the film was never going to do anything interesting. Then, all of a sudden, writer-directors Faxon and Rash get to their “realistic” ending–by realistic, I mean it doesn’t resolve the most important story lines–and even though the film isn’t going to reward the viewer, at least it’s doing something different.

Then they go back on it. And given both Faxon and Rash appear in the film, when they show up, it almost feels like they couldn’t make that bold a move. Back is a film without any bold moves. It’s about a teenager (Liam James) who goes off to spend the summer with his mom, her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s daughter.

Steve Carell’s a great jerk as the boyfriend, but there are no layers to his character. Toni Collette plays the mom; she’s similarly shallow, though Faxon and Rush seem to get she shouldn’t be.

Thanks to the cute girl next door (AnnaSophia Robb) and the awesome, immature water park owner–Sam Rockwell in just as much a type-casted role as Collette’s–James eventually comes into his own. Yep, it’s a standard growing up story.

I won’t spoil if Collette gets her act together thanks to her kid.

A lot of the film is appealing. James is good in the lead–he plays it hostile, which is cool. Robb’s good, Alison Janney’s fun as her partying mom, Rockwell’s great.

But there’s nothing to it.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Tatiana S. Riegel; music by Rob Simonsen; production designer, Mark Ricker; produced by Tom Rice and Kevin J. Walsh; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Liam James (Duncan), Sam Rockwell (Owen), Toni Collette (Pam), Steve Carell (Trent), AnnaSophia Robb (Susanna), Allison Janney (Betty), Maya Rudolph (Caitlin), Rob Corddry (Kip), Amanda Peet (Joan), Zoe Levin (Steph), Nat Faxon (Roddy), Jim Rash (Lewis) and River Alexander (Peter).


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Idiocracy (2006, Mike Judge)

Idiocracy has one fundamental flaw–and plenty of little ones, but the fundamental one is too glaring and too fixable–the two leads do not have a romance and the film pretends they do. Foul-mouthed prostitute Maya Rudolph all of a sudden starts talking without slang and doing sweet things. Then, at the end, there’s supposed to be some romantic connection between her and Luke Wilson, who spends the movie thinking she’s a painter (one who’s really scared of her art manager). The romantic element isn’t part of Idiocracy because it doesn’t fit with what Mike Judge is trying to do (which is to mix Sleeper with some Fight Club cynicism–with a handful of fart jokes) and so he avoids it. But in the end, when Rudolph is finally acting–Wilson acts the whole time–the mix needs to work and it doesn’t and Idiocracy goes out with a whimper. The ending is similar to a 1960s educational film reel about… moths or something. It doesn’t just stop, it crumbles away.

Wilson gives a really good comedic leading man performance in Idiocracy, except he comes off as way too smart for the guy who’s supposed to have a hundred IQ. He’s not one of Idiocracy‘s litany of problems. And the most apparent problem, the one starting from the first minute, is the narration. Idiocracy is fully narrated (lending to the educational film reel comparison) and that method, in addition to the ludicrous fade-outs, suggests there wasn’t enough story. Even if the narration and the fade-outs were in Judge’s first draft of the screenplay… there wouldn’t have been enough story in it either. Fully narrated films are either The Magnificent Ambersons or they are not. Idiocracy is not (also because the narration doesn’t make any sense… the narrator is talking to the audience in the present day, not the people who would be listening to it in the year 2700 or whatever).

Other significant problems are the special effects. Lots of futuristic movies are made cheaply and well. Idiocracy instead goes with video game level (and not state-of-the-art) CG and it looks silly. At first I thought Judge was doing a Planet of the Apes homage, which would have been funny, but he wasn’t.

Dax Shepard and Justin Long are both funny in the easiest roles in the history of cinema (idiots), but Terry Crews does a great job in the role of the best elected official (the President of America) since the Duke of New York.

The movie’s funny (I laughed every two minutes or so… good fart jokes, anti-corporate sentiment, and a general mockery of red state Americans)–and, compared to other current comedies, it’s still inexplicable why Fox hid the theatrical release–but as Judge’s follow-up to Office Space, an incredibly thoughtful, if flawed, film, it’s an abject failure.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mike Judge; screenplay by Judge and Etan Cohen, from a story by Judge; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by David Rennie; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Darren Gilford; produced by Judge and Elysa Koplovitz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Luke Wilson (Joe), Maya Rudolph (Rita), Dax Shepard (Frito) and Terry Crews (President Camacho).


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