Tag Archives: Lil Rel Howery

Gone Fishing

I Love My Dad

by Brandon Thomas

We live in an era where cringe-comedy reigns supreme. From HBO’s Eastbound and Down to the American remake of The Office (so many cringe-inducing episodes), modern comedy seems hellbent on making us uncomfortable. While these two examples and many others only tend to dabble in discomfort, the new film I Love My Dad uses it to full effect while going places many movies could only dream of.

Chuck (Patton Oswalt of Ratatouille and Young Adult) has a terrible relationship with his son, Franklin (I Love My Dad writer/director James Morosini). Chuck was an absentee father who missed birthdays, made empty promises, and disappointed his son every chance he could. After Franklin blocks his dad on social media and won’t take his calls, Chuck decides to “borrow” the online identity of Becca, a waitress at a local diner, to catfish his way back into his son’s life. 

The premise of I Love My Dad is enough to make most people go, “Wait, what?” 

The execution though? 

Well, that’s something even more anxiety-riddled. 

Morosini knows exactly what he’s doing with this subject matter and carries it out through the entire running time. I Love My Dad is like a cinematic car accident you can’t help looking at as you drive by. However, in this case, the car accident is a very well-made movie.

Morosini cleverly brings to life the text conversations between Franklin and “Becca” by using the real actress (Claudia Sulewski) to act them out alongside him. It’s an impressive way to show how connected Franklin feels toward Becca and only helps ratchet up the tension. By the time the inevitable truth is revealed, even the audience feels invested in this fraudulent relationship that Chuck has conjured between him and his son.

So much of the success of I Love My Dad hinges on the casting of Chuck. Make no mistake, Chuck is a scumbag of the highest order, but having someone as likable as Patton Oswalt play him sets up certain expectations. Even as Chuck digs himself deeper and deeper, it’s difficult to completely root against him. Oswalt’s naturally affable demeanor is hard to get past even when the character he’s playing is so deplorable. It’s perfect casting that makes you think, “Well if HE’S the bad guy, what else can happen?”

The supporting cast is peppered with some fun faces. Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) shows up as Chuck’s work friend who gives him the catfishing idea. And the always-on-fire Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live) nearly walks away with the entire movie as Chuck’s very horny girlfriend. 

I Love My Dad explores some dark and taboo territory but still manages to wring out a lot of laughs along the way. Maybe don’t watch it with your parents, though.

Pretty as a Picture

The Photograph

by Hope Madden

Tis the season, and as Valentine’s-aimed romantic dramedies go, the blandly titled The Photograph could be worse.

Issa Rae (Insecure) leads the cross-generational love story as Mae, NYC museum curator trying to process her grief and an incredibly long letter, both hers now because of her estranged mother Christina’s recent death.

Christina (a solid Chanté Adams), mainly unveiled via flashback, broke from her own difficult mother as well as the love of her life back in Louisiana years ago to follow a career as a photographer in New York.

As Mae learns some painfully obvious truths by way of Christina’s letter, writer/director Stella Meghie (Everything, Everything) weaves two romances together across time to look at the wages of a woman’s ambition and the ways we relive our parents’ mistakes.

There’s plenty to like here, and Meghie’s film certainly looks like a dreamy romance waiting to happen. Scenes are beautifully lit, gorgeously filmed and romantically scored. You can’t fault the casting, either.

LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You) has an easy chemistry with Rae as the journalist interested in Christina’s life, and Meghie surrounds her leads with vibrant supporting characters. Lil Rel Howery, Courtney B. Vance and an underused Kelvin Harrison Jr. all round out the ensemble, adding much needed life.

Rob Morgan (Mudbound, Last Black Man in San Francisco, Just Mercy), wonderful as always, steals his few scenes with a restrained, mournful presence that enriches an insubstantial story. There’s a ragged weariness to his character, one that’s all the more poignant when offset by the buoyancy of Y’lan Noel’s turn as the younger version of the same character.

Meghie has assembled a fine cast, she just doesn’t give them enough to do. Neither love story gets enough room to grow and Mae’s arc feels forced and rushed. Because Christina is gone before the cameras role, Meghie handles Mae’s conflict with her mother exclusively through clunky dialog, and the usually reliable Rae has trouble conveying any convincing inner turmoil.

For a low stakes romance, The Photograph is a very pretty picture.

Senior Buckets

Uncle Drew

by George Wolf

So Kyrie Irving has parlayed his Pepsi commercial into a full-length Uncle Drew feature?

As a Cleveland sports fan I’m conflicted, I ain’t even gonna lie.

A little history: when Irving first put on the old man makeup and schooled some unassuming playground ballers, he was a Cleveland Cavalier.

Then he hit the shot that propelled the Cavs to The Land’s first championship in 52 years. Mad love for you Kyrie!

Then he demanded a trade out of Cleveland. (Al Pacino voice) Kyrie, you broke my heart.

The point is, I need to get over it, I mean the point is, what made the original Uncle Drew work was the prank. Like the Jeff Gordon version when the NASCAR champion put on a disguise, took a test drive and nearly gave his car salesman a coronary, the fun was being in on the stunt.

That jig is up, and expanding a marketing idea to feature length means filling the void with more basketball stars in disguise, a few reliable comedians, and some warmed-over attempts at warm fuzzy life lessons.

Dax (Lil Rel Howery) has dreams of winning New York’s legendary Rucker Park street ball tournament, taking the 100K prize money and vanquishing his longtime basketball nemesis, Mookie (Nick Kroll).

But just before tourney time, Dax loses his team and his girl (Tiffany Haddish), leaving playground legend Drew as his only hope.

In true Blues Brothers fashion, Drew reforms his (very) old band (Shaq, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson) to break some ankles and get some buckets.

With a cast light on actors and a script light on substance, director Charles Stone III (Drumline) has his hands full. He tries to balance the athletes’ often painful emoting with the solid timing of the actual comics, and a few good laughs come out in the process (mainly in the first act and the closing blooper reel).

Basketball fans will appreciate a few self-aware inside gags (Chris Webber is a good sport), but with the novelty of the superstar-in-disguise long gone, Uncle Drew feels like little more than the corporate branding love child of Pepsi and Nike.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some 2016 NBA Finals highlights to cue up….