Tag Archives: R-rated comedies

Mom Genes

Bad Moms

by Hope Madden

A raunchy comedy that peels away all the precious nonsense associated with motherhood and isn’t afraid to get a bit nasty – this feels like a film that’s been a long time coming. It could be a welcome change of pace if done well. Unfortunately, instead we got Bad Moms.

Mila Kunis stars as an overworked, underappreciated, harshly-judged parent. Her husband’s useless, her boss is a joke, and she’s so irredeemably responsible that her life is spiraling out of control. Either that or she is such an overtly clichéd image of every potential mom complaint that no actor could possibly make her a human.

Kunis has strong comic sensibilities, as do the performers playing her two new besties, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. Hahn’s the unrepentant man- and booze-hound of a single parent, while Bell’s Kiki is the socially awkward stay-at-home mother of 4. Together they have great fun doing all the things no one wants to see their mom do – and thank God for it, because the rest of the film is worthless.

This is a world where not one father contributes. OK, maybe one – but he’s a hot widower, so there’s no mother to help out. Awwww….

The film is co-written and co-directed by Hangover franchise creators Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, but they could have seriously used an assist from Bad Moms co-star Annie Mumolo. Mumolo co-wrote 2011’s Bridesmaids, a film that was capable of producing female-centric comedy with dimension. Even men.

I’m confident that there are times when every parent feels incompetent, where every well-planned family vacation turns into fodder for your child’s first adult conversation with a therapist. Bad Moms brings up loads of great, universal points that will pick those scabs. Unfortunately, the resolution to those issues is always convenient and one-sided to the point of being offensive.

Bad Moms is trying to offend your sensibilities, but it succeeds in the wrong spots. The lengthy sight gag concerning sex with an uncircumcised penis – not offensive, just funny. The problem is the rest of the movie.

At no point in the film Bad Moms is the word “parent” used. Every problem, every responsibility, every joy and obstacle is the sole property of the mom. I’m sure it can feel that way at times, but good comedy rarely comes from such a one-dimensional premise. It certainly doesn’t do so here.

Verdict-2-0-Stars

Altar Boys

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

by Hope Madden

Back in 2012, Aubrey Plaza starred in an eccentric little SciFi adventure based on a Craigslist ad. Safety Not Guaranteed was a surprised (and welcome) hit, partly because of writer Derek Connelly’s fertile imagination, partly because of the genuinely bizarre ad: Wanted: Somebody to go back in time. This is no joke. You’ll get paid after. Bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have done this once before.

That is ripe.

Since then, two all-American bros took to Craigslist to get dates to a wedding they were forbidden to attend stag for fear they would harass all the female guests and become generally unruly. That particular ad has already been milked of every conceivable bit of interest, with TV spots AND a book. A book! And yet, Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (writers behind the Neighbors franchise) have adapted the ad for the new film Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

It also stars Plaza, alongside Anna Kendrick, Zac Efron and Adam Devine as the destination-wedding-bound foursome.

Jake Szymanski directs the raunchy comedy that pits two lovable losers trapped in their never ending adolescence against the equally immature but more scheming young women just looking for a free trip to Hawaii.

Efron and Plaza co-starred in the very-R comedy Dirty Grandpa earlier this year, with Devine and Kendrick sharing the screen in both Pitch Perfect films. The four of them are likeable and – to varying degrees – talented. They’d have to be comedic lightning bolts to get this off the ground, though.

With a plot this thin, the film has to lean too heavily on shock situations and over-the-top language to generate any energy. Expect moms to call sons “assholes,” sisters to bare some pelt, and Aubrey Plaza to demonstrate sexual technique using texting as the metaphor.

The cast offsets the raunch with character earnestness (except for Plaza, who’s all in), but the film always feels too slapped together to hold water and a bit to mean-spirited to merit more than a smile here and there.

The whole thing is so thin, so desperate for content, it’s as if some idiot based an entire screenplay on a 400 word Craigslist ad.

Verdict-2-0-Stars

How to Borrow Liberally

How to be Single

by Hope Madden

Upending rom-com clichés has become its own cliché, and yet, with the right minds and talent, it can still be a fresh and funny experience. Please see Trainwreck.

Seriously. Please see it.

How to Be Single makes a valiant attempt to send up genre clichés as it follows four ladies and a handful of gentlemen, each failing to make that love connection with the Manhattan backdrop. It tries too hard, honestly, but it does get off a few good lines along the way.

Dakota Johnson anchors the ensemble as Alice, our everygirl, a new college grad ready to take a break from her longtime beau, head to the Big Apple, and find herself.

Alice’s circle includes her workaholic sister (Leslie Mann) and a wild new BFF (Rebel Wilson). Both comic veterans deliver some genuine laughs – thanks to an occasionally insightful script by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Dana Fox – but Wilson, in particular, needs to find a new gimmick.

A revolving door of male characters includes one kooky performance by Jason Mantzoukas (a bright spot in this film, as he was in Dirty Grandpa). Ken Lacy also makes an appearance as basically the exact same character he played in the far superior film Obvious Child.

Which is one of the weirdest things about How to Be Single – it brazenly borrows from other, better films. Leslie Mann has a conversation that is almost identical to one from This Is 40, while her storyline steals an awful lot – including the boyfriend – from Obvious Child. Add to that the fact that Wilson’s boozy party girl schtick was lifted wholesale from Trainwreck, and you start to wonder if the film’s title should be How to Commit Larceny.

This is not to say the movie is bereft of humor. It does offer a handful of laughs, and it often lulls you into believing that characters are about to follow a formula, only to have that tiresome trope cleverly undermined.

It’s not that the film is bad, it’s just that it’s not as good as many other films and it knows it.

Verdict-2-5-Stars

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Neighbors

by Hope Madden

How do you feel about dick jokes?

Chances are, you’ll enjoy Neighbors regardless, but a particular appreciation for penis humor is definitely a plus. It’s a frat movie. What else were we expecting?

Here’s what you should expect: fully developed characters, solid performances, onscreen chemistry from the weirdest of pairings, clever direction, sharp writing, and pacing quick enough to make it tough to catch your breath between jokes. And, of course, dick jokes.

Nice, right?

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play new parents still adjusting to the boring responsibility of adulthood when a fraternity buys the house next door.

What Rogen lacks in range he makes up for in schlubby comic ability, particularly with a script so self-aware and custom-made to his strengths. At one point, when the couple is arguing over who’s to blame for their situation, Rogen’s Mac tells his wife that she has to be the responsible grown up. “Haven’t you ever seen a Kevin James movie?” he asks her. “We can’t both be Kevin James.”

While Rogen is reliably Rogen, Byrne explores new territory and conquers. She more than carries her comic load, and her chemistry with Rogen, in particular, is wonderful.

Truth be told, there’s not a one-note character in the lot. Neighbors never traps itself with old frat boy stereotypes. Sure, they’re all good-looking, vacuous partiers who abuse pledges – that is the basic conflict in the film, after all – but the characters themselves get a fuller treatment than what you might expect.

Zac Efron looks good without a shirt, but he also hits all the right notes, bringing a little depth and empathy to the role of frat president Ted. Dave Franco makes an excellent second banana, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays nicely against type as slacker stoner Scoonie.

The laughs are continuous, and while the film certainly has a heart, it’s not the kind of sappy last-minute-lesson-learned crap that derails most raunchy comedies. There’s an awkward tenderness and humanity that informs the film from start to finish that makes any lessons feel more honest and earned.

Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) reigns in his tendency to toward excess, bringing the film in at a brisk 96 minutes. He crams those visually arresting minutes with as much deeply flawed human comedy as possible. And at least half that time is spent without mention or sight of a penis.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars