Tag Archives: Will Forte

Bad Dog


by Hope Madden

Have you seen the trailer for Strays, the live action dog movie about a sweet mutt (voice by Will Farrell) abandoned by his terrible owner, Doug (Will Forte)? He’s taken in by other dogs off the leash who join him on a journey to return home and bite Doug’s dick off.

If that trailer did not make you laugh, you will not laugh during Strays.

If that trailer made you laugh, savor it, because it represents all the laughs to be found in the entirety of Strays. Unless you’re a huge, huge fan of couch humping and feces. If so, then by all means, nab a ticket.

Farrell’s Reggie is in a toxic relationship, and new friends Bug (Jamie Foxx), Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park) want him to see that he deserves better than Doug. And he deserves to bite the man’s dick off. So, it all becomes a sort of homicidal Homeward Bound, if you will, and that’s a funny idea.

The film is very definitely R-rated, taking unexpected detours that sometimes go where you just don’t want them to go. Other times, they go to a carnival so they can make fun of “narrator dogs” (voiced by A Dog’s Journey’s Josh Gad, which is honestly ingenious).

But these sparks of fun are few and far between and the meanspirited humor overwhelms the odd bits of inspired comedy. And then there’s all that dog shit.

Director Josh Greenbaum was mainly successful in finding a balance for the zaniness of his 2021 effort, Bar and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Mainly. But the bright points were brighter and the rest of it was just weird.

Strays, written by Dan Perrault, is the laziest kind of “road picture” – a series of unrelated sketches. There’s a Point A (the scary city block where Doug abandoned his dog) and Point B (Doug’s penis), but those steps in between are random skits about red rockets and chew toys. And those moments are just not funny enough to merit a full feature.

Let the Altars Shine

Extra Ordinary

by Hope Madden

It’s a classic hero’s journey, isn’t it? Our protagonist, damaged from a past misadventure, shuns a true talent. Years into a contented but shallow existence free from that talent, reality comes to call. The hero must rediscover that talent to find love, save a town and fulfill a destiny.

It’s every Western, most action films, a lot of vampire flicks, and the supernatural driving instructor love story Extra Ordinary.

Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman’s latest—a film that follows this groove beat by beat—charms you into accepting that familiarity. Then it rewards you with the most delightfully motley group of characters. And, thanks to those quirky characters, nothing ever goes exactly as you expected.

Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) is our reluctant hero. A driving instructor in rural Ireland, Rose has stopped chatting with the ghosts that seek her attention as she drives through town, and she is only returning phone calls about driving school. None of that other stuff. She’s done with that.

Which is why Martin Martin (Barry Ward) has to pretend he needs a lesson. Martin Martin doesn’t really want help ridding himself of his wife’s fairly abusive ghost, he just wants his teenage daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) to think he’s looking into it so she doesn’t leave home.

But Martin Martin’s ghost is the least of his worries, what with that Satan worshipping one-hit-wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte) over in that castle conjuring up virgin-hungry demons to help him relaunch his musical career.

That’s a lot to pack into 94 minutes, although the plot is hardly the point. Higgins is the point. This no fuss comedy remains adorably indifferent to the supernatural, every new development just an opportunity for Higgins, in particular, to charm with her sharp comic timing and infectious good nature.

The film’s affable absurdity suits Forte and Ward makes a sweetly ideal foil for Higgins. Extra Ordinary casts a silly spell that leaves you smiling.


Who Knew Acting Was His Forte?

Run & Jump

by Hope Madden

Five years ago, if someone said to me that Will Forte would become a respected talent in independent cinema, I would have said, “Nice to meet you, Will Forte’s mom.”

Who could have know that the mostly forgettable SNL star would have such a way with understated authenticity? But with his Golden Globe-nominated turn as the very patient son in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, we got a glimpse of what he could do. Run & Jump offers another such sighting.

Forte plays Ted, an American psychological researcher living for two months with an Irish family that’s coming to terms with the patriarch’s stroke. Thirty-eight-year-old Conor Casey’s entire personality changes due to the damage done to his brain, and while Ted observes Conor’s condition, he also witnesses the unraveling of a family held together by a vibrant mother (Maxine Peake).

It’s Peake who steals the show with such a raw and lovely performance. You can see the anguish and optimism duking it out in this effervescent redhead’s every thought. Thanks to Peake and a handful of multidimensional, natural performances, the film never feels false or contrived.

It’s a credit to co-writer/director Steph Green’s light touch that this complicated, even heavy premise can feel so genuine. Green’s nimble writing introduces scores of grand ideas, and under the direction of a lesser craftsman, the film would have crumbled with the weight of it. Run & Jump does not. Instead, it feels like the kind of endless mess real life often becomes.

Compassion and resilience are as bountiful as the gorgeous landscape, and both family and sun-dappled environment are fimled equally lovingly. Whether the artist is new to you (Green, Peake), or a familiar face with hidden talent, each plays a remarkable part in animating this fresh charmer.





He May Already be a Winner


by George Wolf


After a string of charmingly insightful films such as About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants, Alexander Payne has joined that group of filmmakers whose every effort is met with winning expectations.

His latest is Nebraska, and it exceeds them all.

The film follows the trail of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an aging booze hound in Montana who gets a contest solicitation in the mail. Convinced he’s already won the million-dollar sweepstakes, Woody is determined to make the required trip, on foot if necessary, to the contest office in Omaha where his prize awaits.

To appease his stubborn father, Woody’s son David (SNL vet Will Forte) steps in, and the estranged pair hit the highway for Nebraska. Along the way, they stop off in the small town where Woody grew up, reconnecting with old friends and family who have differing reactions to Woody’s new “millionaire” status.

As is his custom, Payne is able to convey much with graceful direction and an intelligent, restrained script. Artfully filming in black and white, Payne often lets wide shots linger, utilizing exquisite cinematography from Phedon Papamichael to create scenes brimming with a stark beauty. Similarly, the faces and facades of Woody’s hometown reveal the dark corners shared by any of a thousand communities weakened by hard times.

Dern is smart enough to realize what he has with Woody, and he doesn’t waste the role of a lifetime. With an awkward gait and world-weary countenance, Dern digs into the dimensions of his character, delivering a deeply touching performance sure to get attention in the coming award season.

Though casting MacGruber opposite the legendary Dern does seem surprising, Forte shows some nice dramatic chops, allowing us to relate with David as he slowly begins to see his father in a new light.

Scene- stealing honors go to June Squibb, who’s a flat-out riot as Woody’s cantankerous wife Kate, and the venerable Stacy Keach as a long lost friend who may not be so friendly after all. Keep an eye out, too, for Angela McEwan. In limited screen time as Woody’s old girlfriend, she breaks your heart in the best possible way.

In many ways, Nebraska seems to be Payne’s most personal film, which is ironic considering it is the rare directorial effort that Payne didn’t also write. Bob Nelson gets that credit, and his debut screenplay is layered with poignancy and humor. It clearly spoke to Payne, and his vision for fleshing it out is impeccable.

Nebraska is infused with a subtle longing, a wistfulness for what you’ve left behind. That may sound like a recipe for rampant sentimentality, but Payne and Nelson have other plans. There’s also a rambunctious, often downright nutty spirit at work here, and it makes sure Nebraska leaves you smiling, even as it hits you squarely in the heart.