THE RIDICULOUS 6 (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Written by: Tim Herlihy & Adam Sandler

Starring: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Nick Swardson, Steve Zahn, Julia Jones, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Jon Lovitz & John Turturro

Adam Sandler is a polarizing comedian. He was hugely successful in the 90s with recurring sketches on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and this was followed by a series of hit comedies (the best of which is easily HAPPY GILMORE). Somewhere around the mid-2000’s, the quality of Sandler’s output went downhill and he’s progressively gotten lazier and more unfunny as the years have rolled on. We’ve gotten to a point where studios have passed on Sandler’s ideas and he’s signed an eight-film(!) deal with Netflix. 2015’s THE RIDICULOUS 6 is the first of these eight straight-to-Netflix Sandler films, earning a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and breaking Netflix records as their most-watched film. While RIDICULOUS 6 isn’t Sandler’s worst movie, it’s definitely on the low end of his filmography.

Set in the Old West, the story follows Tom “White Knife” Stockburn (Adam Sandler). Tom never knew his father and was raised by a Native American tribe. One day, Tom’s deadbeat dad (Nick Nolte) inexplicably walks back into his life and is promptly kidnapped by an outlaw gang, led by fearsome murderer Cicero (Danny Trejo). In order to rescue his father, Tom begins robbing banks…only to realize that his dad had five other children with five other women. The gang of six misfit brothers sets off on an adventure that sees them stealing from various jerks, encountering historical figures, and ending up in (what else) an Old West gun fight. Meanwhile, about 1/4th of the jokes get laughs and 3/4ths fall flat.

Adam Sandler phones in his performance as White Knife. He seems to be trying to do a gruff Clint Eastwood impression, but lacks any charisma and the faintest bit of effort in this part. Sandler as a straight-man never should have been attempted in the first place, because he doesn’t seem fit for this part in comedy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might have preferred a more over-the-top, silly-voiced Sandler as the lead. Even more surprising is that Rob Schneider isn’t half-bad as the stereotypical Mexican brother and actually got a few chuckles out of me.

Delivering the worst performance in the film, Taylor Lautner is godawful as a high-pitched hillbilly. Nearly every moment he’s on screen is insufferable. Almost as bad as Lautner is Jorge Garcia (a.k.a. Hurley from LOST) who plays an incomprehensible mountain man. Luke Wilson and Terry Crews are also in this movie as the two other brothers and they don’t contribute much to the proceedings or laughs. Danny Trejo and Nick Nolte also show up, but are clearly phoning it in.

To its credit, THE RIDICULOUS 6 looks like it had a budget behind it. There’s only one scene of cheap CGI and that comes early on. The sets and cinematography are rather well done for a western comedy spoof, though I still much prefer Seth MacFarlane’s serviceable A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST over this. Two of RIDICULOUS 6’s main problem comes from its long running time and messy pacing. This film almost feels like an endurance test, because the story frequently meanders and there are many dull moments. If it ran at 90 minutes, this might have been far better. The first hour is dedicated to the brothers running into each other, following a predictable pattern of: the characters going to a location, meeting another brother, and then going to another location.

Three-quarters of the jokes in RIDICULOUS 6 are lame. This isn’t because they’re offensive and gross, but rather because they’re just plain lazy. The juvenile bits include: a donkey with explosive diarrhea, bestiality, farting, a fly getting castrated, charades for sex, and crude-sounding Native American names. Are we having fun yet? No, but what about a long musical number around a campfire that comes out of nowhere and lasts for nearly 5 minutes. Still not laughing, but what about half-assed cameo appearances from Vanilla Ice (as Mark Twain), David Spade (as Colonel Muster), Chris Kattan (as John Wilkes Booth), and Jon Lovitz (as a snobby rich poker player)? I wanted to laugh at Vanilla Ice playing one of America’s most celebrated writers, but they do nothing with it. The joke is simply him appearing as that character and nothing else.

Though I’m railing on this film’s flaccid excuses for humor, there are a handful of genuine laughs to be had. These are few and far between, but they do exist. Early cracks about the racism of the time made me giggle, while cross-eyed Steve Zahn gets a few good moments as a gun-toting hick. Steve Buscemi makes the most of his time as the small-town doctor/barber. Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel gets the darkest laugh of the entire movie and John Turturro is fantastic as the inventor of baseball (who makes up rules to avoid being beaten at his own game).

THE RIDICULOUS 6 is not Adam Sandler’s worst film because there are a few good laughs in this mess of a movie. That’s more than I can say about the likes of GROWN UPS and JACK AND JILL. A bloated running time and monotonous story take an unfixable toll on the proceedings, one that’s further hindered by a majority of the would-be jokes falling flat. I really hope that THE RIDICULOUS 6 winds up being the worst Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix film, because this lazy and that in itself seems a little insulting to the Sandman’s fanbase.

Grade: D

HELL AND BACK (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Crude and Sexual Content, Language and some Drug Use

HellBack poster

Directed by: Tom Gianas & Ross Shuman

Written by: Tom Gianas, Hugh Sterbakov & Zeb Wells

Voices of: Nick Swardson, Mila Kunis, Bob Odenkirk, T.J. Miller, Rob Riggle, Susan Sarandon, Danny McBride, David Koechner, Michael Pena, Brian Posehn, Paul Scheer & H. Jon Benjamin

I’m a big fan of ROBOT CHICKEN, so I was interested in seeing HELL AND BACK last October…but it never hit a single theater near me. Cut to almost an entire year later, a co-worker brings up this film in casual conversation and I immediately remember its existence along with my excitement to see it. Seeing that adult-oriented animation is something that’s all too rare, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check out this hellish comedy. Unfortunately, the laughs never match the film’s high quality of animation, which makes HELL AND BACK a disappointingly middle-of-the-road experience.

HellBack 1

Remy (Nick Swardson), Augie (T.J. Miller) and Curt (Rob Riggle) work at a rundown pier carnival. Unfortunately their workplace/childhood hang-out has hit bankruptcy, which means the three friends will soon be out of a job. When Remy discovers an ancient satanic book, he decides it might be the great money-making attraction that the carnival needs. A petty blood oath ends with Curt being sucked into an otherworldly vortex. In order to rescue their friend, Remy and Augie venture into Hell. The two idiots must band together with an adventurous female demon (Mila Kunis) and a mythological figure (Danny McBride) to save Curt from the clutches of Satan (Bob Odenkirk) and his sadistic underlings.

HellBack 2

The film’s best quality is easily its animation. Stop motion is one of the most painstaking, time-consuming forms of animation and seeing it executed well is a treat by itself. The human characters looked a bit like CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH with a bigger budget. Satan had a mostly musclebound appearance, while his demons look less impressive…but the damned souls are nothing more than green silhouettes. I guess the budget had to run out somewhere. If it weren’t already obvious enough, this film is eye-candy…but the script never provides enough laughs to live up to the high production values.

HellBack 3

HELL AND BACK relies on two different types of humor: stupid and crude. I can laugh at stupid jokes. I can laugh at crude jokes. I might laugh even harder at a stupid, crude jokes. Still, this screenplay gets stupid to a point where it’s lazy…something the animation wouldn’t indicate at all. I wouldn’t say the movie is laugh-free wasteland of a comedy, because there are a couple of solid moments. A five-second punchline stood out as borderline hilarious, but the rest of the movie never reaches that level of ridiculousness again. Another noteworthy running joke features a demon inventing rather mundane tortures, which is kind of clever. There’s even an EVIL DEAD reference, which made me chuckle the first time before it was pummeled into the ground as a tiresome running gag.

HellBack 4

The characters and momentum also struggle. In all honesty, I didn’t care about any of these people. They’re all unlikable douchebags, which may appeal to certain viewers. It doesn’t help that the film squanders a talented cast. Okay, Nick Swardson doesn’t exactly have a great filmography, but the rest of these performers have careers to care about. Lines like “my dick would shoot off its dick” or “I think my shit shit itself” probably didn’t provide them with much motivation either. HELL AND BACK frequently drags in places, despite running at slightly over 80 minutes (counting the credits).

HellBack 5

There might be folks who really have a blast with HELL AND BACK and good on them, but the film didn’t work for me on any level other the animation. I laughed about five or six times, but the rest of the movie felt dull, boring and lazy. When you have a running joke about Devil’s Brew (an extreme hell-brand of beer), a grotesque creature with big flapping breasts, and use profanity to the point where it becomes tiresome, it sort of feels like the writers gave up before they even got started. I wish that this animation had a better script to work with, but alas, that was not the case. HELL AND BACK left me feeling apathetic. Great animation, but not much else to praise.

Grade: C

BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR (2011)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Crude Sexual Content, Language and some Nudity

Bucky Larson poster

Directed by: Tom Brady

Written by: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert & Nick Swardson

Starring: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson & Stephen Dorff

There are a lot of differing opinions and ideas on what makes a truly terrible movie. However, I think everyone can be united on one cinematic issue: There’s nothing worse than an unfunny comedy. Everyone also has their own acquired taste of humor. Personally, I absolutely love dark comedies and jokes that are funny because they are honest. I can also engage in the occasional Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey vehicle. When I first saw the trailer for BUCKY LARSON (in front of another comedy titled BAD TEACHER) me and my friend burst out laughing. This looked like a no-holds-barred crude and disgusting R-rated film packed full of sick laughs. However, it didn’t look good enough to go see on the big screen so I didn’t partake. Turns out I wasn’t the only one, because this film bombed hard. It reached #15 in the box office opening weekend and was pulled from theaters after its second week of release. That wasn’t the end of the terrible news surrounding BUCKY LARSON though.

Bucky Larson 1

Critics despised this movie. Hated it to the point where it currently holds a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and casual filmgoers weren’t fans either. The movie is at a 3.2 on IMDB, which is also VERY low for a wide released movie. Instead of taking the bad criticism like a man, Nick Swardson went on record saying that critics are scumbags for getting their rocks off on giving terrible reviews to a movie like BUCKY LARSON. Before I dive into the description and my comments on the film itself, I’d like to say one thing about film criticism. Critics may prefer one genre over another (I love a great horror film more than any other piece of filmmaking), but the true talent of voicing your opinion about movies comes from being able to measure them as they are in their own genre. Obviously, THE KING’S SPEECH and MAN OF STEEL are playing at two different levels and should be measured as such. Not every movie has a chance at being a Best Picture winner. This being said, BUCKY LARSON is terrible.

Bucky Larson 2

The title character (played by Nick Swardson) is a mentally slow young man with enormous buckteeth. He’s extremely naïve about the world and after being introduced to his first porn (due to his equally stupid friends), he discovers that his parents were porn stars in the ’70’s. Associating stardom with porn, Bucky gets on the next bus to become a star himself. Helped out by a sweet waitress named Kathy (played by a Christina Ricci, who doesn’t belong within a foot of this film), he meets a porn director named Miles Deep (played by Don Johnson) and becomes an unlikely star due to his miniscule member. That’s about it. That’s the plot.

Bucky Larson 3

Running for 97 minutes, I chuckled (not even full on laughed) for a total of four times. There were four jokes that got half of a laugh out of me in the entire 97 minute running time. Contemplate that for a moment. Now, I am far from a prude. I laughed during JOE DIRT. I laughed during HAPPY GILMORE. I even laughed during DODGEBALL. However, BUCKY LARSON is so awful on every conceivable level. It’s not funny. It’s just not funny. It’s the same joke over and over. The joke wasn’t really that funny the first time and by the tenth time you’ve seen it, this film borders on infuriating.

Bucky Larson 4

Every actor in this movie should be ashamed of themselves. Especially Nick Swardson and Adam Sandler (who both co-wrote the script). Christina Ricci and Don Johnson are so much better than this material. The film constantly mistakes people being mean to Bucky as comedy, but instead it’s just a bit depressing. Not that Bucky is that lovable of a character to begin with, because it’s Swardson being obnoxious for the whole movie. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this one that hasn’t already been said. In fact, I feel I should bring up Richard Roeper’s few sentences on this film: “If you watch this movie with your family, they will disown you. If you watch it with your girlfriend, she will leave you for a random stranger. And if you watch it alone, you will feel awful about yourself and your life.”

Nick Swardson,Christina Ricci,Crew

I watched it alone and yes, Richard, I feel awful about both myself and my life now. It’s a soul-sucking movie and I will never get those 97 minutes back. Go brush your teeth for 97 minutes or water your lawn. Maybe, even paint a fence. All of the above sound far more entertaining and funny than BUCKY LARSON. Avoid this stinker at all costs!

Grade: F

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