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

FANBOYS (2009)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Pervasive Crude and Sexual Material, Language and Drug Content

Directed by: Kyle Newman

Written by: Ernest Cline & Adam F. Goldberg

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Kristen Bell, David Denman, Christopher McDonald, Ethan Suplee & Seth Rogen

I am a STAR WARS fan. I had the toys growing up (including a Darth Maul inflatable chair), watched the movies over and over, went to STAR WARS scout camp, and am still geeking out over new installments in the saga. FANBOYS is a comedy that is tailor-made for STAR WARS fans. If you don’t like or aren’t familiar with the series in any way, shape or form, you will probably not dig this movie nearly as much as someone who loves STAR WARS. FANBOYS is a fun, goofy and (at points) oddly heartwarming little road trip film for STAR WARS junkies.

The year is 1998 and four friends have unexpectedly reunited at a Halloween party. Eric (Sam Huntington) is trying to grow up and take care of his father’s car dealership business, while Hutch (Dan Fogler) lives in his mother’s garage, Windows (Jay Baruchel) obsesses over his unseen internet girlfriend, and Linus (Chris Marquette) still holds a long-time grudge against Eric. When Eric is informed that Linus is dying of cancer and has four months to live, he tries to make amends with his former best friend by enacting a plan they’ve had since childhood: breaking into Skywalker Ranch and stealing the work print of STAR WARS Episode I. Their plan is crazy and the guys will encounter lots of wacky scenarios on their journey, all while countless STAR WARS references fly at the screen!

The casting of the four childhood friends is spot-on. Sam Huntington (whose biggest roles appear to have been Jimmy in SUPERMAN RETURNS and Mimi-Siku in JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE) stars as Eric, the straight-man of the group. While most of the film is focused on laughter and movie-related hijinks, Huntington shares an effectively emotional story arc with Chris Marquette’s Linus. Marquette and Huntington’s final scene together beautifully summarizes friendship and fanboy culture in a nutshell, complete with why people love being geeks so much and how movies can bring people together. As Hutch, Dan Fogler is allowed to go over-the-top in his obnoxiousness and mostly thrives in getting laughs. Some of his bits fall flat, but most of them hit right on target…similar to how Luke destroyed the Death Star in Episode IV.

Jay Baruchel plays a geeky nerd character that he’s mostly been typecast as, but receives his own enjoyable story arc and has hands-down one of the most awkwardly funny scenes in the entire film. Kristen Bell also makes a strong impression as Zoe, a STAR WARS fangirl who plays a significantly bigger role during the second half. Keep your eyes peeled for lots of cameos. A few STAR WARS cast members pop up and so do many familiar comedic faces. My favorite moments come from three different characters played by Seth Rogen and a brief snippet from Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes. The former is hilarious in his multiple moments, while the latter is hysterically raunchy in his one-minute scene.

FANBOYS milks its 90s setting for nostalgia and retro jokes. There’s the familiar feeling of seeing Mario Kart played on Nintendo 64, having to hook up a phone line to a computer to access the internet, and a kick-ass soundtrack of 90s hits that’s likely to bring back good memories for 90s kids and Generation Y. FANBOYS also pokes fun at how insanely excited people were for Episode I and how much disappointment was around the corner in that movie later being considered the worst Episode. One bit that involves a tattoo of Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker is hilarious and the film’s closing line is sure to evoke laughter.

This film is packed to the brim with STAR WARS references, which have been further aided by George Lucas allowing the director to use the saga’s original sound effects. While a police chase ending in a Darth Vader reference is obvious and on-the-nose, other smaller nods stick out too. There are tidbits of STAR WARS trivia that had me scratching my head and saying “Dammit! I used to know this!” Also, there’s a hilarious Darth Maul reference that I completely missed the first time I saw this movie and I immediately caught this time around.

I’m not going to claim that FANBOYS is a perfect film, because the storytelling occasionally seems a tad rushed. While I really enjoy the uplifting emotional arc involving four friends going out for one last adventure, there are moments where it feels shoe-horned in. This could be directly blamed on a troubled production path that had Harvey Weinstein (a.k.a. Harvey Scissorhands) desperate to shred the film to bits, at one point removing the heartwarming subplot entirely and with it, the characters’ main motivation. Being given only 36 hours to assemble a final cut and re-edit the emotional scenes back in, I feel that director Kyle Newman did a damn fine job with this film. FANBOYS is sure to please fans of the STAR WARS saga. If you enjoy STAR WARS, then I highly recommend that you check out FANBOYS for laughs, heart, and undying nostalgia.

Grade: B

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some Graphic Nudity, Language throughout, Sexual Content and Drug Use

Popstar poster

Directed by: Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone

Written by: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone

Starring: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Mike Birbiglia, Martin Sheen, Snoop Dogg & Will Forte

The Lonely Island is a trio of comedians/writers who made it big on Saturday Night Live and have already visited the big screen with 2007’s so-stupid-it’s-funny HOT ROD. Though they’ve found success separately (on film) and together (in three albums), it’s been nearly a decade since The Lonely Island made their big screen debut…and now they’re back with this spot-on mockumentary! Placing its fingers firmly on the jugular of modern pop culture and the pop music industry, POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is sure to please Lonely Island fans and people with a strange sense of humor (both usually fall under the same demographic).

Popstar 1

Meet Conner4real. Formerly a member of the musical trio known as the Style Boyz, Conner broke off into a worldwide solo sensation and gained an enormous fanbase with his first record. When his hotly anticipated second album ConnQuest receives negative reviews and dwindling sales, Conner resorts to desperate stage gimmicks and press antics to keep himself relevant. We watch as Conner’s career flies off the deep end and his pompous attitude begins to get the better of him. As you might imagine, it’s highly entertaining, surprisingly thirst-quenching, and very funny to behold.

Popstar 2

It should come as no surprise that POPSTAR is essentially spoofing Justin Bieber and I won’t deny that it’s well deserved. The title itself a is direct riff on the musical doc JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER and there are plenty of nods to stupid actions that the real-life spoiled star has committed throughout his career. However, Bieber isn’t the only target here, because POPSTAR takes on the pop music industry and petty celebrity culture as a whole. There’s a side character who’s essentially Kanye West, gags about three different reality shows clashing, and a gossip show called CMZ (wonder what that could possibly be making fun of). POPSTAR isn’t exactly subtle in its targets or jokes, because this spoof is devouring easy prey to begin with.

Popstar 3

These gags and characters are all executed by a massive cast of big faces, some of which were complete surprises (I won’t spoil those appearances). Besides The Lonely Island (as Conner4Real, his DJ, and his former bandmate), this film has a ton of colorful side characters played by the likes of Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Mike Birbiglia, and Will Forte. Celebrity cameos/interview segments feature Simon Cowell, RZA, 50 Cent, Pink, Ringo Starr and many more. There are simply too many to list and they’re all crammed into 86 minutes of fun. Seeing as this ensemble cast of comedic and musical talent is so large, certain roles outshine others. As funny as Bill Hader’s flatlining roadie and Joan Cusack’s cocaine-snorting mother are, their presence is limited to scenes that have already been given away in the marketing. Will Arnett is a huge highlight as the obnoxious CMZ host, so be sure to stay through the credits for an extra scene of him.

Popstar 4

The Lonely Island are a musical group and comedic troupe, so they’ve put together a mighty hilarious soundtrack for POPSTAR. With songs about the Mona Lisa being overrated, an obnoxious number about being humble, and songs that tackle social issues in terribly misguided ways, POPSTAR’s songs are horribly offensive, absolutely hilarious and genuinely well put together. One particular music video had me close to crying from laughing so hard. It’s safe to say that The Lonely Island knew precisely what they were doing when they got behind the camera and in front of it for this feature.

Popstar 5

The documentary-style storytelling greatly benefits POPSTAR as a whole. The film cuts together interviews, Snapchat/Youtube videos, news reports, footage from Conner’s concerts, and his day-to-day life. This results in a structure that’s legitimately interesting to watch, even when the material veers into predictable and sentimental territory towards the ending. In a decade or so, POPSTAR might be looked back on as a painfully funny reminder to how ludicrous both the pop culture and pop music scene were in the 2010’s.

Popstar 6

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is a silly, highly entertaining ride that had me giggling like an idiot from beginning to end. The film can be a tad too predictable at times and nearly overstays it’s under 90-minute running time, but I had a blast watching this film and imagine that fans of silly comedy will likely have a similar experience. The soundtrack is great. The laughs range from small visual gags to over-the-top set pieces. The mockumentary style lends itself perfectly to the material. POPSTAR is to music documentaries what 2007’s WALK HARD was to dramatic music biopics!

Grade: B+

KEANU (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Language throughout, Drug Use and Sexuality/Nudity

Keanu poster

Directed by: Peter Atencio

Written by: Jordan Peele & Alex Rubens

Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Method Man, Luis Guzman, Nia Long & Will Forte

After five hysterical seasons of KEY & PEELE, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have finally taken their leap onto the silver screen. Though the comedic duo have starred individually in side roles, this is their first front-and-center big budget feature. KEANU is simple, entertaining, and has noticeable problems. This basically plays out like a 100 minute KEY & PEELE skit, which isn’t a hugely negative statement when you consider that KEY & PEELE is funnier than 99% of modern sketch comedy. The screenplay has a few dull moments (including some plot holes) and the running time is about 15 minutes too long, but KEANU is an enjoyable romp that should please KEY & PEELE fans and animal lovers alike.

Keanu 1

In the aftermath of a nasty break-up, Rell (Jordan Peele) has become hopelessly depressed. This all changes when an adorable kitten shows up on his doorstep. With furry Keanu as a constant companion, Rell now has a new lease on life. He and his cousin, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), go for a night out to see the newest Liam Neeson movie. They return to find Rell’s house ransacked and cuddly Keanu is nowhere to be found. In order to save the kidnapped kitten, Rell and Clarence pretend to be a pair of hardened drug dealers and infiltrate a local gang. As you might imagine, chaos ensues, bullets fly and bodies pile up…all for the sake of the cutest cat you’ve ever seen.

Keanu 2

KEANU isn’t exactly a revelatory comedy that introduces a ton of fresh jokes and avoids clichés. It actually revels in every familiar step of the action movie formula and seems to simultaneously mocking well-worn plot points as it goes along. The characters of Rell and Clarence are pretty much interchangeable with any of Key & Peele’s other protagonists. They’re simply good guys thrown into a ridiculous scenario which leads to lots of misunderstandings and tense situations being played for dark laughs. As with many KEY & PEELE sketches, KEANU gets more over-the-top and filled with violence as it goes along. This script definitely has the recognizable blend of dark humor and silliness that kept Key & Peele’s comedy show afloat for five seasons. Nods to previous skits are scattered around the background and dialogue, so I imagine that diehard KEY & PEELE fans will likely get a kick out of those Easter eggs too.

Keanu 3

Only two big faces stick out of the supporting cast, while the lesser-known actors (playing the gangsters) make do with what they’ve got. Will Forte has an enjoyably silly role as Rell’s pot-dealing neighbor and got some big laughs out of me, especially in his introduction. Forte’s dreadlocked drug dealer serves as an exposition-spewing plot device, but manages to make his scenes memorable. Method Man takes on the role of domineering antagonist as gang boss Cheddar. This rapper turned occasional actor plays his villain as seriously as possible, which makes Key and Peele’s antics even funnier to watch in comparison.

Keanu 4

KEANU is entertaining, but not without flaws. The opening third is the movie’s peak of hilarity, while the remainder has noticeable ups and downs in momentum. The middle section, particularly a drug deal sequence (featuring a nicely placed cameo) and an elongated George Michael joke, could have used tighter editing. There are laughs in these moments, but I feel the humor would have definitely benefitted from a shorter running time. There are a couple of jokes that fell flat as well, including a music video inspired drug trip, and other opportunities for bigger laughs are passed up. The latter is especially evident during one final scene that seemed to be opening the door for a hilarious punchline, but instead opened up a few distracting plot holes with a well-trodden conventional approach.

Keanu 5

All things considered, KEANU will entertain KEY & PEELE fans and animal lovers. The film occasionally suffers from pacing issues and a few jokes that fall flat, but can still be enjoyed as a fun little comedy. If you are not a fan of KEY & PEELE, this probably won’t do much for you. Viewers who want to watch Key & Peele play around on the big-screen with a budget, smile at lots of close-ups of the cutest kitten you’ve ever seen, enjoy over-the-top bloody shootouts, and chuckle at arguments about whether or not George Michael is an O.G., are bound to find something to like here.

Grade: B

MACGRUBER (2010)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

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

IF

Directed by: Jorma Taccone

Written by: Jorma Taccone, Will Forte, John Solomon

Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph

Back in the golden age of parody films, Mel Brooks and Jerry Zucker were the ones to beat. Spoofs weren’t pathetic threads that pieced together out of pop-culture jokes and referenced every recent movie that could possibly be worked in. These films were downright hilarious comedies that simultaneously made fun of certain genre conventions while also being careful in constructing their own story (as familiar as they might seem). AIRPLANE, the HOT SHOTS series, the NAKED GUN trilogy and SPACEBALLS aren’t just products of their time. They are films that would wind up holding up and still be funny decades later. It really is a shame that MACGRUBER didn’t do well at the box office, because this is the kind of parody that has long been thought dead. This feature adaptation of the Saturday Night Live skit is juvenile and crass, but it’s also hilarious from start to finish!

MCDMACG EC005

A nuclear warhead has been stolen by vicious terrorist Dieter Von Cunth. Upon hearing the news, one man is contacted. One hero will emerge. This mysterious mullet-sporting man is known only as MacGruber and has a personal vendetta against Cunth. He’ll recruit a special team of operatives that include the young impressionable Piper and an old flame from his past, Vicki. Together they’ll have to put a stop to Cunth, who’s become a seemingly untouchable businessman, in order to save the world. Unfortunately, MacGruber is a loose-cannon, foul-mouthed, moron that constantly screws up in the face of danger. A whole lot of hilarity follows. Seriously, this movie had me (among all the other people I’ve wound up showing it to) cracking up from the opening shot until the credits sequence! MACGRUBER is the definition of an unsung gem!

MCDMACG EC011

Besides the brief references to the TV series MACGYVER (seen in MacGruber’s penchant for using homemade contraptions instead of guns and the fact that MacGruber’s name is a parody of MacGyver to begin with), this is a comedy that plays with the conventions of action movies themselves while being as totally ridiculous, over-the-top, and offensive as humanly possible. The material won’t win any awards, but it’s absolutely hysterical and that’s what a comedy of this kind should be aiming for. When I say that the laughs are non-stop, I’m not exaggerating either. You might be laughing so hard at one joke that you’ll either have to pause it to catch your breath or re-watch it to catch another comment or detail that you missed.

MCDMACG EC017

MACGRUBER is one of the few recent comedies where I’ve laughed so hard that my face hurt (and done so on multiple viewings)! The pace is extremely well done as well, never leaving time for the movie to drag or focusing too long on one of the very few gags that falls flat. This is one of those rare cases for a comedy that I’d recommend watching the Unrated version (it’s only 4 minutes longer) because the moments thrown back in are hilarious as well. As briefly mentioned, there are a couple of jokes that aren’t very funny. These come from an awkward Kristen Wiig, who serves as a hit-and-miss character here, but everyone else is overshadowing her in nearly every scene. Wiig is usually great in comedies, but here she has some successful moments and doesn’t quite hit the mark with others.

MCDMACG EC020

As far as the rest of the cast goes, everyone is clearly having a blast. Val Kilmer as Dieter Von Cunth is the best Kilmer performance in a solid decade. He’s a great hammy villain that seems to be incorporating all of the evil traits from every memorable action movie bad guy. Thus he offers a clear-headed menacing straight man for the hysterical force that is Will Forte as MacGruber. Forte has been seen in side roles in plenty of big comedies and most of his front-man performances haven’t been quite so good (e.g. THE BROTHERS SOLOMON), but he makes the movie work here. Working as a co-writer on the screenplay and portraying the mullet-sporting action hero himself, Forte knew exactly how scenes should play out!

MCDMACG EC001

MACGRUBER is a barrage of non-stop laughs. It’s devoid of class or intelligence, but that’s simply not the kind of comedy this was meant to be from the beginning. Filled with jokes from beginning to end (one running gag kept getting incorporated in ways that had me giggling every time I saw it), this fast-paced action movie parody is crude, crass, rude, gross, and (at points) downright cruel, but it’s all in the name of hilarity. It fully delivers on that mark. There are a couple of moments that aren’t nearly as funny as the rest surrounding them, but that’s the case with nearly every comedy. In an age of lame excuses for spoofs and parodies, MACGRUBER offers a beacon of hope that these kind of films can still be nearly perfected with the right people behind them. This is an underrated, overlooked comedy that deserves a large cult following. If you want to laugh, then absolutely dive right into MACGRUBER!

Grade: A-

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑