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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Great, addictive television, 12 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When "24" ended in 2010, the possibility of it ever coming back as a television series seemed highly unlikely. The show had run for eight long seasons, had lower ratings than Fox probably wanted, and the chatter of a "24" movie seemed like the franchise would continue on the big screen. But, because it's hard to kill off a cult favorite, it wasn't surprising when "24: Live Another Day" was announced. The idea of the franchise coming back on television was slightly disappointing, if only because if there has ever been a television property that deserves to live on as an action-packed movie series, it's "24." Luckily, the first few episodes of "24: Live Another Day" are just about as entertaining as any film version of the show could have possibly been. In fact, the new series is as entertaining as "24" has ever been.

The creative team behind the new series has a concrete understanding of what fans want to see: Jack Bauer beating people up, Jack Bauer screaming, and a story that manages to find ways to include lots of ridiculous action. While the show is definitely a drama, there's the clear realization on behalf of the writers and director Jon Cassar that there is also fun to be had along the way. The fun aspect is ultimately what distinguishes "24: Live Another Day" from most other current dramas. While Jack Bauer may seem superhuman as he will get out every single dangerous, violent situation relatively unharmed, there is still a strong sense of excitement that's hard to find anywhere else on television. Although there are some grim "24" staples such as torture, the series is never completely unpleasant or depressing to watch and seems downright tame compared to some of the shows that have been on the air in the last few years.

Of course, the main reason that the series works as well as it does is Kiefer Sutherland. Always an actor who is mesmerizing to watch, Sutherland brings the same intensity and charisma to Jack Bauer as he did years ago. Lesser actors could make the character seem so over the top that the character and the show would become nothing short of a cartoon, but Sutherland manages to keep the character just restrained enough for the tone not to go overboard. The supporting cast is solid, though there haven't been enough episodes to understand what the characters eventually will become. This being a "24" series, there will surely be dozens of plot twists involving the core characters.

"24: Live Another Day" is probably not going to win Emmy Awards. The series is unlikely to restart the franchise in a major way that will lead to the movie that both Sutherland and the fans so desperately want. However, the show accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: be exciting and enjoyable. This is great escapist TV for those who can suspend disbelief. 8/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Best comedy on cable, 5 May 2014

"Workaholics" is a show that really shouldn't work as well as it does. The show is extremely juvenile, stupid, vulgar, and occasionally very unrealistic. Under normal circumstances, these would be criticisms. However, thanks to the three main stars of the series, these qualities make the series oddly endearing. Anders Holm, Adam DeVine, and Blake Anderson are probably not going to be given Emmy Awards for their performances any time in the near future, but what they do on a weekly basis is often funnier and more off-the-wall than anything else on television. There have been several shows about twenty-something guys just hanging out, a fact that "Workaholics" is well aware of and satirizes from time to time. What separates "Workaholics" from all those other "bro" type shows is that "Workaholics" isn't afraid to go to extremely dumb places. In fact, during its best episodes, "Workaholics" is the definition of inspired stupidity. The writers throw so many jokes and references in each 21-minute episode that even if one episode isn't very good, there's always still a number of solid laughs. Miraculously, no matter how dumb the characters may act, the main trio almost always remains likable even if the characters are presented as a bit too naive or stupid at times. Over the past four seasons, "Workaholics" has remained consistently hilarious, something that can't be said for most comedies on television. The show may start to suffer some problems once the characters get older, though for right now the series remains perfectly entertaining for what it is. 8/10

Bad Words (2013)
6 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
Far from perfect, but funny enough, 30 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The concept of Bad Words seems like it would make for a hilarious "Saturday Night Live" sketch. The idea of a 40-year-old man entering a spelling bee for children and ridiculing along the way is such an absurd and intriguing premise that it's somewhat surprising it hasn't been done before. While the basic idea may seem new, director/star/producer Jason Bateman and screenwriter Andrew Hodge take more than a few pages from the Bad Santa playbook, both to the benefit and the detriment of the film. The similarities between the two films are quite hard to ignore as Bad Words follows almost the exact same story beats and even very similar jokes. It would be unfair to call Bad Words a rip-off of Bad Santa, but it's very hard to watch Bad Words and not think of the funnier, better constructed Bad Santa.

With Bad Words, Bateman proves he has the potential to one day direct a great comedy. The problem is that Bad Words never seems to have any aspirations towards being a great comedy, but simply a vulgar and mean one. The only two characters who are developed to any degree at all are Bateman's and Chaitanya Chopra, the kid he befriends while competing in the spelling bee. The rest of the characters remain paper thin in terms of motivation or memorable qualities. Kathryn Hahn's character seems like she should be a big player in the film's story, but instead she's mostly only used for when the film decides it needs more sex jokes to pad out its running time. I guess the same complaint could be leveled against Lauren Graham's character in Bad Santa, but Hahn's character here is developed to even a lesser degree than Graham's was in that movie. There's the sense that Hahn's character could almost be eliminated entirely from the story and not much would really change.

For all the shortcomings the story may have, the one thing Bad Words has going for it is that it's funny. It's only side-splitting in a couple spots, but there are enough laughs to make the film recommendable to fans of raunchy comedies. Bateman plays against type for once and is a mean, unsavory character as opposed to the everyman he typically plays. He also has pretty good chemistry with Rohan Chand. The scenes of the two of them bonding are the best, and also the funniest. The middle portion of Bad Words, in which Bateman and Chand have a night on the town and cause R-rated mischief, is the definite highlight. The montage set to the Beastie Boys' "Off the Grid" is amongst the best montages in a comedy in a long time and brings the film up a point or two for me. The soundtrack in general is surprisingly strong given the obvious low-budget of the picture. As a director, Bateman is smart enough to keep things vulgar until the very end, not allowing the movie to become too sweet for its own good. If nothing else, Bad Words has a consistent tone.

Bad Words is unlikely to become considered a classic, but it has enough solid laughs in it that a small cult following seems likely, if not inevitable. There's a lot to be criticized about the film, though I can't deny I laughed more than I do during most comedies these days. Even if it's not the best comedy in the world, Bad Words delivers what should be expected from the title: plenty of swearing and juvenile jokes, which hit more often than not. 6/10

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The rare sequel that is better than the original, 16 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The lasting influence of 300 is rather impressive. In the seven years since the release of Zack Snyder's adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel, there have been a number of spoofs (Meet the Spartans) and imitators on both the small screen (Starz's "Spartacus" series) and the big screen (2011's Immortals). Even the January 2014 release The Legend of Hercules seemed to mimic 300's signature visual style. For all that 300 inspired, it would be easy to think that it was a masterpiece of modern cinema. Instead, it was a really never anything more than a very stylish film that became a cultural phenomenon. Having tried to watch it again recently, the film does not hold up that well. It was with low expectations that I went into 300: Rise of an Empire. I was expecting exactly the same movie, only with a new cast and different locations.

It's somewhat hard to articulate the subtle yet all important tonal difference between 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire to those who haven't seen both. Essentially, the difference comes down to the fact that 300 seemed to have had aspirations of being both a piece of art and a popcorn movie while 300: Rise of an Empire seems to only want to be a very highly entertaining popcorn picture. 300 took itself somewhat seriously with long speeches, epic musical cues, and attempts at larger themes that never quite clicked the way Zack Snyder probably intended. This sequel disposes of all of that, focusing instead on exactly what people want: almost endless battle scenes, intentionally corny dialogue, and occasionally over-the-top characters (Xerxes immediately springs to mind). 'Rise of an Empire' is a somewhat trashy film and director Noam Murro seems to know this from the first frame. The film is filled with CGI blood that looks like red wine, ridiculously historically inaccurate plot points, and just enough humor to indicate that everyone knows that they aren't making an Oscar contender. As the film's antagonist, Eva Green appears keenly aware of the type of film she's in and makes the movie what it is with a performance that perfectly fits the genre. Simply put, she is the movie. And unlike the female characters in the first movie, she gets to join in on the slow motion fight scenes. This slow motion action, which the original 300 is both famous and infamous for, has seemingly been toned down significantly. There's still plenty of slow motion fighting for those who enjoy it, but it's not nearly as blatant and frequent as it was before. While Noam Murro certainly mimics some of Zack Snyder's signature touches, there is just enough of a difference in tone and style to make the film seem separate from its predecessor. In my mind, 300: Rise of an Empire is an improvement in just about every way, but I know I might be in the minority on this one. While I couldn't call 'Rise of an Empire' a great film, it does least hold the rare distinction of being a sequel better than the original. 7/10

The only bad Schwarzenegger flick, 8 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From my perspective, the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger is pretty much astounding. Despite appearing in roughly forty or so films, Schwarzenegger has always had one of strongest track records in terms of pure entertainment value. While not every film Schwarzenegger has appeared in has been great, I've never seen one that I would consider to be a "bad" movie. Some of his efforts have been disappointing, some a little more lackluster than others, but I've never thought of any of them as not worthwhile. With Hercules in New York, I stand corrected. I've never been able to track down a copy of this infamous film and I assumed it was always for good reason. Having just caught Hercules in New York on Encore today, I can safely say that the movie is not only the worst flick of Schwarzenegger's career, it's also potentially one of the worst ever made in terms of quality. The camera work is amateurish, the sound is awful and hard to listen to throughout, and the production values are Dollar Store cheap. Yet there's still a small part of me that can recommend 'Hercules' for its curiosity value. The movie is watchable, albeit barely. Where else can one find Schwarzenegger wrestling a man in a giant bear suit? Is there any other movie in which Schwarzenegger tips over a New York City taxi cab in anger? And, despite it getting annoying after a while, Schwarzenegger repeatedly saying "I'm Hercules" in every scene is way funnier (either intentionally or unintentionally) than it has any right to be. I have to assume that the filmmakers were fully aware that what they were making was far below quality work as I can't imagine any person thinking the final cut was releasable. The one positive aspect is that Schwarzenegger certainly looked the part to play Hercules, but he'd probably be the first to admit he probably shouldn't have taken the role. Schwarzenegger has made fun of the picture in recent years so, at the very least, he recognizes its many many shortcomings. But I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love to hear Schwarzenegger do an audio commentary for this gem. For people that love bad cinema, Hercules in New York is not be missed. For everyone else, including hardcore Schwarzenegger fans, there's no reason to ever really watch this. 3/10

RoboCop (2014)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
What a remake should be, 16 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the past decade, remakes have become so common that they are simply expected. If there is a popular franchise that a studio owns the rights to, it's shocking if a studio doesn't try to remake it somehow. Paul Verhoeven's 1987 science fiction classic Robocop has always been both an extremely popular and critically acclaimed hit, so regardless of whether there was a reason for it to be remade or not, it was bound to happen eventually. Verhoeven's Total Recall was remade only a few years ago and managed to make a bit of money, therefore a remake of Robocop became virtually inevitable.

The good news is that the Robocop remake is much, much better than the remake of Total Recall was. The biggest problem with that production was that it told the exact same story as the original in almost the exact same way, only with more explosions. It was redundant and stuck to the blueprint to a fault. The new Robocop doesn't suffer from that same problem at all. While the new film is structurally similar to the original, the main focus of the story itself is entirely different and, at times, more interesting than the 1987 movie. This version focuses more on the impact that Alex's transformation into Robocop has on his family. The audience didn't see Murphy's family until Robocop 2, here they are introduced before Alex's transformation. The scene that introduces Alex and his wife, Clara, is simple but effective. There isn't even much dialogue, yet it establishes the bond between Alex and Clara well enough to build the required sympathy for what will happen to the characters. As Alex, Joel Kinnaman gives a great performance, one that gives a great depth into a character as he goes through anger, sadness, grief, and loss all while trying to maintain his humanity. It may not be quite as memorable as Peter Weller's performance, but it's a different take on the character, one that focuses much more on the human side than the robotic side. As Clara, Abbie Cornish gives a completely solid and convincing performance as a woman who is trying to hold onto her husband in whatever form possible. The fact that she is given so much screen time is one of the best aspects of the film. In fact, it can be argued that the story this time around is more about Clara than Alex/Robocop. While it's easy to see why hardcore Robocop fans may hate this, I found it to be a fresh and mildly bold turn for an action film to take. Luckily, the scenes between Clara Alex/Robocop aren't sabotaged by an overly bombastic musical score, something entirely too common in movies and television when trying to hit an emotional beat. I can see how some younger audiences will complain that this new version is boring and lacks the amount of action the trailers advertise, but I was rarely bored and welcomed the change of pace.

Regardless of how tonally and emotionally different the new version is, the fact that the film is PG-13 is still a stumbling block when trying to judge it as an action film. By eliminating almost any trace of blood and relying on quick cuts, the impact of violence is almost completely sanitized to the point that these scenes feel like a video game. Characters are simply shot at, fall down, and then it's on to the next target. It's not necessary for a Robocop film to be an absolute bloodbath, but the watered down nature of the violence definitely undercuts what the movie wants to say about the nature of violence in America. In addition to the blood and violence being toned down for the PG-13 rating, profanity is virtually non-existent. In the case of Samuel L. Jackson's character, profanity is actually bleeped in order to obtain the less restrictive rating, which comes across as both lame and pointless. If the words can't be used in a PG-13 movie without being bleeped, why even bother having the character utter them in the first place? José Padilha makes so many good decisions with this version of Robocop, but the one decision of the film's rating is probably the major decision he had no control over. There was probably no way the studio was ever going to release this as an R-rated picture, so in the end I don't think Padilha can necessarily be faulted too much for that. There's nothing here that couldn't be fixed with an uncensored director's cut, provided the footage exists.

Despite the toned down nature of Robocop, it's still one of the most surprising remakes of the past decade. It's not a great film, but it is the work of a director who is actually trying to make a thinking man's action movie as opposed to just a series of endless car chases, gun fights, and explosions. The story is compelling and emotionally satisfying, mostly due the excellent cast. The film is unlikely to be mentioned in the same breath as Paul Verhoeven's version any time soon, but this new Robocop is what a remake should be: different, well acted, and entertaining. 7/10

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A decent new beginning (Spoilers!), 22 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Over the past few years, audiences have been subjected to the unfortunate trend of an endless amount of "reboots", a promotional Hollywood term that is often synonymous with lazy, unimaginative, and pretty often terrible filmmaking. The basic formula is to take a franchise that was once hot, more or less remake it, and make sure the words "dark" and "gritty" are used to describe it. Understandably, when the announcement was made that the Tom Clancy created character of Jack Ryan would be revamped once again, there was some expected skepticism. Luckily, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the latest "reboot" from Paramount, is better than one might expect based on the delayed release and late-start ad campaign.

The beginning of 'Shadow Recruit' is a mixed bag. One of the most unfortunate staples of the "reboot" is the apparent necessity for every hero's origin story to be explored. For the sake of introducing Jack Ryan to a new audience, this means showing Jack's college years, how he met the woman who eventually will become his wife, and his war experiences. While I'm sure the filmmakers' had some good intentions with these story beats, they just aren't as interesting or powerful as they were probably intended to be. There isn't a strong enough connection between what happens in these early scenes with what happens later. The pay-off for the origin story portion just isn't there. As a result, this first act feels like almost a different movie from everything else that follows. On the plus side, the introduction to Thomas Harper, nicely played by Kevin Costner, is the one part of the origin story portion that works well. Costner and lead Chris Pine have chemistry that helps sell a relationship that could have come across as clichéd or cheesy. Wisely, Branagh doesn't overplay the relationship, giving them just enough screen-time to make the relationship believable and not forced.

Where 'Shadow Recruit' really shines is in the middle portion. From the time Jack gets to Russia to the end of his dinner with Viktor (Branagh),'Shadow Recruit' is at its best, offering up well directed action and intensity, decent performances from its cast, a surprising number of good jokes, and an engaging story. As a director, Branagh makes great use of the Russian locations in a way that doesn't seem gimmicky like they did in the recent A Good Day to Die Hard. The cinematography is perfectly fitting with the Russian atmosphere, creating a sense of both strangeness and danger. It is this roughly 45 minutes to an hour's worth of screen time that is the strongest indicator of the potential of what the entirety of 'Shadow Recruit' could have been. Suspenseful, highly highly entertaining, and excellently paced, from here it seems, with all the back-story out of the way, that this has the potential to turn out to be the best Jack Ryan film yet.

However, by the time the film reaches its third act, the story becomes simply generic. In a move that seems beneath his talent as a filmmaker, Branagh for whatever reason allowed his film to sink to the level of the girlfriend-in-peril moment, the most obvious and played out action movie cliché possible. It's a disappointing turn that undermines the material and serves as the film's transformation point into a series of clichés and close calls. 'Shadow Recruit' may have a finale that ends with a literal bang, but even with all the action on display in these final scenes, it ends on a whimper as everything is far more routine than anything else that has come before these moments. To be fair, Branagh has enough good sense as a director not to let these scenes turn into an all out bloodbath with a high body count as some lesser directors might have done. It's good to know that there can still be such a thing as restraint in modern action movies.

I wish I could rate Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit higher than a 6 as it's certainly a better film than 90% of the action pictures released within the last few years and it is unquestionably one of the stronger "reboots" that has been forced onto audiences. There's some great material contained in the film, yet there is also just about as much material that either doesn't work as well or doesn't work at all. For Jack Ryan fans, 'Shadow Recruit' is still recommendable, but it's not quite the film that it easily could have been. While I doubt this will reignite the franchise in the way Paramount is hoping, it's a decent enough new beginning. 6/10

Milius (2013)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Great documentary!, 12 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To casual moviegoers, the name John Milius is probably not one that is instantly recognizable. Although he worked steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the director never achieved the marquee name status of his contemporaries like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. However, to huge film buffs, Milius has long been seen as an underrated and, in some genres, iconic auteur responsible for having a hand, either as a screenwriter or director, in creating some of the greatest films action ever made. MILIUS, the new documentary by Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson, aims to give Milius his due and shine a light on the filmmaker's life and contributions to cinema.

Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of MILIUS is just how many of Milius' famous fellow filmmakers Figuerora and Knutson were able to get together for interviews. The list of famous directors who serve as talking heads here is simply staggering: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Oliver Stone are only a few of the names that appear to pay tribute to their old friend. In a lesser documentary, these men would simply show up, say a few brief general sound bites about the nature of the film industry, and the result would be a minute or two of screen time for the sake of having household names in the film. This is not the case with MILIUS as everyone interviewed seems to genuinely care and have great interest in both the documentary's subject as both a filmmaker and as a man. Nobody appears bored or uninvolved at any point. And in an industry where some directors wants to take credit for everything, it's refreshing to see these filmmakers share stories of how valuable Milius was on films that they directed that could therefore be seen as "their films." In particular, Coppola comes across as greatly appreciative for having Milius as a co-writer on APOLCALYPSE NOW, and Spielberg smiles with glee as he retells the story of how Milius wrote a famous monologue from JAWS. It is in these scenes that Figueroa and Knutson do a fantastic job of highlighting Milius' great, although often uncredited or ignored, work as a screenwriter. As screen writing in general is a subject that is often either overshadowed or minimized by the subject of directing in documentaries, this is by far one of the most engaging and interesting sections of the film.

Because Figueroa and Knutson do such an incredible job covering Milius' screen writing career, it's disappointing that some of the movies he directed are discussed less than they should be. In terms of box office and cultural impact, Milius' 1982 adaptation of Conan the Barbarian is his best commercially successful movie, so it's a bit strange that the segment on that movie only lasts about five minutes. It's almost like the segment is in there for obligatory reasons from the way it seems glossed over in some respects. Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up to discuss how the character of Conan impacted his career and it's hinted at why Milius didn't return to the franchise, but there is much more that could have been said about the film that is considered by many to be a classic. Still, what is featured in the segment in regards to behind-the-scenes footage and production stills is informative and entertaining.

As MILIUS reaches its conclusion, the last twenty-five years or so of Milius' career are somewhat skimmed over, partly due to the fact that Milius hasn't been given as many career opportunities as he once had, but mainly because the filmmakers have a much more important topic to discuss: the stroke that left Milius suffered a few years ago. The details regarding the aftermath of his stroke are filled in by Milius' children and his close friends, and it's at this point that the documentary becomes something deeper. Alternating between incredibly sad and incredibly inspiring, the last act of MILIUS is the most powerful part of any documentary I've seen in quite some time. Milius refuses to let the last few years of setbacks stop him from continuing to work as he continues to write his long-in-development Ghenghis Khan biopic, which sounds like it has the potential to be the best project Milius has ever done. When the end credits of MILIUS roll, there is a complete picture of an extremely talented, tough, and larger than life man, one who still has plenty left to say and several more stories to tell, either on paper or on screen. Watching MILIUS makes one eagerly await the big screen return of a fascinating filmmaker, hopefully sooner rather than later. Highly recommended. 9/10

19 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Best comedy on television, 9 January 2014

The track record of cop comedies on television is not inspiring. While successful police dramas have ruled the airwaves for decades, the same cannot be said for cop shows that aim for laughs. There are some noticeable exceptions such as "Car 54, Where Are You?" and the very short-lived "Police Squad", but for the most part, it has been hard for show-runners to make crime a funny topic on TV. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" could have ended up being super broad like "Police Academy: The Series" or "Reno 911", but luckily creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur have made the decision to keep the show somewhat grounded in reality, allowing for viewers to relate to the characters without them becoming complete cartoons. In casting Andy Samberg as the lead, there was the risk of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" coming across too goofy. However, Samberg is at his career best here as Jake Peralta, a childish and immature detective who just happens to be very good at his profession. Samberg is great at delivering the most ridiculous and silly lines of dialogue without mugging for the camera in the way that some might expect a former "Saturday Night Live" performer to do. Half of what Peralta says is either completely juvenile or inappropriate, but because it never reaches cartoonish or mean-spirited heights, he remains likable and easy-to-root-for. The show may eventually reach a point where it may seem absurd that the character is able to keep his job, though that hasn't occurred yet.

If "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" had just been a vehicle for Samberg, the show might have become stale after a few episodes. Wisely, the decision was made to make an ensemble series. It's typical for an ensemble to have one or two characters that aren't quite as funny or interesting as the others, but amazingly, every single character on "Brooklyn-Nine Nine" is excellently performed. Andre Braugher, Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio, Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, and Terry Crews are all perfectly cast in their respective roles and each have moments where they shine in every single episode. Crews is absolutely hilarious as squad leader Terry Jeffords, especially when the writers are able to make great use out of both his physical strength and priceless facial reactions. In addition to the main ensemble cast, the reoccurring duo of Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller as Detectives Hitchcock and Scully, the two worst detectives in the department, are responsible for some of the best jokes of the series thus far. It's also worth noting the writers have made nice use of its guest stars including Craig Robinson, Andy Richter, Stacy Keach, and Dean Winters. Guest stars on sitcoms can be tricky and can often overshadow the episodes as a whole, but "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" almost always makes its guest stars fit organically into the plot in ways that never feel gimmicky or forced.

Although there have only been a dozen episodes so far and there is always the chance that the broadness the show-runners have been so good at keeping down may eventually kick in, the series now remains as strong and frequently hilarious as any comedy on television at the moment. There isn't a particular formula that the show gets hung up on every week and more often than not, there seems to be an effort to get in a decent amount of character development by sitcom standards. If Fox is smart enough to keep "Brooklyn-Nine Nine" on for a while, it will almost certainly develop a cult following. If the ratings don't improve and only one season gets produced, at least the series will probably hold the distinction of not having a bad episode in the bunch. 9/10

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing but watchable, 19 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the history of "Saturday Night Live", very few have made for strong leading men. With the exceptions of a handful of names like Chris Farley or Eddie Murphy, most SNL cast members that try to become movie stars inevitably end up failing. Jason Sudekis has unsurprisingly found himself in a number of high profile studio features the past few years. Although he certainly stole the show in films like Horrible Bosses and Hall Pass, We're the Miller is arguably Sudekis first real starring role in a studio comedy. Wisely, the screenplay largely offers Sudekis the chance to play in the two modes he does best: smarmy and charming. Playing David Clark, a small-time drug dealer who hires a group of loners to pose as his family so he can smuggle marijuana into Mexico, Sudekis is perfectly suited for the role and the first act indicates that his character is going to make We're the Millers the comedy of the year. Unfortunately, just as the film should be picking up, the script and direction slow everything down. As a road movie, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It's simply part of the formula. But the sheer obviousness and predictability of We're the Millers ultimately kills the comedy. Maybe it's because I've seen too many comedies of this ilk, but I saw almost every big gag coming a mile away. What could have made for great character-orientated comedy becomes situation-oriented at every turn and what should come across as funny simply comes across as inevitable. Some of the over-the-top situations seem to have the potential to be hilarious, but ultimately end up being groan-worthy or disappointing in execution. To its credit, while the sight gags are fairly lame, there are enough memorable lines in the picture to keep it from being a waste of time. Whether most of the lines were scripted or improvised are anybody's guess, though this is one of the rare cases where dialogue almost completely saves a film. Every time I laughed was the result of a funny line of dialogue as opposed to something that actually happened on screen. It helps that both Emma Roberts and Will Poulter, playing the fake children, can deliver raunchy dialogue naturally without the lines sounding forced. As the fake mother, Jennifer Aniston isn't giving nearly as many good lines as she probably should have been. The potential for her character in particular seems like something that was never fully realized during the production stage. On the other hand, the role is certainly different than the others roles Aniston has played recently so at least she's able to do something else here. The rest of the cast, from Ed Helms to Luis Guzman, is generally wasted in roles that could have been cut down without any effect on the overall story. At almost two hours, the running time is about ten minutes longer than necessary for a silly comedy. At the very least, the ending is interesting enough and not a complete and total cop-out. Given the extreme success of We're the Millers at the box office, there is no doubt in my mind that a sequel will be on the way shortly. Given a bit more originality and less obvious plotting, there is the potential for a better sequel. It's possible I may grow to like We're the Millers more with another viewing. However, for now the flick stands as a disappointment given what could have been. 5/10

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