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God's Pocket (2014)
Another arty film that isn't as worthy or important as it thinks it is
When their son is killed during a construction accident, his parents Mickey Scarpato (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Jeanie Scarpato (Christina Hendricks) react to his death in different ways; Jeanie is understandably distraught by her son's death and believes that her son's death was no accident and is determined to find out the truth and enlists the help of journalist Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins). Mickey is much more indifferent and is more concerned with trying to deal with his own problems whilst simultaneously trying, but ultimately failing to appease his wife.
You only have to look at the screenplay for this film to fully comprehend this utter mess that Slattery has put before us...
For a start, we have the Scarpato's son Leon who, as far as I can gather, was some kind of off his nut druggie, but it seems that Slattery thinks it's OK to paint him as some sort of lunatic, but then not convey to the audience why he behaves like this? At no point in the film do we get to learn anything about him, why he turned to drugs and why he behaved in this manner? I've said this time and time again and I'll say it again; if I'm given no reason to give a damn about characters then I won't give a damn and this will usually ruin a film for me.
The same thing can be said about Mickey; he's in with a bad lot and seems to racks up huge debts, but again Slattery fails to develop him as a character and we don't really learn anything about him which again left me feeling rather indifferent to him as a character. That's the big problem with this film in that it is filled with a whole host of sleazy and unlikeable characters, but they're sleazy and unlikeable characters who we're not able to understand and that ultimately makes the film hard to sit through. The only person that it's possible to feel some sympathy for is Mickey's wife although some of this sympathy was slightly undone by her indiscretion later in the film.
Slattery's screenplay is heavily flawed and vague, but then again so is his directing. The whole film is so drab, boring and lifeless. If it would have had more energy about it then it still would have been flawed, but at least it would have been enjoyable, but as it is it's about as much fun as pulling teeth.
The truth is that you don't need this in your life; it isn't profound, it doesn't have much to say, it isn't deep or particularly interesting and is just generally worthless. The best part about this film was the early scenes with Christina Hendricks in all her 'full figured' glory. Yummy!!
Pitch Black (2000)
Pitch Black is another example of a film where the special FX are the real stars of the show
A transport ship carrying around 40 passengers crash-lands on an unknown planet and only 11 people survive the crash. The survivors of the crash are initially concerned about one of the survivors of the crash namely Richard B Riddick (Vin Diesel) as he is a dangerous and violent criminal that they have been transporting who manages to set himself free after the crash. However, when the planet that they crash-land on is plunged into a month-long period of darkness, the survivors soon learn that Riddick may be their only hope of survival when a group of flesh-eating aliens try to take them all out one by one...
To me, Pitch Black is an example of a potentially good film that unfortunately has been placed in the hands of the wrong director. In order to work, films like Pitch Black need to have tension, suspense, dynamism and strong characterisation and it's clear from a very early stage that you are not going to get any of that here.
Pitch Black is clearly trying to set itself up as a modern day Alien type film, but Twohy has none of the skills that Ridley Scott or James Cameron were able to serve up with the first two Alien films. I'll admit that the first 20 minutes or so were relatively suspenseful, but it's clear that after Twohy's rather clichéd 'cloak and dagger approach' in respect of introducing Riddick to the story that he had nowhere really to go and completely fails to develop or improve upon the story. When watching Pitch Black there is just no spark, no dynamism and nothing interesting about the story or the characters. Even the character of Riddick is poorly developed and I'm sure that he could have been made more interesting with a better director or writing crew.
The last few lines in the above paragraph really sum up the problems with this film; if your narrative's success is dependent on its characters then it's generally a good idea to make at least one or two of them interesting - this is what made Alien and Aliens both work because you cared about the characters and actually gave a damn about what happened, but in Pitch Black the characters are as lifeless as the planet that they crash-land on and if I'm honest I found it a bit of a struggle getting to the finish line with this one.
The performances aren't great either with no-one really making much of an impact (no pun intended). Vin Diesel should have been great in this sort of role, but I felt that he was slightly hampered by being a rather poorly written character. Everyone else here was just as bland and unmemorable.
One final thing that made me laugh about this film is its ridiculous plot contrivance; our prisoner happens to have had his eyes surgically altered so that he can see better in the dark after being denied sunlight for lengthy periods. He then finds himself crash-landed on a planet that ends up being plunged into darkness for a month??? I can suspend some disbelief, but that is quite a ridiculous coincidence don't you think???
Pitch Black is rubbish, but it's not even enjoyable rubbish and in my opinion you're better off watching either Alien or Aliens because they at least are both entertaining, tense and rewarding pieces of cinemas which are qualities that certainly cannot be attributed to Pitch Black.
The story is a bit on the thin side but the character of Deadpool and the generally humorous tone adopted more than compensates for its shortcomings
Former Special Forces Operative Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) takes part in a rogue experiment which on the flip side gives him the ability to heal rapidly, but on the downside this experiment leaves with permanent and unsightly scarring to his entire body. When Wilson is left for dead by Ajax (Ed Skrein) after the experiment has been completed, Wilson makes it his mission to gain revenge on Ajax and becomes Deadpool - Wilson's masked alter-ego.
Within the first few minutes of this film I had an inkling that I was going to like it. The opening credits are amusing and quite imaginative; I particularly loved the Directed By 'An Overpaid Tool' caption.
The opening segment of the film where we're introduced to Deadpool - the fast-talking crazed anti-hero are probably some of the best moments in the film and Reynolds is clearly at his best in this film when he becomes Deadpool. I have to be honest and admit that I did find it a bit jarring when the film cuts to the 'origin story' which ultimately took on a much more serious tone. This isn't a bad thing as the 'origin story' was interesting enough, but I still found it a bit of a shock to my system at first due to how impressive and explosive the opening few minutes of the film were.
The story itself is rather weak and in some ways it seems ironic that the film spends so much time sending itself up and making fun of itself only to then have a rather clichéd and predictable plot line and outcome. The turn of events in the final third aren't bad and there are still plenty of amusing moments, but given the fact that it seemed to have some imagination to it I just expected a bit more that's all.
Another slight problem with this film lies with Wade Wilson; although he is an anti-hero when he becomes Deadpool he is also an anti-hero when he is Wade Wilson himself. The problem is that before he becomes Deadpool he isn't a particularly likable person and I did feel that sometimes he got what he deserved. This, in some ways, made him a rather unlikeable character (pre-accident) meaning that it was harder to get behind him when he became his alter-ego. I personally feel that a good anti-hero should have some likability or a reason to root for them in order to be successful and I never really felt that way about Deadpool or Wade Wilson, but like I said the sense of fun that the film brings means that these things don't cause that much of a problem.
That being said though, when Reynolds is Deadpool this film never lets up and is an absolute blast to watch. The sending up and parodying that it offers is imaginative and very funny. The fourth wall stuff is pretty amusing - although it does get a bit repetitive. If you liked Kick-Ass then I think that this film will be right up your street. Therefore despite a thin story and a rather flawed protagonist, this film is funny, imaginative and self-aware enough to more than compensate for its very minor shortcomings and is something that I would highly recommend.
What About Bob? (1991)
More awkward than funny
Psychotherapist Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) is looking forward to his month long vacation with his family, but accepts one final 'session' with Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) who is a patient of a 'recently' retired doctor. The initial session between doctor and patient proves to be a success, but when Wiley learns that Marvin is going to be away for a month, Wiley makes it his mission to track his doctor down...
I really wanted to like this film as Bill Murray is the best of his kind at this sort of film when the material is right, but this film is so off-the-wall that it's almost hard to know where to begin..
I'm prepared to accept that it starts well; it establishes Murray as a neurotic patient and Dreyfuss as the indifferent shrink who seems more interested in money than in helping out his patient - you feel as though the film has a sense of karma about it when the credits roll...
And yet I could never entirely enjoy this film and that's mainly down to the tone; for a start Bob is introduced as a wacko character, but the film offers no real understanding of his character. From an early stage, this makes his character hard to identify with or get to grips with, but then it gets worse...
In order to track down his doctor, Bob then impersonates a detective 'investigating' a suicide which for all intents and purposes everyone believes is Bob's suicide. Bob does this to find out where his doctor is spending his vacation. All of this is achieved by Bob in a cold and calculating manner and not in a way that can be laughed off in an 'idiot learns things by fortuitous luck' way such as in films like Dumb and Dumber. This is all a bit creepy and suggests that Bob is more savvy than he lets on that he is.
The film then carries on in this weird and morose way; Murray hangs round the family home and ingratiates himself with Dreyfuss' family, but rather than being amusing and funny, it just comes off as a bit weird and Marvin's family readily accepting Bob into their home is also rather difficult to accept or believe. I also found it funny that Murray made a big issue at the start of the film about his character being agoraphobic, and yet this aspect of the story was ignored in the second half of the film - he seemingly has no problems in the great outdoors later in the film which makes no sense from a narrative perspective.
I think the worst thing about this film is that it offers no commentary on patient mental health problems; films like Dream Team and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest do at least try and put a positive spin on their characters and on their mental health problems which makes these films funnier, deeper and generally more endearing. Bill Murray puts on a good show here, but his character is given no real dimension, endearing qualities or depth and a result of these things we're given no real reason to give a damn about what happens to his character.
In order to try to be funny in the later stages the film tries to suggest that the doctor is perhaps as crazy as the patient but it never really works. I found the film a little too socially awkward and found that the scenario that was presented to me never allowed me to laugh as much as I should do and it also never had enough believability about it to make it work.
The main reason that this film is getting 4 stars out of 10 is for Bill Murray's efforts - I felt that he did what the director told him to do and got the most out of his role. Richard Dreyfuss was great and the child actors were also good. This leaves me with Julie Hagerty who unfortunately put in a terrible performance as Dreyfuss' wife.
Sadly the tonal imbalance left me with a film that was more creepy and disturbing than funny and unfortunately whilst watching this film I found myself stopping and wondering 'Should I be laughing here' and 'Is this something I should find funny?' For me, if you need these prompts then the film simply isn't funny.
War Dogs (2016)
Familiar and predictable, but it's confidently directed with plenty of energy and enthusiasm
David Packhouz (Miles Teller) is employed as a masseuse but has a burning desire to make a better life for himself. When Packhouz becomes reacquainted with his old friend Efram Diveroli (Jonah Hill) he is given the shot at the big time that he has always craved; Diveroli offers Packhouz the chance to go into partnership whereby the two of them are middle men arms dealers who supply the US Military with weapons. Both men taste success and become very rich, but with bigger contracts comes bigger risks and the two friends quickly find themselves out of their depth...
War Dogs is effectively a glammed up version of Lord Of War (another film that I believe was based on a true story). What you get here is a fairly predictable rise and fall narrative, but to be fair Todd Phillips does direct the film with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and I have to admit that I wasn't bored at any point during the film. Although these things do make the film enjoyable and fun to watch I couldn't help but wonder if Phillips was enjoying himself a little too much here; he does tend to embellish a little too much and perhaps glamourises Diveroli and Packhouz more than he should - the way that Diveroli and Packhouz talk about and make references to the film Scarface only reinforces this point - did this really happen or did Phillips throw these references in to justify his glamorisation of the characters and events? Although I've put this forward as a criticism this approach is something that I like more than dislike as it does at least make the film a fairly enjoyable experience.
As far as acting performances go then this one definitely belongs to Jonah Hill; he basically channels the same character he played in Wolf Of Wall Street and clearly understands what kind of picture that Phillips intend to make. He was an interesting character who has more faces than Big Ben and is able to become whoever he needs to become to get money or contracts - he has an almost sociopathic charm to him. Teller is OK here, but he's still an actor that I'm struggling to get to grips with and seems to be in Hill's shadow here. Bradley Cooper is pretty flat in his respective role and he looked really creepy in those ridiculous glasses...
Despite being predictable, familiar and overly-glamourised I have to admit that this film was enjoyable and the story was quite interesting. Hill's energy, enthusiasm, and the manipulative nature of his character made the film stand out that little bit more and made the journey from A to B perhaps more involving than it could have been. It's nothing special and isn't remotely original, but the 114 minutes that I spent watching the film did pass by fairly painlessly.
The African Queen (1951)
The one that earned Bogie his Best Actor Award
Africa 1914; a camp housing a group of missionaries during World War 1 is burnt down by German Troops. Two of these missionaries are Christian Missionaries Rose Sayer & Reverend Samuel Sayer (Katharine Hepburn & Robert Morley) and sadly the shock of what happens to their village is too much for Reverend Sayer and he unfortunately dies the following day. Gin-swilling riverboat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) suggests that he and Rose bury her brother's body and flee the camp as soon as possible before the Germans return. Although Charlie and Rose are two very different people they attempt to put their differences aside in order to avenge Rose's brother's death....
Given that the majority of the film is spent with only 2 people sharing the screen it is fairly obvious that Director John Huston was reliant on the star power of Bogart and Hepburn to carry this film and ultimately win audiences over. Hats off to Huston because it seems that he has achieved this objective as this film is loved by a good deal of people, but for me it was a bit hit-and-miss...
If we start with Bogart and Hepburn; yes I'm prepared to accept that they were both good together on-screen and yes they generally share good chemistry together, but are these things alone enough to make the film great?? I beg to differ I'm afraid. One thing I found disappointing is that Huston doesn't make this feel like much of an adventure film. Most of the time revolves around Bogart and Hepburn and their blossoming relationship, but this is all Huston really focuses on and although it is fun and interesting in fits and starts when the plot only focuses on one think it does make the film feel a bit monotonous at times. The picture is stronger in the second half when Rose and Charlie start working as a team to overcome problems that they encounter on their journey - these aspects make the film feel more focused and enjoyable and give the film its much needed sense of adventure. If we go back to Rose and Charlie's relationship, I kind of felt that there was a bit of an Odd Couple vibe between Charlie and Rose, but if I'm honest I felt that the switch between them hating each other and liking each other was a bit jarring and sudden and felt a little unnatural. The final part of the film where Charlie and Rose are effectively getting their revenge felt rushed and it would have been better if the planning of their attack would have featured more heavily rather than being merely tagged on at the end.
The African Queen is notably the film where Bogart won his best actor award and whilst I'm pleased that he received it I can't honestly see how this performance really stands out from anything else I've seen him in - he was good but Oscar worthy??? Hepburn is an equal match for Bogart and their chemistry and camaraderie does make up slightly for the thin and rather uneven plotting.
The African Queen is an OK film but when all is said and done I can't really see why everyone is so in love with it?? It's a thinly plotted film with too much romance and not enough adventure and for me is another disappointingly over-hyped 'classic film.'
The Intern (2015)
This film is much better than its rather silly premise will have you believe
Bored with retirement 70 year old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) applies to become a senior intern at a newly founded online fashion site. Founder and CEO Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) has her doubts about her new 'applicant' in the early stages and considers getting him transferred to another department. However, she soon starts to learn that Ben is not only a good worker, but that he's also an excellent 'life-coach' whom Jules finds invaluable both as an employee and as a friend as well.
The start of the film presents us with a 'fish out of water scenario.' Whittaker is a 70 year old man who isn't terribly familiar with modern gadgets and in how the modern world works in general (which sadly houses an element of truth the older you become). The 'fish out of water' stuff is amusing, but isn't really enough to base a film upon, but thankfully it doesn't just use this as a running theme in this film.
I think the thing that I liked the most about this film is that it felt more like a character study on Jules' behalf with Ben kind of being written around her character. She's presented as a hard-working, go-getting woman who basically lives and breathes business, but the film wisely presents her as a 'flawed' character; had she been some kind of superwoman with a wonderful husband and a dream lifestyle then it would have made the film feel shallow, artificial and not particularly believable. However, by showing cracks here and there it does perhaps highlight the highs and lows of wealth and success. The film for me was a minor triumph because I found Jules to be a strong believable character and found her easy to identify with. Ben, to me, felt like the piece that was missing in Jules' life; he's an old wise owl who probably doesn't know an Ipod from an Ipad, but he's lived and he's more often than not on hand to chip in advice from time to time and at times he does make Jules see things from an alternative perspective. Whilst I did appreciate the warm bond that developed between Jules and Ben and I found Ben to be endearing, kind and likable I didn't find his character quite as believable as Jules; he came across as being a bit too nice and a bit too good to be true and some scenes in the film that bring him closer to Jules seem a little contrived; such as looking out of the window and seeing her driver swigging some alcohol and driving past and seeing Jules' husband having an affair with another woman. Yes it's possible, but incredibly convenient.
There are other minor issues such as some of the rather annoying 'hipster dialogue' which felt a bit forced and unnatural. I could also have done without all of the ridiculous Apple Product Placement.
On balance this film gets a lot more right than wrong and although the premise does present us with a somewhat ridiculous scenario, at the same time the content of the story comprises of many believable elements. The bond that develops between Jules and Ben is quite heart-warming and even though much of it is predictable and elements of the story are a tad contrived it's a film that's very hard not to like.
A Christmas Carol (1984)
A heartwarming moral fable (possible minor spoilers)
Ebenezer Scrooge (George C. Scott) is an old miser who hates Christmas, is generally uncaring and unfeeling toward both his own family and his employee Bob Cratchit (David Warner). Scrooge receives a visit from the ghost of his friend and former business partner Jacob Marley who warns Scrooge that he will receive a visit from 3 ghosts (past, present, and yet to come). Initially, Scrooge is sceptical, but in each subsequent visit from the ghosts he starts to see the effect that his behaviour has on everyone around him and starts to realise that he needs to change his ways....
We all know that in this day and age that Christmas is far too commercialised... I mean don't they start advertising for Christmas now before we've even got Halloween out of the way?? A Christmas Carol works so well because it does help to remind us of what Christmas is really about and the 'commercialism' of Christmas that we see is given a positive spin which is great to see.
The story arc here sees Scrooge being visited by 3 ghosts (past, present, and yet to come) and at every stage in the story Scrooge is shown little insights into what could have happened by him not changing his ways and what will happen if he doesn't change his ways - clearly the latter hits home with him more than the former. As a piece of escapism, it is enjoyable enough, but I really liked the narrative arc and in some ways found it to be a sort of voyage of self-discovery for Scrooge.
There was one really powerful scene where Scrooge is abandoned by one of the ghosts in an area that he doesn't know and he quite literally becomes isolated. Prior to this moment, Scrooge had always been calm and assured whilst he figuratively walks round wearing his rose-tinted spectacles. The scene where he is abandoned gives him a general idea of how the people he condemns must feel; alone, frightened and vulnerable. It's a strong moment in the film made great by a fine performance by George C. Scott. This is just one example of excellence from Scott, but across the whole film he is brilliant - hard-faced and miserly at the start, he's able to bring a sort of humility to Scrooge in the later stages and seemingly does the impossible by allowing the audience to be able to identify with this man. His wealth is treated as a negative at the start, but again this is given a positive spin at the end which is another strength with this film.
A Christmas Carol is clearly a morality tale that highlights that Christmas is a time for giving, a time for sharing and a time for caring and in all fairness the film does a wonderful job of conveying this message to the audience (without being preachy, sentiment or heavy-handed) which is a feat in itself.
A Christmas Carol is very much worth checking out as it does remind us of the true meaning of Christmas whilst simultaneously providing an enjoyable piece of escapism and as mentioned George C Scott was also terrific.
The Apartment (1960)
The Apartment is a film that's filled with good intentions, but there is so much here that never really rang true with me
For some strange reason The Apartment seems to be billed as a comedy and although it does have some 'comedic' elements it is not a film that I would categorise as a comedy. Anyone expecting a silly bit of fun (along the lines of Some Like It Hot) is going to be in for a bit of a shock. The misleading way that this film is marketed isn't really the problem with this film though and for me the main problems run much deeper....
For a start there are so many things in this film that seem a bit ridiculous and far-fetched that it's almost hard to know where to begin; I did find it difficult to believe that Baxter would go to such extreme lengths in order to try to advance his career (particularly at the beginning of the film where a promotion is based upon supposition rather than any firm guarantees). His passive nature is also hard to swallow and this passiveness does seem to get more and more ridiculous and hard to swallow as the film progresses. In fact much of it becomes so absurd that as a character I started to find his passiveness more infuriating than endearing. Another issue I had with Baxter's character, and to a certain extent, Wilder's script is that it felt as though we were meant to feel sorry for Baxter. In fairness this may have worked if Baxter would have just been some drip who everyone took advantage of and had nothing to gain from the situation, but Baxter does gain his promotion by letting his colleagues use his apartment for their lewd encounters meaning that Baxter is hardly a saint himself. The problem is that the script never highlights the fact that Baxter is guilty of 'wrongdoing' as much as his colleagues and this results in the audience being unable to judge him in the same way. If we stick with characters then it's also hard to get involved with a film where the characters can't be easily related to nor are they particularly sympathetic and sadly that's how I felt about virtually every character in this film.
Going back to unrealistic scenarios and situations then you only need to look at the love triangle between Sheldrake, Fran and Baxter. We learn that Fran is in love with Sheldrake, but I couldn't really see any reason why she was in love with him? What did she like about? It could be his money or she could have found his power an aphrodisiac, but Fran didn't strike me as that sort of girl so her feelings for him genuinely left me puzzled. I also struggled understanding why both Baxter and Sheldrake were besotted with Fran? I mean there are 32,000 employees at their company, of which roughly half will be women and you're trying to tell me that she is the most attractive woman out of around 16,000 women???? Come on.... Even the attraction between Baxter and Fran (which admittedly is the most believable romance here) still seemed a bit unlikely; Baxter knowing intimate personal information about Fran made him look a bit creepy and a bit of a stalker and I'm sure that if a real life Fran encountered a real life Baxter in a similar situation that poor Baxter wouldn't have got that date. Likewise, Fran never really seemed that interested in Baxter and I could never really get to grips with why he was so obsessed with her? The trouble is that when I watch a film I believe in the characters and their romances and/or situations because I WANT to believe in them not because I'm TOLD to believe in them. The problem here is that I'm given no real reason to believe in anything here and I just found a lot of it to be too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The worst part about this film was Sheldrake's decision to actually leave his wife as this was the only strain of credibility left in his character!!!!
Some of the performances in this film are good; Jack Lemmon's infectious energy is wonderful here and he really does get as much out of the role as he possibly could have done. MacMurray plays the slime-ball boss to perfection and MacLaine is OK, but does quite bring as much passion to the table as Lemmon or MacMurray. There are also some classic Wilder lines such as one of the girls (after spending the evening in Baxter's apartment) saying to one of Baxter's colleagues "Do you mean you bring other girls up here?" and Baxter's colleague replying "Certainly not I'm a happily married man".
All told, The Apartment was a bit of a disappointment and considering the hype that surrounds it I honestly expected a better film than what I saw. Whilst it clearly means well I just found that it had too much working against it for me to be able to enjoy it as much as many others do. To end on a positive note, I did like the fact that both Baxter and Fran were able to see the 'bigger picture' by the end of the film.
The Night Before (2015)
A yuletide version of The Hangover which is ruined by an overbearing amount of mush and sentimentality
Friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Isaac (Seth Rogen)and Chris (Anthony Mackie) are 30 something men who decide to spend the night before Christmas out on the tiles in New York City. Isaac is settled down now so this is intended as one last 'hurrah' for the men and when they hear about the best party in town known as the 'Nutcracker' they make it their mission to get to this party, but when you're high this seemingly straight-forward task becomes increasingly difficult for the three men.
Accepting from an early stage that this is nothing more than The Hangover at Christmas I was initially happy to take it for what it is and it actually begins OK. The three men are all at different stages in their lives and join together to try to re-live their glory years. I found I could identify with the men and was prepared to accept that a predictable journey of self-discovery was going to ensue for all of the men...
What I wasn't prepared for was just how much mush and sentimentality director and writer Jonathan Levine managed to cram into this film. Now don't get me wrong I'm prepared to accept that many Christmas films have some sentiment in them and I appreciate that Levine was trying to highlight the importance of love and friendship, but it felt like he had no real faith in his audience and it seemed that he had to spell out his message at virtually every single plot turn. Nearly every amusing moment and scene is rounded off with soppiness and morality and in themselves these things are not negatives, but when they're featured in nearly every scene it really starts to grate and become repetitive. I think the worst example of this was the weed-thief who despite being a self-proclaimed Grinch still had to have a sappy moment before the pretty amusing Die Hard parody that followed. It was like Levine was too frightened to take any risks and thought 'Oh no!!! I better put some sentiment in at the end of this scene in case I upset the audience.' I honestly don't believe I ever seen so much sap in one film and it really does drag the film down.
It's actually ironic that Levine loads his film with so much mawkish sentiment about love and friendship in order to get the audience to understand what Christmas is all about, but then crams the film with shameful amounts of product placement and advertisements which effectively commercialise Christmas which negates what Christmas is all about; seriously a stretch Limo with Red Bull plastered on the side of it in huge letters is hardly subtle not to mention the number of times Red Bull itself is mentioned and Anthony Mackie announcing that his Sony Experia phone is the biggest phone on the market. When scrutinised this all seems rather hypocritical.
Even if you overlook the mawkish sentiment and the ridiculous product placement the story is only really effective on odd occasions. The plot itself is incredibly thin and is painfully stretched over 90 odd minutes. It's actually past the hour mark before they reach the party and up to this point the narrative is rather scattershot and unfocused. The scene where Chris gets his weed stolen is actually repeated twice and Seth Rogen's drug-induced stupor is amusing at times, but again becomes a one-note concept that becomes repetitive and tiresome and Mackie and Gordon-Levitt are never really given any funny material to work with. One thing I will concede is that their friendship is generally believable which is one thing that does work in the film's favour.
The Night Before is at its best when it is parodying other films such as Big, Home Alone and Die Hard and its self-awareness like this that is one of its biggest strengths. It isn't a complete laugh-dodge either and there are some genuinely funny moments dotted about here and there - Michael Shannon as Mr Green is responsible for some of the best moments in the film and manages to be funny, but in a low-key and subtle way. However, the relentless mush and sentiment just gets too much and in some ways it shows a lack of bravery on Levine's behalf - it really could have been a great anti PC Christmas film like Bad Santa. The fact that it sells itself as a raucous film about three grown men getting wasted and off their face on drugs and then suffocating the film with sentiment ultimately results in a tonal clash which left me rather unsatisfied when the credits finally started rolling.