Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Batchin' Movie Reviews: Schmucks, Land of the Lost, Devil

Last week was spring break, and my wife took the kids to go see the in-laws.  So for a few days, I was batchin' it.  Sometimes when this happens, I'll go rent movies I know my wife will hate, which means they are usually either really bad movies or some kind of horror flick.  The movies I saw this time were Dinner for Schmucks (yuck), Land of the Lost (okay), and Devil (fun).

Dinner for Schmucks did have a few funny moments, most of which were in the previews.  But overall, this movie tries to take What About Bob? and stretch it to its furthest reaches.  That is, it attempts to make the most annoying characters ever created.

This is also yet another one of those movies where the "stupid" people really aren't stupid, and the "normal" people are plain jerks.  Despite Carell's usual funny performance, the writing was plain awkward.  In some moments, Carell's character is oblivious to what's going on around him, and in other moments, he's insightful and even considerate.  How confusing!

I totally despised Lucy Punch's character.  She was so painfully annoying, it wasn't even funny.  Then again, since they were going for annoying, I'd have to say that Lucy did an excellent job.

I did find the Obi Wan Kenobi character (Zach Galifianakis) to be funny.  "I release you."

Paul Rudd was also funny as the main "I can't help my hopeless situation" character.

There were also some particularly disturbing scenes that I think were meant to be funny, but I couldn't seem to get over the "that's horrible - I wouldn't wish that on anyone" feeling to laugh.  And I'm actually a fan of dark humor.  If you want to see dark humor done well, watch the French movie Delicatessen.  If you want to see it done poorly, watch Dinner for Schmucks.

I had more fun with Land of the Lost, because:
  • I was a fan of the original series; 
  • I love Saturday Night Live humor;
  • I love potty humor (which I suppose fits in with the SNL thing);
  • and I like Will Ferrell (again SNL).
This is certainly a terrible movie.  I'd add this to my "guilty pleasures" list.  That is, I know it's bad, but I'll watch it when nobody's looking.  This includes the Bill and Ted movies, Dude Where's My Car, and most any Mel Brooks movie (some of which also happen to be very good).

The movie had plenty of jokes referring to the original series.  Some jokes were done once too many times - example: they worked in the original theme song twice when once would have been sufficient.  There were also a couple of scenes that made me think, "Am I still watching a movie?"

Nevertheless, it had plenty of funny stuff to keep me laughing.

I can't believe they got Matt Lauer on there.  That was pretty funny.

What confused me the most is that this movie is NOT for kids.  You don't believe me?  For example, in an early scene, Holly introduces herself to a primate by placing her hands on her breasts and saying her name.  You can imagine what happens next.  Funny old joke - but not for kids.  Which begs the question:


The original show was for kids.  This movie could have also worked well for kids, if only the producers toned down the potty humor.  Older people wouldn't be interested in this movie.  That only leaves middle-aged people who caught the original when they were kids and who grew up with Saturday Night Live and like Will Ferrell.

Hmmm - I guess that's me.  Yes - guilty pleasure!

I'm still a little disappointed that Sid and Marty didn't reach out to a new generation of kids.  It also makes me wonder if H.R. Pufnstuf really did mean what we thought it meant!  Plus, should I even ask about The Far Out Space Nuts and Doctor Shrinker?

Finally, saving the best for last.  I thoroughly enjoyed Devil.  It's the first M Night Shyamalan-produced movie that wasn't actually directed by him.  Yet, the directing style is so similar.  The opening credits reveal the awesome cinematography that persists throughout the movie.  In particular, the viewer gets a wonderful sense of how tall the building is (I'm still trying to figure out exactly how they managed that).

The story feeds off of the South American legend of the "Devil's Meeting," in which the devil brings together some bad people and tortures them prior to taking their souls.  If you've seen the preview, you know it all happens in an elevator.  And if you're concerned that this movie is Waiting for Godot staged in an elevator, do not fear.  There is plenty of action happening outside of the elevator.

Some effects were a little cheesy.  And as for acting, there is plenty of the M Night trademark deadpan stare that Wahlberg made famous in The Happening:

But nevertheless, the movie had good dialogue, and good cinematography.  The people were believable.  The sounds when the lights go out are very disturbing.  The end result: the movie actually scared me briefly.  I can't wait to see the next two movies.

Movie #2 is supposed to be about a jury considering a supernatural case.
Movie #3 may be a sequel to Unbreakable.

Lastly, when I was done watching this movie, I turned the TV off.  I went into the other room, and came back five minutes later.  My TV screen was still on!  It was blue.  I reached up to turn it off again, and it wouldn't turn off!  I tried it one last time, and then it finally turned off.


And double lastly: when I got on the elevator at work the next day, and the door shut, I had one second of irrational fear, and then it was gone.

Cool, again!

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