Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Benjamin Button' long but richly rewarding

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” loosely based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a visually exquisite fantasy about a man born old and who grows younger.

Where the story it was based on was a farce, the film is sober meditation on the process of living and a tragic love story. That makes the film seem awfully bleak. It isn’t. There are flashes of humor in the screenplay by Eric Roth that keep the film from being a complete downer.

Roth has written the scripts for “Munich,” “Ali” and “The Insider” among other films, but his most relevant work in connection with “Benjamin Button” is his adaptation of “Forrest Gump.” Both films focus on the life of one man, the people he encounters and ultimately the woman he loves.

The film is long — it clocks in at nearly three hours — and is slow. In a lot of cases these could be seen as criticisms, and for some people they will be negatives for the film, but patient viewers will be rewarded for their time. You want to spend time with the film's characters. As the film came to its conclusion, in spite of the length, I didn’t want it to end.

Benjamin Button is born a wrinkled infant with all the ailments of a not-well elderly man. As a child he is a wheelchair bound 80-year-old man. Early in the film Benjamin meets Daisy, a young girl around his true age that intrinsically can sense that he is not as old as he looks.

This sets up the film’s central love story as the two characters go their separate ways until they "meet in the middle” of their lives. Except for scenes where Benjamin is an infant and a child, Brad Pitt stars as the title character. Cate Blanchett stars as the adult Daisy. Both actors are in excellent form and Pitt’s performance needs to be seen to believe.

There are wonderful interludes before returning to the main love story. As Daisy goes off to become a dancer, Benjamin in his 20s/60s works on a tug boat that eventually is recruited for duty in World War II. His captain is played in by the wonderfully over-the-top and funny Jared Harris (“Igby Goes Down”).

In a nice sequence Benjamin has a short affair with a married woman (Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”) in London. There’s a lovely sequence set in France that plays like a self-contained short film on chance. There are strong, affecting performances from Jason Flemying (“Stardust”) as Benjamin’s father and Taraji P. Henson (“Talk to Me”) as Benjamin’s adopted mother.

On a technical level, the film is nothing short of astounding. The aging process for both Pitt and Blanchett is wholly convincing. For Pitt, in the early scenes, it is a seamless combination of computer enhanced visuals and make up. Not only does Pitt look 80, but he looks to be less than 5 feet tall. There’s never a moment you doubt it.

The director is David Fincher whose work, which includes, “Seven,” “Fight Club,” “Panic Room” and “Zodiac,” has always been visually compelling. This is his most ambitious project in terms of sheer scope and he delivers.

His detractors often accuse Fincher of relying to heavily on overly stylized visuals. In the past, he experimented with different visual trickery and he still is in “Benjamin Button,” but now it is less obvious and more subtle. The film begins in 1918 and goes on up through 2003. The period detail throughout always seem spot on.

The cinematography by Claudio Miranda paired with the art direction by Kelley Curley, Randy Moore and Tom Reta is often breathtakingly beautiful. Visuals like a sunset on a peer leave a lasting impression in the mind.

The film isn’t perfect. There’s a story frame involving Daisy’s daughter (Julia Ormond) reading Benjamin’s memoir to her mother on her deathbed. This is fine, but the detail that Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on the hospital feels unnecessary.

Some have complained that there is nothing to the Benjamin character beyond the extraordinary circumstances of his life. Benjamin seems content to just wait for the time when he can be with Daisy. It is a sad, but hopeful tale in many respects and in the end that’s what rings most true.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Say 'yes' to Carrey and Deschanel

Jim Carrey is a take him or leave him sort of performer. He has legions of fans who adore him, but maybe just as many who can’t stand him. For fans, “Yes Man” will be a pleasurable diversion, but it is unlikely to win over non-fans.

Carrey has been trying to balance his maniac comic side with more serious acting for about a decade now and has had found success as an actor with films like “The Truman Show” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” These are the rare films that win over the Carrey non-believers. But Carrey can’t stay away too long from broad comedy.

So, we have “Yes Man,” a comedy about a man so mired in self loathing that he says no to everything until a reluctant trip to a self-help seminar hands him a new philosophy to live by: say yes to every opportunity presented to him. Some have complained that this basic premise is a stale retread of “Liar, Liar,” but instead of a man forced to tell the truth, you have one forced to say yes.

The similarity is certainly undeniable, but Carrey seems most comfortable in vehicles with high concepts, whether it is a man being given the powers of God in “Bruce Almighty,” turning into a living cartoon in “The Mask,” erasing memories of a painful relationship in “Eternal Sunshine,” or being the unwitting star of a 24- hour TV show in “The Truman Show.” It is as if Carrey’s personality is so big, even when subdued, that it needs an equally big idea just to balance it.

The premise does admittedly have problems, clearly saying yes to everything could leave someone broke and homeless if the wrong series of yeses occurred, but everything comes up positive for Carrey — and in some cases that’s part of the joke.
Don’t apply logic to the film. The premise is merely a device to set up riffs on everything from bar fights to learning Korean. The film plugs along nicely and occasionally stumbles upon moments of inspiration, as when Carrey serenades a jumper (Luis Guzman) on a ledge with an unexpected, but perfect song.

“Yes Man” is essentially a romantic comedy dressed up with big a comedic device to hide that fact. The same was true of “Bruce Almighty,” but in that film Carrey’s female co-star, Jennifer Aniston, wasn’t asked to truly go toe to toe in verbal battle with Carrey.

Carrey is given a worthy romantic lead in Zooey Deschanel (“Elf”), who has a quirky, low-key sense of humor that is a perfect balance to Carrey’s more outrageous comedic touches. Their scenes together are what make “Yes Man” a success. They have an easygoing, believable rapport.

There is an 18-year age difference between the two actors, but it isn’t a distraction because they play off each other so well. Deschanel with her deadpan delivery seems older and wiser than she truly is, and when paired with Carrey’s youthful energy the age issue disappears.

Deschanel sings often in her films and released the album "She & Him" with musician M. Ward this year. In "Yes Man" she gets to sing again since her characters fronts a New Wave band whose songs are both funny and oddly catchy.
Carrey is surrounded by a very funny supporting cast that is allowed to grab some of the film’s biggest laughs. Veteran actor Terence Stamp only has a few scenes as the self-help guru who sends Carrey on his mission of yes — and he makes every one count.

As Carrey’s friends, Danny Masterson, Bradley Cooper and, especially, John Michael Higgins are all solid. Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”) is amusing as Carrey’s desperate-to-be-friends boss, who is constantly throwing themed parties. There is a good scene at a “Harry Potter” party.

Then there is Carrey himself. His performance falls somewhere in between his over-the-top comedic feats and his more low-key work. It is more or less what you expect from him and little more. I smiled throughout and laughed out loud several times. That was enough for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hard to stand this remake

To be perfectly blunt, the remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is dull, dull, dull. That’s right, that is three dulls, so in a way it is a bargain: Viewers get three times the boredom for the price of one ticket. How’s that for an endorsement?

In the original, an alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) arrived on Earth with his eight-foot robot Gort to bring a message of peace or else. This character didn’t care about the squabbles of humanity, but warned if our weapons were pointed toward space then “this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.”

In this new version, Keanu Reeves steps into the role of Klaatu, but this time his robot Gort is the size of a building and his message is an environmental one. Since “only a handful of planets are capable of sustaining complex life,” Klaatu, who represents a sort of intergalactic United Nations, can’t allow the human race to destroy the planet.

This Klaatu doesn’t come bearing a warning. He is willing to attempt talking to someone of authority, but when his request is dismissed by a narrow-minded secretary of defense (Kathy Bates), he gives up this pursuit and sets off to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth.

It is too bad there wasn’t a genuine filmmaker with a true vision behind this film because the idea of a remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is not a bad one. The update in the message is relevant, but the execution is all wrong.

Remakes don’t need to be exercises in futility. Steven Spielberg’s remake of “War of the Worlds,” while not perfect, at least had moments that thrilled and created a mood. Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” was perhaps too long, but had heart, humor and scares. A talented director can do a remake well.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” has Scott Derrickson, whose directing credits include “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Hellraiser: Inferno.” He drenches the film with a visual sameness that just sits on the screen daring you to fall asleep.

As was true with the original, Klaatu goes out into the world to interact with humanity. In both films Klaatu becomes closest to a widow and her son, played in the update by Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness”).

The original was very much about these interactions, but in the remake they are never given a chance to develop as they are constantly being intercut and undermined with how the American government and military are responding to this threat.

Much of the new film’s screen time is given to Smith, and his character is an obnoxious brat. In 1951 the boy was precocious and befriended Klaatu; today he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to kill Klaatu. Oh, how times have changed.

The middle part of the film is Connelly’s attempt to convince Klaatu that humanity can change if given a chance. Unfortunately, aside from one good and all too brief scene with John Cleese as a Nobel Prize winning professor, this chunk of the film is largely uninteresting with strained, repetitive dialogue and a slow pace.

The final act gives over to special effects that aren’t that special. We’ve seen mass destruction of the planet on the screen too many times over the last decade or so and this film offers nothing new. So even as a spectacle the film fails to excite.

Reeves is often accused of being a wooden actor, but given this reinterpretation of Klaatu as cold and emotionless, this complaint actual works to the advantage of the performance. Reeves dials down even more than usual to the point of, at times, being overly subdued, but had the film around him been stronger, his performance would have been more effective.
It doesn’t help that Klaatu has been given special powers that allow him to manipulate electrical devices. There are a couple moments that can’t help but recall “The Matrix,” which makes it seem like all Reeves is doing is once again playing a variation on his Neo character.

Connelly is a fine actress and she brings a lot to the film in terms of class and credibility, but she’s given little to do. She more or less has to play the same two or three scenes over and over again.

The film would have been greatly improved if it were half an hour shorter. It would still need a drastic rewrite to be a good film, but at least it would have been improved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Year's resolution: Improve your moviegoing habits

As we enter 2009 it is time to look forward. Each new year is a clean slate, a chance to right the wrongs of the previous year. It is once again time for New Year's resolutions.

Money has gotten tight for everyone and some things need to be changed to make the dollar stretch. Frivolous follies of the past must be cut back or removed altogether. So where does that leave moviegoing?

Entertainment is always necessary as a means of escape and comfort, so by no means should seeing or renting movies be removed from a budget, but moviegoing habits may need to be altered. In 2009 make a resolution to become a better filmgoer.

Going out to see a movie, a especially as a family, can be an expensive endeavor, so do your research. If you are only going to see one movie over several weeks or months make sure it is the right one. Read several reviews for a movie that has peaked your interest. Make a point to read a sampling of negative and positive reviews because a negative review may reveal a fault that you might not see as a bad thing, in fact it may be exactly what you are looking for. A great resource for this is the Web site Rotten Tomatoes (, which compiles reviews of a given film and gives a percentage of good to bad reviews.

If you haven't yet, sign up for NetFlix or Blockbuster online. Both services provide home delivery of DVDs for a monthly fee. Depending on the plan you sign up for you can get movies one, two or three at a time and no restriction on the number of movies sent. Best of all there are no late fees. There is a benefit of going to a video store, namely browsing, but the cost of renting is too much. So, go to a video store for browsing purposes and make a list of films to put on your NetFlix or Blockbuster queue at home.

Video stores are a valuable resource for buying films cheaply. Instead of rushing out to buy a movie the week it comes out on DVD wait a month or two for it to show up in the previously viewed bin in video stores. DVDs that were selling for $20 to $30 will be half, or even a third of the price.

My biggest tip: avoid direct-to-DVD sequels. These are made to do one thing and one thing only: take your money by banking on the goodwill a popular title has built. Disney is notorious for this. How can you tell if a sequel has gone direct to DVD? There are clues. The first heads up should be that you heard nothing about it because, obviously, it never made it to theaters.

Another hint will be none of the actors of the original are in it. If one of the actors does appear it is because he or she is a washed up former star desperate for a paycheck. The most recent offender: Corey Feldman in "Lost Boys: The Tribe." A previous offender: C. Thomas Howell in "The Hitcher 2: I've Been Waiting." Even if the thought, "Oh, I liked the first one" pops into your head, don't be fooled.

Actually, let me be more specific, make it a rule to not rent or buy anything that does direct to DVD, even if it has big stars. More often than not there is a reason it skipped a theatrical release. Save your money.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A forgotten Christmas classic just 'around the corner'

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a Christmas standard along side such films as “A Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Christmas Story,” but it is not the only Christmas themed Jimmy Stewart film available. “The Shop Around the Corner,” released in 1940, is a warm, funny romantic comedy that is just as worthy of being a Christmas classic.

“Shop Around the Corner” is set in a department store in Budapest around Christmas time and is about anonymous pen pals (Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) who are falling in love, but unknowingly work together and hate each other.

This basic premise was the inspiration for 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In that film the pen pals, now communicating via e-mail, don’t work together, but are working for competing bookstores, one a small independent, and the other a corporate book store not unlike Barnes and Nobles.

In both films, it is the male lead who first finds out the true identity of their pen pal and must find a way to deal with getting the written relationship and real relationship onto the same page.

The script by Samson Raphaelson, based on a play by Miklos Laszlo, is full of witty barbed exchanges and fast paced dialogue. After Stewart finds out Sullavan is his true love, at least on page, while she is still unaware, her put downs gain an extra sting.

When Sullavan tells Stewart: “I really wouldn't care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I'd find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag; instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter, which doesn't work,” it is enough to break your heart.

The film has plenty of great scenes. A personal favorite is when Sullavan tells Stewart what she’s going to get her pen pal for Christmas and to Stewart’s horror it is something he can’t stand. Stewart sends in a fellow employee, the likable Felix Bressart, to convince her otherwise. The punch-line to this scene is classic.

“Shop Around the Corner,” much like “It’s a Wonderful Life” has some darker themes. Both films feature a character who attempts suicide. It is this willingness to go to a dark place that makes “Shop Around the Corner” superior to “You’ve Got Mail,” but the film is by no means a downer. Quite the opposite, like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it buoys the spirit.

The film’s department store setting will be all too familiar to anyone who has worked retail, especially during the holiday season. Even though the film is approaching its 70th anniversary it is hardly dated. Sure the prices are far cheaper than they are now, but when it comes to sales, some things never change.

Stewart and Sullavan’s charming central performances are surrounded by a delightful set of supporting characters. The most familiar of the supporting cast is Frank Morgan, who will forever be remembered as the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. Morgan plays the owner of the department store and for those who are only familiar with his most famous role it is a real treat to see him in a role with more screen time.

William Tracy as Pepi, the sharp tongued errand-boy, is a scene stealer. For much of the movie, Tracy’s Pepi has to hold his tongue because of his lowly position, but when he is promoted to clerk he let’s his mouth run free with some very funny results.

It is hard not to stop smiling during the final scenes of the film. Even before Stewart and Sullavan inevitably get together, there is a genuinely uplifting scene between Morgan and another character that truly captures the spirit of the holiday season.

A different sort of 'Carol'

The Resort Players' present the American debut of 'Carol's Christmas'

Charles Dickens’ perennial “A Christmas Carol” has been performed, parodied and adapted countless times. Even Mickey Mouse and the Muppets have taken on the classic. The Resort Players of Mount Washington Valley has done traditional versions of the tale three times in the past, but this year the company took a different approach by presenting “Carol’s Christmas,” a modern twist on the old favorite.

“Carol’s Christmas,” by Canadian playwright Kathleen Oliver, made its United States debut at the Eastern Slope Playhouse in North Conway, N.H. Dec. 5 and is continuing its run with performances Dec. 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee Dec. 14.

The show falls somewhere between parody and homage in updating the story to be about Carol Dixon (Rae Evelyn McCarey), a shock radio DJ with a cold heart. The update is closest in spirit to the TV movie “A Diva’s Christmas Carol” or Bill Murray's “Scrooged,” but without quite the same level of irreverence.

Dickens’ purists may be disappointed to discover the ghosts of Christmas past and present don’t make their usual appearances. The ghost of Christmas past has been replaced with a flashback.

The ghost of Christmas present essentially makes an appearance, but without that title, instead the role is filled by Carol’s late father (Tom O’Reilly). This proves to be a pleasing variation that adds some tenderness to the exchanges between the spirit and Carol.

The ghost of Christmas future is present in all his Grim Reaper-esque glory. Carol’s interactions with this spirit are among the funniest in the show. One entirely unexpected moment provides the production with its biggest laugh.

The largest departure from the Dickens story is that Tiny Tim has been replaced with a sassy grandmother, hilarious played by Karen O’Neil. The rest of the show more or less plays out the same as a more traditional version — just with the details slightly altered.

As with any spin on “A Christmas Carol,” the success of the production falls squarely on the actor in the Scrooge role. McCarey, who also appeared recently in “Bash” and “Fall of the House of Usher,” is in great form. She brings the appropriate level of cynical sarcasm when she is supposed to be on the radio and transfers that energy well into outright meanness when she is off the air. McCarey seems to be a natural comedian with great timing.

The rest of the large cast is equally solid. Highlights include Stacy Sand as Marlene, the Jacob Marley character of the show, and Mary Bastoni-Rebmann, Natasha Repass and Gus Owen as Carol’s mother, sister and brother. Repass has a very amusing bit early in the show when caroling.

The only glaring flaw of the production is a slideshow of pictures of McCarey as Carol. It is unclear what the purpose of the slideshow is. Is it meant to create pathos? Laughter? It does neither. Coming late in the second act, it brings the show to a halt, but this is only a few minutes in an otherwise entertaining show.

The production, directed by Dennis O’Neil, is well staged and paced with an effective radio studio set design also by O’Neil. The lightning design by Christopher S. Chamber is suitably moody when necessary.

The use of swing-inspired Christmas music by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy before the show and during the intermission is a nice touch. Make sure to stay after the curtain call for a little bonus.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Merry Subversive Christmas: More songs to help survive the holidays

Two years ago I provided a list of songs to counterbalance the oh-so-cheery holiday music that saturates airwaves and blares out of the speakers of retail hell. Now, the holiday season is upon us once again so I bestow upon you five more subversive holiday songs. These songs are at times cynical, maybe a little mean, but you can only take so much forced goodwill before you snap.

"Father Christmas"- The Kinks (1977)
Although this is a radio favorite, don't be fooled into thinking this is your run-of-the-mill Christmas carol. Leave it to The Kinks, the same band that sang about an encounter with the transvestite "Lola," to write a song about mugging Santa. Ray Davies' sunny delivery masks the nastiness in lyrics such as "Father Christmas, give us some money/Don't mess around with those silly toys/Well beat you up if you don't hand it over."

"Christmas in Heaven" - Monty Python (1983)
"Monty Python's Flying Circus" and the spin-off series of films were always filled with loopy songs that often pointed out the hypocrisies or the idiosyncrasies of society. The comedy troupe's final film "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life" culminated with a trip to heaven where it is Christmas every day. The late Graham Chapman as an over-the-top lounge-lizard sings a caustic song about the consumerism and commercialism that runs rampant during the holiday season that includes lyrics like: "There's great films on TV/"The Sound of Music" twice an hour/And "Jaws" one, two, and three."

"Christmas at Ground Zero" - "Weird Al" Yankovic (1986)
Weird Al's song parodies are usually goofy and innocuous, but Al also has a macabre and twisted sense of humor that occasionally shines through. Written in 1986, "Christmas at Ground Zero" is a biting satire on Cold War paranoia filtered through the sound of a festive holiday tune. Are lines like: "It's Christmas at ground zero/There's panic in the crowd/We can dodge debris while we trim the tree/Underneath the mushroom cloud" riotously funny, or simply in bad taste? You be the judge.

"Little Drum Machine Boy" - Beck (1996)
"The Little Drummer Boy" gets morphed into an odd dance and rap flavored Chanukkah anthem featuring "the holiday Chanukkah robot of funk." Beck is a chameleon-like musician who jumps to and blends different genres with amazing skill. It is hardly traditional, but certainly original and memorable. It needs to be heard to believe.

"Mr. Heat Miser" - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (2004)
The song first appeared in the 1974 stop-motion animation special "The Year Without Santa" and also features the song sung by the Heat Miser's chilly counterpart the Snow Miser. In the special Mrs. Claus tries to convince the feuding offspring of Mother Nature to help a sick Santa. Thirty years later the swing revival group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy recorded the definitive version of the song for their holiday album "Everything You Want for Christmas."

'Four Christmases' good for a few laughs

Christmas has many traditions: the Christmas tree, egg nog, mistletoe, stockings hung with care, cookies and milk left out for Santa and so on. “Four Christmases,” following on the heels of last year’s “Fred Claus,” may be the beginning of a new tradition: the annual Vince Vaughn Christmas comedy.

Each year there is a new onslaught of holiday themed movies, the vast majority of which are mediocre at best. Occasionally a new classic, such as 2003’s “Elf” or 1994’s “The Santa Clause,” will emerge but more often than not these films are disposable and utterly forgettable.

“Four Christmases” is hardly a classic, but it does have several laugh-out-loud moments for those who appreciate Vaughn’s fast-talking shtick. Vaughn has been playing an unchanging comedic persona for several years now. No matter the film, you get the same thing and that’s fine. He’s very good at what he does and provides the film with all its best laughs.
The premise has Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon getting caught in the act of trying to skip out on Christmas with their families for a trip to Fiji. Since both sets of parents are divorced it means they must celebrate four Christmases in one day.

The film starts out with Vaughn and Witherspoon in a relationship where neither has any desire to get married or have kids because they’ve seen what happened to their parents. Early in the film, Vaughn has a great caustic rant explaining why marriage ruins a relationship that is very funny.

As the film progresses it loses its cynical edge and succumbs to the mechanism of a holiday message film. The film doesn’t even try to be subtle about the change of heart of its characters. At each Christmas, Witherspoon must hold a baby and naturally it stirs her maternal instinct even though she knocks one baby’s head against a cabinet and another pukes on her.

Another reoccurring theme that is forced into otherwise fine comedic scenarios is that Vaughn and Witherspoon don’t really know each other after dating three years. This is most awkwardly presented during a scene featuring the word association game Taboo. Simply because this is a holiday film doesn’t mean a message of the importance of family must be shoved down the viewer’s throat.

Witherspoon is a fine comedienne, just look at “Election” or “Legally Blond” for evidence and while she gets some laughs here, the film undermines her performance by requiring her to spend much of the film pained at the realization of the error of her ways.

The film would’ve been much stronger if it had the courage to stay the course of its original convictions. “Bad Santa” was a rude, crude and unapologetically coarse comedy that stayed that way throughout and it worked. Even when it did get to a message of holiday cheer it wasn’t in a manner that compromised its characters.

Of the four families, the first is probably the funniest. Man’s man Robert Duvall has named each of his son’s after the city they were born. Denver and Dallas (Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw) are semi-professional ultimate fighters who mercilessly beat on Vaughn. This is particularly funny after Vaughn gives a speech on respecting boundaries.

Vaughn and Favreau were both put on the map by 1996’s “Swingers” and the real life friends have appeared together on camera again in “Made” and “The Break-Up.” It is always nice to see these two share the screen and their scenes together are some of the film’s best.

The second Christmas, featuring Mary Steenburgen (“Elf,” “Step Brothers”) as a born again Christian also scores some good laughs especially when Vaughn and Witherspoon are forced to star as Joseph and Mary in a Christmas pageant.

The biggest disappoint of the film is that the parents are all played by top actors. In addition to Duvall and Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight also appear. These are acting powerhouses that are required to do very little. Even Witherspoon is an Academy Award winner, not that this needs to be an Oscar-worthy film, but given the caliber of the actors, you can’t help be let down that they don’t have stronger material.

This review is coming off as fairly harsh. The bottom line is if you see the film you will laugh, it is just too bad that the film holds itself back. There is one very big laugh at the end, so at least you'll leave with a smile on your face.