Funny for no ob­vi­ous rea­son

Kerrie Mur­phy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

IN the open­ing pages of High Con­cept: Don Simp­son and the Hol­ly­wood Cul­ture of Ex­cess , au­thor Charles Flem­ing de­tails the drugs that were found in 1980s Hol­ly­wood uber- pro­ducer Don Simp­son’s body at his au­topsy. It was a list that would hum­ble Elvis.

Whether, like Simp­son, Judd Apa­tow feels com­pelled to show up to his high school re­union in a he­li­copter with two Play­boy play­mates as his dates re­mains to be seen, but they do have two things in com­mon.

The first is that, like Simp­son and his one- time pro­duc­ing part­ner Jerry Bruck­heimer, Apa­tow is that rare thing in Hol­ly­wood: a pro­ducer with mar­quee ap­peal. Since pro­duc­ers are ba­si­cally the money men and women, they’re even less likely to be no­ticed by the av­er­age film­goer than a di­rec­tor whose sur­name isn’t Spiel­berg.

But just as Simp­son and Bruck­heimer’s names de­note a high- oc­tane mu­sic video of an action flick, an Apa­tow film sug­gests a cer­tain style of com­edy, some of which he di­rects ( Knocked Up, The 40- Year- Old Vir­gin ) but mostly he pro­duces ( Pineap­ple Ex­press , Su­per­bad , For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall ).

And the other thing that Apa­tow shares with Simp­son is a love of ex­cess. But in­stead of ex­cess in his per­sonal life ( as far as we know; maybe Apa­tow also calls his as­sis­tant in LA from a New York ho­tel room in the mid­dle of the night de­mand­ing a bagel be or­dered from room ser­vice), it’s up there on the screen in the I- can’tbe­lieve- they- went- there in­sults the char­ac­ters hurl at each other, the crude jokes and the ridicu­lous plot de­vel­op­ments.

Luck­ily, be­yond the supremely dirty jokes and an­tics, Apa­tow’s films also have a heart, with char­ac­ters you can’t help but like and a mes­sage that is far nicer than the bawdy con­tent would sug­gest.

Apa­tow’s Step Broth­ers re- teams Tal­ladega Nights: The Bal­lad of Ricky Bobby di­rec­tor Adam McKay with its stars Will Fer­rell and John C. Reilly. Tak­ing the over- par­ented, in­dulged gen­er­a­tion and the ven­er­a­tion of the man child to its lu­di­crous ex­treme, the pair play Bren­nan ( Fer­rell) and Dale ( Reilly), two un­em­ployed, Star Wars - loving 40- some­things who still live at home and find them­selves shar­ing a bed­room when Bren­nan’s mother Nancy ( Mary Steen­bur­gen, who looks aw­fully young for the role) mar­ries Dale’s fa­ther ( Six Feet Un­der ’ s Richard Jenk­ins).

The joke — that th­ese grown men act like 13- year- olds — is one note, but the pair play it so well that even though you may won­der how they’re go­ing to sus­tain a whole movie on this premise, it’s easy to go along for the ride. They both do petu­lance so well. Par­tic­u­larly amus­ing is Reilly’s abil­ity to cap­ture that cry­ing child who is so in­con­solable their words come out in breath­less bursts.

It’s not so much a com­edy as an as­sault on your fun­ny­bone — a friend de­scribed it as laugh­ing al­most against your will — and it’s clear that much of what is on the screen is there be­cause writ­ers Fer­rell and McKay found it funny, not be­cause it serves the plot. Step Broth­ers also paints it­self into a cor­ner, be­cause clearly the pair have to grow up, but not so much that they lose their charm.

Be­cause of that and be­cause, no mat­ter how fan­ci­ful this movie is, you still can’t quite be­lieve the par­ents are will­ing to al­low their sons’ be­hav­iour, I wouldn’t rec­om­mend this movie for peo­ple new to Apa­tow. Some­thing like Su­per­bad is much more ac­com­plished.

But fans should en­joy what they’ve come to ex­pect from th­ese movies: gross- out hu­mour, clever pop cul­ture ref­er­ences — in­clud­ing Billy Joel and Vanilla Ice — cameos from his reg­u­lar play­ers such as Seth Ro­gen and Ken Jeong, and things that are funny for no dis­cernible rea­son. I don’t know why ‘‘ F . . . ing Catalina WineMixer!’’ is amus­ing, ex­cept that it is.

And while Fer­rell and Reilly’s per­for­mances make Step Broth­ers worth watch­ing, spe­cial props go to Adam Scott as Bren­nan’s suc­cess­ful younger brother Derek. His por­trayal of the oily, name- drop­ping spiv chan­nels Tom Cruise in his scary stare- down sales­man mode and al­most steals the show. No mean feat when you’re up against Fer­rell and a drum kit.

* * * OF all the crimes that Paris Hil­ton and her ilk have in­flicted on the world, forc­ing me to have to de­fend own­ing a chi­huahua ranks at the top of the list.

It’s the breed’s un­for­tu­nate cos­tume- wear­ing, hand­bag- dog sta­tus that’s the fo­cus of Dis­ney’s Bev­erly Hills Chi­huahua. Chloe ( voiced by Drew Bar­ry­more) is a white chi with sur­pris­ingly un- bulgy eyes whose owner Viv ( an un­der- used Jamie Lee Cur­tis) pam­pers her be­yond the dreams of most hu­mans.

When Viv, who runs a suc­cess­ful cos­met­ics em­pire, heads over­seas on a busi­ness trip, she leaves Chloe in the hands of her un­re­li­able niece Rachel ( Piper Per­abo), who not only skips Chloe’s spa treat­ments but feeds her — gasp — dog food and takes her to Mex­ico, where she is im­prob­a­bly kid­napped by a dog- fight­ing gang. They soon re­alise she may be worth more for ran­som.

Mak­ing her es­cape with the help of a pro­tec­tive al­sa­tian ( voiced by Andy Gar­cia), Chloe must out­run the dog- fight­ing vil­lains and find her way home, while Rachel, Viv’s land­scaper Sam ( Colom­bian Manolo Car­dona in his first English- lan­guage role) and his pet dog, the non­pedi­gree chi­huahua Papi ( voiced by Ge­orge Lopez) try to find her.

The re­sult is pass­able kid­die en­ter­tain­ment. The com­puter- gen­er­ated im­agery varies from de­cent to ob­vi­ous and the sub­plot in­volv­ing the talk­ing rat and iguana feels like cute­ness overkill in a movie about talk­ing dogs.

The pre­dictable story may be enough to keep dog- ob­sessed chil­dren en­ter­tained, as­sum­ing they don’t get dis­tressed by the pups- in- peril as­pects, but for adults it’s only spo­rad­i­cally en­ter­tain­ing. Di­a­logue such as ‘‘ talk to the paw’’ is at least five years past the point of be­ing vaguely funny, but the movie works best on the grown- up front when it parodies the con­ven­tions of tra­di­tional action movies us­ing dogs. The scene fea­tur­ing the chi­huahua up­ris­ing is rather charm­ing as well.

Then there’s the eth­i­cal is­sue of mak­ing a chil­dren’s film glam­or­is­ing a breed of dog that is too frag­ile and tem­per­a­men­tal for small own­ers. Per­haps try­ing to avoid an­other 101 Dal­ma­tians — some an­i­mal res­cue groups re­ported a 25 per cent in­crease in sur­ren­dered dal­ma­tians in the year af­ter the film’s release as the ram­bunc­tious breed’s un­suit­abil­ity for chil­dren be­came ap­par­ent — Dis­ney has put a dis­claimer at the end of the film en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to re­search the breed and be pre­pared to make a life­long com­mit­ment be­fore adopt­ing any dog.

But a few words on the screen and the film’s mes­sage that the breed is not a play­thing is un­likely to di­min­ish the pester power of a lit­tle one who has just seen the adorable chi­huahua army run through Aztec ru­ins. And for that rea­son, this could be the worst thing since a cer­tain ho­tel chain heir to be in­flicted on the breed.

Par­ents trapped: Per­pet­ual ado­les­cents Will Fer­rell, left, and John C. Reilly share a bed­room in Step Broth­ers

Pre­dictable story: Piper Per­abo, Chloe and Jamie Lee Cur­tis in Chi­huahua

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.