‘Vice’ spot­lights Dick Cheney and other po­lit­i­cal power play­ers

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Movies This Week - BY JAY BOB­BIN

Re­cent his­tory can be a dicey thing to deal with in a movie if it’s not a doc­u­men­tary, since mem­o­ries of the ac­tual play­ers and sit­u­a­tions tend to be strong.

Writer and di­rec­tor Adam McKay takes that gam­ble with “Vice,” and since he’s a film­maker nor­mally con­cerned with com­edy, it shouldn’t come as much of a sur­prise that he takes a largely be­mused view of the rise of Dick Cheney – who would make a mark as the vice pres­i­dent serv­ing un­der Ge­orge W. Bush.

What’s as re­mark­able as the story told here is the trans­for­ma­tion of star Chris­tian Bale into Cheney, and it gen­uinely is a trans­for­ma­tion in the truest sense of the term: If you’re at all fa­mil­iar with Bale from his “Bat­man” turns or even “Amer­i­can Psycho,” you might shake your head in dis­be­lief at the no­tion that he could be turned into a be­liev­able Cheney. Af­ter see­ing “Vice,” you’ll shake your head in dis­be­lief that it’s ac­tu­ally achieved.

Be­ing able to con­vert Bale’s ap­pear­ance so ef­fec­tively helps “Vice” im­mensely, since the film also deals with Cheney’s younger years, at the start of his re­la­tion­ship with wife Lynne. In that part, Amy Adams also has her ses­sions with movie makeup, but the re­sult isn’t quite as pro­nounced as it is with Bale. Still, she has to cap­ture and main­tain the essence of Lynne Cheney – who re­ally was the woman be­hind the man, at least as “Vice” tells it – and the ac­tress does that typ­i­cally well.

She’s also a mea­sure of the fact that even though “Vice” is prin­ci­pally about Dick Cheney, more in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters sur­round him, which also ap­pears to be a big chunk of the point McKay wants to make. Com­ing off his Os­car win last year for “Three Bill­boards Out­side Ebbing, Mis­souri,” Sam Rock­well makes a col­or­ful sec­ond Pres­i­dent Bush with­out tip­ping into car­i­ca­ture, and Steve Carell comes very close to steal­ing the show as De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld ... who was some­thing of a “char­ac­ter” dur­ing his years of po­lit­i­cal ser­vice.

Chris­tian Bale

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