Pitch Perfect makes no pretense at any sort of originality. You might generously call it a mashup of similar-genre films such as Bring It On, 8 Mile, and The House Bunny. So we have a mashup movie full of mashup songs — a mashup squared if you like. Not so generously, you could call it a straight but weak rip-off of Bring It On — just swap out cheerleading with a cappella singing and lower the directing skill and production value a few pegs.
Pitch Perfect begins by throwing you right into a singing competition, and rushes choppily forward. In a way it’s refreshing, but there’s also a lack of narrative ability here. Luckily, that’s not what this movie is about. Though utterly contrived, Pitch Perfect admits it. It knows what it’s about: fun singing performances and scattered light comic moments, some better than others. As a comedy it only half succeeds — largely based on the affection we have toward Anna Kendrick & Co., but whenever the actors sing, so does the movie.
So judging it strictly as a musical, Pitch Perfect is not nearly the success of Rock of Ages, but by spending enough of the running time in song, it succeeds. Jersey Boys failed because it didn’t focus on the music. Despite its narrative shortcomings, Pitch Perfect succeeds by knowing what it is: a musical. Just wish it had been as completely entertaining as Kendrick’s “Cups” video. Now available via iTunes rental. 6/10
Stupid, crude, banal, immature and… funny. I realize I run the risk of losing the respect of my readers — or worse, alienating you, and I know that Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa flies in the face of everything good cinema stands for, but what’s life without taking risks?
Yes Man (2008) is a joyous celebration of life, and a wonderfully fun romantic comedy. Jim Carrey has faded from the acme of stardom he once enjoyed, and this movie is a perfect example of that. It did not do nearly as well as his biggest hits such as Liar Liar and The Mask, and that’s a shame.
I’m a BIG fan of Jim Carrey, and I think a couple flops and serious roles in films like The Cable Guy and Man on the Moon alienated a dopamine-influenced audience who only wanted to see talking butt cheeks. There is a point in Yes Man when Carrey starts singing “Can’t Buy Me Love” on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. And he’s good. What an amazing talent he is.
Oh and Zooey Deschanel is great here too. She teamed up with the “all-girl electro soul-punk group” (Wiki) Von Iva to produce four great songs for the movie in the form of the band “Munchausen by Proxy”, and she is the perfect comic and romantic foil for Carrey.
If you’ve not seen it before, avoid Yes Man on TV. Besides the normal editing and interruptions that the movie would be subject to, it’s likely to have the final scene cut — another fun bit where Carrey and Deschanel send themselves careening down a hillside in roller suits. The “buggy rollin” is shown after the initial end credits, so keep it planted when you think the movie is done.
It’s apples and oranges, but I find it remarkable that Yes Man faced so many negative reviews while those same critics heaped praise on Pride. Talk about opposite world. 9/10
On a Ledge
I mentioned it in my post on Calvary, and further back in my “British Invasion” write-up, so let’s shine a light on Waking Ned Devine (1998). This movie doesn’t need to force its spirituality the way Calvary did. Now, the subject matter is completely different — there aren’t any weighty clerical matters to be tackled here, no sexual abuse cases. But it doesn’t matter; there’s still more depth, and a heck of a lot more entertainment value.
A complete delight, Waking Ned Devine sings with joy — the right way to spark religious fervor in my book.
Trailer (iTunes link)
I know, I’m being Captain Obvious here. And I also know these movies have been on TV like a gajillion times. And they’re a little juvenile and dumb. But guess what? They’re funny, and in a good-natured way. So I recommend all three. To celebrate our independence, and have some laughs doing it — have yourself a Friday Fun Flick for the Fourth. The Stifmeister would want you to.
Something to lighten up the mood after the Spalding Gray post — although Spalding Gray was no stranger to the comedy. But soitenly, a diff’rent flavor here…
I am not a big animated feature person, but I do love the Beavis. And the Butt-Head. And it’s no easy task converting a short-form animated TV program into a successful full-length movie, but Mike Judge knocked it out of the park with Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. It is a terrifically fun, spirited flick that even has a worthwhile plot structure, including the hilarious harassment of Mr. & Mrs. Anderson, the elder couple who always fall victim to B&B’s shenanigans.
The teaser trailer below is the best I could find — but it works well as a litmus test. If you don’t find it funny, you’ll want to pass on the movie. If you’re laughing like I did, you’ll find Beavis and Butt-head Do America to be an uproarious romp across the U.S.A.
Click for Teaser Trailer
I saw Welcome to the Dollhouse in the theater back in 1996, so my memory of it is not overly detailed, but it has stuck in my mind all these years later as an outstanding film that I had a lot of fun watching. Roger Ebert gave it his highest rating in his excellently-written review (I continue to be surprised at how all these great films from my past match up with 4-star Ebert evaluations):
Scene after scene, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” piles on its details, re-creating the acute daily misery of being an unpopular adolescent and remembering, too, how resilient a girl like Dawn can be–how self-absorbed, how hopeful, how philosophical, how enduring.
Dawn’s revenge, we hope, is that someday she will be rich, famous and admired, while the snotty little cheerleaders who persecuted her will have been sucked into the primeval slime of the miserable lives they deserve.
A refreshing little bright star of a movie, Welcome to the Dollhouse is a perfect celebration of the 90’s indie renaissance.