Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Love You, Man Review

Comedy is a very difficult thing to pull off. The balance between story and comedy is one that seems to be even harder to achieve than some of the most complicated dramas. The problem lies in the fact that comedy is often times so much more subjective than more dramatic elements. Yet, "I Love You, Man" pulls off quite an intricate balance between story and comedy despite the fact that the two often times do not quite work together.

After Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones), the realization occurs that he has no best man and no real guy friends in general. So after hearing his new fiance and her friends making fun of him, he begins a quest to find a best man to call his own. After a few mishaps, he finally seems to find a friend in Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and the resulting relationship begins to cause a few problems with his home life.

What is most interesting is the way in which the movie follows some of the normal romantic comedy conventions, yet applies them to a completely platonic friendship and it seems to work. While this has surely been done before, director John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly") and stars Rudd and Segel are able to keep you interested and laughing. Interestingly, much of the humor seems to exist in its own reality, separate from the needs of the story. Lately many movies under the Apatow brand name have the humor stem from the story situations themselves, "I Love You, Man" seems to break off into tangents at certain points providing plenty of laughter, but a slight disconnect from the story itself. This is certainly not a bad thing, as the two work together so effortlessly that it doesn't create any problems, but given that the story is serviceable on its own, it was an interesting dynamic to experience.

Rudd is absolutely hilarious as the nervous Peter, and some of the funniest moments happen when he literally talks gibberish in an attempt to sound cool. Many of these situations led to a brief moment of silence in the theater everyone tries to figure out what he just said, but the way in which it happens resulted in fits of laughter from just about everyone. And hopefully nobody spoils for you a completely random moment that occurs during a drinking scene near the beginning with Peter, which was possibly the most laugh out loud moment I've had in the theater in a long time. But regardless, the entire cast is excellent from Segel's laid back Sydney to Rashida Jones' Zooey, they all offer something great.

If there's one complaint to be had the movie slows up on a lot of the comedy toward the end, which seems to be the case in a lot of comedies. In an attempt to bring the story to its necessary conclusion, more focus is put on story than on laughter. But as the Catalina Wine Mixer taught us in last year's "Step Brothers", sometimes the crowning moment of the story can offer up plenty of laughs all on its own. The movie certainly picks up in the last few minutes, but there's a period of about 15-20 minutes that barely a chuckle was heard. And I like to chuckle.

I cannot seem to stress enough how excellent many of the comedies have been of the last couple of years. And "I Love You, Man" is no exception. Again it's a movie that has an R-rating and embraces that without being too raunchy or over the top. It's been a few months since a solid comedy has been released, but this is definitely one to see if you're looking for some great comedy. (No offense, Paul Blart. But let's be honest. You just weren't that funny.)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Knowing Review

Every so often a movie comes along that you feel if handled correctly, it can be something truly excellent and original. There seem to be signs that "Knowing" could have entered that realm, but in the end it is ultimately a movie with interesting ideas that, unfortunately, are not presented well. Without giving anything away, the uncompromising ending seems to be the foundation upon which the entire movie was built, but less attention was paid to the two hours preceding it.

"Knowing" stars Nicolas Cage as John Koestler, an astrophysicist at MIT (who apparently gives broad lectures that literally involve him defining the term "randomness", so it must not be that hard a school after all) whose son is the recipient of a message from his school's time capsule. The message, written 50 years earlier by a 3rd grader named Lucinda, ends up documenting every major disaster from the planet's history in a series of numbers. This leads John on a trail to attempt to stop the upcoming disasters listed on the paper.

Director Alex Proyas ("I, Robot", "Dark City") attempts to ground the movie in a type of reality, attempting to explain the occurances as a matter of science, but this ultimately rings hollow. Again, if the awareness of an event is achieved, then so does the ability to stop it. But I digress, as the movie is not trying to make that point. In fact, the movie does not seem to make much of a point at all, save for the peculiar ending. Instead, what is shown up on screen is essentially a mystery-thriller in which John makes every effort to prevent these future disasters. The problem with this is that there is essentially nothing he can do about them, giving the entire chase a pointless undercurrent. The action elements are rather impressive and are easily the most entertaining parts of the movie. This unfortunately should be some of the least impressive stuff in a movie that is primarily supposed to be science fiction.

Nicolas Cage again plays pretty much the same eccentric character that he always plays, which is not always a bad thing when he is given the right material. Unfortunately all the script requires him to do here is run from one place to the next and scream at people, offering little in the way of character. Sure there's a little subplot regarding his dead wife and his cemented belief in randomness, but it carries such little weight that the entire subplot just seems to serve mostly as filler for the character. The rest of the cast is adequate, but are given so little to do that it seems pointless to even mention them indvidually.

The film was not a complete waste of time, as it was certainly an engaging way to spend two hours and does present a few ideas that can make you think a little bit. But these are ideas that can be brought up without spending two hours watching a movie to allow you to reach that point. If only the movie had a little bit more focus on the science fiction aspect of the movie and less on the running around, it could have been one to remember. So while a mildly entertaining movie on its own merits, there is not much to recommend here and I certainly have no problem giving away the ending to you if you just want to save yourself the time and ask me straight away.