Posted on May 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness, drug references
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action-style comic peril and violence with some disturbing and grisly images, characters injured and killed, graphic medical procedure
Diversity Issues: Stereotyped portrayal of South Americans
Date Released to Theaters: May 12, 2017

Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox
Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox
Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer), pulls an old scrapbook out of the closet in her childhood home and leafs through old photos of her mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn). Like Emily, those images bring back memories of happier times and remind her how much she misses her once-adventuresome mom. Unfortunately, they also bring back our memories of better movies and how much we have missed Hawn’s irresistible effervescence in the 15 years since her last film. Schumer has been everywhere talking about how much she adores Hawn and how thrilled she was to get a chance to co-star with her in “Snatched,” directed by Jonathan Levine (“50-50,” “The Wackness,” “The Night Before”), and written by Katie Dippold (“The Heat,” “Ghostbusters”). It is too bad she relegated her to the dreary role of the risk-averse mother. And it is too bad that Schumer continues to relegate herself to the almost-as-dreary role of the immature, millennial.

Emily gets both fired and dumped (both for good reason) just as she is about to take a vacation in Ecuador, so she retreats to her childhood home, where her agoraphobic brother (Ike Barinholtz) still lives with her divorcee mother, whose character traits come straight out of the cliche drawer: she sips white wine, loves her cats, has four locks on her front door, does not know the difference between a private message and posting on a Facebook wall and needs help unlocking the CAPS key. And Schumer’s Linda is the same self-centered and childish but raunchy character we’ve seen Schumer play too many times already. Emily is too careless. Linda is too careful. Got it? The opening crawl warns us that the movie will feature “violence, mayhem, and a reckless disregard for human life…the kidnappers did bad stuff, too.” So, another “Hangover” variation in the jungles of South America (but filmed in Hawaii).

How does Emily persuade the hyper-cautious Linda to go to Ecuador with her? Wheedling and guilt don’t work, but the magic word is “nonrefundable ticket.” (“Put the ‘fun’ in ‘nonrefundable!'”) So the next thing they know, they are at an elegant resort, where, just to make sure we did not miss the point, Emily lounges by the pool in a bikini and Linda comes out dressed, as Emily points out, like the sun-sensitive character in “Powder” — or a beekeeper. And she slathers sun block on Emily like she’s a toddler.

Emily and Linda get kidnapped for ransom, bicker, escape, get captured again, bicker, escape, etc. Pretty much every South American is a servant or a criminal. The State Department is useless. There are pratfalls and shoot-outs and one very disgusting medical procedure. Various encounters along the way are funny in the usual raunchy comedy mode, especially Christopher Meloni as a khaki-wearing guide who is up for adventure but maybe not up to it, and the invaluable Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as American tourists with some special ops skills. The movie would have been better if it was about them.

Parents should know that this film includes very explicit sexual references and crude humor, very strong language, brief nudity, graphic medical treatment, extended peril and violence, some humor about mental illness and disability, characters injured and killed (played for comedy), and some graphic and disturbing images.

Family discussion: Who changes more on the trip, Linda or Emily? Why is it hard for Emily to be nice to her mother?

If you like this, try: “Trainwreck” and “Inside Amy Schumer”

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Comedy Gross-out Movies

Why Him?

Posted on December 20, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Copyright 20th Century Fox
Copyright 20th Century Fox

If you go to see “Why Him?” you will ask yourself, “Why Me?”

Some of the people behind “Meet the Parents” had the idea of basically making the same movie all over again. Of course they made it all over again twice with the sequels, but hey, this time let’s try a twist! How about if the dad is the normal one and it is the prospective son-in-law who is outrageous! And maybe if we have extended scenes of Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally sitting on toilets, and enjoying it, and the cast getting drenched in moose urine, no one will notice that it is not actually funny. Believe me, I noticed. Over and over and over again.

Cranston plays Ned Fleming, a nice guy who loves his family. We first see him celebrating his birthday with his wife Barb (Mullally), teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck), and the employees of his printing business, who are like family, too. Ned’s daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch of “Everybody Wants Some!!”) Skypes in from her dorm room at Stanford. Her boyfriend, not realizing anyone can see her, comes into her room and takes his clothes off, thus letting Ned know, in front of all his friends, that she has a boyfriend with whom she has sex. So we’re in that skeezy category of films going back to “Take Her She’s Mine” and “The Impossible Years,” in which daddies are obsessed with their daughters’ sex lives.

It turns out that Stephanie’s beau is a daddy’s nightmare. Not only are they having sex, but Laird (James Franco)’s youth, sexuality, and wealth (he is a tech zillionaire) makes Ned feel emasculated and he hates not being Stephanie’s number one guy anymore. This come just as Ned has not told anyone that his business is doing poorly

The family goes to California to spend Christmas with Stephanie, and everything they learn about Laird just makes Ned feel more anguished. But have no feel — at some point following the moose urine and Japanese toilet jokes, there will be hugs all around.

Franco commits fully to the man-child Laird, and his charm and movie star smile makes up for some of the most appalling elements of the storyline and even gives us a hint of what Stephanie might see in him. Keegan-Michael Key adds some spark as Laird’s concierge/best friend, and there are a couple of clever lines. But disgusting and outrageous does not equal funny, no matter how much moose urine you pour onto it.

Parents should know that this film includes extremely crude and explicit humor including sexual references and situations and bathroom jokes, very strong and crude language, drinking, drugs, comic peril and violence.

Family discussion: How does your family treat the people who date its members? How were Laird and Ned alike?

If you like this, try: “Meet the Parents”

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Comedy Gross-out

Office Christmas Party

Posted on December 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity
Profanity: Very strong, crude, explicit, and graphic language throughout
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drugs (played for comedy)
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence with some injuries
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 9, 2016

Copyright 2016 Paramount
Copyright 2016 Paramount
Not since “Snakes on a Plane” has there been a movie whose title so clearly explains exactly what the premise is and what the audience should expect. Indeed, star T.J. Miller (“Deadpool,” “Silicon Valley”) has said in interviews that he took the role based on the title alone (and his past relationship with the directors), without ever reading the script. And, honestly, it does not matter to its intended audience. They just want to see comic, outrageous, chaos, and that is just what this movie delivers, with an all-star cast of top comic talent. Each gets a chance to show off, and, as slob comedies go, this one has a winningly sweet heart.

Clay (Miller) runs the Chicago office of his late father’s software business. Well, “runs” is perhaps not quite the correct term. He more or less presides over it, in a benign but bro-ish way. The actual grown-up supervision is performed by Josh (Jason Bateman), a very responsible guy, but subdued following his divorce. And the actual productivity falls to Tracey (Olivia Munn), a coding genius.

Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) is the tough, smart, no-nonsense boss of the whole enterprise and she intended to shut down Clay’s all-nonsense, money-losing branch. She cancels the Christmas party and tells Clay everyone will be laid off unless he can land a $14 million new client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Other characters in the office include Clay’s assistant Allison (“SNL’s” Vanessa Bayer), a single mom and sort of office mom, too, fussy HR head Mary (“SNL’s” Kate McKinnon), office complainer Jeremy (Rob Corddry), new hire Fred (Randall Park), and a manager named Nate (Karan Soni) whose staff is convinced he is lying about having a hot model girlfriend and has challenged him to bring her to the party.

You can guess where it goes from here, and you know whether that is your idea of fun or whether you’d prefer to stay home and re-watch “A Christmas Story” or whatever cinematic eggnog is on the Hallmark Channel. “Gets out of hand” does not begin to convey the extent of the very bad choices made by all involved, with intentional and unintentional abuse of substances, and — an update to the traditional photocopying of body parts — using a 3D printer for a full-size model. There’s a chase, some bad romance, some better romance, and a trip to the hospital. Jillian Bell, as always, is a highlight, essentially repeating her “22 Jump Street” role. This time, instead of a drug dealer, she’s a pimp.

Perhaps the best that can be said is that it is more fun than any actual office Christmas party.

Parents should know that this film is a very raunchy comedy with explicit sexual references, situations, and male and female nudity and kinkiness, crude language, drinking and drunkenness, drugs, and comic peril and violence with some injuries.

Family discussion: Would you want to work for Josh or Clay? Why was Carol jealous of Clay?

If you like this, try: “Old School” and “The Night Before”

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Comedy Gross-out Movies

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 5:45 pm

mike and dave2So, two bros — literal, biological bros and bros in the bro-iest of spirits — advertised on Craigslist for wedding dates. This being America, that got them on talk shows, which led to a book deal, which led to a movie starring four of of Hollywood’s funniest young stars. Your ability to appreciate the result of this unstoppably bro-tastic marketing juggernaut will depend entirely on your tolerance for bro humor. Be warned; mine is pretty low. Your mileage may vary.

Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) love each other and their family. They love their life of awesome parties and wild hijinks. But their parents and sister Jeannie (Sugar Lyn Beard) stage an intervention. Jeannie is getting married in Hawaii and she would like them to tone it down, so she can have an elegant, civilized celebration, nothing requiring ambulances, fire engines, or lawyers.

They come up with an idea. The worst problems seem to occur when Mike and Dave are trying to impress or party with girls. If they can find some “nice, respectable, smart girls” to accompany them to the wedding as their dates, it will have a calming effect. So, committed to #doingitforjeannie but with no idea of where to find such nice stable ponies, they of course turn to the place one goes to find used furniture, Craigslist, leading to the Wendy Williams Show, where they are spotted by Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick), two girls who are as irresponsible and wild as the brothers. But of course they have to hide that to appear suitable for this occasion and thus get two free tickets to a lavish party in Hawaii. “We’re going to flip the script and Bachelorette that s***.”

Okay, we all know where this is going. Lots of mayhem. Lots of substance abuse and outrageous behavior. An ATV stunt that leaves the bride looking like “burn victim Barbie.” An intimate massage. Many inappropriate comments to various wedding attendees.

But “oh, no, they didn’t” comedy about irresponsible and grossly inconsiderate behavior only gets you so far, even in a gorgeous setting. Four of the most talented, appealing, and very funny performers anyone could hope for cannot make what is essentially a 10-minute sketch into a movie.

Parents should know that this film has extremely graphic adult material with very crude sexual references and explicit situations, comic peril and violence with some injuries, drinking, drugs, and very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: What makes someone a good wedding date?  Why was it so hard for Mike and Dave to behave themselves?

If you like this, try: “Wedding Crashers,” “American Pie,” and “Saving Silverman”

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Comedy Gross-out Inspired by a true story

The Boss

Posted on April 7, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Copyright 2016 Universal
Copyright 2016 Universal
Here is what Judd Apatow and Paul Feig know that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone do not: a character can be hilariously obnoxious or endearing but not both, even when played by the irresistible McCarthy. Apatow and Feig have made the best use of Melissa McCarthy’s endless comedic talents, and it is instructive to see how they did it. In “Bridesmaids” (produced by Apatow, directed by Paul Feig), McCarthy played a strange woman with some social deficits but capable (she was right about the air marshall, played by Falcone, who is her husband and co-screenwriter and director of “The Boss”), loyal and self-aware. In “Spy,” written and directed by Feig, McCarthy is awkward and deferential, but she is capable and brave, and she knows it. In “This is 40,” McCarthy has a small role as an angry mother complaining about the main characters’ child. Her fearlessness and improvisational skills, highlighted in a post-credit sequence, were a highlight of the film.

She gave a thoughtful performance in a dramatic role as a single mother in “St. Vincent,” and she was wonderful as a cheerful chef in “Gilmore Girls.” But in other films, including “Identity Thief,” “Tammy,” and now “The Boss,” McCarthy makes the fundamental mistake of committing to an obnoxious character given to outrageous and inappropriate behavior and then insisting that by the end of the movie the other characters and we in the audience have to love her. If she wants to play characters like that, the narrative of the movie has to be about thwarting or triumphing over her in some way. But she can’t insult and cheat everyone for ninety percent of the movie and then expect us to hope for her to have a happy ending.

In “The Boss,” McCarthy plays Michelle, the 47th-richest woman in America and the CEO of three companies, at least one of which seems to be either a shady multi-level marketing scheme or some sort of “let me show you how to be rich scam.” She comes out to screaming applause from a huge crowd to brag about her wealth. Nice touch: some of the audience wearing Michelle-style red pixie-cut wigs. Less nice touch: she raps along with T-Pain. Michelle is rude to everyone and ruthless in business to a ridiculously counterproductive degree. For example, she brags to her rival (and ex-boyfriend) that she is making a fortune based on some insider information, which he then reports to the SEC, and which then gets her thrown in jail, Martha Stewart-style.

Five months of a country-club prison equipped with tennis courts (and, apparently, a manicurist because she has professionally done French tips), Michelle discovers she has lost her jobs and all her money. She drags her Vuitton luggage over to the apartment of her level-headed former assistant, Claire (a game Kristen Bell), a single mom with a daughter named Rachel (Ella Anderson). When Michelle tastes Claire’s delectable brownies and sees Rachel’s Dandelions troop (think Girl Scouts or, more accurately, think Troop Beverly Hills), she sees her path to a return to moguldom.

McCarthy, swathed to the chin in turtlenecks that make her look like she is recovering from whiplash, gives herself a one-note role. She is mean, she cheats, she says wildly inappropriate things to children, and she is selfish to a sociopathic degree. Michelle the character and McCarthy the co-scriptwriter give those around her very little to do, criminally under-using Bell, Kathy Bates, Margo Martindale, and Kristen Schaal. Peter Dinklage, as Michelle’s former colleague and boyfriend-turned rival is a bright spot, having a lot of fun going way over the top with pretentiousness, competitive fury, and lust. There’s an “Anchorman”-style rumble between the raspberry beret-topped brownie girls and their cookie-selling former troop. There’s a clever joke about finding just the right place to sell the brownies and there are a couple of very funny lines. But Michelle wears out her welcome very quickly and the resolution is unearned and cloying.

NOTE: There is an “unrated” DVD release. It is hard to imagine how much more offensive it could possibly get.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive strong and crude language, often directed at children, very crude sexual references, drinking, drugs, and comic peril and violence.

Family discussion: How did Michelle’s childhood experiences affect her relationships and priorities? What were the qualities that made her successful in business?

If you like this, try: “Spy” and “Bridesmaids”

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Comedy Gross-out Scene After the Credits
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