“Dear White People” Review

Dear White People is one of the best films of 2014 because it tackles a new form of racism. The safe Ivy League campus of which the story takes place breeds the type of racism that is more subtle and creeps into your skin where it festers into an almost invisible hate. It’s easy to spot racism when it presents itself in the form of the Klu Klux Klan, Nazis, blackface, old-world stereotypes, slavery and “the big N.” Those are big targets easy enough for any reasonable person to nail with a palpable hit. It’s quite another thing to find a way to deal with racism in the form of media, elections, tribalism and romance. These are not so easy to spot and even harder to resolve. Perhaps they can never be resolved.

This becomes painfully apparent when one of the school chairs remarks that there is no more racism in America anymore (“except for Mexicans”). From his perspective, racism is dead especially for these privileged kids. He doesn’t spot any lynching, fragrant uses of the N word, banning others for their skin color or a vulgar play of stereotypes in sight. But racism doesn’t come in such simple packages and cannot be dismissed simply because the biggest issues have been quelled.

The film takes a look at the subject from a micro level, following four very different black students on campus. The centerpiece is Samantha White, the loud and proud racially-motivated radio host and filmmaking student. She writes a book of black people observations on what makes a positive African American role model and what constitutes a walking stereotype. Her initial film project is The Rebirth of a Nation, a modern role-reversal of D.W. Griffith’s blatantly racist film The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Sam’s tactics on the subject are strictly eye-for-an-eye. But her path is built on a shaky foundation. When she applies to be the head of a local fraternity, she only does so to rile the masses. She does not expect to win and when she actually does so there is panic in her mind just as prominent as her opponent’s. The added burden coupled with her school work, radio show, secret white boyfriend and medical issues at home start to make her pillars crack. When she’s on the radio, ranting and classifying the racist world she perceives, Sam is calmly and casually in control. When she receives news about her dad’s illness or is challengingly questioned by her caucasian partner, she’s a mess and the us-versus-them mentality begins to display its ugliness of separation.

Other characters we focus on go to the other end of the spectrum not so much by choice, but by design. Colandrea Conners, or Coco as she would prefer to be known virally, is obsessed with becoming a celebrity achieving reality show status. But Coco is not exactly what a hunting producer is seeking. Namely, the black producer wants somebody more in-your-face with the culture and Coco tries too hard to shun her ghetto roots. He finds himself more interested by Sam’s speeches than Coco’s talking head videos on YouTube. Jealous and willing to do anything for the attention, she rants against Sam White and immediately generates a favoring with both the producer and white college students. We can see this is not entirely what Coco wants to say or do, but she carries on believing it’s the only way to get anywhere in the lime light.

The most interesting character to examine in the movie is Lionel, a gay black student with a large curly afro (which curious white girls can’t help but play with). Lionel does not choose a side in the racial debate and is just not sure of his place in the world yet. Fraternities lock him out of the house and treat him as both the outcast nerd and the gay mascot, both titles he sighs at with disappointment.

An enigmatic editor takes notice of Lionel’s writing and hires him for the local paper. But is the editor interested in him more as a writer or just the color of his skin? This question is raised even further when the two of them enter into a relationship. Does he see Lionel as a boyfriend or his black boyfriend that he can tout as a point for the qualifications of racially tolerant white people? In one of the most hurtful moments for him, one of the editors earnestly refers to Lionel as being black, but “not really black.”

Dear White People tackles modern racism in a way that is intoxicatingly honest, smart and uncompromising. It shares an undeniable similarity to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989) not for its subject matter, but for its characters. There are no good or bad characters in this film; just ignorant ones. The ignorance goes all the way around displaying characters who would seem politically correct discovering the big kinks in their armor when the bullets of racism fly.

Director Justin Simien makes his debut with this feature and he proves that he not only has a lot to say, but a knack for placing all those thoughts and commentaries up on the screen. The college life is perfectly portrayed in the awkward quiet moments in addition to the hustling and bustling of campus activities. Sam argues with her white boyfriend all the way back to her dorm room and even continue the conversation when they’re alone, kissing and undressing. There plenty of beautiful shots in the bedroom that capitalize on the young intimate experience. Brief shots of the clothes on the floor or a ripped open condom wrapper stick out as we witness the characters basking the afterglow letting their inner thoughts leak out.

This is not an easy comedy, a simple examination of racism or a one-note societal commentary. For being so daring and off-beat, it strikes a genuine chord as an awkward picture that may make you squirm, but also make you more thoughtful and vocal about race. The film ends with real photos of “black themed” parties at college campuses featuring white college students in rapper garb, donning gold chains and even covering themselves in black face. These are present to remind us that this is not just an isolated incident within an Ivy League microcosm that racism is still alive. The racism that plagues these upper-class colleges may be lesser than that of the inner city or ghettos, but it still exists and is just as ugly in the way it eats away at individuals.

“Space Station 76” Review

The awkward indie comedy scene need not be relegated to the hipster landscape. ‘Space Station 76’ defies that sub-genre by injecting a similar writing tone into the setting of an isolated space satellite, ala ‘Space: 1999’. Rather than filling this retro vision of the future with stock characters constantly flipping switches and speaking technobabble, this is a collective of bitter and tired people bred from the sterile and lonely environment they occupy. It’s that harsh light of insecure reality shining down an otherwise whimsical location which gives the film its very weird and watchable charm.

Introduced into the hive of silent turmoil is the new co-pilot Jessica (Liv Tyler), a genuinely sweet personality that does her best to make friends on the station. She tries to maintain the station’s safety, but the drunken Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson) dismisses her words as he struggles to deal with his closet homosexuality. She does seek some kinship with residents Ken and his daughter Sunshine, but is viciously despised by Ken’s drugged up wife Misty. While the trio of good-natured individuals struggle to keep a stiff upper lift, the adulterers of the station battle their own personal demons through drinks, smokes and robot-operated psychiatry. They hate their jobs, their relationships and the lives they find themselves saddled with out in space.

This is the type of film that sort of catches you off guard luring you in for what may seem like a campy satire of  ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ that ends up being a rather peculiar dramedy. You can feel seething hatred and jealousy emitting from this group within the hospital-style interiors.  Even within the characters that seem more pure like Ted, there is an almost haunting presence of temptation. He looks out into space and fantasizes about a naked woman within a star. Sunshine discovers a pornographic magazine in her parent’s dresser and begins to have doubts about her body. These scenes may make the film seem like a depressing journey, but I found it more intriguing for the fact that in a wondrous future people still have the same social problems. A space station free of alien monsters and looming intergalactic threats breeds its own difficulties. It doesn’t help that the robot they all rely on for psychiatric help is only programmed to respond to certain key words and doesn’t actually help them.

With so much vitriol, it doesn’t seem like the best idea for a comedy. In fact, it’s almost hatable for the first act. There are some redeeming factors that prevents it from being completely soulless as with Sunshine’s anti-gravity game in which her dad cheers her on as she float around the room. And the inevitable climax which could’ve easily taken a disastrous turn winds up being a more touching ending that brings the characters back to what’s really important. This is a very strange type of genre blending that I can’t exactly say I loved, but didn’t really despise all that much either. I got a few laughs even though it was mostly that awkward kind of amusement that comes from dark improv. I had some fun following these flawed characters even though most of their issues seem to pile up too quickly. The real deal breaker for me were the special effects and set design of a space station that embodies the 1970’s era. Popped collars, brown wallpaper and Beta tapes litter the halls of a very familiar looking design for a livable space environment. It’s those moments that give the film its true edge of speculating a future with more advancements in everything except people.

“School Dance” Review

I may have been out of the schools for over a decade, but I sure don’t remember any school dances like the one in this film. Actually that title isn’t even accurate as the key event is a school lock-in. That being said, I’ve been to school lock-ins as well that were nothing like this. Even within the cartoonishly satirical world weaved around this event, this is a movie that defies logic on such a ridiculous level that even over-the-top high school comedies of the 1980’s would blush at such a product. That’s to say nothing of the fact that it is disgustingly vulgar, sexist and racially backwards for what is supposed to be a comedy. This is a film that demands you not only check your brain at the door, but your sanity as well.

The only character who seems to be sane is Jason, our teenage protagonist seeking to be initiated into a popular clique while at the same time trying to acquire his true love. And, wouldn’t you know it, his two issues happen to collide as the only way to be accepted by the social group he seeks is to retrieve a woman’s panties. Who better than your true love, right? The best time for swiping a pair of female undergarments happens to be the school lock-in in which all the students drink, smoke and have sex. The teachers don’t give two damns seeing as how they’re very poor stereotypes of adults drowned in the rap lifestyle. The principal does nothing but talk about women as bitches and the white, female teacher is constantly talking about rap music.

What makes matters worse is that the movie tries to capitalize on typical high school plots without any rhyme or reason for getting from point A to B. The school lock-in happens to have a rap battle where the grand prize is $2000 which works out nicely for a student who desperately needs that exact amount of cash. Where did the money come from and why is the school holding such a contest? Beats me. The female love interest also happens to be the relation of a rival Mexican gang of Jason’s would-be clique. I’m sure this was intended to give a sort of Romeo & Juliet angle to the love quest, but it’s treated more as a comical turf war as if it were from another terrible movie. At one point the gang of Mexicans smash a man hole cover on a black gang member’s face repeatedly while he calls for help from his wimpy gang members. The assaulted man ends up with little more than a few cuts on his face. This is when the movie crosses over from a real high school comedy to a pure cartoon. Nothing seems at stake until the final act where somebody gets shot on school grounds and it’s apparently a laughable moment.

The most insulting thing about the movie is that it’s a mess of stereotypes. All the girls at school are highly sexualized, the black characters are all seen as slanderous gangsters and the white cops are dumb racists who fall for easy traps like pot brownies. It’s moments like this where I have to ask myself if this sort of dated perception of the world is still funny. It’s certainly not challenging. The way the movie was directed is almost like MTV vomited all over the cut which seems to randomly insert rap music videos. And I don’t mean to imply that the film is a musical because it’s not. The movie has far too many long stretches where everything will stop for one rap song that comes out of nowhere with hardly any relation to the story. The high school tropes are just awfully inserted as well when Jason does the tired narration of the high school cliques from the sexy ladies to the nerds. What importance does introducing the nerds have on the plot? Nothing since they’re never used. So why introduce them? And why does Patrick Warburton constantly show up in Jason’s head as his mental coach? The reasoning is just baffling.

Why include any of these elements if they’re not expanded or developed properly enough? The failure of the film to find reasoning in anything makes it feel more like a machine than a presentation. Rap music, gangster speak, sexy teens, dumb cops, gang war, high school dance, clique initiation, cut, print, grab the money, next film.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” Review

‘A Million Way to Die in the West’ is written by, directed by and starring Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. He chooses a decent concept for his second feature film which focuses on the nasty reality of the old west. Seth MacFarlane plays the straight man providing commentary for how this era was a terrible time for disease, corruption and violence. It’s not a bad idea for some gags, but the problem is MacFarlane grows bored of it very quickly and switches the film over to a barrage of childish gags involving bodily functions, curse words and sexual acts. But even in that arena, Seth still fails to deliver anything clever or amusing about the level of comedy. I’m trying to figure out what other project he was working on at the time that made him turn in such an uninspired script.

The story itself is nothing special. MacFarlane’s character falls for an outlaw played by Charlize Theron who helps him learn to shoot a gun so he can best a mustache salesman played by Neil Patrick Harris who is now dating his ex. And then eventually he has to face off against the ruthless traveling bad guy played by Liam Neeson. Much like the gags there is plenty of potential here that is never once tapped and he’s given nothing to work with. Much of the humor is also rather baffling and it seems like some of them may be in jokes we are not let in on.

MacFarlane even manages to find ways to completely waste cameos. Several actors reprise their roles from previous films and don’t really have anything funny to say or do. They just sort of show up to make a movie reference and then leave. Is this really what passes for comedy? I suppose it has to since the dialogue jokes meander and the physical gags are just flat. What is so funny about Neil Patrick Harris pooping in to various hats for an extended period of time? Is it the length that’s funny or the punchline where he trips over one of the hats spilling excrement all over the road?

‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ is vulgar, low-brow and sometimes offensive as it struggles to whip up some laughs. But what’s more offensive is that this is a film that didn’t feel the need to try. It didn’t want to try to stick with the satire of the old west. Instead it just wants to make some toilet jokes and that’s supposed to be enough. The devoted followers of MacFarlane’s comedy work deserve so much more than what this film has to offer. You can live a long and healthy live if you never see this sad excuse for a Western comedy.

“A Haunted House 2” Review

‘A Haunted House 2’ is the biggest middle finger of a sequel I’ve ever seen. It refuses to take any new chances, try out new material or even write something different. The term rehash would be too kind in describing this “horror satire” which struggles more than any other film of this sub-genre for a laugh.

Marlon Wayans returns as the overly-talkative protagonist once again thrown into a creepy house where haunted hijinks ensue. The plot plays out as a direct sequel with his character dumping his previous love interest for a new white wife. I mention she’s white because his character will not shut up about how taboo it is to have an interracial relationship. Even though she tries to reassure him that it’s not a huge deal in the 21st century, he keeps harping on it. Here is a perfect opportunity missed for comedy as Wayans could’ve been seen as a backwards man alone in his misconceptions of the world he bases on stereotypes. Sadly, he is entirely justified by the usual tired and often racist depictions of different races in this picture.

The horror parodies are nothing all that special. There’s a running satire of the plot from 2012’s ‘Sinister’ with the killer from that film failing at his murders and getting assaulted by his victims. It’s mildly amusing as a sort of revenge against horror films, but then again this is nothing new for the sub-genre. The longest running joke involves the creepy doll from ‘The Conjuring’ which Wayans has a strange love affair with. This is a film where for five minutes we watch Wayans go off on an inanimate object and have sexual relations with. I never once cracked a smile during these scenes as they just never seemed to end despite the quick-cut editing style. That’s an even creepier thought to imagine there is more footage of Wayans making out with a wooden doll. This is the cry of someone who desperately needs a writer since he clearly can’t handle improv comedy.

The cherry on the top of this awful mess is the heavy racism. Wayans has written an extremely backwards world where Mexicans are gardeners, white people refuse to even acknowledge black people and African Americans are depicted either as gangsters or drug abusers. Needless to say, this is not biting or challenging comedy. Most of the film just seems to be improv from Marlon Wayans flopping around set with his loud and often annoying mannerism. The result is a film that is unfunny, tired, offensive and just not an enjoyable experience making it one of the worst films of 2014 by far.

“Blended” Review

Adam Sandler’s new romantic comedy Blended is a cliché and formulaic romp with that touch of Sandler’s juvenile wit. To his credit, this film isn’t anywhere near as offensive as his earlier works like That’s My Boy, but that’s hardly a glowing recommendation. I guess I’m just pleased that there was nothing heavily racist, sexist or foul this time around. That still doesn’t excuse the tired comedy and sitcom level writing for this feature film.

Sandler and Drew Barrymore both play single parents with multiple kids who are somehow able to have such easy jobs as being a closet designer and working at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I’d love to know which retail position there allows you to afford such a large house. Not only do they apparently have enough to support their families, but apparently enough to whisk themselves away to an African vacation for seemingly no reason! But they just happen to end up together at a couples themed family resort where the reluctant parties have to share a romantic suite. Thus begins their African adventure where Sandler and Barrymore learn to connect with the kids and each other through some painfully written resort activities intended to be romantic.

Blended was actually shot in Africa in which we are treated to some beautiful locations, but the movie fails to take full advantage of that. Why would go to all the trouble of filming in Africa with real animals when the film resorts to computer generated monkeys to play musical instruments. Come to think of it why would you even want to have computer generated monkeys playing music in the first place? I guess it’s just a-typical of Sandler’s blend with his trademark sight gags and verbal wordplay. And of course it just wouldn’t be a Sandler film without some potty jokes.

Sandler and Barrymore are decent as the cute couple we know that will end up together, but the rest of the characters are all gimmicks and cartoon characters. The kids are okay actors, but they only really serve one purpose to push to the two leads together and then just sort of disappear. Several of Sandler’s usual troupe of actors pop up as well for some moments of awkward and ineffectual bits. Terry Crews keeps popping up as the singing narrator that everybody can see and hear. The first two times it happens is mildly amusing. The fifth time it happens is tedious. After all these attempts at making the film funny, ‘Blended’ tries to turn itself around by making the relationship more emotional for the kids. But since it doesn’t play this card until the third act, you feel nothing for this new development so late in the game.

What perplexes me most about this movie is just who is its target audience. It’s far too childish for a romantic comedy and too adult to be a family comedy. I can only assume that it was intended for young adults and college kids to see on a date night. But, I don’t know, I’d like to think that those audiences are smart enough to know that this film is bland, tired and not challenging or entertaining enough for what they want out of a movie. It’s not the worst film Sandler has ever made, but it’s far, far, far, far far away from being a film I’d want to come back to again.

“Zero Charisma” Review

While shows like The Big Bang Theory seem to emphasize that geek is chic, Zero Charisma doesn’t shy away from the destructive personalities of the culture. It may seem like a dated perspective, but the truth is anyone who frequents comic & game shops is aware of this exact individual. He’s the self-righteous game master who thinks so highly of himself that a mere pebble thrown at his towering ego will unleash a storm of dork fury. We may choose not to acknowledge him in the “cool geek” crowd, but he still exists and makes for the perfect destructive character in this film.

Scott doesn’t have much to look forward to in his life. He works part-time at a Chinese take-out joint, lives with his bitter grandma and his flaky mother is attempting to sell her house to pay off her debt. The only thing Scott lives for is his original tabletop roleplaying game which he spends the majority of his time assembling each week for his gaming group. When one of his members departs due to marriage problems, he seek to bring a new player into the fold. Enter Miles, the hipster geek who happens to be an outgoing journalist and comic artist. He is charming enough to work his way into the hearts of the D&D group and begins taking the gaming group in a different direction. It isn’t long before his warm personality and talent breed jealousy within Scott turning him into his rival. And with everything else in his life going downhill, Scott’s rage boils over into insanity as he alienates and attacks everyone in his wake. He can start fights so effortlessly over the most trivial of matters. This soon turns into a battle of the casual geek versus the hardcore geek.

This film is essentially a portrait of a self-destructive individual born within the realm of basement dwelling fantasy lovers. He has become so dedicated to his craft and routine that any altercation sparks his own personal war. This makes him both frightening and hilarious. You hate to see somebody go through such anguish, but you also feel that he’s painted himself into this corner. And you just can’t help but laugh at the fact that Scott lacks the proper mentality to deal with these issues. His life is a mess and he lacks the tools to clean it up. This does, however, provide an interesting enough conclusion that doesn’t take the Taxi Driver way out. Rather, it brings an air of uncomfortable truth and resolution to social relationships in these small-knit communities. Scott is given some heart, but just enough so he doesn’t make any wild leaps in personality.

The script for this project has a biting and insightful wit as when Scott grows irritated by Miles showing him up with his geek knowledge. Scott claims that arguing over starship speeds is irrelevant, but Miles brings references and math into the equation to solve it. Scott at one point claims he was the original writer of The Matrix to which Miles buries his statement in the dirt with several sources. There’s even some strange and uncomfortable bits as when Scott attempts to pop a zit on his pal’s forehead in a rape-esque moment. Scenes like that took me out of the picture, but the hilarious dialogue that goes on at these D&D gaming sessions kept winning me back over. In its own morbid little way, Zero Charisma is a triumph of nerd depiction that I sure hope echos within the various communities to which it plays off of.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” Review

Even great actors can falter in a film if they’re not used properly. Take Sam Rockwell, a fantastic personality who can ooze charisma for any upbeat role. The only roles I could not buy him in are the sad wimp or the aggressive bully. ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ likes to think he can fill both designations and lets the trainwreck unfold in a terribly hateable script. Sam Rockwell is a great talent, but even he can’t save a comedy so vile and unlikable that’s devoid of almost all humor.

Doug Varney (Sam Rockwell) is the meekly innocent pharmacist in a town packed with jerks. His wife is a neglectful health nut, his son is a school shooting waiting to happen and everybody he knows more or less walks all over him. It isn’t until he meets lonely housewife Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde) when he actually feels needed and appreciated. Fed up with both their lives leading nowhere with little appreciation, the two have an affair behind closed doors or in a car when presumably nobody is watching.

Then, in a strange jump, Doug decides it would also be fun to start pilfering pills from the pharmacy he runs. I guess he figured that if you’re going to be unfaithful you might as well commit felonies and get high in the process. He also uses these pills to his advantage in order to beat his wife at a bike race and then ravish like never before in the bedroom. He’s also finally able to connect with his son, but only through cussing and causing public property damage with ninja stars.

I know this whole experience should be seen as a warped way for Doug to gain some backbone, but it’s more of the makings of a villain ala Falling Down. You wish you could be happy for Doug, but it’s hard to root for him when he sinks down lower than the awful characters who spit on him. It isn’t long before Doug and Elizabeth decide to off her old man so they can runaway together. By this point you naturally don’t expect the plan to work and look forward to the inevitable downfall of the character.

But guess what? That moment never comes and were instead treated to a happy ending via left-field accidents that resolve everything. Such an ending would imply that we like the character of Doug and want to see everything work out nice for him in the end. It’s a little hard to feel that when the character is committing all these illegal and immoral acts with a devilish sensibility. You’d almost feel sorry for his dark descent if it weren’t for the fact that he got away with everything. Instead, you just end up hating Doug the same way you despise all the other characters. He sinks to their level and succeeds.

I’m still hung up on how he decided to make the massive leap from having an affair to stealing prescription drugs. Maybe if he’d actually fantasized or considered it at one point in the film it would actually make sense. Heck, the film had a perfect opportunity to use his drugged up and party-boy delivery assistant as an inspiration. It wouldn’t make Doug anymore likable with this added in, but it would at least make some sense of his actions.

There are some early moments where I was convinced that this could be an acceptable dark comedy. In a scene similar to ‘One Hour Photo’, Doug explains the various customers of the small town and the secrets he keeps on all of them. That right there would’ve been a great starting point for the story, but it’s rarely taken advantage of in the movie. We’re instead led down a not-so-likable path of drug abuse and wild sex, but not the kind where anybody gets hurt. After all, that would ruin all of Doug’s “fun”.

I know that Geoff Moore and David Posamentier were aiming for dark comedy here, but I fear they have forgotten the comedy part. Every character just ends up becoming so over-the-top in their mean-spirited nature that they all turn into cartoonish villains. These two writers just cannot conceive likable characters with a script like this.

Doug bursts into his anti-social son’s room and gets on his good side not by being a dad, but trying act cool with foul language and encouraging violence. If my dad did that to me when I was 12, I would’ve called the cops on him. Instead, Doug’s kid learns to trust his dad and confess what’s wrong at school. And all it took was some illegal acts of destruction to get on his good side.

What’s really disheartening is that all these characters are so vile that you don’t feel anything for any of them. Then when the movie actually wants you to feel some emotions when the characters are sweet or placed in jeopardy, you couldn’t care less about how things play out. Then you see how things actually play out and you’re pissed at how lazy the writers were with the conclusion. This is one of the few films with an ending so terrible you may want to bolt yourself to the couch to prevent your fist from flying through the screen.

‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ never really delivers on being either a dark comedy or an uplifting tale of gaining confidence. If it weren’t so ridiculous in its plot and motivations, it could almost pass for a drama. But the combining of the two genres for a good-pharmacist-gone-bad story just doesn’t work here. The film has about two or three decent chuckles and maybe one or two moments of satisfying revenge, but nothing more than that.

“Best Night Ever” Review

Sometimes a filmmaker can surprise you. Take the writing/directing duo Adam Seltzer and Jason Friedberg for example. Up until now, they’ve only made awful parody films such as ‘Epic Movie’, ‘Disaster Movie’ and ‘Meet the Spartans’. But their latest film, ‘Best Night Ever’, is their first original film. There are no cutaway movie references or pop culture satire gags in sight. I’m impressed as I didn’t think these two could ever conceive a film without relying on making fun of films. And guess what? They’re still the worst filmmakers ever.

Told in the popular found-footage format, ‘Best Night Ever’ follows a bachelorette party bound for Las Vegas. When they arrive, however, a case of stolen credit card info leaves the four girls without a swanky room in the city of lights. Deciding not to let this set back their partying, they check in to a low-grade motel on the bad part of town. It’s then that the movie starts struggling to find things for these characters to do by throwing them into wild scenarios.

At one point they decide to buy cocaine from a valet. The valet then robs them and the girls are forced to find money via strange acts such as mud wrestling. The mud wrestling could’ve been interesting, but it’s entirely cut as it proceeds straight to the bloody aftermath. And then it’s just one forced scene after another including taking drugs they swiped from an ambulance because they literally do not know what to do next. This is a plot so bad even the characters know it.

As for the characters, you care for none of them because they never get proper development. All the ingredients are there as you have an uptight wife with criminal tendencies and a new mom who wants to be a party girl. Those are both great foundations to work from, but they never build to anything. You don’t make us care about characters by just slapping them with traits and then never using them. Without any characters to become attached to on any level, all we’re really watching is a bunch of crazy women running around Las Vegas doing stupid and illegal acts. No story, no character, no great lines; just random acts of stupidity and vulgarity.

The one good thing I can say about the direction is that Seltzer and Friedberg are committed to the found-footage format. They make sure a character is always holding the camera at some point with no weird or out-of-place shots. Everything else is a mess.

For making so many comedy films, Seltzer and Friedberg have zero sense of timing. Towards the end of the film, the girls run afoul of a naked, obese black woman that chases them through a hotel. That type of shock humor only has a lifespan of 30 seconds max. But, no, we follow her for what seems like forever in a chase scene that will not end.

But the worst moment by far is a sequence that lasts over 10 minutes in which the girls dash around Las Vegas fulfilling the bachelorette party scavenger hunt. These scenes are not scripted nor do they have any dialogue as that would detract from the annoying overlaying music. There are some films that feel like they were made just so the celebrities involved would get a chance to travel. It’s clear that these actresses were doing this for a chance to run around Las Vegas like loons and we get to watch them have fun without any acting.

Is it really a surprise that these guys don’t know how to write either? They may have done their best to stay original with the script, but their unfunny nature and terrible ideas remain intact. There is no real story or characters present in this movie. There are components that if properly assembled could make at least a cohesive story, but why use any of that when you can just cram in as many vulgar jokes as possible. Oh, and because they’re women partying, make sure they scream and squeal as much as possible at the top of their lungs.

Also, was I supposed to laugh at the scene where they kidnap the wrong guy who ripped them off, raid his house and then urinate and defecate on his face? Is this what comedy has come to in this day and age? I know some women would like to praise this film for being a raunchy comedy with an all female cast, but do you really want to bestow that progressive title on a picture that involves pooping on people’s faces for revenge? Even ‘The Hangover’, for all its vulgarity, still had some standards. Chalk this up to Seltzer and Friedberg’s inability to write women, characters, gags and comedy movies in general.

This is ground zero for humor. It’s as if an A-bomb of awful went off in this movie leaving nothing but plot-puppet characters dancing around Las Vegas. I know I’ve said this with every film they’ve ever made, but Adam Seltzer and Jason Friedberg need to stop making movies. There is no hope for these two as they’ve been making terrible movies for years and have shown zero sign of improvement. Move over, Ed Wood and Uwe Boll. Seltzer and Friedberg have secured their spot as the worst directors of all time and this being their first original movie ensures that title.

“Jeff Dunham: Achmed Saves America” Review

Jeff Dunham’s one-note ventriloquism puppet Achmed takes a leap into the world of animation. The result of a failed suicide bomber mission, Achmed is plucked from his Middle Eastern home and transported to America. Choosing to accept his now skeletal appearance, a family takes him as they mistake Achmed for a French exchange student. Though the tiny terrorist is still hellbent on destroying the Western world, he soon comes to adore the country via friendly people and all-you-can-eat buffets. Before you know it, he’s on a mission to save his new family.

I’ll preference this review by stating that I am not a fan of Jeff Dunham’s brand of comedy. All of his puppet characters spout mostly simplistic politically incorrect statements with a subtle tone of racism. That can be funny for a few bits, but this style seems to comprise the majority of his puppets. Achmed’s angle is that he keeps shouting “Silence! I kill you!” while making stereotypical observations of Western and Middle Eastern culture. Sure enough, this animated feature does just that by featuring all aforementioned exaggerations. Some of the characters Achmed meets includes the sexually confused teenage girl, the anal-retentive liberal, the gun-toting redneck and the angry terrorist leader who rolls over easily for something as simple as frozen yogurt.

Oddly enough, this seems a little toned down for Jeff Dunham. There is nothing that risque in any of the humor. In fact, most of it feels like watered down ‘Family Guy’ jokes with the constant pop culture references and questionable observations. There are a few jabs made at both east and west, but nothing all that biting. It’s almost as if Dunham is trying to steer his act in a new direction as he paints Achmed as a more sympathetic character who learns to love. It’s a logical progression for the story, but it kind of ruins the whole point of the character.

Speaking of ‘Family Guy’, the animation designs feel very uninspired with simplistic round faces and eyes. Thankfully, the actual animation itself is impressive for the sheer timing and detail in movement. If anybody deserves praise for this special, it’s the technical team that make most of the visual gags work and take full advantage of Achmed’s skeletal form. Achmed’s jaw literally drops in shock to which he replaces as if they were his contacts. He shatters when hit by a car and struggles to put himself back together. These are all solid gags that are handled rather well by the visual team.

But, wow, the majority of the written jokes are flat. Jeff even resorts to old-as-dirt bits such as the rabbi and the priest who walk into a bar. If you’re going to dig up those corpses, you better have an original idea to dress them up in. Sadly, Jeff mostly just goes for the easy laughs. He never really shocks and he never really surprises with originality. There are some amusing bits here and there (thanks mostly to the quality animation direction), but they hardly warrant an hour-long fish-out-of-water movie. This may have worked better as a TV pilot, but it sure wears thin for its movie-style length.